HP Pavilion x360
out of 5
A cheap and colourful Windows 8 laptop-tablet hybrid
Cheap laptops often look plain, or even very ugly, but the HP Pavilion x360 is better looking than most. Its red, silver and black design is very distinctive, but if that’s too flashy for you there is a more sedate version with a silver instead of a red lid and underside. Build quality is a bit shoddy though – the base is rigid and feels well-made, but the lid creaks and bends too easily.
The x360 gets its name from its flexible hinge which lets you fold the screen backwards 360 degrees so it lies completely flat against the underside of the keyboard. This means you can use it as a tablet as well as a laptop.
The x360 isn’t veiy practical to use.
New products tested by our experts as a tablet, though. Battery life when playing videos continuously was disappointingly short at just under four hours. The 11.6in screen has a relatively low resolution of1366x768 pixels, so text isn’t very sharp, but bigger flaws are brightness and viewing angles. It’s relatively dim compared to other tablet screens and shifting your seating position even slightly can cause the already mediocre colour accuracy to look even worse.
It’s also not very comfortable to hold, even for short periods of time. It’s very thick and its weight of 1.4kg, while light for a laptop, is heavy for a tablet. It’s more practical to stand the x360 on end like a tent or flip the screen back only half way so the keyboard acts as a stand for the touchscreen (see photo on opposite page). These positions are particularly handy for watching video or flipping through photos. If this flexible hinge sounds familiar, it’s because the concept was pioneered by Lenovo in its rival Yoga range of laptop-tablet hybrids (see our review of the latest model, the Yoga 2 Pro, in Issue 416).
The x360 runs Windows 8.1, although you can use traditional Desktop-style programs with the touchscreen.
However, these will be fiddly as those programs are designed for use with a keyboard and touchpad. It makes far more sense to use apps designed specifically for touchscreens which you can download from the Windows Store. Although the available app selection is still meagre compared to the iPad, it is slowly, steadily growing. The ability to use two apps side by side is a handy feature that the iPad doesn’t have, although the gesture for activating this is a little fiddly.
The x360 is far more comfortable to use as a laptop. Although the keyboard feels a bit spongy, it’s still comfortable to type
on. The keys are large and have enough travel and feedback for reasonably fast, error-free typing. The touchpad is large and accurate, although the buttons built into the bottom of the pad require a very firm press.
The x360 uses an Intel Celeron N2820 2.13GHz quad-core processor paired with 4GB of memory. Although this sounds powerful, it fared poorly in our benchmark tests as it’s actually a rebranded version of the energy-efficient but slow Atom processors found in cheap Windows 8 tablets and netbooks. The Celeron was only one third as fast as the Core i5 processor found in more expensive apps when editing images, and one sixth as fast when running multiple programs simultaneously.
This slow performance is very frustrating, but the x360 is at least fast enough for simple, undemanding tasks such as web browsing or basic office work. Although the x360 only has a 500GB hard drive instead of a SSD, startup and wake-from-sleep times were 10 seconds or less, which is very fast.
Disappointingly, the x360’s battery life as a laptop wasn’t up to scratch. Although the Celeron is a power-efficient processor, the battery is small so it lasted only four hours 18 minutes in our light-usage test. This is fine for use around the home, but it’s very limiting for a lightweight laptop designed to be used while you’re out and about.
The underside of the laptop never became uncomfortably warm during our test, but the trade-off was that its cooling fan was sometimes loud enough to be irritating. We could hear it even when the x360 was only handling simple tasks, such as word processing, that shouldn’t tax the processor and therefore its cooling fan.
To keep the price low, HP has only included one USB3 port, with the other two stuck at slower USB2 speeds, while the wired networking port isn’t Gigabit Ethernet, but tops out at 100Mbps instead.
11.6in 1366×768-pixel touchscreen • 2.13GHz Intel Celeron N2820 quad-core processor • 4GB memory • 500GB hard drive • Intel HD integrated graphics chip • Windows 8.1 • 1.4g (1.7kg with charger) • 22x310x215mm (HxWxD) • One-year warranty www.snipca.com/12303
The speakers won’t impress music enthusiasts, but they’re loud and dear enough for listening to talk radio or the occasional YouTube video.
The x360 is an eye-catching laptop-tablet hybrid, but it’s not a very good tablet and it’s a merely average laptop. Its slow performance, disappointing battery life and mediocre screen means it’s only really suitable for people with simple, undemanding computing tasks who want a compact laptop for use around the home rather than for travelling. Unless you’re really taken with its looks, spending a little more gets you a far more capable Windows laptop. If you’re on a strict budget and you’re willing to forgo Windows, then a Chromebook would be a far better value super-cheap laptop.