From looking at HP's EliteBook x360 1020, you might not realize right away that this is supposed to be a business laptop.
It's got an ultra-sleek, compact design that is more reminiscent of consumer-focused laptops such as Apple's MacBook.
The small size of the 12.5-inch laptop is especially impressive considering that it's also a 2-in-1 convertible. The laptop really is akin to carrying a paper notebook around, with a thickness just a bit over half an inch and a weight of 2.5 pounds.
Both inside and out, though, the EliteBook x360 1020 has a ton of the capabilities that 2018 business users will value.
Strong performance is table stakes at this point for a high-end business laptop, and the x360 1020 has no issues there. Our tryout model was very satisfying to use, with web pages and applications loading rapidly, thanks in part to a top-level seventh-gen Intel Core i7 chip and 16 GB of RAM.
The 12.5-inch FHD display offers vivid colors and it's one of the brightest displays we've tried at the CRN Test Center, at up to 700 nits. The narrow bezel around the display also helps to give the laptop a premium look while keeping the overall size to a minimum.
The keyboard is terrific, with keys that are surprisingly deep for such a thin notebook, and the touchpad responsiveness was flawless in our tryout.
There are a couple notable features on the keyboard that are worth mentioning here. One is the availability of dedicated keys for video/audio conference collaboration, such as a potentially face-saving key for muting your microphone.
Another feature is that the F2 key turns on an embedded privacy screen, HP's Sure View, which prevents onlookers from seeing what's on your display. This is a hugely important feature for many business travelers, and the ease of switching between Sure View and normal view is a major plus. Gone are the days of needing to affix a privacy filter to your laptop and worrying about spying eyes.
The downside is that using Sure View drains the battery a lot faster. Without Sure View activated, we got eight hours of battery life for the x360 1020, which isn't too bad considering its high performance and bright touch screen. But using Sure View drained the battery nearly twice as fast for us. So that will be a limitation for using Sure View on long flights. It's worth noting though that Sure View is an optional feature with the laptop.
The portability of the x360 1020 may be the strongest selling point for us. The small size was ideal for getting work done during a recent train ride between Boston and New York, and for walking around Manhattan, since it feels like nothing in your backpack. The savings of about 0.4 of a pound and the smaller dimensions all around may be the chief advantages over the larger, 13.3-inch EliteBook x360 that HP released last year.
One disadvantage compared to the larger EliteBook is the lack of USB-A connectivity, which the x360 1020 attempts to compensate for with two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports as well as HDMI.
HP hasn't had to make any compromises on durability, though, with the aluminum body offering the same military standard drop protection of the larger model.
The x360 1020 also stands out from business laptops from other vendors with its security capabilities such as Sure Start self-healing BIOS and Sure Click malware/ransomware prevention.
While the designs of HP's premium business laptops are getting more Apple-like, the price tags are, too. The EliteBook x360 1020 starts at $1,400, and runs in the $2,000 range for the model we tested.
All around, though, it's hard to beat the x360 1020 right now in terms of blending serious portability, key business functionality and design flair.