MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.
HP Elite x2 1011 G1 hybrid laptop
A sturdy 2-in-1 device featuring Intel's silent Core M CPU
- Strong build quality
- Comfortable keyboard
- Two batteries
- Strong build quality means it's also heavy
- We had issues with the encryption feature
- The ForcePad isn't great
Price$ 2,219.00 (AUD)
Despite being a two-piece hybrid device that can be used as both notebook and tablet, HP’s Elite x2 1011 G1 feels more like a heavy notebook of old when you first pick it up and start using it. It’s of a small size (11.6 inches) and it has the sturdy build that HP is known for in its business laptops, but it could stand to be lighter given that it runs one of Intel’s silent-running Core M processors.
At 1.52kg, the overall weight of the Elite x2 1011 G1 is more than we expected of this hybrid, with the tablet weighing 772g on its own, and the base weighing slightly less at 754g. Part of the weight issue is caused by the base having its own battery installed, in addition to the extra rigidness that has been applied to both the tablet and the base and its drop-down hinge mechanism. This rigidness conforms to military specifications for durability.
Given that we’ve seen 13in convertible laptops with a lighter overall weight (Acer’s R13 comes to mind, for example), the heaviness of the Elite x2 is a little hard to handle at first, but you have to remember that it can be used as a discrete tablet away from its base, while a regular laptop can’t. As such, it all depends on what your needs are; if you absolutely need a Windows-based device that can be used, at any time, exclusively as a tablet, then this might be a go for you.
As a business device, it’s made for manageable fleets, with the focus being more on that and the durability of the product as a whole. It comes with a vPro chipset and more security features than most other hybrid devices, including drive encryption and external device access restrictions (USB drives, for example).
The centre of the configuration is an Intel Core M-5Y71 CPU, which doesn’t require a fan and therefore allows the device to run silently. It’s joined by 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid state drive (with a formatted capacity of 222GB), while the IPS-based screen has a native resolution of 1920x1080. It’s a basic configuration that can serve well when it comes to common Web browsing and office tasks, whether it’s typing documents, working on presentations, or viewing multimedia, but it needs to be known that this device isn’t in the class of a Core i-series product.
You will most probably notice some sluggishness with this device when the CPU has to perform a lot of work. It was especially evident during our tests when visiting Web sites that use a lot of Adobe Flash elements for their ads and video players. On some sites, the CPU consumption went up to 60 per cent, causing the notebook to become slow for simple tasks such as scrolling a page or switching a tab. It’s something that is not restricted to this unit, but which can affect all Core M and lower-powered products.
When there isn’t a CPU-hogging application being run, the performance of the Elite x2 is quite pleasant. As a tablet, it can be used comfortably for handwriting recognition or drawing, and there is only a slight delay as the CPU processes the words you’ve just written. A thin stylus is located in a slot on the bottom-right of the tablet.
Writing on the screen felt smooth, and the recognition was mostly good considering the crazy writing we inflicted upon it. We feel like it’s one of the key features to make a business want to consider this device for their workers (or any other 2-in-1 for that matter) and it’s good in that respect. The only issue is the size and weight: fatigue could come in to play after having to hold the 11.6in, 772g tablet for long periods of time.
A central button on the dock needs to be pressed to release the tablet from the base -- there aren’t any fancy magnets like on other recent products we’ve seen (it’s no Microsoft Surface 3, for example, though that is a much lighter product). Once in your hands, the tablet feels as sturdy as anything, and that speaks to the market HP is going for: business users who want a product that feels like it means business.
There is a cover on the tablet that conceals microSD and SIM slots, meaning you can add a bit more storage to the device, as well as access the Internet via 4G while being on-the-go, instead of having to connect to a hotspot or tether a phone. A headphone port at the bottom is the last of the tablet’s physical interfaces (dock connector notwithstanding).
Curves make the tablet conform to your hands easily, and there are no jutting buttons to get in the way. The volume and screen-lock controls sit flush against the body. Meanwhile, the power button is not a button but instead a sliding switch. This is something we’ve talked about in other reviews in which we’ve felt a button on a tablet is just too easy to inadvertently press (it’s something we mentioned in our review of the HP ElitePad 1000 G2, for example). We like the implementation of the sliding switch here. A capacitive Windows key is present along the bottom on the front, and it can only be initiated after you’ve pressed down on it a couple of seconds in order to avoid inadvertent Modern UI experiences.
