HP put together a high-quality detachable 2-in-1 for productivity and entertainment, but you'll probably want to hold out for a sale price.
The HP Chromebook x2 11 is another strong option in the relatively nascent category of Chrome detachable two-in-ones. There are plenty of convertible models, where the screen flips around to the back of the keyboard so you can use it as a tablet. But Chrome tablets with removable keyboards are still a rarity. That certainly helps the Chromebook x2 11 stand out, but it also deserves attention for its premium design and features. It offers long battery life and performance that rises (slightly) above the competition. The main downside is that it’s expensive on its own. But in the short time it’s been around, both HP and Best Buy have offered significant discounts, so if you’re interested make sure to wait for one of those deals.
Chromebook detachable two-in-ones like the x2 11 are made to take advantage of Chrome OS’ tablet-friendly gesture controls and USI pen support. This HP is built around an 11-inch, 2K-resolution, 3:2-ratio display and it’s bundled with a full-size magnetically attached keyboard with an oversize touchpad. You can also get it bundled with a new USI pen that also attaches magnetically to the side of the tablet for wireless charging and storage.
Unlike similar models, such as Lenovo’s Duet and Asus’ Chromebook CM3 that use MediaTek chips, HP partnered with Qualcomm and used its power-sipping Snapdragon 7c compute platform, making the x2 11 the world’s first Chromebook detachable with optional 4G LTE and more than 11 hours of battery life.
The x2 11’s USI pen securely attaches to the side of the tablet. Josh Goldman/CNET
The price is nice, sometimes
There are currently three configurations of the HP Chromebook x2 11, one from Best Buy and two directly from HP. All of them use the Snapdragon 7c SoC and have the same 11-inch touchscreen. The base model from HP is $570 with 4GB of memory, 64GB eMMC flash storage and optional LTE. It includes the keyboard and kickstand covers but no pen. You can double your RAM and storage from HP for an additional $110. But again, you don’t get HP’s USI pen, though LTE service is still an option. The Chromebook x2 11 is currently not available from HP in the UK or Australia but the base price converts to about £420 and AU$770.
The Best Buy model that I tested is $600 and splits the difference between the HP models, configured with 8GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. It drops LTE support but you get the pen along with the keyboard and kickstand covers. (All of the models have a microSD card slot for extra storage.) If you’re really into having a USI pen that magnetically attaches to the side of the tablet, this is the version to get. Regardless of the specs you go with, do yourself a favor and wait for a sale.
Almost immediately after the Chromebook x2 11 was made available to buy, it was getting discounted. And not by $25 or $50, but by $200. Right now, HP has both of its models knocked down by that much, and the Best Buy version regularly gets a $200 price drop. Is the Chromebook x2 11 worth its $600? Maybe, but it’s a bargain at $400 with the keyboard and pen.
The kickstand hinge opens 170 degrees and is sturdy enough to support leaning on it while you write or draw. Josh Goldman/CNET
The tablet design is top-notch
While the accessories are nice enough (there’s more info on those below), the tablet has the premium design and features you should expect for $600. The 2,160×1,440-pixel display looks great and covers 100% sRGB color gamut, which isn’t the norm for a Chromebook. Neither is its 400-nit brightness. Gorilla Glass gives the display some extra protection and the aluminum body should hold up well for travel.
Then there are things like the fingerprint reader built into the power button for easy unlocking, and the 5-megapixel front-facing camera for 1080p video chats. Although there’s some image noise in low-light video, the overall quality is visibly sharper and more detailed than the 720p cameras I’m used to seeing on a Chromebook. Plus there’s an 8-megapixel rear camera for those times when you need to take a snapshot or record a quick clip to share on social or scan documents.
One of the few things the Chromebook x2 11 doesn’t have: a headphone jack. Josh Goldman/CNET
Performance and battery life don’t disappoint
You’ll get noticeably better performance than the MediaTek SoCs found in the competing Chromebook Detachable CM3 from Asus or the original Lenovo Duet. Although it also helped that the x2 11 I used had 8GB of RAM compared to the 4GB in both of the Duet and CM3 models I tested. The HP is certainly the best of the three regardless, as it’s just generally smoother, faster and more responsive than those models.
Apps open quickly and I didn’t experience any lag while doing basic productivity tasks, which is what these tablets are built for. Of course, they’re great for entertainment, too, and you’ll really have no problems there. Even for Android games, performance was fine and, if you want to do more gaming, cloud gaming services like Stadia, GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass are all options. However, with 80.211ac Wi-Fi, it’s missing the future-proofing and faster speeds of 802.11ax wireless (Wi-Fi 6).
Though there is a little lag, drawing on the x2 11 was still enjoyable. Josh Goldman/CNET
Using the pen for note-taking and drawing works well, too, and actually might be the best experience I’ve had using a USI pen. The screen has a 3:2 aspect ratio so it feels more like a piece of paper when you’re writing and drawing on it. I handed it over to my 13-year-old daughter who spends a lot of time using a second-gen Apple Pencil with her iPad. Although the experience wasn’t quite as fluid as the Pencil, she said it was close to lag-free most of the time and she had no issues sketching in the Concepts app HP includes on the Chromebook x2 11. Also included is Google Cursive, a new web app designed for writing on Chromebooks. The app has some handy shortcuts to make note-taking (and correcting mistakes) much easier and, again, lag was at a minimum.
The keyboard is not quite as full size as you might hope. Josh Goldman/CNET
HP’s battery life claim is up to 11 hours, 15 minutes and that time pretty much matched my results, reaching 11 hours, 4 minutes on our streaming video test. In general use, as long as I kept the display at a reasonable brightness, I had no issues getting hours of work done while streaming audio or video in the background. It charges quickly via either of its USB-C ports, getting up to 50% in 45 minutes (though I do wish HP had split the two ports, putting one on each side for more flexible charging and attaching external devices like a monitor).
The accessories need a little work
It’s fantastic that HP includes the keyboard and kickstand covers for the tablet, and also the USI pen with the Best Buy model. However, the accessories are not exactly perfect. The keyboard, for instance, is billed as being full-size, but for me the keys are small, and a few of the keys on the right side are even smaller than usual, especially the delete key.
What’s worse, though, is what happens if you’re working on any surface other than a hard desk or table. Put even a little too much pressure on the palm rests and the touchpad registers it as a click. Do you like to type on your lap, couch or bed? Forget about it unless you can somehow avoid the palm rests.
The hinge on the rear cover makes it difficult to draw or write on the tablet on a table. Josh Goldman/CNET
The rear cover is generally fine. The hinge is stiff and has a wide range of positions. However, the hinge is round and raised, so if you remove the keyboard to draw or write on the screen while it’s on a table, the tablet teeters back and forth. That’s not great if you want to quickly take notes in a meeting or class with the tablet on your desk.
Lastly, the included pen can only be charged on the tablet. The beauty of USI pens, though, is that any of them will work on any Chromebook that supports them (most with touchscreens do at this point). But if you get rid of the HP for some reason, you’ve got a pen that can no longer be charged to use with another Chromebook. Going with one of the HP direct models might be the better deal after all, and you can just buy a regular USI pen.
Those shortcomings are minor compared to the rest of the package, though. And, knowing that it regularly goes on sale at a steep discount, the lower price makes them even more forgivable. With the HP Chromebook x2 11, you’re still getting a premium Chromebook experience. You might just want to invest in a small Bluetooth keyboard when you aren’t on the go.