HP Elite x2 1012 review - targets at the Surface Pro 4 but miss

HP Elite x2 1012 review - takes aim at the Surface Pro 4, just misses.

HP Elite x2 1012 actually very similar to HP's slightly more budget-orientated Spectre x2, but the HP Elite x2 1012 is very much geared toward business users and office workers. In fact, unscrew the six rear torque screws underneath the kickstand and you'll have access to the tablet's battery, memory and storage, allowing business to manage basic upgrades and servicing in-house. 

The HP Elite x2 also has a more ergonomic kickstand than its Spectre-based sibling. Whereas the Spectre x2 required you to press a button to release the kickstand, there’s no such requirement on the Elite. It doesn't have any angle restrictions either, so you're free to position the display however you see fit, and the hinge provides plenty of support to help keep the whole thing stable. 

HP Elite x2 1012's still a bit awkward to use, though. There are small grooves along the edge to make prising it open a little easier when it's flush against the back, but its rather thin construction means it will also flex and bend a bit if you only pull it out by one corner. It doesn't feel particularly robust as a result, but at least it's been designed to be easily replaced, as you'll find another pair of torque screws on the hinges to help whip it out if you happen to sit on it or it ends up snapping accidentally. 

HP Elite x2 rear

HP Elite x2 

Design and ports

That small niggle aside, the HP Elite x2 1012 looks stunning. Made from aluminium, the rest of the tablet component feels extremely robust and its matt finish looks very elegant. There’s also a fingerprint sensor tucked away on the back, which is compatible with Windows Hello, Microsoft's built-in security feature on Windows 10. There’s a front-facing webcam, too, but sadly this can't be used to unlock the device with Windows Hello's face recognition software.

As with most 2-in-1 tablet devices, ports are rather on the slim slide. All you get is a USB3 and USB-C port, a microSD card slot and a headphone jack. However, the USB-C port does give the Elite x2 a degree of flexibility, as it can be used for power, outputting to an external display via an adaptor or for connecting external storage. There's also a slot for a micro-SIM card, allowing you to add a data SIM to the HP Elite x2 1012 so you get always get online.

HP Elite x2 ports

HP Elite x2 ports

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Display

It certainly looks the part of a high-end business hybrid, then, but its 12in display left something to be desired. Its 1,920x1,280 resolution isn’t a patch on the Surface Pro 4’s 2,736x1,824 display, so can’t rival it for pixels-per-inch and general sharpness, and its colour accuracy was also lagging behind, too. With its lacklustre 76.6% sRGB colour gamut coverage, images had a noticeable blue and green tint, so it's not particularly suited to colour-sensitive work. 

However, its contrast ratio of 908:1 was still reasonably decent, and its high brightness of 351cd/m2 makes it a practical choice for using outdoors, so it should still serve you well if you're mainly using it to browse the web and edit word documents. 

To get some real work done, you'll need to dock the tablet into its detachable keyboard. This attaches to the tablet via magnets, and separating them is as easy as simply pulling them apart. There's also a second magnet at the top of the keyboard that attaches to the bottom of the display, allowing you to raise the keyboard to a more comfortable angle.

With its metal base and soft, felt rear, typing on the HP Elite x2 1012 was very pleasant indeed. There's not a huge amount of travel to each key, but they're well-spaced and it's very easy to get used to. After a few rounds of Type Racer, I managed 100WPM on more than one occasion, which is pretty respectable for a laptop keyboard. The keys are backlit, too, and they automatically turn off after a period of inactivity so they don't put a strain on the battery. 

The Precision-certified touchpad is larger than the one on the Spectre x2, which is welcome news indeed. With more height available, vertical scrolling feels less constrained, and it also means more room for multi-touch gestures. The touchpad has a nice and slick coating ensuring your finger glides across without any problems.

HP Elite x2 keyboard

HP Elite x2 keyboard

However, while the felt cover on the bottom of the keyboard provides a good degree of friction, I wish the kickstand provided a bit more grip as well, as trying to use the HP Elite x2 on anything other than a table wasn't very easy. This will only be a problem if you ever need to type on your lap, though.

Stylus

With certain configurations, HP includes a stylus. It’s the same one you'll find with the Spectre x2 and HP's Envy 8 Note, and is more than sufficient for quick note-taking. I imagine most graphic artists will find it slightly lacking, though, and there's also nowhere to store or put it when you're not using it. An adhesive loop is included in the box that you can stick to the tablet or keyboard, but it's nonetheless a rather inelegant solution.

It can also attach to the keyboard's rear magnet, but this is very likely to get disloged in your bag and you'll still need to put it somewhere when you actually come to use the device, at which point you'll likely end up losing it or forgetting where you put it. 

HP Elite X2 1012 - side

HP Elite x2 side tilt

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Performance

The Elite x2 is available in a range of different specifications. The range starts from a Intel Core m3-6Y30 and goes up to a Core m7-6Y75, the latter of which was the one I was sent for testing. The system can be configured with either 4GB or 8GB of RAM, too. 

The model on test was equipped with 8GB of RAM and also a 256GB NVMe SSD for storage. It makes for a good general performer, but not a system that will acquit itself well when it comes to more difficult tasks. The Core m7-6Y75 has a base clock speed of 1.2GHz across two cores, but can Turbo Boost to 3.1GHz when thermal conditions allow, all while utilising a completely fanless design. This top-end model isn't currently listed by HP online, so you will have to call them to configure one similar.

Our particularly tough 4K benchmarks saw an overall score of 34, which is around what I would expect for a system with these specifications. This means it will be fine for desktop tasks such as word processing and web browsing, but video or photo editing will prove rather sluggish, not that the display lends itself particularly well to this in any case.

One would have hoped the fanless, low voltage Intel Core m processor would mean greater longevity, but as has often been the case with Core m-equipped devices, battery life isn’t as good as you might expect. The Elite x2 lasted 6 hours 14 minutes in our video playback test, and that was with the screen set to our standard brightness setting of 170cd/m2. It’ll last you a working day with a little bit of consideration, but more is always welcome, and it compares poorly to the Core i5-powered Surface Pro 4, which lasted well over an hour under the same conditions. 

 HP Elite x2 front

HP Elite x2 front

Conclusion

The HP Elite x2 1012 certainly makes an admirable attempt at beating the Surface Pro 4 at its own game, but this particular model is ever so slightly off-target. That’s not to say it misses the mark completely, though, as its generally stellar build quality and sturdy keyboard are both excellent. Likewise, its enterprise-friendly features will appeal to IT admins and employees alike, and its replaceable parts make it easier to fix if something goes wrong. However, if battery life and a top-notch display are top priorities, then the Surface Pro 4 is still the 2-in-1 hybrid to beat. 

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