26 Feb 2014
BARCELONA: Since Microsoft released its latest touch-focused Windows 8 operating system, hardware manufacturers have been wrestling to find the best way to showcase its finer points and create a truly usable laptop-tablet hybrid.
Some firms, such as Asus, have tried to solve the problem by creating dockable keyboard attachments for Windows 8 tablets. Others such as Lenovo have been a little more creative, making IdeaPad Yoga devices with flexible hinges that let users turn the laptop into a tablet by rotating its keyboard round to go behind the screen.
HP has traditionally chosen the same route as Asus, creating standalone tablets that can be turned into laptop replacements with optional dock attachments. But all that changed at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2014, where the company chose to quite literally go back on itself and unveil its IdeaPad Yoga-like Pavilion x360 laptop.
Design and build
HP has worked hard to make sure the Pavilion x360 looks as eye catching as possible, releasing it in a variety of colours. The red version we saw looked particularly striking and set the Pavilion apart from HP's other more enterprise-focused hybrids.
The Pavilion x360 is fairly light by large tablet standards, weighing in at 1.4kg, and doesn't feel overly heavy. We also found the slightly rubbery plastic outer coating felt suitably robust and offered little to no flex with pressure.
The keyboard and trackpad also proved fairly pleasant to use and were suitably responsive to the touch.
Checking the Pavilion x360's sides and back we were also pleased to see that HP has equipped it with a healthy selection of connectivity options. The system features a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, Ethernet and a headphone-out/mic-in combo jack.
It was only when we attempted to change the Pavilion x360 into a tablet that we noticed any issues. Attempting to rotate the keyboard to go behind the screen, the hinge was very stiff. It felt fairly delicate and on a few occasions we were concerned that we'd actually snap the hinge – though an HP spokesman told us this is because the model we looked at was pre-production and that this will be fixed on the final versions.
The Pavilion x360 was also slightly difficult to use, firstly, because by having the keyboard on its back, it's fairly hard to get a good grip on the Pavilion x360. Secondly, while it's reasonably light for a laptop, as a tablet, the machine is far too heavy to comfortably hold in one hand.
The Pavilion x360 comes with a 11.6in HD LED-backlit, 1366x768 touchscreen, and seemed very responsive to gesture input. Our only regret in this regard is that the Pavilion x360 doesn't come with a digital stylus, which meant taht using it as a standalone tablet could at times be fiddly – especially if trying to use a desktop application.
The display also offered reasonable picture quality. While nowhere near as good as the in-plane switching (IPS) displays seen in other tablets, the Pavilion's is reasonably good. Colours were suitably vibrant and text, while sometimes a little hazy, was always readable.
The only issue we noticed was that the Pavilion x360's screen was fairly prone to picking up stray light. When this happened the Pavilion x360 became all but unusable – though we were testing it in a very bright showroom.
The Pavilion x360 comes with Microsoft Windows 8.1 pre-installed. There is no Windows 8.1 Professional option for businesses, meaning the device is more suited for BYOD than dedicated corporate use.
The use of Windows 8.1 is still reasonably good from a productivity perspective. The device comes with Microsoft's core Office and OneDrive document-editing and storage services. The use of Windows 8.1, as opposed to the less impressive Windows RT also means users can load and run legacy software on the Pavilion x360.
HP offers the Pavilion x360 with either an Intel Pentium N3520 2.17GHz processor or an Intel Pentium N2820 2.13GHz processor. The demo device we tested featured 8GB of RAM. All versions feature Intel HD graphics.
This means high-power tasks, such as digital painting, video editing and 3D modelling and gaming, will be beyond the Pavilion x360. Considering it is priced from £350, though, this is no surprise.
Testing it for productivity tasks, such as web-browsing and document-editing, the Pavilion x360 purred along nicely and we didn't experience any performance issues during our hands on.
Storage and camera
The Pavilion x360 we tested had 500GB of built-in storage, but it also comes in 320GB and 750GB options. It also has an HP TrueVision HD Webcam with an integrated digital microphone for video-calling. Powering up Skype and making a video call to a smartphone, the camera was more than good enough for making video calls.
HP is remaining hazy as to how long the Pavilion's two-cell battery should last off one charge and a spokesman at the company's MWC stand declined to answer queries regarding battery life. We will test this properly in a full review.
