HP Elite x2 1011 G1 review
A Windows hybrid with some MacBook-style tricks up its sleeve
Designing a Windows laptop-tablet hybrid is a very tricky task. Not only are you trying to make a single computer that's both an excellent tablet and a superb laptop, when the requisite design elements for one can compete with and contradict those for the other, you have to try and set it apart from the multitude of competing Windows hybrids too.
The HP Elite x2 1011 G1 may look much like any other detachable Windows hybrid at first glance, but it has several features that set it apart from most of the other hybrids that we've seen.
HP Elite x2 1011 G1: enterprise features
Biometric security such as fingerprint scanners are nothing new on Windows laptops, having been present on some business models for several years now. It's received new impetus though with support built into Windows 10 and renewed consumer popularity following its inclusion in mobile devices such as the iPhone.
The fingerprint scanner built into the HP Elite x2 1011 G1 worked flawlessly in our tests. After setting it up, we were able to log into Windows simply by swiping a finger across the small pad. It worked quickly with few failed attempts. HP has yet to reply to our queries about how the computer stores your fingerprint data - we'll update this review if they do.
A smartcard slot is also present, so you can use smartcards as a means of authentication if your business uses them. Computrace software built into the computer's EFI means your IT administrator should still be able to remotely track, wipe and lock the hybrid if it's stolen or lost.
Although this official images shows theHP Elite x2 1011 G running Windows 7, it actually comes with Windows 8.1 pre-installed with a free downloadable upgrade to Windows 10
HP's included security software can encrypt the entire 256GB SSD. You can save a recovery key either to an external USB drive or to your OneDrive storage, so you can still access your data in case you ever forget your password. Obviously, you'll want to keep that USB drive in a very safe place - especially if you can't use the OneDrive alternative if your business feels queasy about potential compliance or security issues relating to the cloud.
Another handy storage security feature is the ability to require a fingerprint or password before a user can copy files to and from USB sticks and hard disks. This can help prevent data leaks by disgruntled employees, although the lack of an activity log for this feature will disappoint especially paranoid system administrators. Oddly, there's no Kensington security cable slot.
Usefully, a 4G modem is built into the tablet. The micro SIM slot is located next to the micro SD slot underneath a flap on the rear of the tablet. The x2 1011 G1 not only has a dedicated socket for connecting port replicators, but also has the new high speed WiGig short range wireless technology for connecting wireless port replicators. This should be a boon for quickly and easily connecting to a desk full of peripherals without fiddling with any cables, but WiGig docks and port replicators aren't yet widely available.
One productivity extra that definitely falls flat is the pre-installed HP PageLift app which converts photos of documents into black and white PDFs for archiving and sharing. It doesn't perform any sort of OCR though, doesn't handle multipage documents and is dependent on other apps for annotating and highlighting. It's thus no match for similar, but far more refined apps with more features such as Microsoft Office Lens and Readdle Scanner Pro 6 - neither of which are available for Windows.
HP Elite x2 1011 G1: keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard dock component of the HP Elite x2 1011 G1 has one of the most comfortable laptop keyboards we've used in a long time. The large backlit keys have plenty of travel and feedback, so typing is both fast and very comfortable.
The touchpad isn't quite as good. The x2 1011 G1 is the first Windows laptop to have a touchpad that's pressure-sensitive, similar to the Force Touch feature on Apple's 12in Retina MacBook. It's far less ambitious that Apple's Force Touch touchpad though. You can set how much pressure needs to be applied to the touchpad before it will recognise a button press. That's the extent of its pressure sensitivity.
It's far better than the touchpads on almost every other Windows laptop we've seen, with smooth, accurate tracking, but there's still room for improvement. Gestures such as swiping with two fingers to scroll or swiping with three fingers to go back and forth between web pages worked reasonably well, but had some small but annoying problems. Momentum when scrolling was a little off and the touchpad sometimes failed to pick up our finger swipes, requiring a second attempt.
