There are a small but still growing number of 2-in-1 Chromebooks on the market. HP has been on the Chromebook bandwagon for some time now, including the release of their X2 Chromebook back in 2018. The X2 has received an update in 2021, with the device now on sale in Australia.
The HP Chromebook X2 2021 is a smaller device than its predecessor with a more compact 11-inch screen. The internal has also been updated with a Qualcomm Snapdragon SC7180 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of built-in storage.
2-in-1 has also seen the addition of 4G connectivity to keep you connected while on the go.
HP has also rethought the keyboard mount and support leg, moving from a mechanical hinge to a removable keyboard with a support leg cover that attaches magnetically to the back.
Priced at $ 999 RRP, the HP X2 is not the cheapest option – but there are a number of sales around that can bring the price down significantly if you check a little.
I’ve been using the HP Chromebook X2 for 2 weeks now and this is how it went.
Hardware and design
For all intents and purposes, the HP Chromebook X2 (2021) is a pretty standard 2-in-1 design. The 11 “QHD resolution IPS screen has some decent but uniformly thick frames around the edges, which actually makes the tablet easy to hold without worrying about phantom touches.
The screen itself is excellent, capable of up to 400-nit brightness, it looks good indoors, although it can struggle a bit when in the harsh glow of the sun, but even then it is still quite usable. The downside for anyone who wants responsive monitors is that the tablet only has a 60Hz update, which is a bit low compared to phone monitors these days, but overall it looks good.
There are a couple of Bang & Olufssen speakers on each side of the screen, and these can produce surprisingly loud and clear sound, although at higher volumes it tends to blur a bit. The only downside to this is that changing the orientation of the tablet to portrait also means that your sound suffers with the speakers now placed above and below the screen, making stereo sound a little more challenging.
The tablet itself is a rather thick and weighty device that measures 7.6 mm and weighs a little over a pound. It’s a little heavy to hold, the square design feels like it’s not the most ergonomic, and the metallic butt can get a little cold when you first pick it up. The addition of the back cover makes it a little more comfortable and warmer to hold, covering the rear metal panel.
However, the back cover helps offset some of these factors, and it looks beautiful in the ‘Night Teal’ color variant, which also adorns the detachable keyboard. The cover is robust and holds the tablet firmly in a number of different positions.
The keyboard cover is a decent size and comes with a built-in trackpad. The cover is mostly solid, but has a little flex in it, but it can be used on the lap reasonably comfortably. It’s a nice size for touch typing, so it’s not cramped, and the keys have a nice spring that makes it easy to type. Likewise, the trackpad has a nice size and is very responsive, whether it’s just navigating around or using gestures.
The only real change I would like to see on the HP Chromebook X2 is the addition of a backlight to the keyboard, which would make it easier to use at night – cross your fingers for next year.
The volume and on / off buttons are easy to reach on the tablet with the on / off button (which acts as a fingerprint reader) on top when in landscape position, and the volume button on the left with two USB-C ports at the bottom and SIM card slot above.
The other side of the tablet contains a magnetic for USI (Universal Stylus Initiative) stylus, even though there is no stylus in the box. Previous iterations have used a loop to hold the pen nearby, but this magnetic attachment is much more aesthetically pleasing and functionally appealing. I prefer the embedded design of the ASUS CM3, which is a hole in the tablet for storing the pen, but this is a good option if you are a stylus user.
The base of the tablet includes the POGO pins for the keyboard as well as a few guide holes for the plastic pegs on the keyboard cover, which are used to easily turn on the pins for connection. It is a very easy process to attach and disassemble the keyboard when needed, but it will not just fall off – these magnets are great.
By using the Qualcomm ARM-based processor, the tablet has a fanless design, so there are no ventilation openings on the device – but it does not heat up at all, even after prolonged use.
However, it’s also a decent responsive processor, where Chrome runs beautifully, though there are moments of slowness when using some major Android apps or apps from the Linux (Crosstini) side of the partition.
I mostly only noticed slowness when I started apps, but not when they were loaded. Based on this, I can not help but wonder how the tablet would do with more RAM – but having said that, 8 GB is clearly more than enough for the average user, apart from these load times.
