Initial Impressions of the HP Chromebook X2
It has been known for some time that HP has been working on a high-end Chromebook for a few months now and the official launch date has been set for June 11th of 2018. The codename of the Chromebook is “Soraka” and the board name is “Nocturne”. I managed to get my hands on a early unit and spent several hours using it. Here are my thoughts in case you are looking to buy one when it enters the mass market.
The HP Chromebook X2 ships with Chrome OS which is always free of pre-installed software from the manufacturer. Upon signing into the Chromebook X2, you are greeted with the very familiar Chrome OS setup process and after a few minutes, you will be at your Chrome OS desktop complete with all of your settings, bookmarks and applications.
In case anyone is wondering, the Kernel version on this is 4.4.132-14132-gbcb2f4a3fadf – this is also the same kernel on the Google Pixelbook. As of this writing, I am on Chrome OS 68.0.3440.4 (on the developer channel)
Like the Pixelbook, the HP Chromebook has access to the Google Play Store – without the “Beta” flag that is present on many other Chrome OS devices. All Android Applications that I use on a daily basis worked flawlessly on the HP Chromebook X2.
This should not come as a huge surprise as devices like the HP Chromebook X2 are the successor to Android Tablets and like the Pixelbook, it simply excels. Unfortunately the only issue I have come across is that Android on Chrome OS still cannot properly use the MicroSD Card Slot so storing YouTube/Music/Google Play Movies is still not possible.
Sadly Linux Applications do not yet work, even when updated to the “Dev” channel and via crosh. Furthermore there are not any flags in chrome://flags that allow me to enable Crostini. I really hope this device gets Linux support in the near future.
The HP Chromebook X2 is packed with some very impressive hardware that should satisfy just about any power user – except for the storage. Lets take a deeper look:
In a world where many manufacturers are only including the bare minimums in the box – requiring additional purchases to have a complete unit – HP includes both the keyboard dock and active stylus in the box. Just to put that into prospective, the active stylus for the Pixelbook is an additional $100 purchase.
The box also includes a lot of documentation as well as the massive USB Type C power brick. The power brick reminds me of a traditional 2 part laptop brick however instead of a barrel plug at one end, it terminates to a USB Type C port.
I do wish that HP would have included a flip cover for those who want to use this as a tablet and leave the keyboard at home. Hopefully HP will release one but if not, I am sure there are third party accessory manufacturers who are already working on it. I honestly feel that this is a must-have as the X2 lacks a kickstand so watching videos in the go is not going to be easy without the dock.
HP spared no expense on the build quality of the X2 with its all metal design. The “ceramic” metal color scheme is both striking and pleasing on the eye. Unlike the Pixelbook which has a all-white keyboard deck, the X2 uses a solid black. There is absolutely no flex in the tablet section and a very minimal flex in the keyboard section.
The only part of the unit that feels a bit cheap is HP’s Active Stylus as it has uses a mixture of lightweight metal and plastic. I honestly do feel like the stylus will last for a long time but the plastic clip will likely break off on users who are a bit rough with their unit.
I would not classify myself as a keyboard snob so take my impressions below with a grain of salt. The keyboard on the X2 is actually pretty good. It is a full size keyboard with plenty of spacing between keys and a decent amount of key travel. If you are someone who touch types, you should feel right at home here.
The one downfall with this keyboard is that HP did not include a back-light option which is a huge shame. I would have also killed to see a fingerprint reader on the keyboard as none exists on the tablet.
The trackpad on the keyboard is mediocre at best. It works well but after being spoiled with the Pixelbook, it is hard to go back.
The Keyboard Dock
The keyboard dock is included with the purchase of the HP Chromebook X2. It has a strong set of magnets on the hinge to securely lock onto the Chromebook when you wish to use it as a full laptop. While docked, the Chromebook essentially feels like a normal clamshell laptop which is great for use while traveling – unlike the Microsoft Surface/iPad Pro keyboards.
The keyboard dock is weighted very nicely which is a must as the top portion is very top heavy. I am honestly not too worried about it accidentally falling off of a table.
Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, it would have been nice if HP would have included an extended battery in the keyboard dock. This would have added a bit more weight to the keyboard but the tradeoff would be worth it.
The keyboard dock also includes an elastic pen holder to hold the active stylus. This is really something I would have love to have seen built into the Pixelbook.
The Active Stylus
Unlike many other devices, HP includes the HP Active Stylus in the box with each Chromebook X2. The Wacom based stylus is good but definitely not as good as the one included with the Pixelbook. Fun fact – you can however use the Pixelbook Stylus on the X2 and the HP Stylus on the Pixelbook if you wish.
Also unlike the Pixelbook Stylus, you do not have the Google Assistant functions built into the pen so there is no need for a button.
The HP Stylus does require a AAAA Battery which is included in the box. You may want to keep a few spares handy. The battery should last around a year depending on use. The Pixelbook Stylus uses the same battery as well.
Finally, HP includes a selection of replacement tips for the stylus as well as a tool to change the worn tips. They include tips that change the way it feels to write on the screen for those who want a more paper-like experience.
