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HP Chromebook X2 11 review: Chrome OS’s answer to the Surface Go 3

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
550
inc VAT

The keyboard could be better, but this is a brilliant Chromebook 2-in-1

Pros 
Good battery life
Impressive QHD screen
Slick and versatile design
Cons 
Keyboard feels hollow
Speakers sound harsh at high volume
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Detachable Chromebooks are experiencing somewhat of a comeback at the moment. Google might have abandoned the idea after disappointing sales for the 2018 Pixel Slate but various manufacturers, from Lenovo to Asus, have been steadily launching new models recently, and now HP has returned to the fray with its second-generation HP Chromebook X2.

It’s an update of a line HP launched back in 2018 but with a significant upgrade to the specification that makes it all the more intriguing.

READ NEXT: The best laptops to buy right now

HP Chromebook X2 11 review: What you need to know

This is a 2-in-1 Chromebook in the style of Microsoft’s Surface Go and Microsoft Surface Pro devices, combining an 11in tablet with a dedicated click-on keyboard. Unlike Microsoft, however, HP bundles this essential peripheral inside the box. Like the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet, this works with a magnetic backplate, one half of which folds outwards to work as a kickstand.

The design isn’t the only thing of interest. This is the second Chromebook we’ve reviewed running Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7C chipset and it’s also the most powerful, given that our review model ships with a respectable 8GB of RAM, not the 4GB we saw in the Acer Chromebook 513.

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HP Chromebook X2 11 review: Price and competition

There’s an argument that, while the Duet Chromebook was a media consumption device that could also handle a little productivity, the Chromebook X2 is a more rounded, business-ready option, capable of going toe to toe with Microsoft’s Surface Go 3.

That’s reflected in a higher price of £499 to £550, with the Duet hovering at around £230 to £300. If you prefer Windows to Chrome OS, the Surface Go 3 starts at £369, although a version with 8GB of RAM shifts the price up by another £100 and you’ll need to budget an additional £100 to £125 for the Type Cover.

If you’re happier with a conventional Chromebook, you’ve got some excellent options for around this price point. The Acer Chromebook CB514-1W is brilliant and even more affordable, or you could go upmarket to the Asus Chromebook CX5 5500 or the Acer Chromebook Spin 713. You’d have to spend another £50 to £100 and you’d lose some flexibility and portability, but you’d get a more powerful Chromebook with a bigger screen.

READ NEXT: The finest detachable and convertible hybrid notebooks you can buy

HP Chromebook X2 11 review: Design

Like the Surface Go and IdeaPad Duet, the HP Chromebook X2 11 is designed to look and feel like a tablet, without the bulk of a convertible design. Shorn of its keyboard and rear cover, it measures 7.5mm thick and weighs 580g, and the sandblasted aluminium shell and toughened glass give it a more premium feel than the IdeaPad Duet.

Connectivity is limited to two USB-C ports, one of which will be needed for charging some of the time, and a microSD card slot. The only other things of note, physically speaking, are a volume rocker on the left-hand edge and a power button on the top. The latter doubles as a fingerprint reader, which I found worked pretty much flawlessly once set up. On the wireless side, you have 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi 6 along with Bluetooth 5.

The rear plate locks on magnetically, with a square hole for the rear-facing camera and a hinged lower section that acts as a kickstand. This holds the tablet securely at a wide range of angles, from nearly flat against the desk to roughly 80 degrees. Meanwhile, the clip-on keyboard works almost exactly like the Surface Go’s type cover, fixing magnetically to the bottom of the tablet, with five pins for power and connectivity. The top of the keyboard then clicks magnetically into place against the bottom of the screen, to hold the keyboard at a decent typing angle. Overall, it’s a smart and practical design, and while the assembled weight of 1.03kg is a little heavier than the 850g of the Surface Go 3 with its Type Cover, it’s still not going to cause you any shoulder ache.

The HP Chromebook X2 has a front-facing 5MP webcam and a rear-facing 8MP snapper, and both deliver fairly sharp and well-exposed results, although the rear camera is sometimes flummoxed in bright lighting, leading to weird, almost high-key shots. The dual array microphone picks up clear enough audio for video calls and conferencing, but I’d still recommend a headset mic if you want to ensure you’re clearly heard.

