No keyboard leads to better keyboard
I wrote about my experience with HP's Elite X2 G2 "laptop" computer in Using a Used HP Elite X2. It is an older model, whose primary problem is that it has just two USB ports -- one USB-A and one USB-C. Since we have to plug the power supply into the USB-C, that leaves just one port. As well, there is no HDMI port for connecting a second monitor easily, something I do a lot of.
The X2 series is a Windows tablet with the full guts of a laptop, but weighs nearly half as much. That lowered weight was greatly appreciated by me on a business trip, where I took the one-hour transit ride into town and walked about half the day. It weighs only 800 grams (1.75 pounds) sans keyboard, double the weight of my slim 14" Dell Latitude laptop at 1.64kg (3.6 lbs). The difference is noticeable. The keyboard is removable, but attaches with very strong magnets.
The remarkable thing about the X2 series is that while new ones cost $2,500 and more, used ones are $500 and less.
So I wondered what a newer X2 might offer me. I found an X2 G3 (third generation) on eBay for US$250. It came with the stylus but no keyboard. I ordered the keyboard separately for $35 from another vendor.
The newer G3 has some pros and cons over and under the older G2:
- Larger 13" screen in the same size body with thinner bezel (12.25" screen on the G2)
- 3 USB-C ports
- Can be charged with an external portable power pack (the G2 could not)
- Rechargeable stylus that clamps with a magnet to the back of the G3 (the G2's stylus requires AAAA batteries)
- Came with Windows 11 Pro (the G2 could not be upgraded to Windows 11)
- Has a V-shaped groove along the edges that makes it hard to press the power button (see figure at right; source: Notebook Check)
- The V-groove means that the keyboard from the G2 does not attach to the G3
- It has no slot for memory cards, a downer
So here is how I use the ports:
- Bluetooth for keyboard and mouse
- One USB-C for charging
- Another USB-C with HDMI adapter for second screen
- The third USB-C left free; I got a USB-C (male) to USB-A (female) adapter to attach devices with USB-A plugs
The latest edition, the G8, seems to be unchanged from the G3, except for the elimination of the V-groove.
The Better Keyboard
The keyboard that comes with the X2 series is pretty good: sufficient depth for touch typing and is backlit. But HP keyboards are not friendly to writers like me, as the corporation denigrates important keys to Shift positions, like Home, End, PgUp, and so on. Being an executive computer, it instead emphasizes four useless keys that handle Skype calls.
As the keyboard for my new G3 had not arrived as I wrote this, I began experimenting using the G3 sans keyboard. It has, of course, the on-screen keyboard that Windows comes with, but it cannot be customized to my satisfaction; ie, I want a small keyboard with the Esc key -- no can do. The handwriting recognition (using the stylus) was surprisingly good, and I have sloppy writing.
But on-screen writing is too frustrating to me. So instead I am using a regular standalone keyboard, specifically the Keychron K8 (see figure at left). This model has full-size, full-travel, backlit keys, uses brown mechanical switches (considered the best for typist like me), and connects through Bluetooth (remembers three devices) or by a wire to its USB-C port, which is also used for charging its rechargeable battery. It comes with replaceable Windows and MacOS keys, and normally I use it with my Mac mini. It's called an "80% keyboard", but not because it is 80% of the size of the regular one; it's 80% the width of a full-size keyboard, because it leaves out the numeric keypad, yet includes the cursor control keys, crucial to speedy authors.
A host device, like a computer, can support up to seven Bluetooth devices simultaneously. So I have a Bluetooth mouse and this keyboard connected to the tablet.
That gave me a realization: this kind of tablet PC lets me ditch the semi-acceptable keyboard permanently attached to laptops, and replace it with a magnificent keyboard that also is small enough to travel with. This solves the dilemma of being stuck with a keyboard that the laptop vendor decides to include.