As mentioned above, I do not personally like that HP uses a plastic pen clip on the stylus. I am pretty sure that many users will break this at some point. It will not interfere with the way the stylus works but may make it hard to store.
Modern laptops seem to want to go with as few of ports as possible and the HP Chromebook X2 is no exception. The unit lacks many common connectors such as a full sized USB port. You do however get 2 USB Type C Ports, 1 MicroSD card slot and 1 headphone/microphone combo port. The X2 also has one set of POGO pins on the base to dock with the keyboard.
The HP Chromebook X2 is powered by a seventh generation Intel m3 processor, specifically the m3-7Y30 with a base clock speed of 1 GHz and while this does not sound too impressive, it can boost up to an impressive 2.60 GHz! This is a dual core processor with hyper-threading. If this processor sounds familiar, it is actually the same processor found in the base2018 Microsoft Surface. Needless to say this unit screams when running Chrome OS. This is
HP has included 4 GB of LPDDR3 RAM which is the standard with many Chromebooks. 4 GB of RAM is enough for most Chrome OS tasks but I really wished that HP would have started at 8 GB to make the unit more future-proof. HP did say that they will eventually have upgraded units with more RAM but there is no timeframe.
The one inexcusable shortcoming with this unit is the paltry 32 GB of eMMC storage. Chromebooks in 2018 should ship with a minimum of 64 GB and ideally use NVMe instead of eMMC. You can (and should) invest in a MicroSD card if you plan to carry any offline content.
Graphics wise, the X2 has a Intel HD 615 discrete graphics card. This is a great option for browsing the web, working in applications and a bit of lightweight gaming. It is on par with other Chrome OS devices.
The screen on the X2 is stunning and I honestly cannot find any complaints. The screen is bright and the colors all look fantastic. The screen is a 12.3 inch 2400 x 1600 IPS display with WLED back-lighting.
The touch sensitivity of the screen is also flawless which is necessary for use as a tablet.
The Battery Life
I have only been playing with this unit for a few hours so it is hard for me to give an exact review but after 2+ hours of use, I have only seen the battery drop by 15%. I will of course publish a full review in a few weeks but I am confident in saying that this Chromebook will last a typical user an entire day. I estimate 9-12 hours on a charge!
As the HP Chromebook X2 charges over a USB Type C connection, you can re-charge it on the go with a USB PD Battery Pack which is great when you will be away from an outlet for a few days or when traveling.
I really have nothing good to say here except that they exist. Both cameras performed poorly in my initial testing. The 5MP 720p front facing camera is passable for a video call but the rear 13 MP 1080 camera just produces washed out images – I really just wished that HP not have put a rear camera on this. Both cameras also had very poor low light performance. I will post some photos of properly lit areas in my full review.
Wow, just wow! The speakers on this think are amazing. They are loud and clear without adding any distortion. I honestly cannot find any faults with the speakers.
How Does Chrome OS Work on A Tablet?
Tablet Mode for Chrome OS is nothing new as many devices such as the Pixelbook, ASUS Chromebook Flip, Samsung Chromebook Pro/Plus and more all can use the Chrome OS Tablet Mode. This brings a simplified user interface at the cost of only being able to run full screen applications. The HP Chromebook X2 is the first Chrome OS Tablet with a detachable keyboard.
Chrome OS does work well on a tablet for most cases including consuming media, browsing the web and playing games. Lightweight productivity tasks are also possible for Chrome OS Tablets but I would not wish heavy productivity on my worst enemy. An onscreen keyboard just does not cut it when typing long emails and documents – this is where a physical keyboard will always win.
So, Should you buy one?
Please note, I am typing this after spending a few hours with the unit. I will be publishing a full review in the future after spending a few weeks with it.
In all honesty this ultimately depends on the user. Most people should be very happy with this unit but it may not appeal to some power users who would be better off with the Pixelbook. If you are someone who needs excellent battery life, a great keyboard, great screen and speedy performance then this may be the best unit for you when it officially goes on sale on June 11th.
I really feel that Students would benefit the most from the Chromebook X2 as the insane battery life will easily get you through a day of heavy use in classes as well as have plenty of battery left over for homework and studying. This unit may also be great for businesses that use web applications or use remotely hosted applications.
The HP Chromebook X2 is also great for those who want to binge watch streaming media thanks to its excellent screen, battery and sound. I would not try to store offline YouTube or Netflix on this due to the lack of storage and Chrome OS’s inability to properly use MicroSD Cards in Android.
It is hard to recommend this unit to Gamers as the storage is limited and many high end Android applications can easily consume all of your storage. With that said, this unit can easily handle just about any game so the problem is the limited storage. This is something that will hopefully be fixed in a later release of Chrome OS.
Finally if you are a developer who wants to make heavy use of Linux Applications via Project Crostini, you may want to go with the Pixelbook – again due to the limited storage. It would be nice if you could use the MicroSD card for parts of the Linux container but I do not see this happening any time soon.
Buy the HP Chromebook X2 on Amazon.