HP Pavilion x360 review: LTE comes at a different cost
HP’s 2020 Pavilion x360 isn’t as powerful or good-looking as its Envy x360. That sounds like huge dings against the Pavilion, but as HP’s bottom rung 2-in-1 machine, that’s exactly what it’s designed to be. And while it doesn’t have the same kind of appeal or nearly as much get-up, the particular model that I reviewed has LTE support, a feature that’s rarely seen at this price point.
This $699 configuration includes the ability to connect to AT&T, T-Mobile (and, to that end, Google Fi), or Verizon LTE towers as a perk alongside standard midrange specs. Those include Intel’s Core i5-1035G1 quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB NVMe SSD, a 250-nit, 14-inch 1080p touchscreen, and a healthy selection of ports.
HP makes a few other versions of the Pavilion x360, with tweaks to the screen size, chassis color, RAM count, built-in storage, and screen brightness, but I think this LTE-ready model (14-dw0097nr) is the most appealing option available, even considering its compromises. This laptop is ready to go if you need to be mobile at a moment’s notice, and for the price, that’s really appealing. But that’s not to say no corners have been cut.
Despite having better specs than any LTE-ready Windows 10 laptop at this price point, the Pavilion x360 feels slow even under moderate pressure. Opening menus and switching apps was commonly sluggish, and transferring large files through its USB-C port took an eternity. It became obvious that this laptop was made to handle basic tasks, and at that, it’s a solid option. But if power is more important than broader connectivity, the pricier 2020 Envy x360 will be a smarter investment.
The Pavilion x360 is a showcase of the few small but important ways that HP’s laptops have been changing for the better. It has a generously sized (4.5 x 3 inches) Windows Precision trackpad that’s responsive and allows for the usual suite of customizable gestures. And for such a compact machine, I’m impressed by how spacious the keyboard is and how it doesn’t feel like keys were shoved in where they didn’t fit just right. Everything is within reach, and it didn’t take long to master the layout.
The variety of ports here is serviceable considering its price, but of course, I’ll always accept more. It has two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 SuperSpeed ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 SuperSpeed port for charging or connecting to a monitor via DisplayPort 1.4, a headphone jack, and a full-sized SD card slot. If you need a charge but also want to plug something else into the USB-C port, there’s a barrel port for the included 45W charger. I think another USB-C port, a Thunderbolt 3 port, and an Ethernet port would be nice. But there’s just enough versatility here to get by, which is hard to argue with given the price.
One area where HP could still learn from the likes of Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 or the new Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is in the screen department. It’s not the pixel density I take issue with; more so, I wish it adopted the 3:2 aspect ratio that lets you see more on the screen at once. Like many of HP’s other laptops, the display has a 16:9 aspect ratio display, which is great for watching films, less so for everything else. It’s not as egregious in this model as, say, the Spectre x360 since it has a larger 14-inch display, which makes it appear a little more spacious. It’s a small consolation but not a solution. Perhaps if HP could figure out how to get rid of its monstrous lower bezel in the next iteration, it’d be well on its way to implementing an actual 3:2 aspect ratio screen.
On the plus side with the display, it’s an IPS touchscreen with support for HP’s $90 active stylus (not included with this machine) that supports the Windows Pen Protocol 2.0. Like all 2-in-1 machines, this display can fold almost 360 degrees around to turn into a tablet or post up in tent mode to watch a movie. When I used it inside, the display’s colors looked good from multiple angles, though the brightness suffered while looking at it from the side. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up well at all outside. The glossy screen and its peak brightness of 250 nits make things tough to see unless you’re in a spot of shade.
During most scenarios, the Pavilion has just enough power to keep up with my most basic daily work tasks, which include keeping over 10 Microsoft Edge tabs open, along with Slack, Spotify, and Affinity Photo for the occasional photo edit. Boot times and general performance were slower than I expected from a machine with an NVMe SSD (of which some of its precious 256GB of space is accounted for with preinstalled bloatware, like McAfee Personal Security, Amazon and Booking.com’s Windows 10 apps, Dropbox, and ExpressVPN). While I used it on battery, I noticed slowdown at times when I tried to quickly switch between apps or open system menus. It’s by no means one of those computers that just feels fluid to use. And unfortunately, neither the storage nor RAM can be upgraded by the user, so you’ll be stuck with what you get. In the case of this LTE-ready configuration, its small 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM are the only options.
Having it plugged in with performance mode switched on remedied most of these issues, though it made no impact on the speed of resource-intensive tasks. For instance, the process of moving a large (98GB) file from the Samsung T7 USB-C NVMe drive to the Pavilion x360’s drive was always painfully slow, taking close to an hour to transfer via the laptop’s USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, which should be a lot faster. If you need to edit and export video, I flat out suggest that you don’t get this laptop. It took just over 30 minutes to render a 5-minute, 33-second 4K video in Adobe Premiere Pro — and that was after the nearly 10 minutes that it took to open the project and ready it for exporting.
The Pavilion x360 has a three-cell 43Whr battery, and I’ll admit that I was expecting more longevity from this machine while tethered via Wi-Fi. With the battery usage settings set to “battery saver” and the screen dimmed just a few notches below its peak 250 nits, it lasted just over four hours, keeping up with the tasks I mentioned above. HP claims this laptop should get eight hours of battery life if you’re just watching Netflix or around six hours if you’re just browsing the web.
Over LTE, it fared about the same as my Wi-Fi results. Granted, I tested the LTE functionality with my Verizon SIM card from the comfort of home, and it’s not unreasonable to presume that battery life might actually fare slightly worse in the real world if the laptop is constantly looking for a new LTE tower to ping. It seems contradictory to give it robust connectivity without packing in a hearty battery.
The HP Pavilion x360 is a good value, yet it clearly wasn’t made for heavy workloads or long times away from an outlet. But if you have basic laptop needs and want integrated connectivity, the Pavilion x360 gets the job done. The port selection is good, and the 2-in-1 form factor lends to more kinds of workflow than a standard laptop does. These traits and its low price even help to overshadow some minor flaws like its 16:9 aspect ratio display and the bloatware.
If you’re buying a laptop for LTE alone, this isn’t your only option. The Microsoft Surface Go 2 and Surface Pro X can provide it, among other pricier options, like Lenovo’s Flex 5G, but those are each more expensive than HP’s Pavilion x360. HP has the competition beat with a more affordable LTE-ready laptop, though that extra connectivity is really the only thing it has going for it.
Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge