MEGATech Reviews: HP Pavilion 11 x360 Windows 8.1 Convertible Laptop Michael Kwan December 23, 2014 MEGATech Reviews Ever since the launch of the touch-centric Windows 8 platform, convertible laptops have steadily increased in popularity and decreased in price. More and more people want to combine the easy touch interface of a tablet with the more traditional configuration of a notebook without having to carry two separate devices. Continuing on this trend and gearing itself toward the budget-friendly consumer crowd is the HP Pavilion 11 x360, an 11-inch Windows 8.1 machine that easily converts between notebook, stand and tablet modes. The More Affordable Convertible Alternative The HP Pavilion 11 x360 is an 11.6-inch (1336 x 768) touchscreen convertible device with a special two part hinge. This hinge allows the display to flip all the way around, hence the “360” part of its name. You shouldn’t expect this machine to do any heavy lifting, but it is meant to be adequate for your regular everyday duties. The particular version as tested is the HP Pavilion x360 11-n041ca, boasting a quad-core Intel Pentium N3530 processor, 4GB of DDR3L-1600 SDRAM, a 500GB 5400rpm hard drive, BeatsAudio integration, HP TruVision HD webcam, and Windows 8.1. You’ll also notice the eye-catching “Brilliant Red” color scheme. Even though this is an 11.6-inch machine, the wider bezels (blame the Windows 8 gestures) and the chunkier build actually give it a fair bit of heft, weighing in at 1.4 kg and measuring 30.78 x 21.48 x 2.18 cm. The thicker frame does allow the x360 to accommodate a true RJ-45 10/100 networking port, which isn’t particularly common in laptops of this size. It is a shame that it’s not Gigabit, but it’s nice that it’s there. You also get one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port, and a headset combo jack, along with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Flipping Out on the HP x360 For a while, it seemed like computer manufacturers couldn’t figure out what was the best way to go about doing the convertible tablet/laptop combination. We had tablets with keyboard docking stations, like the Samsung 700t ATIV Smart PC Pro, as well as some twisty hinge designs where you rotated the display around. Now, perhaps partly thanks to the Lenovo Yoga series, it seems that most of them have settled on some variation of this 360-degree hinge. And in this case of this somewhat chunky consumer laptop, I’d say it works very well. When you have the HP x360 opened up like a regular notebook, it just looks like, well, a regular laptop. The island style keyboard is nearly full-sized (97%) and the trackpad is generously-sized too. You would think that typing on an 11.6-inch laptop would feel small, but it’s actually very good here. As with other HP devices, the top row of function keys is “flipped” such that the secondary functions, like adjusting the volume and brightness, are the default operation, while holding down the Function key is how you get F2, F3 and so on. Thankfully, the most common uses, like alt+F4 to close a window or F5 to refresh a webpage work without using the Fn key. The 360-degree hinge is actually a dual-hinge design. There’s one part that’s on the display half and there’s another part that’s on the keyboard base, connected by a bar. In my couple of weeks with this laptop, I found the hinges to be reasonably strong and robust. It had no issue standing up in “tent” mode for video watching, for example. The keyboard and trackpad automatically stop responding when you pass the 180-degree mark to avoid unintended inputs. The Price of Spending Less There’s no denying that the HP Pavilion 11 x360 isn’t a premium device. Yes, the body is decidedly plastic and it hardly feels exquisite, but I think it suits the demographic and the market segment. The matte finish doesn’t pick up on fingerprints and while I’m not personally a fan of the bright red case coupled with a brushed silver keyboard tray, black bezel and black keyboard, I can see how some people might like it. There’s personality. Unfortunately, there are a few bigger areas where you will experience some more profound sacrifices. First, the BeatsAudio stereo speaker system is hardly impressive and since the speakers are on the front underside of the keyboard, they’re awkwardly placed when you’re in anything but standard laptop mode. Second, the 2-cell, 29Wh battery is rated for up to 4 hours and 30 minutes. In reality, I was only able to eke out just shy of three hours before I ran out of juice. This is with some mild web surfing and a little video streaming at 50% volume and 50% screen brightness. And speaking of streaming video, while this convertible laptop held up in a single task scenario of watching online video, it really started to struggle when additional tasks were added to the mix. Simply downloading a larger file while simultaneously streaming an online video at 480p caused the video to stutter and the audio to distort with strange electronic noise. I don’t expect a lot of performance, but that’s not asking too much. It also doesn’t help that the vertical viewing angles are such that anything other than perfectly straight on gets washed out really quickly. Benchmarks: 3DMark 11 and Street Fighter IV To see if an objective test of performance aligned with my subjective experience, I ran a couple of benchmarks in 3DMark 11, as well as the standard Street Fighter IV benchmark to see how this machine held up. It managed to get a score of 1417 in the Cloud Gate test, which is slightly higher than the 1271 earned by the similarly-positioned Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series. The specs are practically identical, aside from the extra gig of RAM here. The Ice Storm score of 16468 here is also comparable to the 15296 earned by the Dell. In both cases, you can see how performance can be lacking. And don’t even think about doing any “real” gaming on this laptop either. With the default settings in the Street Fighter IV benchmark, it got a rank of E and an average frame rate of 21.71fps. Even when the settings were dialed down to the minimum (while maintaining the 720p resolution), an “E” rank was still the result. MEGATechie Well-Rounded Companion or MEGATechie Bent Out of Shape? On the one hand, I’m glad that more companies are offering true convertible touchscreen laptops at increasingly affordable prices. This is certainly one way that the Windows world can battle back against Android tablets and iPads. The 360-degree hinge is versatile and, while bulkier than I would have liked, the form factor here really works. On the other hand, the real-world performance leaves too much to be desired. Multitasking can get depressing sluggish. The TrueVision HD webcam isn’t great (720p video sample), the viewing angles on the display are unacceptable, and even moderate load can lead to lackluster battery life. Thankfully, the keyboard and trackpad are fairly comfortable and responsive. For the time being, the HP Pavilion 11 x360 just isn’t good enough for me, even if prices start at around $380 US (the SKU as reviewed here currently retails for $499.99 Canadian). I see this genre of device as a work in progress and I anticipate things will get better with successive generations. Share This With The World!