The battle of the business notebooks is in full swing as HP tries to one-up Lenovo—and itself—all in one go. HP scored a winner with an updated 13-inch Elitebook x360 it released last year. Now it’s full-speed ahead with the new Elitebook x360 1040 G5, the newest version of HP’s 14-inch business notebook.
The 13-inch model is smaller and lighter overall, but HP offers upgraded features in this larger convertible and promises a 14-inch display in a 13-inch chassis.
We liked the 13-inch Elitebook x360, so I was looking to answer a few questions in testing the Elitebook x360 1040: Does it succeed in all the ways its 13-inch counterpart did? Is it better than the smaller option? And did HP create a device that can dethrone Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 laptops and convertibles as the kings of commercial ultrabooks? Let’s find out.
Look and feel
HP is pushing the fact that the Elitebook x360 1040 fits a 14-inch screen in a 13-inch chassis. That’s impressive, but it also means that the company didn’t change much about the convertible’s external design. The same brushed aluminum coloring covers the entire laptop, accented only by diamond-cut edges that appear shiny and sharp when they catch the light. The metal hinges have a slightly curved, rectangular shape to them, allowing the screen to swivel 360 degrees from laptop to tent to tablet mode.
|Specs at a glance: HP Elitebook x360 1040 G5 (as reviewed)|
|Screen||14-inch 1920×1080 touchscreen with etched-glass anti-glare design|
|OS||Windows 10 Pro|
|GPU||Intel UHD Graphics 620|
|HDD||512GB PCIe SSD|
|Networking||8265 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2×2) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 combo, vPro, NFC, MiraCast support, Cat16 4G LTE (optional)|
|Ports||2x Thunderbolt 3, 2x USB-A 3.1 Gen 1, 1x HDMI port, 1x nano SIM slot, 1x lock slot, 1x audio combo jack|
|Size||12.65 x 8.46 x 0.66 in (32.14 x 21.5 x 1.69 cm)|
|Price as reviewed||$2,349|
|Other perks||Windows Hello IR camera, FHD webcam, fingerprint sensor, backlit keyboard|
HP EliteBook x360 1040 G5
The 14-inch Elitebook feels just as sturdy as the 13-inch laptop, and HP made sure it passed numerous MIL-spec tests. I appreciate when OEMs can ensure this level of durability while also making a device that isn’t ugly. The 14-inch Elitebook has the same level of Spectre elegance that the 13-inch device has, making it a work laptop that will withstand inevitable bumps and dings while still retaining its high-end appearance. HP excels in this respect because Lenovo’s ThinkPads still have that company-issued laptop look to them (although the X1 series has done a decent amount to fix that).
Overall, the 14-inch Elitebook is 10 percent smaller than the previous version. Weighing 2.99 pounds, it feels quite light when you’re toting it from meeting room to meeting room. Since its screen is so large for its chassis size, it gives off the appearance of being a more hefty machine. Most will be pleasantly surprised when they pick it up for the first time.
Those who consider the Elitebook x360 1040 will want to think carefully about the display panel they choose. While all available options are touchscreens, you can choose from an FHD (1920×1080) panel with 400 nits max brightness, a 4K panel at 500 nits max brightness, and an FHD panel at 700 nits brightness that also comes with HP’s Sure View privacy screen. The FHD screens also provide the option of an etched-glass, anti-glare panel, which is designed to reduce eye strain.
I’m happy to see the 4K option, but most users may want to skip that panel. Sure View limits the display’s viewing angles and makes it so prying eyes cannot look over your shoulder to see what’s on your screen. Our review unit didn’t have Sure View, but I’ve seen it in action, and it will be convenient for those who travel a lot and cannot afford sensitive information leaking while they work from airports, cafes, and other locations.
Our convertible did have the etched-glass panel, though, and I can say that it achieves what it promises. All of my devices are equipped with night modes and equivalent settings to reduce eye strain because my eyes get tired after staring at screens for most of the day. The etched-glass FHD panel on the Elitebook x360 1040 is one of the most comfortable I’ve used—it also doesn’t interfere with touch or pen input.
However, if you opt for etched-glass and no Sure View, just know that the design of the panel makes the viewing angles superb, so you can see the screen clearly even when viewing it from a sharp side angle. Anyone could glance over and see important information on your screen.
The FHD webcam and IR camera sit atop the display panel, while a fingerprint reader sits under the keyboard. That gives you two biometric login options to choose from and a slightly better-than-average webcam for video conferencing. The only downside is that HP doesn’t include a webcam shutter or a disable button, unlike some models in Lenovo’s X1 series.
