HP EliteBook x360 1030 G3: Design And Build Quality
Visually, little has changed from Gen 2 to Gen 3 of the HP EliteBook x360 1030. Both feature a precision cut CNC aluminum uni-body frame and sport HP's latest logo. One aspect that has changed though is almost unnoticeable to the eye. When first inspecting the laptop we thought there was a small spec on the clamshell, but upon closer inspection we noticed it was actually a hole. Inside the hole is a rear-facing microphone that will improve conference call quality when not everyone is directly facing the laptop. It's a tiny but observable break in the aesthetic but a small, very functional sacrifice to make we feel.
The EliteBook x360 is designed for professionals on the go. With that in mind HP has kept the x360 series thin and light. The whole laptop weights in at just 2.76lbs, making it lighter than the Lenovo Yoga series, and it is just 12" wide. Both its size and weight will make the x360 a great travel companion, as it will easily slip into any carry-on or backpack.
Like many convertibles, the EliteBook x360 isn't limited to serving just as a laptop. It can easily be converted into a tablet as well, making it more productive for both work and entertainment. We handled the x360 a lot during our testing and we have nothing but good things to say about its hinge design. HP held the screen and keyboard securely in place, with strong 360-degree capable mechanisms, regardless of what position we were using the laptop in. One thing we did notice though was the x360 was slightly difficult to open when completely closed. It wasn't that it was hard to open per se; it just took more force than we are accustomed too, and it wasn't easy to get a good grip while opening the EliteBook x360's lid when on your lap.
The display on the model we were sent is a 13.3" glossy IPS panel with a PSR BrightView LED-backlit touch screen and direct bonded Corning Gorilla Glass 4. With Gorilla glass technology, the screen will stand-up some abuse with some level of drop protection as well, though we didn't dare test that claim directly. Overall, the display was vibrant with excellent contrast and looked great from a wide range of angles. However, like all glossy displays, there was a noticeable amount of reflection on the screen when there was a direct light source nearby. The panel's punchy 400 nit rating helped keep the reflections to a minimum, but it couldn't eliminate the problem entirely.
Along with the notebook, HP also sent over an HP Rechargeable Active Pen. Using the pen, it felt comfortable and responsively accurate for both drawing and navigating through the Windows interface and apps. The pen uses Wacom AES technology with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. There are also two buttons on the pen that can be configured to perform different functions, via the HP Pen software suite. The only downside of the pen is there's no where to store it, like there is on the HP Spectre Folio.
Since the pen requires a charge to keep working, there's a USB Type-C port at the top of the pen. This allows the pen to be charged and even a small charge will keep the pen active for hours.
The HP EliteBook x360 1030 also comes with a surprisingly good keyboard. When typing you can feel that there's no give on the deck area and that the keys all have excellent spacing. Tactile feedback is also top notch, as is key damping and travel depth. It's truly a great keyboard for anyone spending long hours typing. There are also two stages of backlighting under the keys that illuminate each key cap with a white light.
The EliteBook's tracking pad is also top-notch. Laptop trackpads always have a little different feel between brands, and the Glass Clickpad employed in the EliteBook series is very glossy, giving it an almost slick feeling. Some people may prefer a trackpad with a little more grip, but that's personal preference. In our humble opinion it's very comfortable and accuracy was also on-point, as was the large physical size and placement of the track pad.
(Top: right side. Bottom: left side)
Acoustically, tor a 2-in-1 the HP EliteBook series manages to produce respectable audio. Of course, it's still limited by the amount of space on the laptop deck, but the dual front facing Bang & Olufsen speakers do a decent job for their size. The audio was clear when playing music and watching movies, and for business users, when talking over Skype. Of course, due to the size of the drivers you can incorporate into a 2.7 pound machine, bass is lacking. They are simply just too small to produce any real volume at the lower frequency range. Mids and highs come through nicely though, without being fatiguing over long periods and the system can drive decent volume overall.
The upper right-hand side of the keyboard features some additional business-targeted options, exclusive to HP. As you can see there are two keys with phone icons on them. These keys allow you to answer and hangup a Skype call with the simple press of a button. We know it's not hard to hangup a Skype call the old school software way, but these dedicated buttons are indeed more convenient.
As we mentioned earlier, HP also sent along their HP Thunderbolt Dock 120W with its optional speaker. This dock can either sit on your desk at work or home to give you a more desktop like experience. When the EliteBook x360 1030 is connected to the dock, it can run dual 4K displays, connect to external storage devices and even allow IT to connect remotely to your laptop for updates, or damage control. With the optional speaker, the dock can also be used to make conference calls and there are buttons at the top dedicated to such calls.
Next up we are going to see just how well the HP EliteBook x360 1030 G3 stacks up against it's 2-in-1 competition from a software standpoint...