While the HP Pavilion x360 doesn't feel terribly original, looking a little too much like a Lenovo Yoga for our liking, our initial impressions are fairly positive. While it is heavy as a tablet, the Pavilion x360 did feel like a reasonable netbook replacement.
But its ability to deliver will largely be determined by key details that HP is remaining quiet about, such as battery life.
The HP Pavilion x360 is due for release in Europe in March, with prices starting at £350. Check back with V3 then for a full review.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
11 Dec 2013
BARCELONA: HP unveiled a series of new devices on Tuesday at its annual Discover conference and the most notable of these new units was the EliteBook Folio 1040 G1.
It was unveiled on stage by senior vice president of HP Business Personal Systems, Enrique Lores, who touted its military-grade build quality to withstand dust, extreme temperatures and drops, at which point he let it fall from his hand to the floor with a resounding clang. It seemed to be ok.
Enterprise buyers were also targeted with the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner and a smart card reader for extra security, and a docking connector to link to printers and other peripherals.
The firm also touted several other aspects of the device that have been upgraded from its earlier EliteBook Folio 9470M, saying it is lighter, thinner and faster thanks to the inclusion of Intel's Haswell processor. It will ship with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
We went to see the laptop in the giant Discover hall and had a quick play around on the new device and, as HP claimed, it certainly is a swish looking unit with rounded edges, a grey metallic design and an overall feel of quality that is not too dissimilar to a MacBook.
One other notable feature of the new device that HP touted is the use of a new type of control pad called ForcePad (pictured below). Rather than the traditional style control pads on a laptop that require two fingers to select and drag items, this can be done with one as it recognises different pressure sensitivities.
It also has the ability to recognise five-touch inputs so touch-style controls such as pinch-to-zoom can be used on applications or web services that support this functionality. This would be useful if you choose to have Windows 7 shipped with the unit.
However, those wanting a touchscreen can get a Windows 8.1 model, which will now support touch, a major let down of the older model. However, the unit we saw was running Windows 7, so we didn't get a chance to test out the new touchscreen mode.
Another improvement is in size and weight, with the device weighing 1.49kg, down from 1.63kg, and the thickness is down from 18.9mm to 15.9mm on the previous model. We certainly found the device light and comfortable to hold, and it could easily slip into a shoulder bag or suitcase without adding much weight.
Overall, after a quick first glance and play, the EliteBook Folio 1040 seems a nice device with a focus on enterprises users that should appeal to many firms and staffers buying their own laptops. The option of Windows 7 or 8.1 means both tastes are catered for and the ForcePad shows that HP is trying to innovate on the otherwise fairly standard laptop model.
The HP EliteBook Folio 1040 will be available in the UK from the middle of December with a starting price of £1,380. Check back on V3 in the future for our full review of the device.
09 Oct 2013
Google's been enjoying a boom in Android sales for the last year or so, at least in smartphones. However, this success hasn't been replicated so far with Google's other mobile platform, the Chrome OS aimed at low-end laptop-style devices.
For this reason, Google seems to be stepping up its strategy of working with key hardware partners, resulting in devices like the newly unveiled HP-built Chromebook 11.
Design and build
HP and Google have both made a big deal about the Chromebook 11's build quality - one Google spokesman went so far as to describe the device as the "Wolverine of Chromebooks". On paper there's certainly a lot of merit to these claims, with the system boasting a metallic reinforced magnesium frame despite its low weight of 1.04kg.
Google claims the 297x192x17.6mm reinforced chassis is capable of taking more than the average wear and tear and should be able to survive the odd accidental bump or drop hassle free. While we didn't get a chance to actually drop test the Chromebook 11 during our hands-on, we were very impressed how robust the device felt.
Despite the slightly cheap feeling shiny plastic finish, the chassis has little give to it and feels much better built than any laptop we've experienced in the same £229 price-bracket.
During our hands-on we were also impressed how comfortable the keyboard was to type on. While, like any laptop in the same 11in size bracket, the keyboard did feel slightly squashed, the keys were suitable snappy and responsive and the Chromebook's slightly rounded frame made it comfortable to type on.
In terms of ports, the Chromebook 11 is sparsely equipped, featuring just two USB 2.0 ports and a SlimPort video output, which uses a microUSB style connector.