The 128GB of built-in storage is quite generous when talking about a tablet or Chromebook, but quite limited when talking about a laptop. I would ideally prefer to have a microSD card slot to expand the storage space, but with Chrome OS, which mostly relies on cloud storage (Dropbox, OneDrive, Drive, Box, etc.) – which can be integrated into the Files app for Easy access.
There are two HP Wide Vision cameras on the tablet, a 5 MP front-facing and 8 MP rear-facing, both of which include dual array microphones.
The cameras are useful in the context of the education sector, which largely uses Chromebooks in both private and public schools, and while I use the front-facing camera for video conferencing, I do not usually find much need for the rear camera, but it is there and right decent quality.
With a 32 Wh Lithium-ion Polymer battery, the HP Chromebook X2 (2021) offers up to 11 and a quarter of the battery life according to HP. In my test I can say that this is definitely shown true in my test – although I managed to get a little more with relatively easy use just by watching videos, reading books and surfing the web.
There is a 45 W USB Type-C power adapter included in the box, which offers fast charging. The spec sheet says that you get about 50% on 45 minutes of charging, which is almost on par with most phones these days, which is pretty good.
Given the compact nature of these 2-in-1s, I would like to see an attempt at wireless charging one day, maybe next year.
Overall, though, the HP Chromebook X2 is an absolute beast when it comes to giving you a full day of use, even if you decide to expose it to hard work.
The launch of Chrome OS prompted Google to build an OS that was lightweight and did more with less. Over the years, Chrome OS has evolved and gained higher functionality through the addition of both Android apps with Google Play, as well as with the introduction of a Linux container thanks to Crosstini.
Chrome OS itself is constantly updated. There are three levels in the theory, Stable, Beta and Dev. HP Chromebook X2 and Chrome OS devices generally arrive with the stable channel set by default, Chrome v94 at this point, but it will get updates.
Google tends to push updates out on a 6-week schedule for Chrome OS, moving releases through Dev> Beta and eventually Stable when ready.
Best of all, the updates are installed in the background and generally do not require a reboot … unlike other operating systems, which always seem to need to be updated just before you need them.
Beta and Dev can be difficult to use if you trust your Chromebook on a day-to-day basis, as the features are generally not guaranteed to work – but they can be fun to check out. However, if you stick to the stable channel, you should never run into problems.
The introduction of Android apps for Chrome OS has been a rocky one. Even now, five years after they first brought the Play Store to the OS, Android apps are still finding their legs. Google has tried to develop solutions to make them work without developers having to change anything, but the best experience is when developers optimize their app for Chrome OS.
While it would be great to have Android apps ‘just’ on Chrome OS, they are hit and miss. Sometimes you get a phone layout when you need to see a wider layout for a larger screen. There are good apps, Telegram for one, but there are others, including a number of games that do not scale well – so be aware.
This layout issue has been a theme for both Android tablets and now Chrome OS tablets for years. It gets better after sales of Chrome OS tablets rose sharply during the pandemic, but it’s still a problem for many apps.
For the most part, though, Android apps work decently, but not perfectly, and that’s ok because you can still access many of the services you want through the Chrome browser.
The second arrow in the Chrome OS quiver is the inclusion of Linux support. You can enable Linux support and start installing Linux apps in no time at all.
Of course, you need a little familiarity with Linux, but once that learning curve has been tamed, you will find that a surprising amount of functionality has been added. There are a number of guides to using Linux on Chrome OS that are worth checking out on YouTube, but if you are familiar with Linux, it is a killer inclusion.
An often overlooked bonus of Chromebooks is the redeemable benefits. Google gift subscriptions such as 100 GB of free Google One storage or 3 months of YouTube Premium among others. These are good to redeem, but if you are a regular Chrome OS user, you will not be able to use these much as you can redeem them only once. Still nice to know they are there.
Are you going to buy it?
It’s a resounding yes from me to this one. The HP Chromebook X2 has a few rough edges in the design, but the chunkiness of the body allows for great battery life, and with the inclusion of 4G connectivity, you can be connected pretty much anywhere.
The price is a key point, and while at a suggested retail price of $ 999 it’s a bit expensive, it’s an absolute bargain when it’s on sale – which it is at the moment.
Using the Qualcomm processor rather than a more moderate Mediatek offering, such as used by competitors, the X2 provides a performance advantage that should not be ruled out. Of course, there are improvements that can be made to the functionality, but compared to the ‘whole package’, the HP Chromebook X2 has a lot to offer.