Bad news for fans of the HP EliteBook x360 1020: That 12.5-inch business convertible is going away. Good news for traveling execs everywhere: It’s been replaced by a trimmer third generation of the model 1030 that fits a 13-inch screen into a 12-inch chassis. The EliteBook x360 1030 G3 ($ 2,149 as tested) keeps the larger display of our former Editors’ Choice for business 2-in-1s, the EliteBook x360 1030 G2, but lops half an inch each off its width and depth. It’s a handily compact, highly configurable, easy pick to replace its predecessor as an Editors’ Choice among business 2-in-1s.
An Aluminum Ace
An HP rep told us that the EliteBook x360 1030 G3 starts at $ 1,449 with a Core i5 CPU and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD). For $ 2,149, the Windows 10 Pro test unit I have on hand combines a 1.9GHz (4.2GHz turbo) Core i7-8650U quad-core processor with Intel UHD Graphics 620 integrated silicon; 16GB of RAM; a 512GB PCI Express SSD; and a 400-nit, full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) glossy touch screen.
Your other display options are a full HD panel with HP’s Sure View privacy screen, which (at the press of the F2 key) darkens the panel and narrows its field of view to thwart airline or train seatmate snoops, and a 4K (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) touch display. SSD choices range up to 2TB, though main memory peaks at 16GB.
It’s a compliment to say the convertible is so compact I briefly mistook it for a Chromebook. Clad in a snazzy CNC-machined aluminum unibody, it weighs in at 2.76 pounds and measures 0.62 by 12 by 8.1 inches. (Compare the Dell Latitude 7390 2-in-1 at 3.2 pounds and 0.75 inch thick, or the Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga at 2.84 pounds and 0.7 by 12.3 by 8.8 inches.) HP’s stylized four-slash chrome logo decorates the lid, while speaker grilles flank the black keys. (Look for two additional speakers on the unit’s bottom.)
If you’re worried that the EliteBook x360’s light weight makes it flimsy, relax: The system has passed MIL-STD tests for toughness, and there’s no flex when you grasp its screen corners or mash its keys. In fact, when you fold it into tablet mode, magnets snap the screen into place to give you a firm surface for writing or sketching. That’s an idea other convertibles would do well to copy.
The slender left edge is home to a USB 3.1 Type-A port, a headphone jack, the power button, and a nano-SIM slot for mobile broadband. On the right, you’ll find an HDMI port, a cable-lockdown security slot, two Thunderbolt 3/USB Type-C ports, and a volume rocker for use in tablet mode. The AC adapter makes use of a USB-C connector.
You get USB Type-C-to-Ethernet and USB-C-to-USB-A dongles in the box; the latter is useful for HP’s optional Rechargeable Active Pen ($ 76), which has a covered USB Type-C port near its top. The company says the stylus runs for a week on a half-hour charge, sparing its users from having to hunt for esoteric AAAA or watch batteries. The pressure-sensitive, programmable-buttoned pen clings magnetically to the 2-in-1’s side. (Alas, there is no niche or slot for storing it inside the notebook.)
A Fine Set of Features
Windows Hello users can avoid typing passwords via either a fingerprint reader or HP’s face-recognition webcam. The latter captures exceptionally clear and well-lit images. Also exceptionally clear: Sound from those four Bang & Olufsen speakers, with startling volume and bass considering the system’s small size plus soaring highs and rich instrumentals. More than all but a few laptops I’ve sampled, it’s a pleasure to listen to.
I’m not a big fan of HP’s Sure View screen technology—while it does effectively block the view of the spy sitting beside you, it makes your own view dim enough for an eyestrain headache. Also, I think 4K resolution makes display elements too small and squinty at the 13.3-inch screen size. So the good old 1080p IPS panel on the test unit is the one I’d choose, and it’s first-class, with ample brightness, wide viewing angles, and high contrast. Colors are vivid, and details are sharp.