The Chromebook 11 comes with an 11.6in in-plane switching (IPS) display boasting a 300-nit brightness and 176-degree viewing angle. Using the Chromebook 11 in regular office lighting conditions we were fairly impressed with this screen. While far from the crispest we've ever used, the display was bright and colours looked rich and vibrant.
It also proved to have fairly decent viewing angles, with the display remaining legible even when viewing at an awkward angle. However, usersmay struggle to read itin in more adverse lighting conditions, like direct sunlight out of doors.
Software and performance
The Chromebook 11 comes with the latest version of Google's Chrome OS preinstalled. Whether this is a positive or negative is largely determined by which desktop and mobile ecosystem you're already accustomed to.
For those familiar with it, Chrome OS has a lot of benefits. Being largely cloud based, Chrome OS offers decent performance even on modest hardware. It does this by offloading a lot of the heavy lifting, traditionally tasked to the device's processor, into the cloud. This lets it do things like instant start and run demanding game applications traditionally beyond its Exynos 5250 processor and 2GB of RAM.
The OS also features built-in multiple security layers designed to ward off malware. This, combined with its low market share which makes it an unpopular target with cyber criminals, means the Chromebook 11 is on a paper a very secure choice for businesses.
Chrome OS also makes setting up the device a doddle for people with a Google account, as it can transfer and setting up all their apps, shortcuts, calendar and email services with one simple login. Even better, the latest version of Chrome OS goes beyond the traditional set of online-only services, featuring support for a number of applications that can run offline, including Google Docs and Gmail.
However, to those more accustomed to Apple or Microsoft platforms, the OS can seem fairly constricting. Considering how embedded most businesses are in the Windows or Mac ecosystems and services, this could be a massive sticking point for many buyers.
Storage and battery
Storage-wise the Chromebook 11 comes with a modest 16GB of solid state storage built in, which cannot be upgraded. Luckily, for those with an active internet connection Google's bundled the Chromebook 11 with 100GB of Drive cloud storage free for the first two years after purchase.
The Chromebook 11 is quoted as capable of six hours active use off one charge. We didn't get a chance to test the projected life during our hands on but will be sure to test it properly come our full review.
One plus point we did notice is that the Chromebook 11 charges using a generic microUSB cable, not a bespoke input. While this sounds small it does make the Chromebook 11 far more travel friendly, removing the need for you to pack an extra charger when away on a business trip.
Our initial impressions of the HP Chromebook 11 are positive. The Chromebook 11 appears to be a robustly built, yet lightweight and travel friendly netbook replacement.
Our only real concerns regard the nature of Chrome OS itself. Despite having a significantly better offline app offering than previous Chromebooks, a lack of inbuilt storage could still prove a problem for those regularly out of range of a network connection and the central focus on Google products and services will remain an issue for businesses already invested in alternative ecosystems.
The Chromebook is available in the US now and is confirmed to launch on Amazon, Google Play, HP Shopping, Currys and PC World on 21 October. Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Google Chromebook 11.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
23 May 2013
Following the failure of HP's homegrown webOS operating system back in 2011, many people questioned whether the PC heavyweight would ever make another mobile device. A couple of years on, HP has returned to the fray, releasing a legion of tablet devices. One of the most interesting of these is the HP SlateBook X2 convertible.
Design and build
The SlateBook follows the same design philosophy as Asus' transformer series of devices, bundling the 10in Android tablet with an attachable keyboard dock that turns it into a netbook replacement. The tablet section of the device is made of polycarbonate and features a fairly unassuming, slightly rounded unibody chassis, with power and volume buttons lining the top of its right and left-hand sides. In fact the only noticeable design features on our grey demo unit were its 1080p rear-facing camera and 720p front-facing camera, which had metallic lines encircling their lenses.
Despite being made of polycarbonate, not metal like Asus' Transformer Prime and Infinity convertibles, the SlateBook did feel fairly sturdily built. Unlike many plastic tablets, the SlateBook didn't bend or move when we pressed on its back; it felt fairly solid.
