HP Pavilion x360 £350
3rd Oct 2014 | 09:40
Is this the flexible, low-cost hybrid we've been waiting for?
Introduction and specifications
Hybrids. Two-in-ones. Tablet laptops. There was a resurgence of these machines when Windows 8 appeared and touted a very touchy interface, and it's still going strong, with this year seeing a number of twisty laptops including the likes of the Acer Aspire Switch 10, Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga 2 11, and the Dell XPS 11. And today we're looking at HP's Pavilion x360.
Though x360 sounds more like a gaming moniker than a cute little portable home machine, you're looking at a very lightweight laptop in terms of specs here. Powered by a low-energy Intel Celeron CPU, usability and value are the orders of the day – this 11.6-inch machine comes in at just £350 (around US$565, AU$645).
It comes in silver or the utterly adorable red colour of our review unit, with the entire outside clad in a kind of candy apple red matt plastic, with silver around the keyboard and a black display bezel. And yes, that display folds from closed like a normal laptop all the way around so that it's open flat against the back of the machine – just about 360 degrees, hence the name.
Inside the 22mm thick frame, you get a 500GB hard drive, 4GB of RAM and Beats Audio speakers, which are a regular feature on HP laptops – and the Beats logo suits the styling to no small degree.
The whole thing is fairly small, though far from tiny, it has to be said. There's a lot of unused space around the 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 resolution screen – but the advantage of this is that it gives the keyboard more space. It's actually a 97% sized keyboard, so is practically full-size.
The 22mm thickness again isn't bad, but is far from the thinnest, and at a weight of 1.4kg, it's roughly 40% heavier than the 11-inch MacBook Air.
Still, it feels churlish to complain about these things too much – it's still fairly light, quite compact and is built very nicely indeed, with the whole thing feeling rock solid, save for a little bit of flex in the lid.
There's even a decent selection of ports, with one USB 3.0 connection, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI out, Ethernet, an SD card slot, and a joint mic/headphone 3.5mm jack. Also on the edge is a volume rocker, for use in tablet mode.
The HP Pavilion x360 is rather light when it comes to specifications, which is perhaps no surprise given its size and cost.
At the heart of this machine is an Intel Celeron N2820 processor, which is dual-core and runs at 2.13GHz (it's capable of increasing to 2.39GHz for some intensive applications, but we wouldn't expect much of a performance increase from that boost).
Despite being dual-core and having what seems to be a decent clock speed, though, don't expect much performance out of this chip. It's based on Intel's Silvermont architecture, used in the company's Atom processors – more like what you see in tablets such as the iPad Air or Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 than even the budget-priced HP Pavilion TouchSmart 15-n070sa.
However, the potential advantage of using this chip (other than keeping costs down) is that it's very, very low power, so it could lead to great battery life.
The graphics are handled by Intel too, with integrated HD graphics – but again, that's nowhere near the power of the Iris graphics in the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, for example. It does support DirectX 11, but once again, we're talking more tablet power than even a mild gaming laptop.
The 4GB of RAM available is, well, the minimum expected these days, but it should be perfectly serviceable for most users, given that you're unlikely to really be able to do anything intensive on the Pavilion x360's processor anyway.
The 500GB hard drive spins at 5400rpm, meaning it's likely to be a bit of a performance bottleneck as far as the general speed of the machine goes. However, for the £350 price, it's a decent size, and we wouldn't really expect anything faster.
The 11.6-inch display is multi-touch capable for both using the x360 in tablet mode generally, as well as playing some touch-based games. The resolution of 1366 x 768 is perfectly good for its size (it's the same as the much more expensive 11-inch MacBook Air), and in fact many budget or mid-range 15-inch laptops, including the notably more expensive Toshiba Satellite M50.
You've got Beats Audio speakers to help boost its credentials as a media machine slightly, though you rarely see an HP laptop without them these days.
When it comes to getting online, you've got an Ethernet port (though it's only 10/100 – not Gigabit) and Wi-Fi b/g/n. Bluetooth 4 is supported, usefully, so it could work with the new wave of wearable devices that are emerging.
And as we mentioned, you've got one USB 3.0 port for fast external file access, as well as two USB 2.0 ports. An HDMI port gives you video output, an SD card reader lets you import photos and a 3.5mm jack is present to plug in your headphones.
- Cinebench 11: CPU: 0.74pts; OpenGL: 5.74fps
- 3D Mark: Ice Storm: 14025; Cloud Gate: 1086; Fire Strike: wouldn't run
- PC Mark 8 Home: 1101
- PC Mark 8 Home Power-Saving Battery: 3 hrs 37 mins
As expected, the performance of the HP Pavilion x360's processor leaves much to be desired. With a Cinebench score of 0.74, it's significantly behind even similarly priced larger laptops, including HP's own Pavilion TouchSmart 15-n070sa.
