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HP Chromebook X2 review: Great Chromebook, better Android tablet

HP Chromebook X2
(Image: © Android Central)

Our Verdict

Price: $599.99Bottom line: This is the first detachable Chromebook, and it sets a high bar for competing devices.

For

  • Lightweight in tablet mode
  • Rock solid when used as a laptop
  • More than powerful enough for most Chrome OS users
  • Better than average battery life
  • Gorgeous, vibrant display

Against

  • No backlit keyboard
  • Only 32GB of internal storage
  • Higher-specced options are nowhere to be found

Chromebooks — and Chrome OS as a whole — have been going through a growth spurt over the last few years. Conversely, Android tablets are still around, but it's clear that Google is aiming for low-cost Chromebooks to take over this space. Convertible Chromebooks are already plentiful and inexpensive enough to fill this gap, but these don't necessarily make good tablets.

Yes, you can spin them around and use them in portrait mode. Yes, Android applications on Chromebooks have come a long way — essentially feeling like native applications at this point.

But the extra weight that comes with a keyboard makes it hard to use them in tablet mode for hours and hours while you watch Netflix or read a book. And having your hand grip a keyboard deck instead of a smooth surface — as minor as this sounds — contributes to knowing you're not actually using a tablet.

So what's the solution? Read on.

Acer announced (but has yet to release) the first Chrome OS tablet in March, and HP shortly followed with the first Chrome OS detachable: the HP Chromebook X2.

I've been using the HP Chromebook X2 as my main device since June 4, both with my personal account and the G Suite account for my day job. In this time, there has been one software update, but this was a minor bug fix update.

HP Chromebook X2 What's included

Unlike competing devices like the Surface Pro and the iPad Pro, the Chromebook X2 includes everything you need in the box. The keyboard is attached to the screen when you remove it from the box, and the pen is packed in its own plastic packaging. Unscrew the battery housing for the pen, pop in the included AAAA battery, and start using the pen — no pairing required.

Also included is a 45-watt USB-C charger, though the X2 will gladly charge from any USB-PD charger or power bank. With a 45-watt charger, it can go from completely drained to full in about an hour and a half.

HP Chromebook X2 The insides

The Chromebook X2 is powered by a 7th generation Intel Core m3-7Y30 processor and 4GB of RAM, with 32GB of internal storage. The processor is a fanless, low-power model — perfect for Chromebooks. That storage is expandable via microSD, and you can always hook up a USB-C flash drive for portable storage. Since all of the ports are on the screen portion of the device, it's too thin for USB-A ports. 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 are here to connect you to the net and your wireless accessories.

HP Chromebook X2 The outsides

The display is the exact same panel that's been used in the Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro and the Google Pixelbook. This is a 2400x1600 display — meaning it has the excellent 3:2 aspect ratio — and just like those earlier devices, the display is gorgeous. I have 20/20 vision, and I struggle to see any pixels, even when the display is close to my face. Colors are accurate and vibrant, making videos and comic art pop.

The HP Chromebook X2 next to the Google Pixelbook.

This display is surrounded by a healthy bezel — not as large as on the Pixelbook, but still enough to comfortably hold the tablet portion without accidentally touching the screen. Touch response is excellent; there's no delay between tapping the screen and an action occurring. The reflective HP logo on the bottom bezel is a bit distracting at first, but I've since gotten used to it.

The side of the tablet portion is trimmed in reflective silver, while the back is stark white with a reflective HP logo. The white portion has already picked up a few faint blue marks from going into and out of my backpack, so be warned about scuffs. The keyboard is black on the bottom and blue on the top with a faux leather texture. This is the only color option currently, so if you want a different look, you'll need to hope some company make a skin. There are two obnoxious stickers on the keyboard when first opening the device, but these are removed easily enough.

While I prefer plain designs — just see the skin on my Pixelbook (opens in new tab) — I have to say I don't mind these colors. The design is distinct without being gaudy, and you wouldn't confuse this for any other laptop.

HP Chromebook X2 What it's like to use as a laptop

If you've ever used a Chromebook, the experience of setting up and using this will be very familiar. Even if you've never used a Chromebook, you'll be able to pick up and use this without any issues. The whole unit is a bit top heavy since all of the components are inside the screen, but you'll have no problems using it as a laptop. And I do mean a LAPtop: the hinge is stiff enough to hold the tablet portion upright, meaning you'll be able to use it on your lap without any worry. Contrast this with the Surface Pro, which uses a kickstand for stability. The kickstand is fine on a table, less so in a lap. The hinge opens up to about 120-degrees, so you want the screen flat on a table, you'll need to detach the screen.

The hinge is absolutely solid, making this natural to use in your lap.

