The general consensus is that Microsoft's early attempts to get Windows running on both desktops and tablets was a bit of a disaster, but several years down the line the endeavour now has a happy ending: a wealth of versatile 2-in-1 laptop/tablet Windows devices.
The Surface Pro might be the gold standard, but plenty of other PC makers are trying their luck as well, including HP. Here we're looking at the latest HP Elite x2 2-in-1 – technically called the HP Elite x2 1013 G3, the latest incarnation of the computer that's on sale now.
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As 2-in-1s go, this is a premium-level one: that's reflected in the specs, and in the design, and, well, in the fact that HP has made it. It's a laptop/tablet intended to tempt the business traveller more than students or home workers, but it's still got broad appeal.
That appeal may be limited a little by how much you're going to have to spend to get one, with prices starting north of £1,600 and going up from there (check the widgets on this page for up-to-date deals). It's going to cost you quite a bit of money, but is it worth it?
HP Elite x2 review: design and build
HP has been making computers for a long time now, and the newest version of the HP Elite x2 ticks all the boxes in terms of aesthetics: it's slim, it's understated, and it mixes grey and black and silver very well indeed. At 13.2 mm (0.52 inches) thick and with a weight of 1.18 kg (2.6 lbs), it's great from sliding into a backpack or a briefcase, and taking with you wherever you go.
The HP Elite x2 comes with a detachable keyboard that doubles as a cover for the screen, and we found it a pleasure to type on (and easy to connect and disconnect, by the way) – much better than, say, the official keyboard Apple bundles with the iPad Pro. Around the back of the tablet itself is a kickstand, for using it in laptop mode and for propping it up when you're watching movies.
As for the screen, it's 13 inches corner to corner, running at a very respectable resolution of 3,000 x 2,000 pixels. The bezels are reasonably chunky, but that's fine – and that extra width and depth helps when you're using the HP Elite x2 in tablet mode. Colours are crisp and bright, details are sharp, and the computer scores highly whether you're typing an essay or watching movies (Netflix looks really good on this device, for example).
After using the HP Elite x2 we've got no complaints at all about the design and build quality, as it's right up there with what Microsoft and Apple are doing. We're not 100 percent convinced by the slightly recessed ports around the edges, but there are at least a lot of them: three USB-C ports, a memory card reader, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack.
HP Elite x2 review: specs and features
You can pick up the HP Elite x2 1013 G3 in a variety of configurations, but the model we tested came with an 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8650U 1.90GHz CPU, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. Graphics are powered by an Intel UHD 620 chip. Those are very good specs for a lightweight 2-in-1 device like this, and that is of course reflected in the price.
We found the HP Elite x2 perfectly capable of handling all the tasks we put it up against, although it does start to chug a little when you have several large images or a video opened up. As long as you're staying away from jobs that you should really be using a desktop or high-end laptop for – like top-level gaming or video editing – then you're going to be fine with this tablet/laptop.
The back of the device did tend to get rather hot during our testing, even when we were just browsing the web and checking emails – though this is a drawback with 2-in-1s in general, as they just don't have the space to fit in a comprehensive cooling system. The bottom line is that for everyday tasks, the HP Elite x2 is going to zip along – and will do for years to come, as well.
HP says battery life can hit 10 hours when you're watching video, but in our experience it was a little less than that, in the region of 8-9 hours between charges. If you are going to be away from the office (or your home office) for the entire day, then the HP Elite x2 should last you until you can get back... but not much more than that.
HP Elite x2 review: price and verdict
If you've decided that the 2-in-1 Windows form factor is the one for you, then you can't do much better than the HP Elite x2 in a lot of areas – the design, build quality and specs are particularly hard to beat with anything Microsoft or anyone else is making at the moment. It's actually a pleasure to use, and is going to take care of a lot of computing tasks for you without a problem (just some excess heat, perhaps).
Windows has now evolved to the stage where it's perfectly usable in tablet form, whether you're watching streaming video while you're away from holiday, or trying to take handwritten notes while out for work (we should note the HP Elite x2 supports a stylus, though this is an optional extra). It's not quite as slick as what Apple is doing with iPadOS, but it's more versatile.
On the downside, the battery life isn't brilliant, and it's going to cost you a substantial amount of money – those are two reasons why you might want to opt for one of the many other 2-in-1s on the market. If your needs are more simple, then something like the HP Envy series might be more suitable.
This is going to appeal most to the business user with money to spend – it provides all the necessary performance needed, it's really nicely designed and solid to use, and it can switch between tablet and laptop modes very easily indeed. It's harder to recommend for anyone else, especially with so many great 2-in-1s and standard laptops available.