Review

HP EliteBook x360 1030 G3 review: A powerful PC in a small footprint

HP's EliteBook x360 1030 G2 was the first EliteBook that I reviewed. Now, it's time to check out its successor. Last year's device was pretty great, and this year's is even better.

Most of the changes this time around are pretty minor. After all, there's no need to fix what's not broken. There are B&O speakers on the sides of the keyboard now, but more importantly, the PC has a smaller footprint this time around.

The bezels are smaller on all sides, including a smaller chin. The smaller body allows for the EliteBook to be more comfortable to carry around. There's even a 4G LTE model for ultra-portability, but HP didn't send me that model. I do look forward to the day that all PCs have 4G LTE, but that's neither here nor there.

And of course, the EliteBook x360 1030 G3 comes with Intel's eighth-generation U-series Core processors. That means quad-core performance.

The name

Before we go any further, I want to break down the name so we can be clear about exactly what this is. Elite is HP's brand for commercial PCs, so this is aimed squarely at businesses, and there are a lot of features that go with that.

x360 means that it's a convertible, so you can fold the display like a laptop, a tablet, or anything in-between. You can prop it up in tent mode, or fold the display up in presentation mode.

1030 refers to the screen size, as this has a 13.3-inch screen. The 1040 has a 14-inch screen, and the 1050 is 15.6 inches. Finally, G3 means that this is the third-generation model.

Specs

CPU Intel Core i7-8650U
GPU Intel UHD Graphics 620
Display 13.3 inches, 1,920x1,080, 400 nits
Body 12.04x8.07x0.62in (30.58x20.5x1.58cm), 2.76lb (1.25kg)
Storage 512 GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
Memory 16GB LPDDR3-2133 SDRAM
Ports 2 Thunderbolt (USB Type-C connector)
1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 (Charging)
1 HDMI 1.4
1 External Nano SIM slot for WWAN
1 Headphone/microphone combo
Audio 4 Premium Speakers with discrete amps (80Db), Bang & Olufsen
Battery

HP Long Life 4-cell, 56.2 Wh Li-ion

OS Windows 10 Pro


Day one

Design

As I mentioned earlier, not a lot has changed in the design since last year. It still sports the natural silver aluminum body, with the angled hinge on the back. It's a beautiful device, as much as I wish that HP would start using the sexy colors it uses on its Spectre consumer PCs on the EliteBook lineup.

The most notable change is the smaller package that the device comes in, and it really makes a difference. It's 10% smaller than its predecessor, the side bezels are 50% narrower, and the chin is 39% smaller. I really enjoy a PC that I can throw in my bag and not even feel it in there, and the EliteBook x360 1030 G3 feels good to bring around.

On the left side of the device, you'll find a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port, which is always on, meaning that you can use it to charge your devices as long as the laptop is plugged in. There's also a 3.5mm combo audio jack and the power button.

On the right side, you'll find HDMI, two full Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a volume rocker. HP doesn't restrict its Thunderbolt 3 ports, so they're capable of 40Gbps data transfer speeds, and each port can power up to two 4K monitors or one 5K monitor. Of course, with integrated graphics, you probably won't want to plug in four or five 4K monitors (with the HDMI port too).

I also really appreciate the volume rocker, a feature that often goes unnoticed. Remember, this is a convertible PC, so you will likely end up using it as a tablet from time to time. That hardware button for volume comes in handy. Some companies, like Lenovo, don't include the volume rocker in convertibles and it does bother me.

Another thing that I want to point out is that there are magnets all over this thing. If you throw the pen at it, it will probably stick. Seriously though, don't throw the pen, but you get the point. You can attach the pen to the side as seen in the image above or to the lid toward the front. Those seem to be the official ways of storing the pen, but there are magnets on the bottom and on the right side.

HP also lists pending MIL-STD 810G testing in its spec sheet. I've not tested these things out, nor am I about to, but that should mean that the EliteBook x360 1030 G3 is pretty tough. It should be able to handle pretty extreme temperatures, humidity, and more. It should be water- and dust-resistant as well.

Display and Sure View

The HP EliteBook x360 1030 G3 display comes in three flavors: FHD, FHD with Sure View, and UHD. HP once again sent me the standard FHD, and I never really understand why. Sure View is definitely a hero feature, and it's pretty awesome.

And even though it's not on the model that I'm using, Sure View is that one that I'm going to recommend. Visual hacking is when someone looks over your shoulder to see what you're looking on, and Sure View prevents that from happening. With HP's privacy display, you just hit F2 to activate it, and anyone looking at your screen from an angle won't be able to see what's on it.

HP EliteBook 840 G5, with Sure View enabled

It's also a higher quality screen than the standard FHD panel. The Sure View display goes up to 700 nits and 120Hz, while the regular one is 400 nits and 60Hz. HP touts this as the world's first outdoor visible screen on a business convertible.

The screen on the model that HP sent me is fine. It's nothing to write home about, but it's a 1080p touchscreen with accurate colors. It's not as bright as the Sure View model, so you might still have some trouble viewing it outdoors, as you can see from the images.

Keyboard and trackpad​

The keyboard on the EliteBook x360 1030 G3 was one thing that I really didn't care for. It feels a bit too resistant. It actually felt comfortable to me at first, but once I started typing fast on it, I found that it started skipping characters. I tried typing at different speeds and just couldn't get comfortable with it.

HP uses square, chiclet-style keys, and by all rights, it should be a very good keyboard. It has a full 1.5mm of key travel and it's actually very quiet to type on. This is always a plus because I can tend to be a loud typist.

