HP EliteBook x360 1030 G2 – like name, like nature (review)

HP’s Elite range of PCs, notebooks and more are reserved for business use. They are top specified, have Mil-STD 810G durability, incredible reliability and longevity. HP’s EliteBook x360 1030 G2 comes with a range of processors, ram, storage, screens, touch or not, and one has an innovative Sure View integrated privacy screen to keep prying eyes out.

Let’s start with the Elite name – quality you can swear by, not at. My first EliteBook in 2011 gave magnificent service as my production computer (24/7) until recently when I needed later technology like Thunderbolt 3 to expand its capabilities. The old EliteBook has been fitted with an SSD and repurposed as a Plex media server/TV tuner where I expect to get several more years out of it – it is that reliable.

It is natural that when you have such a good, trouble-free run with a quality brand you go back to it as the first option.

You generally won’t find the Elite range at major retailers – they are sold via HP business dealers or online at HP. What you will find at retailers is HP’s consumer range including the Pavilion, Envy, and the upmarket Spectre range – great but not Mil-STD and not quite as flexible.

My shopping list – Or as my wife puts it, my shopping “lust”

I wanted everything – fastest processor, plenty of ram, big storage, great connectivity, a 360° hinge design, touch and pen-enabled screen, great keyboard and trackpad, good sound – yes, an HP Elite or perhaps high-end consumer HP Spectre, shopping list. The only problem is that the budget was about $2.5K so there would have to be some compromise.

I believe that every piece of tech is a compromise from the ideal vision of its creators to the realities of budget, available technology, shipping on time, and market acceptance – else all products would be perfect. And the point of Gadget Guy’s independent, objective, reviews is to reveal those compromises. You can but strive to buy good, better, or best selecting what is most and least important features to you. But overall, it is too easy to end up with mediocracy especially if price is the main factor.

I decided that a Thunderbolt USB-C port (40Gbps data/charge) was mandatory and it would be nice to have an array of other ports like HDMI, USB-A 3.1 micro-SD etc., to reduce the need for an external docking station or dongle. That reduced choices to a handful of brands and models.

The choice of a 360° hinge was due to the limitations of traditional clamshell notebooks – open or closed – and there are times I need tent style, presentation mode, or tablet mode and this does it all. I travel a lot and tent mode is amazing as a video player on small aircraft seat-back tables. Tablet mode is great for reading.

The choice of touchscreen is a no-brainer – I really don’t know why anyone makes non-touch anymore. While I would not have minded getting a 2K or 4K screen these are battery life suckers, so HD was acceptable as for my use – documents, web surfing and still/video content. I am now used to pen input in Windows 10 so that was a given too.

I started a spreadsheet to track my choices. While many of those specifications could be filled by Microsoft Surface Book, Dell XPS, Lenovo, ASUS, Acer and more there were a few wildcards that made the choice easy.

The whole shebang! (everything involved in what is under consideration)

The winner was an HP EliteBook x360, 1030 G2 with Sure View http://h20386.www2.hp.com/AustraliaStore/Merch/Product.aspx?id=1UX20PA&opt=&sel=NTB

Take it as a given (see the specifications list later) that it met or exceeded my shopping list with a few notable extra inclusions.

  • Thunderbolt 3 data/charge and a range of expansion ports including HDMI and an extra 90W power port for either a 12V cigarette lighter adaptor power or HP 240V power brick. The latter turned out to be very useful.
  • It is very light and thin
  • HP Sure View privacy screen can be activated to obscure/blank the screen for anyone viewing it side on. Great for coffee shops and it won’t disturb your fellow flyers. I also like the Gorilla Glass covering and the amazingly thin screen/lid section.
  • HP’s collaboration with B&O adds better sound quality from four stereo down firing speakers under the keyboard. Dual voice tracking noise cancellation mics and a 3.5mm combo jack complete the audio experience.
  • The Precision-certified glass trackpad is superb and will move the cursor from upper right to lower left in one swipe – makes mice redundant. Plus, it has two-finger pinch zoom and scroll and up to four fingers tap.
  • The active pen is precise and emulates pen on paper very well.
  • The keyboard lives up to the Elite pedigree for speed, comfort and accuracy.
  • NFC is a bonus for easily connecting Bluetooth devices
  • Intel’s dual-band AC-8265, 2 x 2 MU-MIMO AC wireless for fast throughput, Bluetooth and Wi-Di Miracast
  • The fingerprint reader compliments the dual IR Windows Hello camera
  • An Intel VPro chip for added security and extra security and malware resistance from
    • HP BIOSphere
    • HP SureStart
    • HP Secure Erase
    • Preboot Authentication
    • Security lock slot
    • HP Client Security
    • HP Security Manager
    • HP Password Manager
    • Absolute Persistence Module
    • TPM 1.2/2.0
  • 3-year standard parts, labour and on-site warranty (Elite standard)

