As the public embraces Chrome OS, OEMs have begun to incorporate Google’s operating system into their products in new ways. Soon, Chromebooks won’t be just the cheap laptops you buy for your kids as an alternative to a more expensive macOS or Windows machine—or for yourself as a secondary device. HP’s $599 Chromebook x2 is one of the first higher-end Chrome OS devices to come out, not to mention one of the first Chrome OS tablets available, too.
HP designed the Chromebook x2 to elevate the Chrome OS experience, similarly to how Google’s own Pixelbook handles the OS. The x2 is built with premium materials and packed with better internals than most Chromebooks, making it a good option for Chrome OS enthusiasts. At $599 for the tablet plus its keyboard and stylus, the Chromebook x2 isn’t trying to be the most affordable Chromebook—rather, it’s trying to appeal to those who want a premium Chromebook that balances style, versatility, and power.
Look and feel
Aside from Google’s Pixelbook, the Chromebook x2 is the most luxurious Chrome OS device I’ve ever held. The tablet’s weightiness struck me as soon as I took it out of the box, and its metal edges combined with ceramic white back finish make it a very handsome device. HP achieved the white color using the same anodized electrodeposition method used in previous Spectre laptops, showing that the company didn’t cut any corners, instead breaking the plastic-clamshell shackles that once restrained Google’s operating system.
|Specs at a glance: HP Chromebook x2 (as reviewed)|
|Screen||12.3-inch QHD IPS display (235 ppi)|
|OS||Chrome OS, Android 7.1.1|
|CPU||Intel Core m3-7Y30|
|GPU||Intel HD Graphics 615|
|Networking||802.11b/g/n/ac (2×2) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Ports||2 USB-C ports, 1 microSD card slot, 1 headphone/mic combo|
|Size||11.5 x 8.32 x 0.33 inches|
|Weight||1.6 pounds (tablet only), about 3 pounds (with keyboard attached)|
|Price as reviewed||$599|
|Other perks||Included keyboard and stylus|
HP Chromebook x2
Not only is the white finish attractive, but it’s supposed to add strength, durability, and a scratch-resistant layer to the device. I was instinctively more protective over the Chromebook x2 than other devices because I didn’t want to sully its pristine finish, but it easily withstood minor dings and scratches from accidental mishandling. The slab feels sturdy in hand, and I appreciated the thick bezels surrounding the 12.3-inch QHD touchscreen, as they make it easier to grip the device in almost every way.
It’s not the lightest tablet at 1.6 pounds, but it’s still comfortably portable with and without its keyboard attachment. It measures 8.2mm thick alone, and just 15mm thick when attached to the keyboard. Its heft comes from both the keyboard and the tablet’s internals—we’ll get into the included keyboard in the next section, but the Chromebook x2’s specs combine the hardware necessities for mobile devices and PCs alike: an accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, and ambient light sensor, plus a 13MP rear camera, 5MP front-facing camera, a Core m3 processor, and a 48Whr battery. The last of the list is supposed to help the device last at least 10 hours on a single charge, so you can work for an entire day without charging up—something you can’t even attempt to do with most tablets.
HP employed Bang and Olufsen’s Play audio technology in the tablet’s two front-facing speakers. The tiny slits are barely noticeable on the left and right bezels, but they pump out loud sound. The tablet won’t replace your preferred home speaker system, but it’s capable of filling a room with decent audio.
Like most tablets, the Chromebook x2 doesn’t excel in the port department. It has two USB-C ports, one on either side of the device (when connected to the keyboard, both ports sit close to the hinge), one microSD card slot that can expand the device’s internal storage, and one headphone/mic jack. Chrome OS doesn’t demand many connectivity options, but some Chromebooks have USB-A ports, DisplayPorts, and HDMI ports. The tablet form demands sacrifices in this area, so those seeking connectivity versatility will have to look elsewhere or buy the appropriate adaptors.
The Chromebook x2 is the first Chrome OS detachable to hit the market and one of the first Chrome OS tablets to come out. Acer led the way with its Chromebook Tab 10, an affordable Chrome OS tablet meant for students and schools. HP’s device is an entirely different animal than Acer’s, and that’s a good thing.
The market for family-friendly, affordable Chrome OS devices—laptops and tablets alike—will continue to grow, but many companies are carving out a space for premium Chrome OS devices. This sector is in its infancy, but it banks on the idea that students and young people who have grown comfortable with Chrome OS will want a more attractive device when they start buying their own devices.
As the first consumer-focused Chrome OS tablet, the Chromebook x2 sets the bar high. HP didn’t follow the handbook that many OEMs use when crafting a Chromebook, which generally leads to the use of cheaper materials and uninspired designs. Instead, the company made a premium tablet that just so happens to have the specs necessary to run Chrome OS quite efficiently. HP could have made this slab a Windows device, and it would have still been a thoughtfully designed detachable.
That being said, I miss the biometric login options available on HP’s Windows devices. I caught myself staring into the webcam’s tiny eye a few times upon waking the Chromebook x2, expecting it to detect my face and immediately log me in. But that’s not a feature that HP can control, as Chrome OS doesn’t directly support biometric logins. The workaround for this is available only to Android smartphone users, who can set up their Chrome OS device to unlock when they use their fingerprint to unlock their smartphone.
Keyboard and stylus
The Chromebook x2’s included keyboard is one of the heaviest I’ve ever held. That’s due to its metal back and beefy metal hinge, which includes magnetic nodes and two raised pieces that slip into holes on the side of the tablet when you connect the device to its accessory. The collective weight of the device and its keyboard didn’t bother me, because the overall design makes it the best detachable I’ve used in terms of stability.
