HP is looking to make the hybrid more affordable than ever with the HP Pavilion x360 ($399 starting, $484 as reviewed). This notebook's 360-degree hinge allows its 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 display to be used in laptop, tablet, tent and stand modes. Factor in its loud Beats Audio speakers and a snappy keyboard, and you've got an apt companion for work and play. However, with similar notebooks available at the same attainable price, is this the 2-in-1 to take home?
Like an affordable sports convertible, the HP Pavilion x360 is stylish, compact and can transform itself in a few seconds. As with other flexible notebooks, you can fold the x360's keyboard back for an entertainment-friendly stand mode, put the notebook in tent mode for tabletop use, or condense the whole thing into an 11.6-inch tablet.
Keeping consistent with HP's flair for colors, our x360 came in a speckled cherry red finish (also available in black) around the lid and underside, which open up to reveal a slick aluminum-brushed deck with black island keys. The only potential eyesore is the massive Beats Audio branding on the right side of the hinge, which you'll find unpleasant if you're not a fan of Dr. Dre & Co.
On the x360's left edge, a vent separates the power button and Kensington lock from a USB 2.0 port, headphone jack and volume controller. The right edge hosts the notebook's power jack, HDMI port, SD card slot, Ethernet port, USB 3.0 port and an additional USB 2.0 port.
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The x360 is fairly easy to lug around at 3.08 pounds, though it's a bit heftier than competitors such as the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 11 (2.8 pounds), Toshiba Satellite NB15t (2.8 pounds) and ASUS K200MA (3 pounds). This can be partially attributed to the notebook's 12.12 x 8.46 x 0.86-inch build, which is wider than the Yoga 2 11 (11.7 x 8.12 x 0.67 inches), Satellite NB15t (11.2 x 8.2 x 0.9 inches) and K200MA (11.9 x 7.9 x 1.2 inches).
The x360 packs an 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 display, which provides the same resolution as the NB15t, Yoga 2 11 and K200MA. Image-heavy websites like LaptopMag.com and ESPN.com looked clear and vibrant on the x360's screen, though we noticed some obvious pixelation when looking at text on the Windows 8.1 Start menu.
The x360 was able to preserve much of the bright and colorful action in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" trailer. However, a close-up on tree-person Groot looked fuzzy. We also saw our own reflection in the screen throughout much of the trailer. Fortunately, the clip remained viewable at around 80 degrees from the screen's left and right edges.
While the x360 provides serviceable image quality, we found the display a bit too dim for our liking. Coming up at 151 nits on our light meter, the x360's display was just a nit behind the NB15t (152 nits) but significantly less bright than the K200MA (173 nits), Yoga 2 11 (342 nits) and the 251-nit category average.
The x360 produced 57 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is on a par with the K200MA but less than the NB15t (61 gamut), Yoga 2 11 (68 gamut) and 70-percent ultraportable average. The x360's Delta-E score of 7.4 was similarly lacking in terms of color accuracy (lower numbers are better). The Yoga 2 11 (6.6), K200MA (6.9) and NB15t (5) all proved more accurate.
The notebook's 10-point multitouch display was highly responsive, allowing us to doodle with 10 fingers at once in Paint and perform functions like pinching to zoom and swiping between apps with ease.
The x360's Beats-branded stereo speakers provide plenty of oomph to fill a living room with sound, even if the results were mixed. The razor-sharp distorted guitars of Foo Fighters' "Bridge Burning" sounded heavy and satisfying, though bass was virtually nonexistent. Pop tracks like Lorde's "Team" fared better on the notebook, as we heard a crisp balance of vocal melodies and backing instrumentation.
You can tinker with the sound via the included Beats Audio app, which lets you adjust details like bass, treble and center for music and dialogue clarity for podcasts and music. Beats enhanced audio is on by default, and music playback sounded significantly hollow with the feature turned off.
If you're recording on the x360, the app allows you to toggle background noise suppression and acoustic echo cancellation for optimal clarity. You can also activate advanced settings, such as the ability to play back two different audio streams simultaneously using the x360's built-in speakers, as well as a set of external ones.
Since the notebook's speakers are placed at an upward curve at the edge of its underside, audio quality remained fairly consistent as we transitioned between laptop, stand, tent and tablet modes.
Scoring an impressive 90 decibels on our audio test (sound output from 23 inches away), the x360 out-cranked the NB15t (84 decibels), Yoga 2 11 (83 decibels), K200MA (82 decibels) and the 82-decibel ultraportable average.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The x360 sports a comfortable set of black island keys, complete with quick access buttons for controlling brightness, volume and audio or video playback.
With a travel of 1 millimeter and an actuation (required pressure) of 50 grams, the notebook's keys provided snappy feedback, though some areas near the G and H keys felt strangely shallow. Even so, we were able to type at a brisk 74 words per minute with a 1 percent error rate on the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, besting our usual speed of about 70 wpm.
We weren't entirely satisfied with the x360's glossy plastic touchpad, as we occasionally found our fingers getting stuck to its surface when we slid the cursor around. Despite this, the touchpad was responsive for gestures like swiping in from the right for the Charms menu and pinching to zoom.