The glass trackpad is great though. It is clickable, which is nice since that's a common sacrifice that's made to fit a PC into a smaller chassis. It's larger than I'd expect as well. I'm typically a mouse user, but what caught me off-guard with the EliteBook was that I found myself not missing the mouse. It's smooth, not overly sensitive, and not under-sensitive.

Security, PhoneWise, and WorkWise

OK, so we talked about the Sure View display. That's such a key security feature in HP's commercial laptops that it's available in its Spectre consumer devices as well. But that's not even close to all that there is to it.

HP Sure Start is a feature that checks the BIOS against a master copy when you boot up your PC. If the BIOS is corrupted, it replaces it with the master copy. This is what HP calls a self-healing BIOS.

Then there's HP Sure Click. This is meant to protect against online threats by running web content in a virtual machine. And on top of that, you have things like Sure Run, Sure Recover, and more. If there's one thing that HP has invested in with its EliteBooks, it's security.

That's where WorkWise comes in, which is one of my favorite features from HP. This is like a companion mobile app for your PC. It will let you know if your PC has been tampered with, if there's an alert, and more. For example, if you walk away from your PC, even if you've locked it, and someone closed the lid, you'll get an alert on your phone. You can even use WorkWise to install printer drivers. Unfortunately, it does require that you use an Android phone.

Finally, we have PhoneWise, which is more like a companion PC app for your phone. This does things like let you send and receive SMS messages from your PC, and it's one of the best solutions out there, if only for how well it works with iPhones. iOS has more limitations than Android does, so you actually have to have your device unlocked and the app open to route a text through an iPhone. HP PhoneWise, unlike some other solutions, will actually allow you to store your phone's PIN in the app, so it can wake the phone, launch the app, send the text, and put your phone back to sleep.

Of course, the EliteBook x360 1030 G3 also comes with both a fingerprint sensor and an IR camera for Windows Hello. These features aren't specific to HP like the other ones I've listed, but it's worth noting. I love it when OEMs offer a choice between different methods of biometric authentication.

Performance and battery life

The EliteBook x360 1030 G3 that HP sent me includes a Core i7-8650U processor, which is the vPro version of the 15W i7. It has integrated graphics, and this is all to be expected in an ultrabook convertible like this one.

One thing that I've noticed in EliteBooks is that they can be a bit buggy at times. It's like there's so much going on with all of the included features that it just chokes up sometimes. Occasionally, it will take a bit too long to allow you to sign in, or you'll just hit the odd quirk here and there.

But for the most part, the performance is great. It's not going to leave you wanting more. For work, the Core i7-8650U has all of the power that you need. You can even edit video if you're in a pinch, although you'll want to remember that there's no dedicated graphics.

The same goes for play. Some games will play fine, especially considering the 1080p resolution. And it's great for watching movies via Netflix or Hulu in tablet or tent mode. But if you take this machine home from work and you're planning on playing Gears of War, well, maybe you won't want to use your work PC for that anyway.

HP calls this One Life, where many people are using the same PC for work and at home. So it is very possible that you'll be using this PC at work and watching movies on it later on, or playing some games.

Pen performance is pretty great, with virtually no lag. If you're using the EliteBook x360 as a tablet, you'll probably be using the pen at least a little. This is a great feature, even if you rarely use it. Remember the old days when someone sent you a document to sign and you'd have to print it, sign it, scan it, and email it back to them, like a barbarian? Now, you can just open the PDF in the Edge browser, fold the display back, sign your name, and save it. If you received the file from a civilized person that sent a cloud storage link, you probably don't even have to bother sending it back to them.

Of course, the pen is for more than signing documents. You can use it for taking handwritten notes in meetings, so you don't have to waste paper anymore. You can even open Maps, draw a line between two places, and it will map you out a route. In Photos, you can write on your images. Windows Ink is actually a pretty powerful platform.

Battery life is great as well. The EliteBook x360 1030 G3 will make it through your workday without any problems, and you'll have some juice to spare. I don't run battery tests when I review laptops, because I don't think anyone is actually going to sit and watch Netflix for 14 hours. What I do is I work on the machine and I see how it lasts through real-world usage. Because of this, my results don't usually match what most companies cite, but I think that the average person will get a solid 10 hours out of this machine.

For performance benchmarks, I used a combination of PCMark 10 and PCMark 8. First up is the general test from PCMark 10.

PCMark 8 offers a few different tests, including Home, Creative, and Work. The Home test checks more common tasks like video chat, web browsing, casual gaming, and more.

As you can see, the EliteBook x360 performs pretty well on the Home test. Next up is Creative, which checks more GPU-intensive tasks like advanced video editing, mainstream gaming, and more.

The EliteBook actually does pretty well on the Creative test for a device that uses integrated graphics. Finally, the Work test focuses on productivity-related tasks like writing and spreadsheets.

The Work test is where the EliteBook really shines. After all, this thing is engineered for productivity, and that is one area where it definitely will not let you down.

Conclusion

HP's EliteBook series of devices is definitely among the best commercial PCs that you can get. The company puts more effort into security and other business-centric features than any other firm out there. Things like WorkWise, PhoneWise, and Sure View are all amazing things that fundamentally improve the user experience. And then there are the things that you don't even know are happening, like Sure Start.

The EliteBook x360 1030 G3 is an all-around great PC though. It has B&O speakers that fire right at you, a beautiful aluminum body, the ports you need, and it's a convertible. That means that you can use it as a laptop, a tablet, or anything in-between.

My only real complaints have to do with the occasional performance hiccup and some bugs. But the pros still heavily outweigh the cons in that area. The features that HP adds on its PCs are just phenomenal.

 

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