We've not seen many hybrids as cheap as the £349 HP Pavilion x360. And this laptop-cum-tablet doesn't even look like a budget machine, thanks to its bright red enclosure and classy interior. (See also: The 25 best tablets of 2014: What's the best tablet in the UK right now.)
The red plastic is flecked with silver glitter, and it's complemented by a metallic wrist-rest and a glossy black screen bezel. The corners and edges are smoothly rounded, and build quality is good: a strong hinge flips between laptop and tablet modes, and the rest of the system is similarly sturdy. There's a little give in screen's rear, but it doesn't translate to any desktop distortion.
The Pavilion weighs 1.4 kg and is 21.9 mm thick – statistics that compare well to small, cheap laptops and expensive Ultrabooks. When compared to tablets though, the Pavilion doesn't fare well: it's at least twice as bulky as most of its rivals, and tablets remain significantly smaller even with keyboard cases.
As with most hinge-based hybrids, it's difficult to use the Pavilion's tablet mode in two hands, and even trickier with just one. It's better as a laptop, but the keyboard is more suited to short emails than lengthy reports: it's got a good layout and a sturdy base, but the keys have little travel and are a tad too small. The touchpad is acceptable, but it's not as smooth or responsive as the hardware on other machines.
There's only one USB 3.0 connector, two USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI 1.4 output and an SDXC card reader – an ordinary selection. It's worse on the inside: the ethernet is only 10/100, and the 802.11n Wi-Fi is single-band and only single-antenna (1x1 MIMO).
HP Pavilion x360: specs and performance
The price means the Pavilion is no powerhouse. The Intel Celeron N2820 uses the Bay Trail architecture found inside the latest low-power Atom processors, but it's only got two cores – new Atoms have four. There's no Hyper-Threading or Turbo Boost, it runs between the modest speeds of 2.13 GHz and 2.39 GHz, and its HD Graphics is based on last year's Ivy Bridge technology.
The Pavilion scored 1463 points in PCMark 7. That's several hundred points behind the Lenovo Flex 15D and IdeaPad Yoga 2, and almost 1000 points slower than the Toshiba W30T-A-101.
This all suggests that the Pavilion can only handle entry-level tasks such as web browsing and word processing – and multi-tasking is sluggish. This is no gaming system, either. The Pavilion averaged just 12 fps in our 1280 x 720 Stalker test, and it struggled to 21 fps in DiRT 3's lowest settings at 1366 x 768 pixel resolution.
The hard disk's sequential read and write results of 99 MB/s and 102 MB/s were mediocre, and they contributed to poor loading times. Booting, too, was sluggish: 39 sec without Windows 8.1 Fast Start-up, and 33 with this option.
The 29 Wh battery lasted for 4 hours 51 minutes in our streaming iPlayer test: shorter than the Toshiba and Lenovo IdeaPad, but an hour more than the Lenovo Flex.
HP Pavilion x360: touchscreen display
The touchscreen's 1366 x 768 resolution is what we expect from budget machines – fine for casual tasks, but of little use for work. Quality lacked, too; the average Delta E of 9.79 was poor, and the colour temperature of 7294K was far too cool compared to the 6500K ideal.
The Pavilion's measured brightness of 193 cd/m2 wasn't good enough for all-day viewing, and made the screen tricky to see outdoors. The measured contrast ratio of 337:1 was very poor, and it mirrored how palid this screen looked rather than vibrant.
The HP's Beats-branded speakers disappointed. The mid-range dominates, but it's tinny sounding, and the treble wa worse. Bass was weak, and there's not really enough volume across the board. (Also read: Surface Pro 3 vs Surface Pro 2 comparison: new Windows tablet is bigger and better - but who will buy?)