I’m even less of a fan of one quirk in HP notebooks’ keyboard layouts—the cursor-arrow keys arrayed in a klutzy row instead of an inverted T, with half-height up and down arrows sandwiched between full-height left and right arrows. But except for that perennial peeve, I must admit that the EliteBook x360’s keyboard is easy to like, with adequate travel and a nice, clicky feel. Like other EliteBooks, it features not only a handy microphone mute key but dedicated keys for answering and ending Skype calls. Both the large touchpad and the touch screen work smoothly and precisely.
Testing a Solid Productivity Partner
I compared the 1030 G3 to four other business 2-in-1 models, two of them from Lenovo—the ThinkPad X380 Yoga and ThinkPad L380 Yoga—and two from Dell, the convertible Latitude 7390 2-in-1 and detachable Latitude 5290 2-in-1. Their core components are outlined below…
Overall, the HP performed as expected: Like other ultraportables with integrated graphics, it’s a top-notch choice for taking productivity apps on the road, if a miserable one for playing the latest games. And what it lacks in raw CPU power, it more than makes up for in battery life.
Productivity, Storage, and Media Tests
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, Web browsing, and videoconferencing. The test generates a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.
PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a Storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s storage subsystem. This score is also a proprietary numeric score; again, higher numbers are better.
The EliteBook came out on top in both benchmarks, although by an insignificant amount in the PCMark 8 Storage subtest among these 2-in-1s with their speedy SSDs. It’s more than capable of whisking through your Microsoft Office or Google Docs workload.
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
HP makes several great mobile workstations. The 1030 G3 isn’t one—it was a bit of an underachiever in this test despite its quad-core Core i7, just as the Core i5-based Latitude 5290 2-in-1 was an overachiever. Subjectively, however, the EliteBook felt quick and responsive; it won’t keep even the most impatient users waiting.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time. (Lower times are better.) The Photoshop test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.
The Core i7-powered HP and Latitude 7390 2-in-1 asserted themselves here, crossing the line in a photo finish. Either would be fine for managing and touching up a digital image collection.
3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.
Merely adequate scores across the board, as these systems with their on-chip integrated graphics can’t come anywhere near the results of gaming and multimedia laptops with dedicated GPUs. As I said, they’re suitable for casual or browser-based games, not demanding 3D titles.
Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes. In this case, it’s rendered in the company’s eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario than 3DMark, for a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess. We present two Superposition results, run at the 720p Low and 1080p High presets. These scores are reported in frames per second (fps). For lower-end systems, maintaining at least 30fps is the realistic target, while more powerful computers should ideally attain at least 60fps at the test resolution.
Thirty frames per second, did I say? As you can see, that goal’s out of reach even at lower resolution and light-years away at full HD.
Video Playback Battery Rundown Test
After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) where available and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop into airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 1080p file of the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system conks out.
The HP showed impressive stamina here, managing almost 15-and-a-half hours before giving up the ghost. The Latitude 7390 2-in-1 was the only other machine to break the 12-hour mark. If you need to work through a long flight, or you want to put in a full workday plus some tablet-mode video viewing at home afterwards, the EliteBook is ready to keep up.
Flying Corporate Class
IT managers will appreciate that the EliteBook x360 1030 G3 ships with not only an Intel vPro processor but also a crop of security and manageability features, ranging from HP Sure Start (which protects the BIOS from rootkit attacks) to Sure Click (which isolates Web processes to fight malware) and Sure Recover (which can replace a corrupted software image). The three-year rather than one-year warranty is welcome, too.
There’s strong competition among, well, elite convertibles, led at the moment by our consumer Editors’ Choice the Lenovo Yoga C930. But it’s hard to find much fault with the EliteBook x360 1030 G3. In everything from its travel-friendly size to its symphonic sound, it’s a rare mix of executive status symbol and trusted workhorse. It easily succeeds the G2 as our business Editors’ Choice 2-in-1.