A computer for a budget, HP’s Pavilion X360 could be a contender for anyone who doesn’t want to spend much. Is it worth the low cost of admission, or should you seek entry elsewhere?
While the netbook may have died with Google’s Chromebook taking its place, there are still Windows computers out in the world for students and people on a budget to check out. HP’s Pavilion X360 hopes to be one of those, bringing Windows 8.1 and an interesting hybrid laptop tablet formula for well under a grand.
Inside the Pavilion X360, you’ll find Intel’s Celeron N2820, a dual-core chip clocked at 2.13GHz and running alongside 4GB RAM, though a configuration of the machine can be found with 8GB.
Solid-state storage isn’t to be found in a computer in this price range, with conventional hard drives used instead. On the X360, you’ll find a 320GB hard drive, with a possible configuration including a 500GB drive.
Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 runs here, with connections catered over two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, a single HDMI, a 3.5mm headset (combined headphone and microphone) jack, and even a wired Ethernet port. Memory cards can also be read through the SD card slot in the body.
Something special in this laptop is the hinge, which is blazoned with “Beats Audio,” informing the world of its audio prowess.
That hinge does a little more than showcase the Beats brand to the world, though, as it allows the computer to become a hybrid machine, rotating the screen section around 360 degrees so that it can exist in clamshell mode like a conventional laptop, lying flat, sitting upright with the keyboard section used as a stand, and even with the keyboard sitting flat behind the display, effectively turning the Pavilion X360 into a tablet.
Wireless connectivity is all pretty standard, with 802.11b/g/n included as well as Bluetooth 4.0, while cameras are pretty basic for a laptop, with a single HD webcam above the screen.
With that screen, there’s an 11.6 inch touchscreen display on offer, showing a resolution of 1366×768, with a Windows logo beneath the display that acts as a button.
A power pack is also included with the laptop to charge the machine.
A red laptop? A red budget laptop? A red budget laptop that is also a hybrid tablet computer?
Colour us intrigued, and make sure to colour us with the same shade of red HP is using in the X360, because it is one eye-catching look.
From a design point of view, there’s a lot to like about HP’s X360, a name that confuses us because it’s so close to what we’ve been calling Microsoft’s Xbox 360 for short (we called it the X360, too, so try not to be confused: this won’t play Xbox 360 video games).
Its red exterior is very inviting, with a look to it that few laptops have. Make no mistake, this is no ordinary beige box, with a look that highlights the Beats Audio logo printed in large along the display hinge above the keyboard.
Red has always worked with silver — just look at Mercedes Benz, which has loved the colour scheme in its cars for years — and also with black, and that’s more or less the look you get on the X360, with the red plastic casing, silver brushed aluminium interior, and a black plastic keyboard that works well with this colour scheme.
Pick up the unit and you’ll find there’s more weight to the unit than you’ll otherwise expect. It’s a little too heavy to hold in one hand, and regardless of what mode you use it in, you’ll want two hands, or something that doesn’t move much, like a lap or a desk.
Modes bring up an important point, however, because like Lenovo’s Yoga, the HP Pavilion allows you to work in more than just the traditional clamshell laptop way.
For instance, you can watch movies on the screen folding the display so that the keyboard faces the ground and acts as a stand for the display. Or, conversely, you can fold the keyboard section completely behind the screen and turn the Pavilion X360 into an 11 inch tablet.
It’s the Pavilion’s special wide hinge that makes this possible, and is where the X360 gets its name from, with a form-factor that can swing the display around at 360 degrees.
Credit to HP has to go to that hinge, mind you, because it’s very tight, and looks like it’ll hold its own for an extended period of time.
Also assisting the form-factor is the keyboard, which switches off when it detects itself in a position where typing would be impossible, such as when it’s switched into tablet mode.
When you do decide to type, however, you’ll be treated to an experience that is surprising.
Normally, budget and inexpensive laptops get equally budget and inexpensive keyboards, but the Pavilion X360 offers one of the better portable typing experiences from a laptop in this size, with a keyboard that has the right amount of click, with just enough travel as you type.
We’ve owned bigger laptops with larger keyboards that didn’t feel this good, so this is an impressive job for HP. Hat’s off on this one.
The mouse doesn’t quite live up to the expectations set out by its keyboard brother, mind you, with a button that feels a little too shallow for pressing, and with multi-touch gestures that appear to be too slow. Thankfully, you have a touch-enabled screen.
Also not quite on par with the keyboard is the battery life, which rates closer to about average.
We clocked up around five hours of life on the Pavilion X360, which for an 11 inch computer running a convention half drive instead of solid-state isn’t too shabby, but we’d suggest to keep that power plug in your back pack, especially if you’re heading to school or uni with the X360 in tow.
But from a performance view, wow, HP couldn’t have gotten some of the aspects more wrong.
Let’s start with the usability, because the keyboard is a high point of this computer. It’s a shame, though, that the Intel Celeron inside is so slow that it makes using that decent keyboard one of the more frustrating experiences on offer.
Many of the programs we tested with Windows 8.1 didn’t pick up on the keyboard’s input as we typed, with the words coming thick and fast a few seconds after we had pressed the keys. Thankfully, we can touch type, but it’s still frustrating altogether.
Other actions that shouldn’t pose this much of a problem did, such as ALT+TAB, and typing in URLs in Internet Explorer.
It’s just so puzzling that HP built such a decent keyboard for an inexpensive computer, and then matched it with a machine that barely has the guts to do the most basic of typing activities.
Essentially, you’ll be let down by the 2.1GHz Intel Celeron, which despite the totally usable supply of 4GB RAM struggles to keep up with some of the basic features offered by the Windows 8.1 operating system.
Some of the time, the performance is fine, mind you, but so many other times, we almost gave up, and wondered how HP let the Pavilion X360 out of testing and onto shelves, because really it shouldn’t be this slow. It really shouldn’t.
The screen is also terrible, and that’s an area HP should know better with.
For a company that’s making tablets — with the Pavilion X360 also included as a form of a tablet — the use of such a weak display is almost unforgivable, because it requires such direct viewing angles in order to see it without washed out colours, which almost completely removes its usefulness as a tablet.
We get it, mind you: this is a budget laptop with a near tablet form-factor, but the screen desperately needs to be better. Not necessarily the screen resolution, because while a 1366×768 resolution on an 11 inch display may not be as good as a Full HD 1920×1080, it’s still perfectly fine on an 11 inch, and much better than seeing that resolution on a 15.6 inch laptop, which is the norm for budget laptops out in the world today.
But the display technology HP is using on the Pavilion X360 just isn’t good, with terrible viewing angles, washed out colours, and a lack of contrast that forces you to be in a specific position to see it.
As a cheap laptop, we’ve come to expect this use of display type, but for a tablet, it’s hopeless, and we’d be hard pressed to find any owner of the Pavilion X360 using this machine in this manner simply because of that weak screen.
HP’s Pavilion X360 is a curious beast.
On the one hand, HP has nailed some of the aspects of design, bringing out one of the better portable keyboards for a machine under $600, with a design that looks cool, unique, and won’t pick on fingerprints as easily.
But then there’s that performance, with plenty of lag and slowdowns to go around, so much so that unless all you do is write text and check email or surf the web, you’ll find yourself annoyed and a touch concerned.
If the basics are all you need and you like the look and the neat form-factor, the Pavilion X360 is worth looking into, but we’d probably check out all your options before settling, because that performance makes it hard to say yes.