HP Elite x2 Hands-on: Tough 2-in-1 Packs Awesome Keyboard

HP’s Spectre x2 is a gorgeous 12-inch 2-in-1 that is more than just another hybrid trying bite a chunk out of Microsoft’s Surface. But what if you are the kind of person or business that demands a little extra durability or security from a hybrid. Well, that’s where the Elite x2 1012 comes in.

Starting at $899 (only $100 more than the Spectre x2), the Elite x2 1012 retains the attractive, multi-function design of its consumer grade sibling, but adds more ports, military-grade 810G durability (and Gorilla Glass 4 display), easier to replace components and additional security features such as an optional fingerprint scanner, Intel vPro-equipped processors and a detachable keyboard with NFC and a smartcard reader.

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Like the regular Spectre x2, the Elite x2 offers a range of Intel Core M CPUs (M3, M5 or M7), 4 or 8GB of RAM, and your choice of 128, 256 or 512GB of SSD storage. You also get a 12-inch 1920 x 1080 screen, a microSD card slot and a 3G / 4G modem that will work with any carrier. But it’s in the fine details where the differences between the two systems start to emerge.

At 11.8 x 8.4 x 0.31-inches and 1.85 pounds, the Elite X2 isn’t any thicker than its consumer sibling (although the sides are sharper and less rounded), until you add on the detachable keyboard. The Elite x2’s solid aluminum-backed keyboard adds 0.87 pounds in weight and 0.2-inches in thickness, or 1.02 pounds and 0.3-inches if you opt for the version with NFC and a smartcard reader. HP also includes its Active Stylus in the box, a luxury buyers of the Spectre x2 will need to pay extra for.

But the changes don’t stop there. In a hands-on with a pre-production version of the Elite x2, I got a chance to spot the changes for myself, including a few features I wish HP had included on the consumer version. On the Elite x2, instead of needing to press a button to pop-out the kickstand, there’s just a cut out where you can insert your finger to pull out the stand.

One of the biggest surprises is the Elite x2’s detachable keyboard. It feels crisper and even more lively than the one on the regular x2, which is no mean feat considering how good the keyboard on the regular x2 feels. 

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The Elite x2 also replaces one of the two USB Type-C ports found on the Spectre x2 with a traditional rectangular USB Type-A connection featuring Thunderbolt support. That means you can use a single cord to connect the Elite x2 to multiple monitors or one of HP’s USB docks. Features missing on the Elite x2 found on the Spectre are the extra two speakers built into the keyboard, and the rear-facing Intel Real Sense cameras. You still get two Bang and Olufsen speakers on the tablet itself, which have been configured to help reduce background noise in conferencing apps like Skype.

The Elite x2 also features optional WiGig so you can connect it to HP’s Advanced Wireless Docking Station ($299) and get the convenience of a multi-port hub without the hassle of the wires or lag.

With the Elite x2, HP seeks to blend the sleek good looks of its consumer-grade 2-in-1 with the durability, security and extra connectivity needed in the business world. And from what I’ve seen so far, it’s working. The Elite x2 should be available in January of 2016, with pre-orders starting Monday, November 23.