HP X2 Chromebook review

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dendiz
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HP X2 Chromebook review

Post by dendiz » Thu Nov 22, 2018 3:56 am

I've been pondering about Chromebooks since their inception about 5 maybe 6 years ago. It just made sense to me at the time that a simple browser-as-an-OS device would enable me to do 90% of the things that I wanted. All the apps I use are web based - so that's covered, but what about being productive? What about managing servers? The ChromeOS team had that covered too with their SSH extension. But I can easily run a browser on my computer, why would I pay to get another device that just runs a browser. That's what had put me off of getting a Chromebook all this time, until a week ago when I finally gave in to the temptation after discovering the HP X2 on a review site.

Buying the device is a story in it's own. I started doing my research after a saw an add for the new Google slate. A tablet with a detachable keyboard was just the thing I needed when working on the couch. My 13" Asus Zenbook is a bit too big when using on the couch although manageable but uncomfortable, so I was trying to get stuff done with an old iPad Air 2 fitted with a Zagg Rugged keyboard case. The keyboard on that is really small so extended typing/coding sessions would result in pains in my wrists. Not being able to remap the caps lock key to a control key made things worse, and the best SSH client Termius on iOS has the escape key on screen and not on the keyboard. Good-bye easy vim usage. So this all made me start a search for a smaller more portable device. I checked out quite a lot of reviews for different devices on Amazon and the web. I'm always skeptical towards the 'review sites' as I feel they can be bribed by companies for biased reviews so I always checkout user experiences too. Almost all reviews on amazon for any Chromebook was fairly positive. So I had my mind set on a cheaper 12" device around 200-300$. The hardware on all these low-end devices are about the same so I was looking for a small bezel and nice looks. I told my SO about my intentions to switch to a low end Chromebook and the reply I got was "You always end up regretting those cheap purchases. Go for something better" (my regrets so far: Asus EEE Pc, Gateway netbook, Amazon Fire tablet, Samsung Galaxy E tablet, ...). This actually got me encouraged to go for something better. The best Chromebook you can buy today is the Pixel which is ridiculously priced at 999$ for the base model and is not a tablet. It looks sleek, but out of my price range. Next up according to some site was the HP X2. I hadn't actually checked this device out before so I started doing some research. No user reviews on amazon - bummer. Bestbuy reviews were pretty good, site reviews were also pretty good. It's a tablet so that ticks a checkbox on my list. It's aspect ratio is 3:2 which is actually a great screen size for me. It supports android apps - this I though would be a must have if you are getting a new device. One thing that bothered my was the faux leather textured keyboard, which I though would "unnerdy" and more "businessy". The CPU is an Intel M3 mobile optimized chip which I have no idea about. The RAM is 4GB's and the storage is 32GB. Normally I would never get a device with 4GB of RAM but the beauty of the Chromebook is that it's efficient and 4GB is enough - at least that's what I had read in all the reviews. So I started hunting for a deal on this device.

The first time I checked Best Buy the device was listed for 530$. 60$ off the full price. I was like 'meh' I'll wait for Black Friday and see what happens. 2 days later it was full price again and this actually made me sad. That's when I realized that I wanted this - and I wanted it bad. I checked HP's official site and they still had a 50$ promo going on until the 14th of November. In the hopes that Best Buy would price match I went to their Bellevue store. I located the device on display and played around with it. I also played around with the various other cheaper devices they had and the X2 and Pixel really stood out from that lot. The cheaper displays looked foggy compared to the HP and Pixel. Anyways I found a sales person and asked them about the device, specifically if they would price match HP. To my dismay the guy said "We can't match the manufacturer only retailers". I tried a bluff with "I'll buy it online from HP then" and the guy said "Yeah makes sense". I guess they aren't flexible in that regard. So my head hanging low I walked out of the store empty handed back to my car. I sit in the car for 10 minutes and then think to my self: "I'll pay the 50$ premium for the luxury of an easy return if I don't like to device". This is both a "rationalization" (or an excuse) and partially true. I went back into the store and found a different sales person. No way I'll swallow my pride and talk to the same guy after the bluff I pulled that backfired :D I just told the guy I wanted the x2 and he started searching for a box. He was looking at Samsung boxes checking their bar codes. I said "Why are you looking at Samsung boxes?" and the reply was "I want to make sure I get the code correct". I try to refrain from pushing people that misunderstand what I said as I see they get irritated when I immediately reiterate, so I waited 2, 3 minutes as he continued searching and then I said: "Why would they put an HP device in a Samsung box?". Then he understood what he was doing and apologized and started looking for other boxes. As his search continued without results I was starting to worry that they didn't have it stock. Wouldn't be the first time that it would happen to me, but luckily after a couple of more minutes of searching he found the correct item. A generic brown box with a HP logo on it. We went to the register and I paid the full price of 600$ + tax not being sure if it was money well spent.


