HP's Pavilion X360 is a budget-priced 2-in-1 laptop that's not held back by budget performance. In fact, it's the fastest low-cost hybrid we've ever tested. Other highlights include a sturdy, attractive design, a nice keyboard and good battery life. And while its 11.6-inch display is cramped and its design is a bit on the heavy side, the Pavilion x360 is still the obvious pick for workers who want a portable hybrid laptop for on-the-go productivity.
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The x360 is far from the most travel-friendly device in its category. The notebook weighs a relatively hefty 3.2 lbs. and measures 12.05 x 8.19 x 0.89 inches, which makes it heavier, larger and thicker than the competition. Dell’s Inspiron 11 3000, in comparison, weighs 3.1 lbs. and measures a smaller 11.8 x 7.9 x 0.74 inches. Lenovo’s Flex 3 11 is an even lighter option for commuters, weighing just 3 lbs., while measuring a middle-of-the-road 11.8 x 8.2 x 0.86 inches.
I’m a big fan of the x360's handsome silver lid, and the matte plastic interior looks understated and professional. I also like the notebook's sturdy hinge, which stays in place when you fold the device into a variety of positions.
What separates the X360 from your average budget laptop is it flexible hinge, which lets you flip the display around a full 360 degrees to use the device like a tablet. If that seems gimmicky for a work laptop, you might be surprised at how useful the hybrid design really is.
Tablet mode is nice for using touch-optimized applications on the go, but the X360 is a bit heavy to carry around like a tablet for long. Perhaps even more useful are Tent and Stand modes, both of which involve folding the display partway, letting you prop up the touch screen on a flat surface.
Both could come in handy for sharing a presentation to a small group, and stand mode in particular is nice for using the machine in cramped quarters such as on an airplane tray table. The x360's hinge is nice and sturdy, so you can comfortably tap the display in either mode without the machine collapsing on your desk.
For some workers, the x360's cramped 11.6-inch display might be a deal-breaker. I found the small, 1,366 x 786-pixel screen comfortable for basic productivity tasks, but it felt cramped for split-screen multitasking, or other screen-intensive tasks like viewing large documents and editing spreadsheets. The 11.6-inch display is surrounded by an unusually thick bezel, which makes it feel even smaller.
The x360's display is also dimmer than average, topping out at 227 nits of brightness at the brightest setting, which is below the 234-nit average. That's still fine for indoor use, but a brighter screen would have been better for using the device outdoors or in direct sunlight.
Keyboard and touchpad
While most 11-inch notebooks offer downscaled keyboards that are too cramped for serious typing, the X360 has a frame that's large enough to accommodate a full-size keyboard. Keys are well-spaced and offer snappy feedback. And with key travel measuring about 1.5mm – about average among laptops -- you get a pretty comfortable typing experience overall.
The touchpad is relatively small, measuring about 3.75 x 2.2-inches, compared with the Inspiron 11's 4.1 x 2.4-inch pad. But I still like the pad's smooth matte finish, which my finger glides over easily. Cursor control feels accurate, and clicking the pad for left and right clicks feels snappy.
It's hard to be productive on a sluggish machine, which is why budget laptops – most of which run on underpowered Intel Pentium processors -- have long been a hard sell for business users. That is what's so impressive about the Pavilion X360: it's the first budget laptop 2-in-1 we've tested that runs on Intel's newer Core M chip, making it the single fastest low-price hybrid that I know of.
The machine is powered by a dual-core 1.9-GHz Intel M-Y510c processor with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD). It felt extremely snappy during my testing period, and showed no signs of slow-down while I typed this review with HD video streaming from YouTube and more than a dozen tabs open in my Firefox Web browser.
When we ran the X360 through the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance, it racked up an excellent score of 3,992. That edges out the Core i3-powered Asus TP300, which scored 3,922, and blows away the Pentium-powered Dell Inspiron 11 3000, which scored 3,406. The x360 also beat out all competitors in several other tests, including tests that measure hard drive speed and graphics performance.
One downside is that the machine tends to run a little hot, especially on its underside. That's because its Core M processor doesn't use a cooling fan. It's hardly a deal-breaker, but the heat issue is something to keep in mind if you plan to use the x360 in your lap very often.
The Pavilion x360's battery life is pretty good but not spectacular, running for 6 hours and 28 minutes on our battery life test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. That's about on a par with the budget 2-in-1 category average of 6 hours and 26 minutes.
With mixed use, the x360 should last long enough to get you through the average workday, but it's far from the longest-lasting device of its kind. The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 lasted a little longer (6 hours and 42 minutes), but it's the Acer Aspire Switch 10 E that's the real battery champ in this category, running for an epic 8 hours and 28 minutes. That's something to consider if you need a device that can last through long business flights without a recharge.
The x360's port selection is more generous than your average 11-inch laptop. The notebook's right edge houses two USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI port and an Ethernet port for connecting to wired Internet and office networks. The left side of the notebook, meanwhile, has one USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader for expanding the internal storage, and a secure lock slot for physically securing your device at your desk.
Windows hybrids like the Pavilion x360 feel a lot more practical since the recent launch of Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft's desktop operating system. The fresh OS, which comes installed on this machine, offers separate Laptop and Tablet modes. Laptop mode features a familiar Windows desktop interface, while Tablet mode offers a more touch-friendly setup that will be familiar to Android and iPad users, with full-screen apps and easy navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen. You can switch between modes manually, or have the x360 switch automatically when you fold the screen back.
A handful of useful productivity apps also come pre-loaded on the x360, including Evernote for taking and saving notes, and Skype for basic videoconferencing. HP's Connected Drive app, meanwhile, makes it easy to transfer large files up to 100MB in as many as 10 computers. Finally, the Dropbox cloud storage app comes with 25GB of free storage for six months.
The x360 delivers top-notch performance and a sturdy design on the cheap. It's the fastest 2-in-1 hybrid under $500 that I know of, which makes it a good option for serious productivity. Its flexible hinge is actually useful instead of being a gimmick, and its keyboard is solid. On the other hand, the machine's relative bulk, and tendency to run a bit hot, keep it from being perfect.
The 11.6-inch Dell Inspiron 11 3000 is a great alternative for workers with only basic computing needs. It's a more portable travel companion with longer battery life and a brighter, more vibrant display, though its Pentium processor is a bit underpowered.