We found the same was true of the SlateBook's keyboard dock. Built with plastic, the dock felt robust. The dock is a nice touch as it offers users a second battery that can be used to charge the tablet section of the device and boosts the SlateBook's connectivity, adding a USB 2.0 port, SD card slot and HDMI port. With the dock's battery, HP claims the tablet will be able to last around 16 hours off one charge, which, if true, will make it a great travel workstation for business users on the move. However one consequence of the dock's second battery is that when put together the SlateBook is fairly bulky and heavy compared to other Android convertibles, measuring in at 212×285×20mm and weighing a hefty 1.4kg.
The SlateBook boasts a 10.1in IPS 1920x1200 display. The display was a little disappointing, with it looking significantly more grainy and washed out compared with other 10in tablets, like the Google Nexus 10 and Sony Xperia Tablet Z. That said it was more than usable during our tests and it did prove to boast decent viewing angles. We'll be interested to see how the SlateBook's screen deals with more difficult outdoor lighting conditions in our full review.
Operating system and software
Unlike its little brother the Slate 7, the SlateBook runs on the latest 4.2.2 Jelly Bean version of Google Android. This is a boon as most other tablets at the moment are still running on the older 4.1.2 version of Android and means the SlateBook features multiple user account support – a key feature missing on the previous version. Additionally we noticed HP has added a few useful productivity apps to the mix. Chief among these are a custom-built file manager and ePrinter app that lets the tablet automatically sync with HP printers without the need to install drivers. Sadly we didn't get time to really test the apps out in this hands-on review, but if they work this could be a key selling point for business users.
The SlateBook runs using Nvidia's brand-spanking new Tegra 4 processor, packing a 1.8GHz quad-core chip that's backed up by the now standard 2GB RAM. The chip was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year and is meant to be a game changer in the industry, with Nvidia claiming devices powered by it will be twice as fast as other top-end tablets, like the Apple iPad and Google Nexus 10. Running through a few basic tasks like opening webpages and streaming video, the Slatebook was a nippy device; look out for some more thorough speed tests in our full review.
Chances in the market
Set to cost around £400, we're cautiously optimistic regarding the HP SlateBook X2's chances. While the tablet probably won't set the consumer market on fire, it could well capture a significant chunk of the enterprise and bring-your-own-device markets, winning users over with its slew of productivity apps and sturdy design. Check back with V3 later this year for a full review of the HP SlateBook X2.
25 Jan 2013
With Windows 8 out of the bag, touch computing has become 2013's hardware hot topic.
Looking to capitalise on the wave of interest, PC makers across the world are rushing out a new business-focused Microsoft-powered tablets.
This has seen the likes of Lenovo add touch capabilities to its ThinkPad series of devices and now HP follow suit, unveiling a fresh batch of touch entries into its Elite-series of devices.
However, of HP's new batch the most interesting is without a doubt its ElitePad 900 Windows 8 Pro tablet, which aims to use add-on covers to target pretty much every professional group and industry under the sun.
Eager to see how the ElitePad 900 handles, V3 visited HP at its London Showcase event to grab some hands on time with the tablet.
Design and build
As a standalone tablet the ElitePad 900 looks like most other Windows 8 tablets. The ElitePad has the same slightly curved look as many other devices currently on offer, featuring rounded edges and a grey aluminium chassis.
Also, like most other Windows 8 Pro tablets, it's a lot heavier than similarly sized Android and iOS tablets, weighing a hefty 680g despite measuring in at a reasonable 178x261x9.2mm.
However, this is to be expected considering the fact the ElitePad is running a full version of Windows 8 Pro and using powerful Intel hardware as opposed to lighter Qualcomm and Nvidia mobile tech.
In terms of ports the tablet section of the ElitePad features charge, two USB, sim and MicroSD inputs.
For those looking for more connectivity, HP's unveiled a host of expansion jackets for the ElitePad, each being designed to customise it for use within a specific industry.
These include everything from a rubberised outer case designed to protect it when being used in more hazardous conditions, like a building site, to a folding keyboard cover similar to the clip on keyboards seen on Asus' Transformer series of devices.
At the event, we had the chance to see the ElitePad's "Expansion Cover". Living up to its name, the cover expands the number of ports on the ElitePad, adding two USB ports, an SD card expansion slot and an HDMI output. The jacket comes in two pieces and is designed so that the tablet slides into the larger body, with the top clipping on to hold it in place.
Given the lack of ports on the main tablet section the jackets will prove a must for most business users - a fact that could prove a blessing and curse. While the jackets make the tablet very versatile, there's currently no word on how much they're going to cost.