Interestingly, it's also far, far behind the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 that we tested, even though that machine also uses Silvermont-based processor technology. Its Pentium-branded processor is quad-core, which obviously helps, but it scored 1.77 in the Cinebench tests, which even bests some Core i3 Intel chips from fully-fledged laptops.
It's the same story with the graphics – the 3D Mark Cloud Gate score of 1086 is very low, and again massively lower than the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 15-n070sa, which is a similar price. For basic tablet-level games from the Windows Store (i.e. Cut the Rope) you'll get by without too much worry, but pretty much anything above that level is out.
Real world usage
What does all that mean in terms of real use? Well, you are limited to a degree by what you can run on this machine – video editing and any similarly intensive tasks are pretty much out, unless you have discovered an inner source of unending patience. But sub-£400, 11-inch hybrids have never exactly been designed for that anyway.
For general use, the HP Pavilion x360 is perfectly functional – it's just annoyingly slow at times. HP's usual suite of irritating software additions doesn't help, but you'll certainly notice that doing pretty much anything involves a wait, either for the hard drive to kick in or for the weak processor to work its way through the task.
Things like unzipping files take a surprisingly long time, and even loading websites just isn't very fast. But, as we say, it's all just a little slow, rather than catastrophically buggy or crashy.
The touchscreen is responsive, though, and the touch-friendly parts of the interface are fairly smooth. On the small screen, the desktop side of things is unsurprisingly awkward, but that's hardly a new thing for these sort of devices.
With the screen folded around into pure tablet mode, it's not exactly the most comfortable, ergonomic design, but it works. The keyboard deactivates when folded around like this, so that it's no problem if you mash the keys while gripping it.
The size and weight are far from the best for tablets – consider the iPad Air's 7.5mm thickness and 469g weight compared to the 22mm thickness and 1.4kg weight here. They're very different devices, but the point is that ultimately, the x360 just doesn't make that great a tablet.
The screen doesn't help either – the resolution is fine, and when viewed straight on, the colours are nice and bright enough. However, the viewing angles aren't brilliant, meaning that often if you pop it down on a handy surface in tablet mode, seeing what's on the screen is difficult.
Still, as a laptop, usability is actually rather good. The keyboard is 97% of full-size, and is very comfortable. The keys have a fairly short travel, but give a good amount of feedback, and it's easy to type without errors.
The trackpad is responsive and lacks the horrid finicky movement of many cheaper laptops, and gestures were recognised well. Furthermore, the Beats speakers do a good job, delivering clear, punchy sound befitting of a much larger machine.
Sadly, the x360 didn't end up impressing us on battery life, even with its low-power CPU. It's not the worst we've ever seen, lasting for 3 hours and 37 minutes on its Power Saver setting when running PC Mark 8's mix of uses including browsing, typing and video chatting.
However, the Lenovo Yoga 2 11 nearly doubled that, beating the 6 hour mark. In that context, HP has fumbled the ball somewhat here.
Hybrid laptop/tablets like the HP Pavilion x360 are starting to hit a groove. You've got higher-end features in the Dell XPS 11, business-like value in the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11, the purely budget-focused Acer Aspire Switch 10 and, in the Pavilion x360 itself, a very cheap and cheerful home device.
Despite the range starting to thrive, though, the word "compromises" seems to come up a lot in our reviews of these machines, and it has its place here, too. The Pavilion x360 has a lovely design, a tantalising price and great usability, but there's a lot that frustrates.
The red, silver and black design is great, and the build quality appears to be very high, too – much better than most similarly priced laptops.
The usability is also really impressive – between the comfortable keyboard, slick trackpad and responsive touchscreen, the frustration won't come from not being able to control the x360 properly.
And the price is good – if you do end up deciding to buy the Pavilion x360, we're sure that will be a big factor, and it is rare to get a laptop as smart and as usable for well under £400.
The lack of power for applications is severe, and a bit disappointing on its own, but with the slow hard drive too, it can simply be frustrating to use for long periods of time. For very light use, it is generally capable enough – but never better than that.
The screen is fine for resolution, but slightly disappointing in terms of viewing angles and overall quality – and this is an area you can't skimp on if you really want people to use it as a tablet. The same goes for battery life – Lenovo got it right, but HP has fallen short of what we'd hope for.
The fact of the matter is that it simply isn't that great a tablet – ergonomically, it's far from ideal, and it's so much heftier and thicker than an iPad Air or Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.
Somewhat inevitably, the hybrid nature of the Pavilion x360 leads to its undoing. It's underpowered compared to similarly priced laptops, and lacks the responsiveness and lightness of dedicated tablets. It doesn't do a great job of being a truly compelling example of either of these things.
But its usability, attractive and sturdy design, along with the impressive price tag mean that it shouldn't be completely dismissed – especially if you really want a machine that offers both laptop and tablet use modes. We'd still point you in the direction of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11, though.