Screen comes with built-in privacy filter. Thin and light. Intel Core i7 can handle most business computing tasks.
Privacy filter noticeably reduces battery life and degrades screen quality.
- Bottom Line
A diminutive convertible laptop with a unique integrated privacy filter, the HP x360 1020 G2 is an intriguing choice for road warriors, though its larger sibling offers better value.
The HP EliteBook x360 1020 G2 (starts at $1,379; $2,049 as tested) has most features that business users look for in a 2-in-1 convertible laptop. This 12.5-inch model can be used as a conventional laptop, but thanks to its 360-degree hinge and touch screen, you can also use it as a tablet or prop it up on a table like a tent to watch movies or display a presentation. A speedy Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of memory complement all this versatility, and so does a unique integrated privacy filter that drastically reduces the viewing angles of the screen at the touch of a button. Still, there are a few drawbacks that will tip the scales in favor of the larger and identically priced HP EliteBook x360 1030 G2.
Hide Everything With a Single Button Press
The EliteBook x360 1020 is a smaller version of the aforementioned x360 1030 G2, a 13.3-inch convertible released early last year. With the exception of size, there's a lot of similarity between the two laptops. Both of the models we tested have an Intel Core i7-7600U processor running at 2.7GHz, a 512GB SSD, and 16GB of RAM. That's a high-end configuration, but these are premium laptops designed to be a road warrior's primary workhorse, not as a loaner machine that deskbound employees will occasionally check out. You can of course select cheaper components, but such stinginess won't result in a good deal, since the starting price of the 1020 G2—with an Intel Core i5—is nearly 70 percent that of our top-of-the-line review unit.
Choosing between screen sizes is a slightly more difficult decision. Both the 1030 G2 and the 1020 G2 cost the same ($2,049), so it initially seems like a no-brainer to go with the larger model. But the 1030 measures 0.59 by 12.5 by 8.6 inches (HWD), and weighs 2.84 pounds, compared with the 0.53 by 11.4 by 8 inches and 2.5 pounds of the 1020 G2. Many travelers who fly hundreds of thousands of miles a year and give multiple presentations in different conference rooms will likely be attracted to the lighter weight and smaller size of the 1020 G2, even though it's a difference of mere ounces and tenths of an inch.
Once you've made your screen size decision, you'll be pleased to know that the robust build quality and ancillary features list of the 1030 G2 largely carries over. The most eye-catching feature—it's really an eye-repelling feature—is the privacy filter that's integrated into the display. Gone are the days when business travelers had to struggle with cumbersome 3M privacy filters whenever they used their laptops on an airplane tray table. Instead, they can now simply press the F2 key on the 1020 G2 to activate SureView, which makes text on the screen virtually unreadable to people viewing it from an angle greater than about 40 degrees. Knowing that your seatmate can't see your work can be very reassuring, even if you're not editing a top-secret file.
Still, as useful as the SureView feature is, it significantly degrades the quality of the full HD (1,920-by-1,080) screen. White window backgrounds appear grainy whether or not the filter's activated, colors are dull and washed out, and when you're using the included stylus, dark grey streaks trail the tip as you're writing or drawing.
You can mitigate this somewhat by adjusting the screen brightness (the maximum is 700 nits, which is excellent for a laptop), but you can't mitigate SureView's other problem: its effect on battery life. HP estimates that a SureView-equipped model with the filter activated will have a 37 percent shorter battery life than a model without SureView. Even when the privacy filter is turned off, a SureView model still has 24 percent less battery life than the base-model 1020 G2. Sure enough, our review unit clocked in at just 8 hours and 21 minutes on our battery-rundown test, and that's with SureView turned off. The 1030 G2, meanwhile, managed more than 14 hours of battery life. So if you're going to use the filter on a long flight, you'd better hope that your seat has a power supply. Suffice it to say that SureView has some teething problems, but also serious benefits if you're worried about the kind of data theft that no malware protection can provide: the kind that happens when someone's looking over your shoulder.
Attention to Detail
Some IT departments have shrugged off HP, instead preferring venerable business laptops from Dell and Lenovo. But the build quality on the 1020 G2 shows that they should probably change their ways. The EliteBook not only looks and feels sturdy, but there are small design cues that suggest an Apple-esque attention to detail. For instance, the antennas for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are hidden within a thin strip on the top edge of the display lid rather than buried in the motherboard, which HP says improves range. A volume up/down rocker and a power button are located on the notebook's edges, so you can easily adjust volume or shut down the computer while in Tablet mode or Tent mode. And there are even must-have business features that you won't find on many consumer convertibles or any Mac laptop, like a full-size HDMI port and a fingerprint reader.