What it does not have

  • GPS/4G – that comes with a sim card option
  • I started looking at Intel i7, 16GB ram, at 512-1TB PCI NVMe SSD but these would have blown the budget, so the i5/8GB/256GB SSD with micro SD expansion is the budget choice.
  • A second USB-C port but there are plenty of expansion ports
  • 2/4K screen but HD is much better for battery life

Sorry for the long preamble but you need to know why this is an outstanding choice.

Back to the review – how good is it?

World’s only integrated Sure View screen really works and HD screen is good

Sure View was jointly developed by HP and 3M to reduce “visual hacking”. Just press F2 and only you can only see the screen straight on in a 70° cone instead of 178° – best to keep customers prying eyes away. It is fine under office lighting but not great in direct sunlight. It works well – if you don’t need it perhaps look at other x360 models.

Screen viewing angle is important – you need to ensure it is at the right angle to get the brightest image. Daylight viewing is fine. It reproduces 109% of the sRGB colour gamut (higher than its competitors) but its brightness at 239 nits is below its competitors at up to 300 nits.

The IPS screen is crisp with a slight colour coolness but the Intel Graphics can adjust that to whatever you want. There is the typical IPS edge glow (edge-lit) but overall colours and detail are good.

Audio

Buried under the B&O control panel software is a Conexant ISST audio chip which is an adequate performer with a maximum of 24-bit, 48,000Hz sound. Volume wise this translates to between 60-70dB (conversation to a vacuum cleaner levels) peaking at 80dB without distortion. Its frequency response is about 100kHz to 16Hz (human range is 20kHz-20Hz). While it does not produce spectacular sound, it is fine for personal music and movies.

Bass and treble are recessed producing a mid-centric sound best suited for conference calls and Skype. The B&O control panel allows for up to a 6dB boost and offers voice, movie and music pre-sets.

The audio chip outputs a wider range to Bluetooth and an external amplifier – closer to 38Hz-18kHz and gives a clean feed.

The front-facing screen mics can be tuned to you or spatially separated for a conference.

Summary: Good sound for a business grade device.

Battery

HP claim 16.5 hours use (methodology undefined but you can bet everything is switched off or throttled back) and I could not get near that. In a typical office day, I got 7-9 hours and an HD video loop test at 50% brightness was about 8 hours.

USB-C charge from 0-100% is about 2.5 hours. Although not tested test A$199 HP 90W brick for apparently has fast charge that will halve recharge time. The battery can be easily replaced by a technician.

HP Thunderbolt 3 Dock A$429 (not tested)

You can link up to 10 devices at once through ports that include Thunderbolt 3 (which also supports Display Port 1.2 and USB 3.1 Gen 2), four USB 3.0, RJ-45, VGA, combo audio, and two additional Display Port ports. It comes with the 90W “brick” mentioned above. It will support two x 4K displays

Pros

  • Rugged Mil-STD construction and enterprise quality build
  • Stunning looks, thin and light
  • Silent running – no fan noise on the i5
  • Good Wacom Pen
  • Love the keyboard and trackpad – among the best
  • X360 is the most useful form factor
  • Thunderbolt 3 port for charge and data – many other ports reduce the need for a dock but Thunderbolt 40Mbps docks are amazing supporting multiple 4K screens and more.
  • Great enterprise-level security including fingerprint and Windows Hello
  • Sure View is great if you need it to protect sensitive data
  • Dedicated keys for Skype, Outlook etc.
  • You can easily remove the bottom panel to upgrade the SSD, replace battery or add 4G

Cons

  • Larger top and bottom screen bezels than the Spectre – no big issue
  • Chunky external power brick – it is big at 400g
  • Would have liked second USB-C port but 2 x USB-A ports are great
  • Average audio does not quite deliver what I expect of B&O tuning

Summary

This is a business grade notebook – good for several years of hard business use. It meets 95% of my shopping list at a price that is within budget. Add to that HP Australia’s very good 3 year warranty and after sales service and it is the clear winner.

