Ahead us lies the time of convertible, tablet-like ultrabooks with Windows 8, so rare are the companies that care about its image that didn’t present their own version of a product that combines the mobility of ultra-portable device with functionality of a classic laptop. HP has a lot of experience in this field, and for testing, we’ve received their newest convertible Windows 8 device, Envy x2, which, we believe, will justify high expectations. It’s a pretty light-weight device, with a screen diagonal of 11,6 inches, and it has an Intel Atom processor paired with 2 GB of RAM, a removable keyboard, and most importantly, it comes with a pre-installed Windows 8 OS, which is suited for both mobile and desktop applications.
Currently, there are a large number of hybrid devices such as this one on the market, with touchscreens and keyboards, which look like regular ultrabooks and their functionality is so alike, that if we were to remove the keyboards, they’d function just like a regular tablet. However, in these cases, there are always compromises, whether it’s performances and limitation only to the mobile version of Windows RT OS or whether it’s dimensions and the weight of the device in the tablet mode. So, for example, models with ARM processors are lacking in sheer power and more resemble classic tablets with an added hardware keyboard, and then there’s the limitation to exclusively mobile Windows 8 applications, which are still lacking in numbers in Windows’ online store. The same goes for some devices with Core i3/i5 processors, which simply aren’t practical enough with a detachable keyboard, because their weight doesn’t allow proper use in the tablet mode.
HP Envy x2 belongs to the group of convertible mobile devices which are trying to reconcile these two opposites in one device, and this attempt is based on Intel Atom processor and Windows 8 (not RT) version of operating system. This way, many things are accomplished at the same time. First of all, the dimensions are on par with an average tablet, because it lacks a large cooling system, due to huge decrease in power consumption of Atom architecture, and there’s still the possibility of installing virtually any Windows application, so this hybrid ultrabook can be completely substitute a laptop. Of course, this is only in theory, so let’s take a look how it all works in practice.
The first association and impression that which we can’t shake off is that Envy x2 looks a lot like MacBook Air, due to its rounded edges, the material used as well as finishing touches to the surface. Don’t get as wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that, quite the opposite, we’re of an opinion that copying a good and reliable design is better than an innovative failure. In accordance with that, casing of Envy x2 is completely made out of aluminium with a nicely polished surface, and the quality of the final processing is on the highest possible level, so this device definitely looks like a premium product.
The part with the screen, or rather, the half that remains when the keyboard is detached, is a pretty thin, but still large, tablet, with screen dimensions of 11,6 inches. The design philosophy is quite standard, but with a few HP specificities that set it apart from other, similar devices. The front side is completely covered with edge-to-edge reinforced glass which covers the screen, but leaves a few millimeters on the lower part for a small, metal grille, underneath lie the speakers. They are Beats Audio certified system, indicated by the logo in the upper left corner above the screen, and they should guarantee somewhat higher sound quality. The speakers are in line with the regular tablet sound systems, meaning they’re not spectacular, but they are loud enough to serve their purpose in normal circumstances, while the quality of the integrated audio subsystem comes to the fore when good headphones are plugged in. While we’re at it, let’s just mention that 3,5 mm audio jack is located on the lower edge of the tablet, which is fine unless the keyboard is present, in which case you’ll have to transfer the headphones on an appropriate port on the keyboard itself. On the lower edge there’s also a microSD slot for memory cards, as well as a port which connects the tablet with a keyboard or a charger. The back side of the tablet is, like we’ve already mentioned, made of aluminium with a polished surface, which feels great and improves impact and scratching resistance, which due to the nature of the material, won’t be even noticeable. One thing that affects the average look of the back is the presence of two physical buttons which are completely in line with the surface. On the right side there’s the power button, which also has the added functionality of locking and unlocking the device, and on the left side there’s volume control slider. These buttons won’t be of too much use when Envy x2 is in laptop mode, but will be more than useful when you’re using it as a tablet, because they’ll be close to your fingers. Of course, there’s the back camera with the sensor resolution of 8 MP, which can make photos of satisfying quality, which is made easier due to integrated LED flash, and also the front HD camera is present, whose functionality is limited to video conference calls. The tablet left a really good impression on us, both in terms of design quality and look, as well as during general use, especially since the complete hardware, including the processor, SSD and the primary battery are located inside of it.
Another very important element, on which depends how this device will function as a laptop, is the keyboard. This addition is more like some sort of dock, because aside from the keyboard and trackpad, it has another battery, as well as an additional set of ports (who mentioned ASUS Transformers?). It practically has the same dimensions and weight as the tablet, they’re made out of same materials, so when Envy x2 is closed, it’s a compact and an appealing device, which, once again, resembles the aforementioned Apple product. It has two USB 2.0 ports, unfortunately without 3.0 standard, but that’s why it has a full-sized HDMI port, which will enable Envy to easily connect to any newer screen or TV. Also, there’s another SD slot, audio jack meant intended for headphones, or any other external sound system. A very important characteristic of this convertible set is its durability, both on a flat surface and while resting on your lap. It’s interesting to note that the part where tablet is connected to the keyboard is slightly arched, so during the opening and closing, the keyboard rises up a bit, just enough to ensure comfort during use.