HP Chromebook X2 11 review: Keyboard and touchpad

The keyboard and touchpad can be the downfall of a detachable design, as having to fit everything into an area the size of the screen often means serious shrinkage of both. The Chromebook X2 isn’t immune to this but it manages it better than most. The keys are reasonably large and sensibly spaced and, while the return key is only half the usual height, the spacebar, Ctrl and Shift keys are big enough to stand out.

The action, however, is unsurprisingly shallow and there’s a slightly hollow feeling you don’t get working on a Surface Go. Still, there’s not too much bounce in the cover and I didn’t have any serious issues typing documents or emails at close to normal speeds.

The touchpad, meanwhile, is surprisingly wide at 110mm across, giving you a little more space to play with than the touchpad in the Surface Go Type Cover. It’s smooth and hard to fault on accuracy, even when using the multitouch gestures that you tend to use a lot in Chrome OS.

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HP Chromebook X2 11 review: Display and sound

The Chromebook X2 has an 11in display with a 3:2 aspect ratio and a 2,160 x 1,440 resolution. While this is small by the standards of other comparably price Chromebooks, its virtues more than make up for it. It’s bright – HP states 400cd/m², and I measured 396cd/m² – with 96% sRGB coverage and impressive levels of contrast and colour accuracy.

Watching 4K streaming video, it’s crystal clear, and you’d really need to go to an OLED panel to see Stadia games looking any better. I’ve yet to see a Chromebook rocking one of those.

The audio side of things isn’t quite as good, despite Bang & Olufsen branding and tuning. There’s plenty of volume, along with a wide stereo spread, which is great for games and movies. However, while there are bright highs and some deeper than average low-end tones, the overall effect is a little brash and mid-range heavy, especially as you push the volume upwards.

HP Chromebook X2 11 review: Performance and battery life

The HP’s Snapdragon 7C chipset was designed for energy efficiency rather than raw horsepower, and that’s reflected in our benchmark results. With 8GB of RAM rather than 4GB, I found it was a little faster than the last Snapdragon Chromebook we tested at, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713. However, it was still a long way off the pace set by Intel Core i3 models such as the Asus Chromebook CX5 5500, or even those with Intel’s recent Pentium Gold processors.

For instance, in Geekbench 5 the HP Chromebook X2 scored 576 in the single-core test and 1,688 in multicore, way behind the Acer Chromebook 514 with its Pentium Gold, which scored 922 and 2,075. It was a similar story in our multitasking test, where the X2 scored 75.1 (versus the Acer’s 187), and in the CRXpert test, where it scored 61 (versus 127).

You might also want to rethink any gaming ambitions outside of streaming services. Even in the old GFXBench Manhattan benchmark it only returned an average 26fps at native resolution or 35fps offscreen at 1080p. On the more intensive Car Chase test, the best I saw was 15fps at 1080p – significantly slower than recent Pentium and Core i3 Chromebooks.

This isn’t a Chromebook, then, for more demanding apps. However, for everyday browsing and even business use you won’t have any problems. With a dozen browser tabs open, including several running Gmail, Google Docs and Google Sheets, the X2 remained responsive and snappy and task-switching was slick and free of irritating pauses. It’s not a fast Chromebook in benchmarks but this HP never feels like a slow one.

Comparisons with the Microsoft Surface Go 3 here are also interesting. We don’t have much in the way of cross-platform benchmarks to work with, and the Surface Go 3’s Geekbench scores of 839 (single core) and 1,572 (multicore) put it ahead of the Chromebook X2. Yet while the Surface Go 3 feels slow when you launch an app or have multiple browser tabs open, the Chromebook X2 doesn’t.

The upside of the Snapdragon processor is battery life. The X2 isn’t a superhero here in the way that the IdeaPad Duet was, but it still achieved 11hrs 7mins of video playback from a single charge. That’s fine for a good day’s use and it shows more stamina than the Core i3 and Pentium competition.

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HP Chromebook X2 11 review: Verdict

I have some reservations about the HP Chromebook X2 11’s keyboard but it makes a great grown-up alternative to the IdeaPad Duet, with a bigger screen, a premium design and better performance.

Unlike the 2-in-1 Chromebook convertibles crowd, it makes an effective tablet as well as a good laptop, and in many ways, it offers a better experience than Microsoft’s Surface Go 3. Of course, it’s not a direct alternative, lacking the wide range of apps you can install if you on Windows 11 but, if you’re happy in the Chrome OS and Android ecosystems, that’s not a problem. With a bit more work this could be an exceptional 2-in-1 Chromebook. As it is right now, it’s still a great device.

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