The tablet doesn’t have a kickstand like many other detachables do, so it relies solely on the keyboard to keep it upright when in laptop mode. The keyboard holds the weight and then some, keeping the Chromebook x2 steady both on flat surfaces and on my lap. I could even adjust the angle of the screen when in laptop mode without the entire device collapsing on itself. The metal inside the keyboard makes it feel solid, unlike some other keyboards that feel like they’re made out of cheap plastic or cardboard.
Size represents the only challenge for the Chromebook x2 as an on-the-go laptop: the keyboard just about matches the device’s dimensions, measuring 11.5 x 8 inches, so it occupies a small area when sitting on your lap. I had to keep my knees close together to ensure the device had just enough room to sit but not too much room to cause it to topple over to one side or the other. However, that didn’t stop me from using the Chromebook x2 on my lap—I was thrilled to find a detachable that’s actually stable enough in laptop mode.
The keyboard is full-sized and perfectly fine to use, as is the trackpad. The latter is thankfully not as small as some I’ve seen on keyboard accessories, giving your fingers just enough space to move freely. A pen loop sits on the right edge of the keyboard, providing the included stylus with a place to live.
The pen and photo editing
HP’s pen requires a AAAA battery, unlike other active pens that work without needing a charge or battery replacement. Otherwise, though, it’s a solid active pen that’s easy to use thanks to a design that mimics a regular pen or pencil. It produces little latency across Chrome OS, but latency within apps often depends on the app itself. I noticed little (if any) latency when taking notes in the Squib app, but there was a delay of about a half-second when sketching and coloring in the Painter app.
I enjoyed using the pen when editing photos as well. I use Photoshop to edit product photos on my MacBook Pro, but thanks to the advances made in Chrome OS and Android apps, I could edit photos fairly easily on the Chromebook x2. Plugging my SD card into an adaptor, and the adaptor into one of the device’s USB-C ports, I found all of my photos in Chrome OS’ Files app. Photoshop Express and Pixlr are just two of the many apps you can use to edit photos on a Chromebook, and both are quite competent at the task, even if they can’t fully replace Photoshop.
The experience of using Pixlr is that of a mobile app, not a desktop program, which will be insufficient for most professional photographers. As someone who takes and edits photos that complement written work on a regular basis, however, I could get by using either Pixlr or Photoshop Express (As an Adobe user, I prefer the latter). Using the Chromebook x2’s stylus gave me more precision when editing finer details in my photos and I appreciated being able to set the device down, flat on my desk, to edit images almost as if I was making changes to a sketch.
Chrome OS’ Files app isn’t made for managing a larger number of files—you’re expected to rely on cloud storage when using a Chromebook—so it was frustrating to use when picking and organizing the photos I wanted to edit. The interface was clunky to navigate, particularly when sorting through similarly named JPEG and NEF/RAW files. If I were to use a Chromebook as my primary device, I’d want to use the Files app as little as possible, likely only for choosing the photos I wanted to keep before transferring them to a cloud storage service or an external hard drive.
Our Chromebook x2 review unit runs on an Intel Core m3-7Y30 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. HP explained that it chose an Intel chip for this device (rather than a Qualcomm chip) to get the best combination of performance and battery life possible. A device like the Chromebook x2 is supposed to be a workhorse—as much of a workhorse as a Chrome OS can be—allowing the user to browse the Web with many tabs, stream music and video, and run multiple Android apps with few (if any) hiccups.
I had a fine experience using the Chromebook x2 as my main work device for a few days; it handled my in-browser work (which accounts for most of my workday), it allowed me to edit a handful of photos without too much compromise, and I rarely experienced any performance lag. The Chromebook x2 performed well on our benchmark tests as well. It outshined the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 on most tests, and it was even on par with the Galaxy Tab S4 in most cases.
HP’s Chromebook x2 lasted an average of 736 minutes, or about 12 hours, on our Wi-Fi battery test. It managed to survive an average of 414 minutes, or about seven hours, on our webGL test. Those numbers are impressive considering HP estimated the device will last about 10.5 hours on a single charge. It’s worth noting that the entirety of the Chromebook x2’s battery is inside the tablet itself, not shared between it and the keyboard accessory. According to HP, using the keyboard with the Chromebook x2 should not affect battery life (we ran all of our tests with the keyboard attached).
Move over, Pixelbook
HP’s Chromebook x2 made me rethink my belief that Chromebooks would peak as secondary devices for most working professionals. If I didn’t have a handful of proprietary programs I needed to use for my work at Ars, I could make the switch to a Chromebook more easily than I thought. The fact that the Chromebook x2 made me rethink how I work and what’s necessary for me to work speaks volumes.
There are a ton of Chromebooks available now, and more devices that share the Chromebook x2’s premium nature are on the way. Detachables have a more targeted audience than convertibles, and most of the detachables I’ve tried were not stable enough for me to use comfortably or confidently outside the stable confines of my desk. HP’s Chromebook x2 breaks that mold—not only is it one of the most attractive Chrome OS devices you can get (on par with Google’s Pixelbook), but it’s also a device that works just as well as a tablet as it does as a laptop.
The $599 Chromebook x2 is made better by its included accessories: a solid keyboard and an active pen that can live conveniently on the side of the keyboard. Unlike other devices like Apple’s iPad and Microsoft’s Surface, HP doesn’t make users pay more to have the laptop or handwriting experience that you’d expect from a detachable.
Chrome OS may not be fully tablet-ready yet, but the improvements are steadily arriving on the platform. Those who are already familiar with Chrome OS will be delighted to see the operating system grow with them, and having a high-end device like the Chromebook x2 with which to use it will make Chrome OS feel less and less like a compromise.