The keyboard itself is one of the best we’ve had the chance to use on devices similar to this one. The keys are wide enough and positioned far apart, meaning you’ll rarely find yourself making mistakes during typing thanks to a rather long diagonal. Despite their appearance, the keys are not too shallow, and the resistance is not too strong, so you’ll never have the feeling that you didn’t press it strong enough. Typing is natural and comfortable even after a longer period of time, so this is another problem less when Envy x2 is used as a laptop.
Trackpad, or rather, “clickpad” is another strong point of this mobile device, although it could have been a bit bigger. The most noticeable thing is its texturized, rough surface, which we won’t comment on, since it’s more of a personal preference, so we’ll just say that we liked the effect that occurs during use. The use of finger gestures that Windows 8 supports is a great experience, while sensitivity and response time are on an extremely high level.
Screen and performances
Of course, the most important component of virtually any mobile device is the screen, which is no exception here, and HP Envy x2 has both positive and negative characteristics. First of all, the diagonal of 11,6 inches represents an excellent balance, so if you are of opinion, like we are, that 10-inch diagonal is too short, and 13-inch diagonal is too long, then this is the ideal length. When used in laptop mode, the screen is just right, everything is clear and a lot of thing can fit on it, without the dimensions of the hybrid exceeding some limits. Even though the screen of 11,6 inches is perhaps a bit too much for one tablet, this is applicable only if you’re on the move and can’t grasp the tablet firmly with both hands, so you’d be forced to touch the screen only with your thumbs. We have to complain about the contrast, as well the color saturation, which just aren’t on a high enough level, like we expected. This could have sounded a bit harsh, because the screen works just fine during general use, especially if used indoors. The next, let’s call it a questionable, characteristic is the resolution of 1366x768 pixels, which can seem a bit low in some cases, especially if you have in mind that full HD resolution has been present for a while now on screens with shorter diagonal.
Envy x2’s thinness and weight is due to Intel Atom Clover Trail processor, which ensures low power consumption and no overheating, and all of that without sacrificing anything out of the full Windows 8 experience. The consumption is really low, so battery autonomy is more than good. During testing, this hybrid model worked, without any problems, for eight hours at a combination of surfing the internet and watching multimedia. This is practically a whole work day, and since this is the result gained during testing in laptop mode, Envy completely justifies the name of a work machine. When it’s without the keyboard, or rather, when it’s used as a tablet, with just one battery, x2 managed to pull off about five hours of continuous use, which is also a good score. In accordance with that, the heating is almost unnoticeable, even though it’s based only on passive cooling, without any additional cooling systems, and because of that, there’s no noise.
|HP Envy x2|
|Processor||Intel dual core Atom Z2760|
|Memory||2 GB 533MHz LPDDr2 SDRAM|
|GPU||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator|
|SSD||64 GB eMMC SSD|
|Display||11.6", 1366 x 768 pixel, LED , IPS|
|Speakers||Beats Audio with two speakers|
|Ports||2x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI, 1x 3.5mm audio|
|Wireless||802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC|
|Front camera||2 MP, 1080P HD|
|Back camera||8 MP, LED flash|
|OS||Windows 8 32-bit|
|Sensors||G-sensor, E-Compass, Gyro-Meter|
|Battery||25Wh in tablet + 21Wh in keyboard|
|Dimensions||303 x 206 x 19 mm|
However, when it comes to performances, Atom Z2760 on 1,8 GHz, definitely isn’t the reigning champion, especially when compare to some Intel Core i3 or even stronger models. This chip really does allow the use of full version of Windows 8 OS, on which it’s possible to install any Windows-compatible application, but with a noticeable decrease in performance. While all other “metro” Windows 8 application perform normally and smoothly, starting any other, desktop application in most cases results in long load times. Simply put, it’s more accurate to say that this is an excellent tablet, with great characteristics and performances, with the option of occasional use of desktop applications, in cases when your normal computer is not at hand. Envy x2 just can’t be considered a replacement for a regular business laptop, but rather as a strongly capable tablet. But, this hybrid really shines when it comes to native Windows 8 applications and it’s a real pleasure to use it for surfing the internet or watching HD videos.
Hewlett-Packard managed to make a rather solid and competitive hybrid device, which functions almost as good as laptop as it does as a tablet, whit the aforementioned limits in performances. There are a few more slight flaws, such as the lack of USB 3.0 port or keyboard backlighting, somewhat lower screen resolution and none of them can spoil its positive impression. We’d just like to add that the price is somewhat higher than expected, but for premium quality which Envy x2 brings, we’ll give it a pass. If you’re looking for a secondary computer which you’ll use as a mobile device, whether it’s for watching movies or for work, then x2 can be a great choice.