Hardware

After I got home I could only unbox the device before I had to do a diaper change or a feeding - I don't exactly remember. But I managed to get a few bad shots of the unboxing process in:
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The box isn't anything fancy like an Apple product but who cares? I'd rather not pay extra for something that I'll end up throwing in the recycle anyways.
After I put the family to sleep I got on my new toy and registered my google account and started playing around with it. The first thing that really impressed me was the screen. It's on par with a retina MacBook. The colors are vivid the fonts are crisp and the UI elements look beautiful. I've used Windows and Linux machines with similar resolutions but no Windows machine could come close to a Mac before. But the X2 + ChromeOS are there - that's for sure. The device is usable on my lap as it doesn't need a kick-stand to stabilize the screen, but I does feel a bit unbalanced at times due to the screen being quite heavy as it has all the guts. The keyboard is not back-lit which I don't really care about as I'm a touch typist and the keys are a joy to type on. I'm usually a mechanical keyboard user and don't like mushy keyboards but this one is pleasant to use. The track pad is OK, it doesn't feel like a premium track pad like the one on the MacBook. There are 2 USB-C ports that can be used for charging and a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the side. I streamed some music from Spotify to my AudioTechnica ATH-50x headphones and Apple earbuds and the quality was good.

Software

The next day I got a chance to play around more with my new computer. I wanted to get my daily setup going and see if this machine was a keeper. Chrome is already setup with all my bookmarks and extensions synced automatically so that's done. I just needed a decent SSH client to connect to my development servers and start coding. I installed the Chrome SSH client extension first. This app is OK but it opens in a browser tab which is not the best for switching back and forth between web pages and the terminal. One thing that I couldn't accept with this app was that C-Space selection didn't work it Emacs. This would make my life significantly harder. So I tried ConnectBot and Termius from the app store. Both had weird rendering issues like the caret would be misaligned with the end of the text. This was not a show stopper but annoying. Next up was the Linux support through Crostini. The installs a VM / container and runs Linux apps. The only app I need was a terminal and it works great. The fonts are great, Emacs works as expected so I'm basically setup for my daily work on my current project.

Setting up my Samsung m2020 printer with Google cloud print was a breeze too. Just register from the web interface of the printer and it's shows up in the print dialog.

That's about it for the software I tested that doesn't work in browser.

Verdict

Before I end this review, I also want to tell the rest of my story of my purchase. 2 days after I came home, during a late night feeding session I randomly checked the Best buy website and saw that they had a new promo going on: 100$ off the full price! At first I felt so frustrated that I had missed this but then I remembered I could just return it and buy it again. I had already redeemed the 2 years 100 GB drive offer, I would probably lose that but I though I could give customer services a call and have them continue the drive offer. So I power washed the X2 put it back in it's box and went to Best Buy the next day. The customer services guy said that they'll price match themselves so I just got back my 100$ 8-)


Future
A couple of things I still need to test are the active stylus and remote desktop connections via RDP/VNC.
I'll post a reply on this topic once I've done these.

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dendiz
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Re: HP X2 Chromebook review

Post by dendiz » Sat Nov 24, 2018 6:57 am

Today I managed to get X forwarding working running a X based emacs instance on my development server with the display forwarded to my X2. This is specific to this device but the ChromeOs in general. This opens the doors of the Linux applications to it's fullest extent. I could even run heavy programs like IDEs on my server and use them without slowing down the X2. I've also managed to create a desktop application launcher for the remote application which means there is no rogue terminal windows cluttering my Alt+Tab space.

Another thing I did today was install Keepass Android from the play store on this machine. It works flawlessly and that put my mind at ease as I was kind of worried about not having my password manager on this. I'm very satisfied and happy with this purchase for now. I still need to test it when I'm not on my local network as X forwarding might be laggy beyond use over WAN - but I'll still have my good old terminal emacs locally.

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