HP Elite x2 1013 G3 review: A premium Surface Pro alternative

Pros

  • Mobile broadband option
  • High resolution 13-inch screen in a compact chassis
  • Good battery life
  • Light and portable

Cons

  • Stylus is an optional extra
  • USB-C ports only
  • HP Sure View privacy screen only available on one low-resolution model
  • Expensive

The lightweight 2-in-1 detachable is probably epitomised for many by Microsoft’s Surface Pro devices, but HP — among others — takes a stab at this form factor too, and its previous outing, the Elite x2 1012, was an impressive Surface Pro alternative.

Now there’s a new version, Elite x2 1013 G3. With pricing ranging from £1,619 to £2,775 (inc VAT) there are plenty of configuration options, including mobile broadband.

The core premise of the Elite x2 1013 G3 is that it’s a lightweight tablet-first computing device, with a quality keyboard that’s good enough for everyday writing tasks.

The tablet and keyboard are held together by a magnetic connector that felt secure in my backpack. Note, though, that the dimpled grey plastic that backs the keyboard, and forms one of the outer surfaces of the device during transit, might be prone to damage from feral pointy objects in a bag.

The back of the tablet section is solid metal, and while it might scratch over time, that’s about the worst that’s likely to happen to it in a bag. Still, longer term, a protective case might be a good idea.

hp-elite-x2-1013-g3on-desk.jpg

The keyboard’s magnetic connection to the tablet is reasurringly secure. The HP Active Pen is an optional extra.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The tablet is held up by a kickstand which, in the interests of keeping overall weight down, is just a frame rather than a filled-in wedge. It’s easy to lift from its housing encircling the bottom half of the back of the tablet, and rotates around 150 degrees, so it’ll hold the tablet pretty close to a table. The tablet can be used with or without the keyboard, of course, and at its maximum extension the kickstand holds it up for finger- or stylus-based input, while more acute angles are available for content viewing.

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The kickstand, like the rest of the device, is very solidly made. I was able to bow the tablet slightly in my hands, but it seems pretty robust. The keyboard, while thin, is tough, its top section being made from a solid metal slab. In fact, it’s less prone to bending than the tablet.

A slight indent all the way round the three sides of the tablet that are visible when it’s docked to the keyboard adds visual interest, and doesn’t interfere with usability of the various buttons and ports.

One of my criticisms of the design of the earlier model, the Elite x2 2012, was that its 11.6-inch screen had remarkably wide bezels. This has been dealt with here, and the 13-inch screen sits inside relatively narrow bezels. They’re just wide enough to grip without activating the touch-screen, and now the overall size and weight don’t feel like too much for the display. Measuring 300mm by 231.5mm by 13.33mm, with the tablet contributing 7.9mm of thickness, and a weight of 820g for the tablet or 1.17kg with the keyboard, the dimensions are much more acceptable.

hp-elite-x2-1013-g3tablet.jpg

The kickstand supports a good range of screen angles, from nearly flat to almost upright.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

There are two screen resolutions available. My review sample had a 3,000-by-2,000-pixel IPS panel which was sharp and bright. Five of the six pre-configured models on HP’s UK website have this resolution, while the sixth has a 1,920 x 1,280 panel that’s the only one to incorporate HP’s Sure View. This obscures the screen so that anyone sitting to the side of the user, on a train for example, can’t see what you’re doing. When I’ve tested it previously, on the EliteBook 1050 G1 for example, Sure View has proved effective.

The keyboard sits on a thin panel, so there’s not much key travel. Even so, the keys were springy under the fingers, and I had no trouble touch typing at my normal speed. The let-down is a rather small touchpad — although in practice, I prodded the screen as much as I used the touch pad. The integrated buttons travel a fair way, and click nicely, so I was always sure they’d been pressed.

HP offers its Active Pen stylus as an optional extra. This supports 4,096 pressure levels and has three user-configurable buttons, two on the side and one on the top. The stylus is charged via USB-C, but HP didn’t provide a charge cable for this to be tested, nor was the stylus configuration software installed on my review device. There is a loop on the left edge of the keyboard, made from the same material as the keyboard back, which will anchor the stylus. This seems a low-grade solution for a premium device like this.

The six pre-configured versions of this laptop cover a range of prices and configurations from Core i3 to Core i7 processors. 512GB is the largest storage capacity, and only one of the iterations supports mobile broadband. The six variants are as follows– my review sample was the £1,979 (inc. VAT) model.

  • Intel Core i3-8130U, Windows 10 Pro, 13-inch 3,000 x 2,000 touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD
    £1,754 (inc. VAT)
  • Intel Core i5-8250U, Windows 10 Pro, 13-inch 3,000 x 2,000 touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD
    £1,945 (inc. VAT)
  • Intel Core i5-8350U, Windows 10 Pro, 13-inch 3,000 x 2,000 touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, mobile broadband
    £2,873 (inc. VAT)
  • Intel Core i5-8350U, Windows 10 Pro, 13-inch 3,000 x 2,000 touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD
    £1,619 (inc. VAT)
  • Intel Core i7-8650U, Windows 10 Pro, 13-inch 3,000 x 2,000 touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD
    £1,979 (inc. VAT) — as reviewed
  • Intel Core i7-8650U, Windows 10 Pro, 13-inch 1,920 x 1,280 touch screen with HP Sure View, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 16GB RAM, 512GB SS
    £2,775 (inc. VAT)
hp-elite-x2-1013-g3sides.jpg

The Elite x2 1013 G3 has 2 USB 3.1 Type-C with Thunderbolt ports, 1 USB 3.1 Type-C with Power delivery and DisplayPort, and a headphone/microphone combo jack. There’s also a SIM slot for the optional mobile broadband module.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The tablet’s ports and connectors are all ranged around the short edges of the chassis. There are two USB 3.1 Type-C ports with Thunderbolt and a third USB 3.1 Type-C for charging that also has DisplayPort capability. These sit side by side on the right edge. Anyone looking for legacy USB ports will be disappointed, and everything will need a converter to Type C, except a headset — there is a 3.5mm jack on the left edge.

There is a 5MP camera above the screen, along with an IR camera for Windows Hello facial recognition. A second, 8MP camera sits on the back of the tablet, which is also where the fingerprint sensor is found. On models with mobile broadband, the SIM caddy is on the tablet’s left edge.

I tested battery life using my usual mix of real-world workloads — a mix of writing to a web app and music streaming, plus some idle time with the screen on. According to the data sheet at HP’s website, the battery should last for up to 10.5 hours. I set the screen to its ‘suggested’ brightness, having found the default ‘brightest’ a little too startling for my taste. Under those conditions, the battery depleted by 45 percent in six hours. This suggests the 10.5-hour claim might be exceeded — at least under my relatively light workload mix. Increasing screen brightness and asking the laptop to work harder would obviously cause the battery to drain faster.

Conclusions

HP’s Elite x2 1013 G3 is a portable and flexible 2-in-1 detachable. It’s certainly a step up from its predecessor, packing in a larger screen, and its keyboard is very usable. The high-resolution screen on my review sample was a pleasure to work with, and didn’t seem to cause excessive battery drain — especially with the brightness turned down a notch or two.

The preconfigured models offer a decent spread of CPU, RAM and SSD storage options, with useful extras like mobile broadband and the Sure View privacy screen also on offer. This is a well-designed and very usable tablet/laptop hybrid, although a top-end configuration will be expensive.

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