The ElitePad comes with a 10.1in 1280x800 resolution display. In terms of performance this means the ElitePad's display isn't anywhere near as crisp or dazzling as the displays seen on non-Windows tablets, like the Nexus 10 and new iPad.
However, during our hands with the ElitePad we still found the display more than usable, with it boasting surprisingly good viewing angles and proving more than crisp enough for general day-to-day tasks.
Aside from this, the only issue we had with the device's screen during our brief hands on was that it only boasts five, not 10-point multi-touch capabilities.
This meant that when typing using the ElitePad's onscreen keyboard we occasionally noticed a slight delay in response - though the spokesman on hand assured us that this was only an issue with pre-production demo units and has been fixed on the release retail versions. We'll make sure we test that claim.
As well as Windows 8 Pro's core security features HP's loaded the ElitePad with its own Client Security Manager software. This includes a number of useful packages like its Credential Manager, Password Manager and Device Access Manager.
While this won't be of interest to everyone, the services will prove a boon to network managers making it far easier for businesses to safely connect and manage the device when running it on the corporate network.
The ElitePad 900 features the full version of Windows 8 Pro, running on Intel's x86-based architecture.
The machine we had our hands on with was powered by a 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2720 CPU and boasted 2GB of RAM.
During our hands on with the ElitePad we didn't get the chance to really put the device through its paces or run full benchmarks.
However, in the limited tasks we undertook, we found the ElitePad was fairly nippy and we're looking forward to getting the chance to really push the device come our full review.
Camera and Storage
The ElitePad 900 packs an 8MP rear-facing and along with a front-facing unit which HP has yet to provide the specs for. During our hands on we didn't get a real chance to test either the rear or front-facing cameras.
HP's loaded the ElitePad 900 with 64GB of internal storage, which can be expanded using the inbuilt micro-SD card slot.
From our brief time with the device, our opening impressions of the HP ElitePad 900 are positive. Thanks to its Smart Jacket offering, the ElitePad could prove one of the most versatile options for businesses.
This is especially true considering the tablet sections modest cost. With prices starting at £484 (including VAT) the tablet is just £80 more than Microsoft's Surface RT. Yet despite the minor price fluctuation the tablet offers businesses a host of benefits, the largest of which is the use of Windows 8 Pro.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the HP ElitePad 900.
05 Dec 2012
FRANKFURT: HP's "one more thing" moment at its annual Discover event on Wednesday turned out to be the unveiling of another Windows 8 device, this time the tablet/laptop hybrid EliteBook Revolve.
The device, as the name suggests, features a swivel screen that can be laid down on top of the laptop's keyboard to turn it into a standard tablet device, akin to the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga. HP is betting that users' need for the functionality of a keyboard and the ease of use of a touchscreen is set to grow.
The firm's vice president of design Stacy Wolff had shown off the device on stage, touting the importance of visually alluring products and a thin design. Certainly in our brief hands on with the device - locked to a display stand - it had both those elements.
It was light enough to seem that you'd be happy to carry it around all day in a bag and use as and when necessary while it had a nice simple but clean design, not that dissimilar to an Apple MacBook.
The swivel function seemed easy to use, making it quick and efficient to turn the device into a tablet at a moment's notice, and remaining thin enough to be functional and portable.
Annoyingly, for an unknown reason, the device on display was not touch-enabled, despite the device being set to have his capability when it launches in March next year, in the US at least.
The driver appeared to be missing when we did some quick spec checks via the control panel, so we weren't able to test out Windows 8 in all its touch-enabled glory which was a shame. But we used the mouse pad when in laptop mode, and it all seemed to run smoothly.
The device we were playing with had an Intel Core i3 1.8GHz processor and so was fast to use, switching between apps effortlessly, while it also had 8GB of RAM and was running a 64-bit version of Windows 8.
Clearly these are some decent specs and HP is no doubt hoping it can lure enterprise customers plumping for Windows 8, as it seeks to regain its position as the number one PC vendor, at least in the enterprise market, despite competition from the iPad and other rivals.
We didn't have enough time to form a definitive opinion on the device but certainly the crowds standing around were keen to have a play and the ease everyone seemed to have turning it from a laptop to a tablet and back again that we saw suggested it could prove popular.
We'll aim to have a full review presently.