The x360's TrueVision HD 720p webcam is designed to capture a high amount of detail, even in low-light situations. While the webcam is serviceable, our photos showed lots of fuzzy pixelation in our beard and hairline.
We had fun tinkering with the included CyberLink YouCam app, which lets you put your mug on city billboards, movie screens and hot air balloons. The app also allows you to control digital avatars, such as dogs and statues, with your face. It's equal parts creepy and entertaining.
For the most part, the x360 stays at a manageable temperature throughout long periods of use. After 15 minutes of streaming HD video, the touchpad reached 77 degrees Fahrenheit, while the G and H keys became a warmer 87 degrees. Both of these sections stayed below our 95-degree comfort threshold, which was exceeded only by the notebook's underside at 97 degrees.
Fueled by a 2.17-GHz Intel Pentium N3520 Processor with 8GB of RAM, the x360 provided mostly dependable performance for Web surfing and video streaming. We were able to smoothly stream an episode of "Video Game High School" on Netflix with a dozen Chrome tabs open, and we experienced no stutters when swiping through apps.
The x360 scored 3,248 on the Geekbench 3 general performance test, more than doubling the Toshiba NB15t's 1417 (2.0-GHz Intel Celeron N2810, 4GB RAM) and ASUS K200MA's 1517 (1.86-GHZ Intel Baytrail-M N2815, 4GB RAM). However, the HP fell short of the Yoga 2 11's mark of 3348 (2.16-GHz Intel Pentium N3520, 4GB RAM) and the 4,218 ultraportable average.
HP's hybrid took 27 seconds to boot Windows 8.1, chugging behind the K200MA (16 seconds), Yoga 2 11 (17 seconds), NB15t (19 seconds) and the 12-second average.
The x360 took 16 minutes and 34 seconds to complete our OpenOffice spreadsheet test, which consists of matching 20,000 names to their addresses. HP's notebook got the job done faster than the K200MA (18:41) and NB15t (18:57), and it was just a few seconds behind the Yoga 2 11 (16:19).
The x360's 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive transferred 4.97GB of mixed media at a rate of 26 MBps, barely edging out the NB15t (24 MBps, 500GB/5,400-rpm) and falling behind the K200MA (27 MBps, 500GB/5,400-rpm) and the Yoga 2 11 (38 MBps, 500GB/5,400-rpm).
The x360 is a perfectly capable entertainment device for movies and music, but you definitely won't be playing any high-end games on it. "World of Warcraft" ran at a sluggish 20 frames per second (we consider 30 to be playable) at 1366 x 768 with autodetect on. The game crawled to an even more unplayable 7 fps on Ultra settings.
The x360's poor graphics performance still outperformed the NB15t (12 fps on auto, 4 fps on Ultra) and K200MA (17 fps on auto, 6 fps on Ultra), while the Yoga 2 11 provided similar results at 20 fps on auto and 8 fps on Ultra.
HP's convertible netted a 12,047 on the 3DMark Ice Storm graphics benchmark, outperforming the K200MA (7,600), NB15t (6,141) and just losing out to the Yoga 2 11 (12, 745).
You won't get much use out of the HP Pavilion x360 without a charger handy. The notebook lasted 3 hours and 43 minutes on our battery test (Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits). This endurance falls short of the K200MA (5:23), Yoga 2 11 (5:19) and NB15t (4:07), which all failed to live up to the 7:45 category average.
Software and Warranty
Running Windows 8.1, the x360 uses Microsoft's signature tile-based interface and a familiar suite of apps that includes Skype, OneDrive and Bing Health and Fitness. Third-party offerings include Netflix, Kindle and Pinger, the latter of which allows you to send text messages from the PC.
As far as first-party software goes, HP Connected Drive allows you to upload and share files with up to nine other devices, including Android smartphones and tablets that have the Connected Drive app installed. HP Connected Music allows you to play your existing library, listen to radio stations or buy new songs, while HP Connected Photo allows you to look at pictures from your hard drive, Snapfish or Facebook and order cards or prints.
HP SimplePass allows you to store all of your website logins to a single password or PIN, while HP Recovery Manager lets you reinstall drivers or restore your machine.
There's a wide gamut of Cyberlink apps preloaded on the x360, including PhotoDirector for photo editing, PowerDirector for making movies and Power2Go for creating data discs.
The x360 ships with a one-year limited warranty.
The HP Pavilion x360 starts at $399, which gets you a 2.16-GHz Intel Pentium N3520 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive within a smoke silver shell. Our $484 configuration kicks the RAM up to 8GB for $75, and adds the brilliant red coloring for $10. You can also turn the 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive into a hybrid hard drive for an additional $50.
For less than $400, the HP Pavilion x360 ($484 as reviewed) provides a solid Windows 8.1 experience, complete with a flexible multimode design, loud speakers and a responsive keyboard. However, the notebook's dim 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 display is underwhelming, as is its short battery life.
Lenovo's Yoga 2 11 is a better alternative, providing longer battery life, a brighter display and similarly dynamic design for as low as $435. We still prefer the x360's speakers and keyboard, so choosing between the two affordable hybrids comes down to what features matter most to you.