HP Split x2 Gizmodo Reader Review: Jana Michaels, Design Professional

Jana Michaels is a Victorian process improvement officer with a design background. She's also one of three winners in our recent HP Split x2 competition. Jana has her new Windows 8 detachable notebook for over a week now and this is her road test experience...

I was a graphic design student last year and after some travelling I'm now working full time in business until returning to study at another stage. I have always used Macs — including a Macbook for the past 6 years that served me well until becoming too slow. More recently I purchased an iMac for my design studies although now that I am moving into Industrial Design it becomes redundant as all the 3D modelling software is built for PC.

This is why I was interested in the HP Split x2. A notebook that I could use for study, plus a tablet perfect for certain design-related apps and content to use when travelling on public transport or just sitting at home.

I always go for a device that is intuitive and easy to figure out. And being a designer, it has to look good. I appreciate quality but am not a tech head. So as long as a machine has decent specs and good battery life I tend to be pretty happy.

The HP Split x2 has a detachable 13.3-inch touchscreen so it's ideal for work as a notebook or kicking back on the couch as a tablet.
The big news: The Windows 8 install is powered by third-gen Intel® Core™ processors equipped coupled with 8GB of RAM. The tablet features a 128GB solid state drive and there's a further 500GB storage in the keyboard base. In this same way, you also get dual batteries.

HP Split x2: Getting Started

My first impressions were that it was sleek and well designed. It definitely reminds me of Mac design in that it is more minimalist and flat in design. It feels solid and well built. I like the metal casing and the fact that the volume and power buttons are hidden in the casing. The Split x2 has 2 USB ports, SD card slot and also a micro SD slot on the actual tablet which I didn’t even notice first time ‘round.

I haven’t used Windows 8 before so found it a bit tricky to get used to. It didn't seem that intuitive to me. I don’t think I would have worked it out without referring to the instructions, but that’s what they’re there for I guess. The start page is a good snapshot but navigating back to desktops from apps and other functions was pretty clunky. After a bit more time it became easier — and now, as you can see in the video — it seems pretty quick and easy to switch around the pages.

Some things do bother me, though. For instance, when using the tablet and needing to type in a search function or type anywhere — you have to select the keyboard function to type and then put it back again when you are done. That becomes quite tedious. I would definitely prefer the to keyboard automatically pop up when you tap a search function or cursor space like it does on an iPad. Likewise, there are multiple keyboards to choose from including a writing function; however there is no pen provided, so that’s an accessory to purchase.

There are some fun pre-installed and ready-to-go elements too: including word games and a painting app, which as a creative type, I think is amazing. The paint looks completely realistic, the brush strokes are responsive and look like the real thing. Similarly, the radio function within the music app is fantastic, you can choose a band and it automatically connects with similar bands/music to create a radio channel of songs within that genre. It was great to be able to listen to tunes I love straight away without having to import lists or download anything.

Using It

The HP Split x2 is easy enough to detach, although you have to eject the device first. Though understandable, this does detract from the ease of use for me. A couple of times, even when I had ejected correctly, I received a software warning saying I hadn’t ejected the device properly and could lose unsaved data.

The tablet itself is definitely very solid and probably a bit bigger/heavier than I would ideally want for something that’s supposed to be portable. I would feel a bit awkward pulling that out of my handbag to use on a tram but at home it’s fine.

Conversely, the bottom half (keyboard) feels quite hollow and is definitely not as solid as the tablet. In fact when I would sit the Split x2 on my lap, it felt as though it was so top heavy that the device would topple over. I definitely would only use it on a desk when using it as a notebook. Also, because the hinge sticks out, it digs into your legs whereas on a desk it creates a gap for ventilation under the device — so I guess keep it on a desk for notebook and just take the tablet when relaxing on the couch.

The keys themselves feel fine and work well they just feel much less solid than the tablet does. The keyboard is quite flat as well, which I am used to as a Mac user, but for PC users used to bouncy keys it might feel a bit deflated. The trackpad is great if you are using tap commands (which luckily I prefer), however, using the click function has not worked for me at all, not one single time, so I just stick with the tapping.

I've been using the Split x2 at home mainly — because of time restrictions, and also because I don’t feel comfortable taking the tablet in my handbag unprotected. If you had a backpack or similar it would be fine, but I’m not going to change bags just so I can carry my tablet with me.

The touchscreen is bright and looks great. The resolution is really good and images seem crisp. Not as responsive as I would have liked for this price and weight. A few times I have had to hit the same spot over and over, but in general it works well enough. The screen becomes covered in fingerprints in a matter of seconds, I’m not sure whether that’s standard, but I suspect it’s difficult to avoid. It's a very shiny surface.

Sound And Camera

The audio is definitely decent quality. It’s about as good as I would except from a top of the range device. Not particularly loud, but sufficient, with a good spread of sound including clear bass even at full level. Even better with good headphones obviously.

I was surprised that the Split x2 doesn't have dual-cameras like the ENVY x2. This makes no sense to me, as the Split x2 is a higher-end model. With the Split x2, you get a standard camera that faces you, the user, and works well enough in good light — but becomes quite grainy at night, which is pretty standard. Definitely adequate for Skype conversations and video calls which is all you would really use it for.

Battery Life And Performance

Battery life is very important to me and the fact the Split x2 has two batteries was appealing. It lasted at least a whole day although I didn’t check exactly when I took it off charge. I'd still recommend turning it off when not in use to conserve. I noticed that the battery went down quite a bit even when sleeping.

Overall performance seems good, it’s hard to argue with the specs. I used a trial version of Photoshop and it was definitely decent speed. Photos seemed to take a little bit longer to upload than they would on my iMac, however I was definitely impressed with the screen/picture resolution and satisfied with the processing times in general. Seems to keep up enough pace for the purpose.

Should You Buy It?

"Another big plus for me is the start up and shut down times. Both happen almost instantly..."

It's been handy to be able switch according my needs at the time. When I just want to play games and browse apps, read the news or watch videos — it's much nicer sitting with the tablet rather than the whole laptop — and having the larger screen for those functions when at home is great, because you don’t need to worry about it taking up space like you do when travelling.

Another big plus for me is the start up and shut down times. Both happen almost instantly, which makes me very happy!

I'd recommend the Split x2 to people likely to mainly use it as a laptop, but who still want the versatility of a tablet as well. Perfect for at home easily going from work to play. For those wanting to use the tablet all the time, I've seen other split-style devices that are more portable or better designed in terms of protection of the tablet and accessories for using the tablet (like a pen). If the tablet is your only appeal, then for the price, I would just buy an iPad or similar with a good keyboard attachment.

Personally, I’m looking forward to getting better at navigating Windows 8 and really being able to use the Split x2 to it’s full potential. I see it being extremely useful in my studies, for using 3D modelling software and for working between home and university. I will probably brave taking it as a tablet in my handbag once I've had it a while longer or find a cover for it.

It'll be great to have the Split x2 with me on public transport.

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