The keyboard uses the same layout as every other Chromebook (minus the Pixelbook) — again making this familiar for return Chrome OS users. The keys themselves are well spaced with good travel, and after a few minutes to adjust to how much force the keys need, I was spitting out words like it was nobody's business. The trackpad gives you enough space for navigation gestures, with great tracking and a satisfying click. There are precious few trackpads I can use without reaching for an external mouse, and the trackpad on the Chromebook X2 is one of them. The whole keyboard deck communicates with the rest of the components over the POGO pins, so no need to worry about pairing or interference from a Bluetooth connection.

This is the first Chromebook with a 7th-generation Intel Core m3 processor, but there aren't drastic differences between that architecture and that of the 6th-generation processors. I was able to write, load up a bunch of web pages, drive an external monitor, all without any slowdowns. The Pixelbook may be a better match for those that are going to use hardcore Linux apps, but these specs will suffice for nearly every other Chromebook user.

The newer generation processors are a bit more battery efficient than previous ones, and that reflected in my use. I could comfortably get 10 to 12 hours of use from the Chromebook X2 with five or six tabs open, browsing web pages and typing up documents in Google Docs, and about 75% brightness. Video watching nets me about the same life, while the battery seems to last forever when reading books and comics. I compare this to seven or so hours of similar use on my Pixelbook, which is just low enough to necessitate a mid-day recharge.

HP Chromebook X2 What it's like to use as a tablet

Getting rid of the weight of the keyboard goes a long way towards making this comfortable to use as a tablet.

As a detachable, the Chromebook X2 is much lighter when used as a tablet compared to every other Chromebook. The Pixelbook and Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro weigh in at 2.4 lbs, while the screen of the HP Chromebook X2 comes in at 1.6 pounds. This may not sound like a huge difference, but after hours of comic-reading or in-bed Netflix, you'll absolutely be able to tell a difference.

The lighter weight translates to being able to comfortably use the device as a tablet for longer periods of time. Reading books, doodling with the pen, or watching shows on Netflix are all super easy, and it's great to be immersed in the 12.3-inch screen.

HP Chromebook X2 Other odds and ends

Both USB-C ports can be used for charging, display-out and transferring data. A USB-C port on each side is great, since it cuts down on cable clutter. The 3.5mm headphone jack is present and accounted for, and can be used for microphone input. The power button is thoughtfully placed on the top left edge, meaning you won't accidentally press it when using the device in portrait orientation.

The cameras are… present. The camera interface on Chromebooks has improved a bit over the last year, adding the option for video recording and the ability to switch between front and rear cameras. But the camera interface on Android has grown a lot in the same time, with the addition of Motion Photos and Google Lens. You can use the Google Lens Android app, but this doesn't present information in the camera viewfinder. Here's hoping we see more capabilities for cameras in Chrome OS.

HP Chromebook X2 The bad parts

My main gripe with this device is that HP initially said it would have a backlit keyboard, but it doesn't. As familiar as I am with the Chrome OS keyboard layout, I still need to look down at the keys sometimes. The lack of a backlit keyboard is a huge mark against this device, especially at this price. Both the Asus C302 and the refreshed Samsung Chromebook Pro offer a backlit keyboard for less money.

And while I'm fine with the 32GB of internal storage, others won't be. Android apps can't take advantage of microSD cards just yet, so this low amount of storage will be limiting for those that want to download Netflix shows offline or download large Android games.

I also wish there was an LTE option. Tethering from my phone's Internet connection is fine, but having the option for integrated LTE would be nice to save my phone's battery. Integrated LTE would also mean users could just open the device and get to work, rather than wait to connect to their phone or connect to unsafe public Wi-Fi points.

HP Chromebook X2 Alternatives

If you're staying within the Chrome OS world, there aren't any other detachables yet. If you don't care about being able to detach this and use it as a tablet, you can either save money by buying the Samsung Chromebooks or new Acer Chromebooks, or get more power and storage with the Pixelbook.

If you're not tied to Chrome OS, then the iPad Pro and Surface Pro are also excellent alternatives, with the iPad leaning more towards being a tablet and the Surface leaning more towards being a full laptop.

HP Chromebook X2 Should you buy it?

If you loved using high-end Android tablets like the Pixel C as an on-the-go productivity device, a detachable like this is a natural next step as high-end Android tablets fade away. A full desktop browser will go a long way to making you even more productive than a tablet could anyway, with all the Android apps you've been using.

If you want a Chrome OS tablet, this is the only option until Acer actually releases their tablet. Even then, this is a more complete device by including a keyboard in the box. This can be your one portable device by having the full keyboard, full desktop browser, and some productivity apps. At the same time, this can also be a great consumption device by removing the keyboard and curling up to read a book.

4.5 out of 5

Unless something comes along to drastically improve on this device (like a backlit keyboard), I can see this being my daily driver for a long time to come.

