Are you ready for a touch-screen computer? I'm pretty sure we're all going to be using our fingers on the screen eventually.
I say this because I've been testing the HP Pavilion 11t-n000 x360 (we'll just call it the x360) for the last few weeks, and I'm liking the touch screen more than I thought I would.
At first glance, the x360 ($399) looks like a plain old HP netbook, but what makes it stand out is its hinge that attaches the screen to the laptop's body.
As the x360's name might imply, the hinge allows the screen to rotate all the way around to allow you to use it like a tablet (the keyboard is flat against the opposite side of the screen).
You don't have to worry about the keyboard when you're in tablet mode, as the physical keyboard is turned off once the hinge rotates past 180 degrees. Any input in tablet mode is done from an on-screen keyboard.
At first I was struck by how much heavier the x360 was than my iPad, but I realized that's not a fair comparison. The hinge is actually very helpful in almost any configuration you can try.
I usually sit in my chair in the living room with an iPad in my hands or on my lap.
The x360, at 3.5 pounds, is a bit heavy for a tablet, but if you use the keyboard as a platform and raise the screen to meet your eye (a 45-degree angle), the x360 is comfortable to use as a tablet.
There are also configurations of the hinge and screen that make it easier to watch movies and play games.
The x360 is the least expensive convertible touch-screen laptop I've seen, but like any $400 laptop, there are some compromises that find their way onto the spec sheet.
The 11.6-inch touch screen responds well, but the resolution is only 1,366 x 768 pixels.
The base configuration is 4 gigabytes of RAM and a 500-gigabyte hard drive (a spinning drive, not a solid state drive).
The processor is an Intel Pentium N3520 running at 1.66 GHz, and the OS is Windows 8.1.
The CPU is plenty fast for surfing the Internet and writing emails. I was a bit disappointed with the feedback from the trackpad, which wasn't nearly as snappy as the one on my Macbook Pro.
Because of the 360-degree hinge, the ports are on both sides. There's one USB 3.0 port and two USB 2.0 ports, along with an SD card slot. Networking is via 802.11n Wi-Fi or an Ethernet port. You can output video from the x360's full-size HDMI port.
The x360 has a headphone jack and volume buttons on the side as well.
There is no internal optical drive.
Sound is enhanced by Beats Audio, and it did sound good for a laptop. The battery is not removable. PC Magazine's testing shows it lasted 5 hours and 40 minutes.
The keyboard is Chiclet style with decent spacing between the keys.
Overall, I think the x360 is a really nice entry-level laptop, and the addition of the touch screen and tablet mode makes it a good choice for anyone's first taste of a touch-screen operating system.
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