Friday 15 December 2017

Slim, powerful HP Elitebook is good choice for a business laptop but touchscreen may be overkill

Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

By and large, people look for two types of laptops these days. Either one 'that will do' or one that they really want.

The Elitebook X360 is pitched - and priced - firmly in the latter camp. After a week testing it, I've come to the conclusion that it's a very well made, high-end device with excellent performance levels, but might be overkill for those who don't need to bother with touchscreens or screen styluses.

Aside from being a powerful, slim laptop, the X360's 13-inch screen flips right over to the back of the keyboard so it can be used as a tablet or a video screen. Its solid hinge lets you stand it up as a multimedia device, too - probably its most useful application for Netflix or Sky Go subscribers.

Features wise, there's very little you'll miss on the X360. Its physical metallic design is very nice, if conventional. It bears more than a passing resemblance to a MacBook Pro. This is hardly a bad thing, however.

It's reasonably light at 1.3kg. The backlit keyboard is nicely ergonomic, with large keys spaced out. For the user, there's a satisfying muted click to each key.

The HD screen quality is excellent: a 4K option is also available. A pair of Bang & Olufsen branded speakers sit below the laptop. They're pretty decent and are designed to use whatever hard surface is lying underneath the machine as a complement. This generally works well, although it can get muffled on a lap.

There's a 3.5mm audio headphone jack (hurray!) two regular USB ports, a USB-C port, HDMI port and microSD card port. As someone who uses cameras a bit, I would have preferred a full-size SD card port but the USB-C port is handy in a number of ways. In some circumstances, it can supplement the laptop's battery if you connect it to a high-powered charger. Speaking of battery life, it's fine - I got between six and eight hours off a single charge.

Under the hood, my model came with 256GB of storage, 8GB of Ram and an Intel Core i5 processor. That's powerful enough to run just about anything you throw at it, including some games if you want to diversify its functionality in your life.

For business users and those generally concerned with privacy, there is a useful optional feature called Sure View that blacks out side angle viewing of the screen. Unfortunately, my test model appeared not to have this feature, which needs to be configured when buying.

For added security, there's a fingerprint reader placed on the lower right-hand side of the laptop. It also comes with a battery-powered stylus pen. Personally, I don't know many who use laptops (or tablets) as screens to physically scribble or draw on. But computer and tablet manufacturers think they're out there, as successive models from Microsoft (Surface), Samsung (Tab S Pro) and Apple (iPad Pro) attest.

Because of the takeover of phones for much of our modern computing these days, touchscreen capability is a logical evolution for most of our PCs. There are still considerable challenges with Windows touchscreen devices, however. By and large, Windows is a lacklustre interface for this type of operation. It's very awkward in traditional WIndows 10 mode and still a little clumsy in web pages accessed through PC web browsers. So without a viable apps ecosystem (which Windows now is getting farther away from), touchscreen functionality seems like a bit of a niche feature on a traditional laptop.

You're probably paying a few hundred euro for this feature. So if you really don't think you need a touchscreen laptop, you may be paying a little over the odds here. That said, I still enjoyed flipping the screen to use as a good, high-resolution screen for Netflix and YouTube, for which the touchscreen becomes necessary in its basic operation.

It says something about our attitudes to laptops now that this device is only available through business-centric channels as opposed to Harvey Norman, PC World or other regular shops.

Obviously, HP doesn't think there's a consumer market for this machine. But if you're in business and need a new laptop, this is a pretty good choice.

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