See at Best Buy (opens in new tab)

34 Comments
  • Nice review. Like many others, I've been hoping for Chrome OS tablets for the past few years, and I'm glad to see them starting out so well. I'm crossing my fingers for some smaller screen-only options to eventually replace my Samsung Tab S 8.4.
  • My laptop is getting old and takes forever to do anything. Was going to get a Chromebook then this was announced. Can't wait to get my hands on one. 32gb is fine. Media is all streamed and files are on Drive.
  • I'm going to want to run VS Code and some other GNU/Linux apps -- 4GB RAM ain't gonna cut it for me.
  • I think there is an 8gb upgrade available, no?
  • No upgrade. Must have been a different Chromebook. Nice though, just not for everyone. But probably most people. Then again, a fixed larger screened Chromebook is probably in order for someone needing more computational power.
  • I just can't get past that 32GB memory. Other than that, amazing looking device.
  • I suppose you could just use a WiFi hotspot from your phone as a stopgap alternative to integrated LTE.
  • The only downside is that a hotspot isn't as fast as integrated and now you're draining battery faster on your phone as well.
  • Oh I'm well aware of the downsides, but you can do it if you needed to.
  • Just keep the phone charged from the USB port on the Chromebook.
  • 1. 32Gb in this day and age on a laptop? Seriously? C'mon. 2. If you advertise a backlit keyboard, ship it with one. Period. 3. Wasn't there going to be an 8gb i5 model? Where is that one HP. THAT'S the one that will compete against the pixelbook 4. The android build STILL can't utilize the SD card? Mistake. What I want to know is how well the stylus works. Sure you put pictures info you're review, but you barely mentioned it!
  • I'll admit, I'm not a stylus user. Is there a particular use case or app you'd like me to try?
  • Palm rejection with the stylus.
  • Works well in the Google Keep Android app, so I'd presume it works well in other apps
  • One Note. Evernote. Record it in a video. Something perhaps that does ink to text?
    Compare the responsiveness of the stylus from this to the Chromebook Pro, for example.
    There are literally a myriad of use cases.
  • They've been promising Android reading off of the sd card for months. If that happens, then pop in an sd card. As is, mx player still runs video off the sd card. I use it on my $80 Hisense chrome book now. I just need to go thru the file manager one video at a time. Fine for movies.
  • I am typing these comments on my own X2 and I fully agree with the review. I am very impressed with the tablet. This is my first Chrome OS device and I plan to use it as my travel and presentation laptop. Not only is it much lighter than my old Lenovo unit but the main plus is the battery life! I am a convert and will likely switch to Chrome OS for all my portable needs. The only complaint is one that again is contained in the article. The lack of backlit keyboard is huge for me. I am very comfortable with typing in the dark and am doing so right now but the backlight is key for many consumers and a plus for all.
  • $600 plus tax and NO BACKLIT KEYBOARD!! I've already turned my back Rofdlmao!!!
  • Agreed. Absolutely. Yes, this. (Sorry, had to post 3 words or more).
  • At $400 I'd buy it!
  • For $75 more, you could get the Pixelbook ($750 @ Best Buy minus 10% student discount)
  • Which is great, but that's not a detachable. If you use it in tablet mode a lot, it stills weighs a lot more than this device since you can't remove the keyboard deck.
  • I find the advantage of being able to remove the keyboard is overrated with any flip design. The keyboard makes it possible to stand the tablet almost anywhere so you don't need to hold it up by hand.
  • Which you can do with the device... By flipping it around and snapping to the keyboard. But if you don't want to be weighed by the keyboard while in bed or driving in the car or even on the John to read your publication of choice, this can detach from the keyboard. Trust me, having just used the Surface Pro (which unfortunately I had to return as I was having performance issues with the one I had), I will never be able to go back to a portable device in my tablets without a detachable keyboard 2 in 1 usability. It literally changes the whole game. I was looking at the Chromebook x2 to replace my Android tablet that was having charging issues and getting long in the tooth. Settled on the Huawei Mate book E Core m3 model with 4GB RAM for $399 with keyboard included (although the Matepen is separately sold for around $89, but can also use Wacom Bamboo Ink and Smart Stylus as it uses Wacom AES digitizer), but this was definitely on my list of possible devices. Just couldn't get a tablet/laptop with internal storage limited to 32GB and no way for apps to utilize the SD card at the time of this writing. That and lack of the backlight keyboard was kind of a deal breaker for me.
  • But also at least twice the RAM and a backlit keyboard. So is kind of a deal really. But yes, if you are really wanting a detachable option to pine away the hours watching Netflix, then maybe not. I'd rather watch movies on my large TVs.
  • Great review. Highlights the two issues that will stop me buying it: low memory (even phones are getting 128GB) and lack of back-lit keyboard. A shame when the removable screen took away the major reason for me not getting a chromebook. It would be a far better device with LTE.