You should look at any of the HP 1030 x360 Elite Book models starting at $1899 – there is sure to be one to suit you. The URL is http://h20386.www2.hp.com/AustraliaStore/Merch/List.aspx?sel=NTB and filter for EliteBook and convertible.

By coincidence my wife has a superseded HP x360 Rose Gold Spectre that she adores. It costs less and sacrifices Mil-STD etc., but it is also a very viable option with HP quality behind it.

Bottom line – the most exciting, state of the art, notebook to date.

Rating

Overall: 4.6 out of 5

Features: 5 out of 5 – it has all you need plus more

Value for money: 4 out of 5 – Mil-STD enterprise quality is great but costs money to achieve

Performance: 4.5 out of 5 – i5/8GB/256GB is plenty for 99% of users

Ease of Use: 4.5 out of 5 – 360° hinge is the best, would have liked a brighter screen for direct sunlight use

Design: 5 out of 5 – Business like and modern

Price: From $1899 – as tested $2499

ItemSpecificationComment
ProcessorIntel i5-7300U dual core, four threads, 2.6/3.5GHz

(note: i7 model available)

While I was looking for an i7-7600U the performance difference for office work was negligible and battery life was more important. This is the best of Intel’s i5 range
GraphicsIntegrated 620 GT2 graphicsFine for my needs – I am not a gamer
Screen13.3” FHD UWVA ultra slim, high refresh 120Hz, IPS, touch screen (1920 x 1080) with Corning Gorilla Glass

Sure View option to protect data from prying eyes

Better battery life – Sure View is a bonus. Colour is very good.

If you have a use for this then HP is the natural choice.

PenHP/Wacom AES Pen with Eraser/app launcher. Active AAAA/319 battery operated, three buttons, pen with replaceable tips. Wacom digitiser enabled and Wacom Pen app. 2048 pressure levels.As good as MS Surface 2017 NTrig offering plus has a handy lanyard. Good for annotation, drawing. Not quite as precise as Samsung’s new S Pen but does the job well.
Drive256 GB PCIe M.2 PCI NVMe TLC SSD. 460/200Mbps read/write.Very fast and user upgradable.
Memory8GB DDR4 – 2133 – dual channel so shared video memory does not affect CPU performance.16GB on i7 model. Non-upgradable
CommsIntel Dual Band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2×2) with Bluetooth 4.2 Combo (vPro), NFC, Miracast4G with GPS available as an option. Obtained 600/450Mbps down/up in Wi-Fi tests. Good.
Ports(1) USB Type-C with Thunderbolt

(2) USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 (1 charging)

(1) HDMI 1.4

(1) External micro SIM (with 4G option)

(1) AC power

(1) Headphone/microphone combo jack

(1) Micro-SD Card Reader

(1) Smart card reader

Amazing to have these as most competitors simply have one USB-C port.
Audio/video4 x B&O tuned down firing speakers

2 x ANC mics

3.5mm audio jack

IR/RGB camera

720p webcam

Camera and mic are Skype approved but need even office lighting for best results.

Speakers resonate through the keyboard as well as down firing.

Keyboard

Trackpad

HP Elite Durakey covered Chiclet style with backlight. 16 x 16mm, 1.2mm throw. 65g force.

111 x 65mm glass trackpad. Microsoft Precision certified – best you can get

Achieves about 95% of speed in a typing test. Absolutely no flex when typing – great.

Glass trackpad covers full screen movement

SecurityProtects against BIOS attacks with HP Sure Start Gen3, blocks malicious websites with HP Sure Click, and keeps visual hackers out with optional HP Sure View. Plus HP end-to-end device management software, TPM 2 and full Windows Hello securityReally appreciate the power of Sure Start if you get malware.

Windows Hello is fast to load.

Fingerprint reader is very quick.

Battery and charger57WHr

65 W Smart USB Type-C AC Adapter

Also has standard 90W charge port for HP chargers
Size/weight317 x 218.4 x 15 mm x 1.28kgMade from a single aluminium block and CNC milled – very strong.
OSWindows 10 ProI only need Home but the added ability to join a domain is good. It also supports most Linux varieties – great for testing
PriceA$2599 – i5 touch models start from $1950 and i7 from $2549