Laptops have gotten cheap. A few years ago trying to buy a laptop for less than $500 (about £328, AU$703) pretty much limited your options to underpowered Netbooks with poor ergonomics and build quality. Fast forward to the present and the market of super-budget notebooks has exploded with Chromebooks, and more recently with Windows 10 Cloudbooks, well worth their small sticker prices.
Now, the HP Pavilion x2 has entered the scene as the most affordable 2-in-1 laptop that easily transforms between laptop and tablet modes by way of a detachable screen. For $299 (£249, AU$549), this 10-inch hybrid comes outfitted with a moderately powerful Intel Atom processor and a bundled year of Office 365 and OneDrive cloud storage to make up for the device's modicum of memory and drive space. Not only is the HP Pavilion x2 a great deal for a basic Window machine, it's a handy tablet for streaming media.
The HP Pavilion x2 is a lopsided 2-in-1 machine. The tablet end of the device is more than twice as thick and heavy as the keyboard section. Thanks to its unbalanced chassis, the Pavilion is prone to tipping over backwards when you use the device on your lap.
However, the system is much more stable on a desk and this is thanks to the way the 10-inch hybrid rears up onto its rounded posterior. By designing the Pavilion x2 to sit on its half-cylindrical hinge, all of the weight of the components and screen is better distributed while lowering the HP convertible's center of gravity. It's a smart design that also props up the keyboard at a slight ergonomic angle, which in turn absorbs the force of your fingers hitting the keys in a way similar to the Surface Pro 4's keyboard.
The keyboard itself is a bit cramped, but it's the typical trade-off that comes with these miniature notebooks. Although the keyboard nearly spans the entire width of the laptop and offers a decent 1.3mm of travel, the surface area of each key is significantly diminished. Most users without dainty hands will end up sprinkling in typos and extra characters with every keystroke.
Similarly, the trackpad is surprisingly spacious, taking up every bit of remaining space below the keyboard, but it's just not fun to use. The plastic touchpad does a more than serviceable job when you want to move the cursor around, but it does a terrible job registering multi-touch commands. Two-finger scrolling feels especially jittery, making webpages move in odd increments as I move my finger across the surface.
Overall, the HP Pavilion x2 is about as plastic as a budget laptop can get. You won't find a single gram of metal on the notebook's exterior save for ports, but the unit feels sturdy enough. Although the hinge creaks ever so slightly when you push back the lid, it does a solid job of keeping the screen locked in position.
What's more, there are strong magnets that keep the display firmly attached to the keyboard base. The connection is so strong that you could shake this device with the screen dangling downwards without worrying about it falling off and crashing onto the ground.
Despite being such a small unit, the Pavilion x2 comes with powerful speakers located on the sides of the tablet's 10.1-inch screen. Tuned by Bang & Olufsen, the tweeters can easily project a song across a room and deliver full-bodied sound without any odd notes of distortion.
Unfortunately, the screen is a little less impressive with a resolution limited to 1,280 x 800, so Netflix streams and other high-resolution content looks a bit fuzzy on this display. But again this device only costs 300 bones and the display panel HP picked for this machine has good color and wide viewing angles.