Unfortunately, glaring omissions include a standard USB 3.0 port and an Ethernet jack, which we still expect to see on a business laptop for compatibility with older peripherals and a means of escape from unreliable Wi-Fi. As a consolation prize, both of the USB-C connectors—located on the left edge—support Thunderbolt 3 and can charge the laptop using the included USB-C charging cable. HP also includes a USB-C-to-Ethernet adapter, which is a nice touch.
The touchpad and backlit keyboard feel sturdy, with very little keyboard flex and a generously sized, accurate, and clickable pad. Other than sturdiness, perhaps the best feature of the keyboard is its dedicated Skype controls, especially the button that instantly lets you mute the mic to avoid embarassing situations. There are no full-sized directional arrow keys since the fingerprint reader takes up the space that would otherwise be dedicated to them, so you'll have to make do with half-height up- and down-arrow keys.
Speaking of the fingerprint reader, it's one of several ways that you can log in to the 1020 G2, but it's not the fastest. That honor belongs to the webcam, which has infrared sensors that allow it to support face-recognition logins via Windows Hello. Face detection failed only once during a week of testing in all sorts of lighting conditions and logging in and out several times a day. If it does fail, you'll be prompted to log in using your password, PIN code, or fingerprint.
Once you're logged in, the 720p camera performs about as expected for a front-facing webcam—that is, it offers vaguely grainy videos that are nevertheless perfectly acceptable for business videoconferencing. The stereo speakers are loud, certainly loud enough to fill a hotel room, and they offer suprisingly robust lows when you account for how thin the 1020 G2 is. That's no doubt due to their Bang & Olufsen pedigree.
HP includes a generous three-year warranty on parts and labor with this configuration of the 1020 G2, although other models have a one-year warranty.
As mentioned earlier, our review unit is equipped with components that should be extremely familiar to people responsible for making purchase decisions on high-end business laptops: an Intel Core i7-7600U processor running at 2.8GHz, a 512GB SSD, and 16GB of RAM. It's easy to find laptops and convertibles with this configuration for about $2,000, and we've included a few that we really like (including the 1030 G2 and the Spectre x360 13), as well as ones that are good but unremarkable, like the Dell Latitude 7389, in our performance comparison.
This mashup tells a predictable story: Each of the machines offers more than adequate processing power for videoconferencing, web browsing, and other tasks that business users are likely to perform on a daily basis. With a score of 3,454 on the PCMark 8 benchmark, a synthetic test that approximates these types of tasks, the 1020 G2 is at the top of a very narrow range. It's the same with our real-world tests. The 1020 G2 took 3 minutes and 19 seconds to complete our list of image-editing tasks in Adobe Photoshop, which is exactly how long the Latitude 7389 took and just 3 seconds slower than the 1030 G2.
Scores were equally lumped together on our graphics performance tests. The results—including frame rates in the single digits on our Heaven and Valley gaming benchmarks—indicate that the 1020 G2 isn't a good choice for playing AAA titles at maximum quality and full resolution, although you might be able to relax at the end of a long work day with a less-demanding game at medium-quality settings. These results aren't surprising, since all of the machines here use integrated graphics.
When Privacy Matters
With scores this similar, IT managers should really be basing purchase decisions on ancillary features rather than computing performance. Indeed, it is with those ancillary features that the HP EliteBook 1020 G2 shines or falls flat, depending on your needs. If you're looking for a powerful, long-lasting convertible with a comfortably sized screen, the 1030 G2 is the clear winner and remains our Editors' Choice, since it offers longer battery life and a larger screen for the same price as its smaller counterpart.
On the other hand, the SureView privacy filter on the 1020 G2 could be worth the battery life sacrifice for the peace of mind that it offers in certain scenarios, especially for employees who are constantly traveling.
About the Author
As a hardware analyst, Tom tests and reviews laptops, peripherals, and much more at PC Labs in New York City. He previously covered the consumer tech beat as a news reporter for PCMag in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where he rode in several self-driving cars and witnessed the rise and fall of many startups. Before that, he worked for PCMag's s… See Full Bio
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