The 14-inch Elitebook sports a slightly more versatile port selection than the 13-inch model, thanks to its two USB-A ports. It also includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one HDMI port, a lock slot, and a headphone jack. Users can get optional LTE connectivity on this device as well with the nano SIM card slot, giving them access to network service in almost any environment. In comparison to the 2018 ThinkPad X1 Carbon, the Elitebook x360 1040 falls a little short since it doesn’t have the microSD card slot that Lenovo’s device has. But The X1 Carbon doesn’t support optional LTE, so it has its trade-offs as well.
Keyboard, trackpad, and Active Pen
One of the most noticeable differences between the 13-inch and 14-inch Elitebook x360s is the additional column of keys on the latter device. Full-sized page up, page down, and other navigation keys sit in a line at the right of the keyboard. While they are convenient for those who rely on such keys, I found their placement on the keyboard bothersome. I often missed hitting the Delete key, inadvertently pressing the page-up key, and found my next sentence positioned incorrectly in my document. While this didn’t happen every time I set my hands down on the keys, it happened at least once each day.
HP promises a quieter typing experience with this keyboard, and I did find that the Elitebook’s keys were less noisy than even those on my MacBook Pro. Aside from the annoyance of the extra column of keys, I was able to easily type most of this review, as well as other documents, on the convertible. However, Lenovo’s ThinkPad keyboards still hold the top spot in my heart for typing comfort and tactile satisfaction.
The Precision trackpad works exactly as you’d expect—no better or worse than the others I’ve tested on similar ultrabooks. It’s decently sized, smooth to use, and supports a number of multi-finger gestures. HP has Lenovo beat with the trackpad’s size, but some will love the physical left- and right-click buttons on the trackpad of Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon. If you’re like Ars’ Peter Bright, you may also demand the TrackPoint ball that Lenovo’s laptops have but HP’s lack.
The Active Pen for the Elitebook x360 1040 is the same as that for the 13-inch device. It’s a stylus with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt input power, making it similar to most other active pens designed for ultrabooks. My feelings haven’t changed since I reviewed the 13-inch laptop: HP’s stylus is perfectly suitable for those who want to take notes and complete basic sketches on the 14-inch Elitebook x360. It’s not the most amazing artists’ tool, but it will get the job done for professionals who are not specifically in creative fields.
However, I wish HP included this pen, or an even more basic one, in the price of the Elitebook x360 1040. Convertibles are designed to be used with trackpad, finger, and pen input, so I would prefer having all of those input methods at my disposal after shelling out hundreds for the machine itself.
Our Elitebook x360 1040 review unit had the same internals as the 13-inch model we reviewed: a Core i7 U-series processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. Both convertibles achieved similar scores on our benchmark tests, making the 14-inch model a capable workhorse. The fans were noticeably loud only when running our graphics benchmarks, which are some of the most labor-intensive tests we run. Otherwise, the 14-inch convertible stays relatively quiet most of the time.
HP offers a 15-inch version of this convertible as well, and you’ll find H-series processors and optional discrete graphics only in that model. HP updated the line to serve its customers better, who apparently preferred H-series processors only when they’re paired with bumped-up GPUs.
In order to fit everything into a 13-inch chassis, HP actually shrunk the battery pack inside the Elitebook x360 1040. The 56Whr battery is the same as that in the 13-inch model, but considering the design changes, this convertible is expected to last up to 17 hours on a single charge. In our testing, it scored an average of 896 minutes, or just about 15 hours, on our Wi-Fi test, and an average of 726 minutes, or 12 hours, on our WebGL test. That’s quite close to the scores the 13-inch convertible got, and it even surpassed its counterpart on the graphics-intensive test. While it’s not quite the 17 hours promised by HP, it’s still enough to get you through the day and then some.
More of the same, but that’s a good thing
The 14-inch Elitebook x360 excels and fall short in most ways that the 13-inch device did. It has many things going for it: a sturdy design (and in this case, one not marred by the inclusion of a larger display), optional LTE, solid performance, and good battery life. Some may be disappointed that not much has truly changed from last year’s models, but it’s for good reason: HP didn’t need to tweak much to make these convertibles great.
The 14-inch display and its various panel options set this device apart from others. Those who want 4K can get 4K, but those who don’t have a couple of options with features that tackle eye strain and security. Sure View will be indispensable for traveling professionals, while I would consider shelling out extra for an etched-glass panel to save my eyes some fatigue.
But there are some things that HP just can’t replicate, like Lenovo’s superb typing experience on its ThinkPad X1 family. Some business customers also favor ThinkPads’ nondescript design, and you won’t get that in an HP business notebook in the same class. But the new Elitebooks are formidable opponents for Lenovo’s business notebooks, and customers shouldn’t overlook the middle child in the Elitebook x360 family. It’s definitely worth the extra cost if you enjoy having a relatively large screen in a small convertible, but those who aren’t as picky about screen real estate can opt for the slightly less expensive 13-inch model.