Battery life for the tablet was 4hr 46min in our rundown test. In this test, we maximise screen brightness, enable Wi-Fi, and loop a Full HD MP4 file until the battery is depleted. There is also a battery in the base (which is actually called Power Keyboard by HP), and this added a further 3hr 10min to our test, for a total runtime of 7hr 56min. Charging both batteries can take a very long time -- four hours -- but the charger replenishes the tablet’s battery before focusing on the battery in the base.
Physical features, security
Since the device is a little heavier at the top than in the base (the tablet weighs more than the base), the overall balance of the Elite x2 needs to be kept in mind, especially if you type while resting it in your lap. Depending on how you sit, lifting your hands off the keyboard can cause the unit to slowly lean back a bit; you’ll have to be aware of this. The tilt of the screen is limited to prohibit it from falling over too easily.
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On a desk, the unit performs well as a regular notebook, and, in fact, is a joy to type on thanks to its sturdy, soft, backlit keys. There is a touchpad on the base that is actually a ForcePad, meaning it doesn’t have the ‘clicky’ bits of a traditional touchpad but instead simulated clicks that occur when you apply a certain amount of force. It takes a while to get used to, but you can do things such as right-click by pressing and holding down on the pad until you hear a click. There is no haptic feedback like there is on Apple’sMacBook, with the sound used to indicate a Force function instead.
We’re not all that thrilled with the ForcePad overall though. A lot of the time, the two-finger scrolling gesture didn't work properly for us. It required more downward pressure than we're used to applying on regular touchpads in order to actually make a successful scroll operation, and this sometimes made us feel as though we were dragging our fingers on a chalkboard; we preferred to use the down arrow or the touchscreen for scrolling operations because of it.
Through the base, you can attach a monitor using DisplayPort (or one of the supplied adapters for DisplayPort-to-VGA or DisplayPort-to-HDMI), and there are also two USB 3.0 ports and a headset port. You get a fingerprint reader on the base, as well as a SmartCard reader on the side, and data encryption can be enabled through HP’s Client Security Setup. Enrolled fingerprints can be used to access the computer as a whole, as well as to authorise plugged in devices such as USB drives. Indeed, there is just-in-time authorisation for plugged in devices, and it lasts for 15min at a time.
When the tablet is detached from the base, logging on with a fingerprint is impossible since the tablet itself lacks a fingerprint reader. Instead, a password is required. However, simply tapping in the password field at the Windows login screen does not bring up the on-screen keyboard. There is a keyboard icon that needs to be pressed, which brings up a more old-fashioned looking keyboard than what Windows 8 offers. It’s not a very well integrated system as far as offering a smooth user experience is concerned, but it is perhaps the price to pay for a little extra security.
We experienced a problem after enabling drive encryption on this device: it would not boot properly. A cold boot would be met with the message 'No bootable image found, notebook will be shutdown'. In order to make the system boot, we had to go into the BIOS (pressing Esc upon boot up, then F10), and restore the system defaults. This then allowed the system to boot. We're not sure what caused this, but the same error occurred each time we cold-booted, and each time we had to restore BIOS defaults in order to make the machine boot.
At this point, we'll also mention that the fingerprint reader was erratic in its recognition. We often had to re-swipe in order to login.
What’s the verdict?
In many ways, this is a typical HP business product in that it’s sturdy in build and functional in design. If you’re after a 2-in-1 that feels sturdy in its construction, and you don’t mind the extra weight that the sturdiness brings, then the Elite x2 1011 G1 will tick that box. If you want a 2-in-1 that’s manageable and inclusive of encryption features, then the Elite x2 1011 G1 will tick that box, too. If you want a 2-in-1 with a comfortable keyboard for long typing sessions, then the Elite x2 1011 G1 -- you guessed it -- it will tick that box, too.
There are other good points, too: the screen offers a nice view (albeit a reflective one), the keyboard is comfortable to type on, there is support for 4G, and the Wi-Fi is dual-band of the 802.11ac variety.
The downsides are the weight, price, and the strange boot problem we faced after enabling encryption, though that is mostly likely isolated to our test unit. The ForcePad might also be a lot to force onto unsuspecting users who are more accustomed to a regular touchpad -- a mouse will be required for heavy use while at a desk.
Note that the price is from HP's Web site at the time of writing for a 128GB model with the Power Keyboard and it includes HP's Premium Elite 24/7 support.
This product also has support for a WiGiG wireless dock. There is also a travel keyboard that can be used, which makes the unit lighter to carry around while still giving notebook-like functionality.
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