HP Elite x2 1011 G1: build quality and weight
Although only the keyboard dock is made out of metal, with the detachable tablet made out of metal-effect plastic instead, everything nonetheless felt sturdy and well-made. When docked and used as a laptop, the HP Elite x2 1011 G1 weighs a lightweight 1.5kg. The tablet alone weighs 800g.
800g is a little heavy, even for a tablet with a 11.6in screen, but it doesn't feel too awkward in the hand thanks to its evenly distributed weight and tapered edges. It's still not our first choice for extended handheld use over long periods and it's definitely a two-handed job, but this tablet would do in a pinch.
The docking mechanism securely holds the tablet in place when docked with the keyboard. Lining them up for docking was never too tricky or fiddly and detaching the two is simple - just press the button on the hinge and yank the tablet out.
There are a couple of downsides to the docking mechanism though. Its bulk means the screen's hinge is quite large and can dig into your legs when used on your lap as a laptop. It also heavily restricts how far back you can tilt the screen, so getting a comfortable viewing angle can be tricky.
HP Elite x2 1011 G1: screen and stylus
The 1080p resolution in a 11.6in screen gives a relatively high pixel density of 190ppi. Although it gives you plenty of working space, text appears almost unreadably small - especially in programs that haven't been updated for such high resolution, high pixel density screens. Fiddling with Windows 8.1's settings helps somewhat, as does downloading and installing the free upgrade to Windows 10 which has improved display scaling.
The screen is very bright and, despite having a glossy finish, didn't suffer too badly from glare caused by overhead lighting reflecting off the screen. Colour accuracy and contrast were merely okay, with the washed out looking colours a particular disappointment.
A small, basic stylus is included. It doesn't come with any of the additional stylus-focussed features included with HP's Pro Slate Android tablets and isn't pressure sensitive, but it's good enough for annotating documents and quick sketches. It slides into a small nook at the bottom of the tablet so you don't lose it.
HP Elite x2 1011 G1: performance and battery life
The x2 1011 G1 comes equipped with 8GB of memory and a 1.1GHz Intel Core M 5Y51 processor. Although the processor can turbo boost to 2.6GHz, it's built with energy efficiency rather than sheer speed in mind. This means that while it's more than good enough for everyday office tasks, it's slower than most Haswell and Broadwell Core i3 chips so it's not well suited for more demanding jobs such as editing RAW images or 4K video.
The Core M processor's energy efficiency plus the pair of large batteries in the tablet and the keyboard dock mean that battery life is generally lengthy. The tablet lasted 13 hours and 19 minutes in our light usage test, with the dock adding an additional eight hours.
In our more demanding YouTube HD playback test, the tablet lasted just five hours with the keyboard dock adding an additional three hours.
HP Elite x2 1011 G1: conclusions
HP's focus on enterprise and security features is very welcome, so much so that it's almost possible to overlook the numerous hardware flaws in the x2 1011 G1. The chunky and restrictive hinge, so-so screen quality, the tablet's weight and issues with the touchpad mar what is otherwise a surprisingly good hybrid.
There's plenty to like from the sturdy build to the the built-in 4G, comfortable keyboard and superb battery life, but at this price we'd expect far fewer design flaws. If security is of paramount importance then the x2 1011 G1 is a good buy - otherwise, we'd think very carefully about what your mobile computing priorities are before buying.
A surprisingly good Windows hybrid with lots of business features built in
Processor: 1.1GHz Intel Core M 5Y51 dual core
GPU: Intel HD5300 integrated graphics
Storage: 256GB SSD
Display: 11.6in 1920x1080
Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11ac/a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE
Ports and slots: 2x USB3, DisplayPort, 3.5mm headset jack, SD card reader
Dimensions: 10x298x193mm (21x289x204mm with keyboard dock)
Weight: 800g (1.5kg docked)