stuff.... random stuff....

Back to Black (INK) a review of the HP Elite x2 1011 and MS Surface 3

, posted: 18-Oct-2015 11:58

Ok, so the title of this post is a bit of a mouthful. I guess you could call this more of a journey than a review. I will be touching on both devices named in the title, the Microsoft Surface 3 (not the pro, the baby surface 3) and the HP Elite x2 1011 which is pretty un-catchy moniker to begin with. 
A few weeks ago one of my customers (This review represents my personal views and not that of my employer LANWorx Ltd ( to quote I think Adam, my employer can get their own views) called wanting a MS Surface like device which is more rugged i.e. Mil spec. After a few calls with HP I had a HP x2 1011 (which I will refer to as the 1011) with various accessories turn up on my door.
The 1011 is more of a laptop that can do double duty as a tablet vs a tablet that can be used with a keyboard. The this is solid and heavy. Its right on the border of solidly heavy and too heavy. I used it for few weeks and travelled with it and found it to be useful. Being a demo unit I was fairly careful with it and avoided pushing its MIL-STD 810G rating.
What really got me and what set off this ‘journey’ was the pen / inking experience. Over the years I have really wanted to embrace OneNote and be able to ink meeting notes. The only real barrier has been the devices available. The 1011 in tablet form changed this. I know the 1011 was not the first device to fit the bill, it is simply the first that I have been lucky enough to spend enough time with.
The 1011 has a tiny (almost anorexic) pen that conveniently is stored within the unit so you can’t lose it. This partnered with Microsoft OneNote created a dream experience. I was hooked. Over the 2 week demo period I really enjoyed the form factor and function of the 1011 however it was fairly apparent that it was not the device for me.
Don’t get me wrong, the 1011 is a very capable device and the WiGig dock is pretty amazing tech (only exception being that the dock has no way to power the 1011 so you still need to get your power adapter out of your bag, what were they thinking?). I expect the next model of dock that will release with the 1012 to include USB-C charging.
For your regular business power user that travels a lot, the 1011 is a real contender. Especially for one that is hard on devices. The only negatives that I found with the 1011 were as follows:
  • Price it’s a spendy device
  • Processor is a little light for me personally as a primary computer replacement
  • No charging from the dock
  • Connected sleep drains the battery (im sure this issue could be resolved with configuration, but there was no simple option that I could find to make this issue go away)
I had 2 options, replace my aging HP EliteBook i7 16GB (My primary work computer) or buy a second travel computer. The 1011 simply doesn’t have the horsepower for me to replace my primary computer and was well outside my price range for a personal travel PC.
Enter the Surface 3. Not the Surface 3 Pro, just the Surface 3, the baby Surface and the successor to the line of devices that followed the miss step that was the Surface RT.
I am a little late to the party. The Surface 3 was released in May, so has been around a while. My Surface 3 128GB SSD 4GB Ram with Type Cover and Pen set me back $1150 from Noel Leemings on 30 months’ interest free (I got a fairly good deal). I missed out on the Microsoft free pen and type cover deal so that was rather sad. The accessories are stupidly expensive!
Someone online made reference to the Atom processor in the Surface 3 and said, this ain’t your grandpa’s Atom. That line really stuck with me. (I can’t recall who said it, so sorry for reusing your line without credit) I have been fairly anti Atom devices as associate the Atom with the first few generations of Netbooks which had barely enough go to run the OS.
Well let me tell you, Atom now is game changingly good. The Surface 3 is a light weight device that is able to deliver 10 hours of battery life depending on what you are doing. Sitting out in the sun running Word 1016 and a few tabs of Chrome it is reporting 6 hours from 80% which is still pretty ok. The Atom processor runs cool allows for exceptional battery life.
Your friend Goggle will be able to show you other reviews with passmark stats etc, but from my perspective I can happily run Word, Excel Outlook along with a number of browser tabs without any slowdown. With most things being we based, what more do you need in a travel PC? The only time that I have found the Atom a little lack luster is straight after login when its doing a 100 things and I want to make it do 100 more.
For 90% of the people I know the Surface 3 would be more than enough of a computer to meet all their needs.
Now the most important part, the ink experience. One word. Perfect. It just works like it should. The Pen is exactly the same as the Surface 3 Pro and looks like it might be compatible with the Surface 4 pen when it’s out.
Audio, I don’t normally care much about on board speakers or audio as I prefer to go to a good pair of headphones. The surface 3 has 2 forwards facing speakers that actually do a pretty good job. Running Netflix excellent.
Display, Google or if you are desperate Bing will be able to give you pixel density comparisons and color ratings and lots of other stuff that I’m not going to bother going into. The display is crisp, bright and has plenty of pixels that are too small for me to see so it’s great.
With all the good stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the bad. Charging. The Surface 3 has a micro USB charging interface as its only charge connector. Now don’t get me wrong, this is great as I can charge it from my Anker charge products including my portable battery packs! Yay! However, as this is the ONLY way to charge the device it takes forever. There are numerous discussions that Goggle will be able to direct you to debating the best way to deal with this. In reality it is not a major and given the choice between the status quo and a proprietary faster charger instead I would keep it as is.
The 3 position kickstand is actually pretty good. It’s not quite as good as the Pro’s but it really doesn’t detract from the usability.
To wrap up, I started off with a 1011, fell in love with Ink and OneNote, bought a Surface 3. Love the Surface 3 it has made me appreciate the Atom processor for how frugal it is while proving a very good experience.
The Surface 3 is for anyone that wants a Surface like device, but doesn’t like the price tag and does not need the extra processing power. The extra battery life on the Surface 3 is also pretty sweet. Microsoft have pitched the Surface 3 as the ultimate student device. While I think it would be an outstanding device for students and bang for buck is great, I wouldn’t like to see it limited to this market segment.
I am happy to answer questions in the comments field.

Other related posts:
An open letter to Samsung about my S7 Edge
Why data caps are awsome
Geekzone Agony Aunt – Brand relationships

chris021's profile

Chris Hoffmann
New Zealand

Areas of Interest:
Network Security
Computer Forensics


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