    Let's hope it does well enough that they issue the next one with those issues fixed. Why Intel not Qualcom? Why a 2016 processor?
  • For the processor, Google has a hand in creating all of the motherboards that go inside Chromebooks. This is part of why updates come straight from Google, rather than having to wait for manufacturers to create drivers. The lag is just because of how long it takes to build and certify around a processor. I'm not sure why this specific device used an Intel processor and not a Qualcomm one, but Qualcomm Chromebooks are on the way.
  • I do not understand why OEMs do not add 2 M2 easy to access slots to their Chromebooks products.
    As more people will buy them for Android / Lignux uses and the extra cost in money and in energy when one or two M2 is plugged is not much (5 watt each).
  • Just picked one of these up from Best Buy! Awesome Chromebook. Surface-book like detaching makes this a dream
  • Will HP release the X2 in Europe at some point? Haven't heard anything so far. Does anybody know
    ?
  • Since you mentioned Netflix, you should probably mention the DRM problems that keep it from being useful for Netflix. (The Android app will only support 480p, and the website only goes to 720p -- Netflix's documentation says Chromebooks should be able to do 1080p on the website, but the test pattern tops out at 720p consistently, so I don't know what the deal is.)
  • Sorry...not sold on this. I was considering picking up one of these or an iPad Pro, or a Surface. Ended up going with the iPad because I'm looking for the utility of notetaking first, and the accessibility of a keyboard, 2nd. While it's a nice concept, I find it TELLING that NO ONE. Not a single review for this unit. ANYWHERE (try a google search. Go on, I'll wait.) has done a review of this things stylus responsiveness, or use for note taking, or put it head to head with any other Chromebook that supports an active stylus (Hmm...I wonder which one might have that?). Ok, now that you've found several reviews for this unit, but NONE of them focusing on the utility of the Stylus as anything but a tap-here replacement for your finger...let's dig into why this is important. Number 1: HP Built this thing as a Tablet that connects onto a keyboard dock. Not a Laptop that disconnects away from the base to turn into a tablet. How can you discern this immediately? Glad you asked. There are no appreciable electronics on the base. You want to charge, connect USB to the tablet (see what I did there?). You thought you were getting backlighting? Ennngh! Sorry. Not this time around, sport. Number 2: The unit was noticeably under-manufactured. Not sure what I mean? Have a look at what BestBuy is charging for this right now...a MONTH after release. Yup. You guessed it. $50 over MSRP on this thing. Why might you ask? Because they're hard to come by. Amazon doesn't have them direct. Target doesn't have them direct. Even Walmart doesn't have these things direct. Go on, I'll wait while you search those websites too. Number 3: Not that I need to keep going, but let's look at that despite this unit specifically being designed to holster an active stylus, NO ONE, not even HP has demonstrated a video for the stylus and the tablet going through it's paces for more than a second or two in a smattering fashion in between longer sequences of the reviewer typing away at the keyboard or docking/undocking the tablet (by now you should be convinced it's a tablet with a keyboard dock, and not a laptop that's detachable). Pile on the under-stocked storage option (32Gb....really HP? Not even 64?). The bait-and-switch keyboard backlight (c'mon, even the $119 detachable keyboard cover for the iPad from Logitech has a BACKLIGHT!). And lastly, the fact that access to external storage (i.e. uSD) to Android on this thing is noticeable absent. You know, so you can access things, like say...MUSIC? Remember, not EVERYONE streams music today. Get over it, people. But I digress. At the end of the day...I really wish this were the Chromebook that earned my $$$. But flip-books (really people...having your keyboard sitting facing a musty, perhaps-not-recently wiped table at your local coffee shop doesn't turn you off flip-books? Or having your keyboard facing away from you while it's in tent mode, where your friends can "accidentally" sneeze on it, don't rattle you either? Suit yourselves.) aren't the thing for me. Even if they have a built-in S-Pen (Yeah, I'm looking at you Chromebook Pro from Samsung). Now there's an idea for a stylus-to-stylus comparison for Chromebooks. And so....one must go back to waiting. Hang on. I've got my iPad. I guess I can get something worthwhile done.
    Carry on.
  • I got this device in lieu of the discounted pixelbook after seeing all the praise it got on AC and it was clearly a mistake. As a laptop, it's passable, the keyboard is excellent and the display is solid. As a tablet, it's unusable, laggy and buggy. Smart lock doesn't work, video keeps rotating inside browser while on tablet mode, more than 4 tabs running bog it down, it's a frustrating experience.
  • The UK model has 8GB RAM instead of 4GB and 64GB storage instead of 32GB storage. It's a lot more expensive though. £799 compared to I think $500 USD.