HP Envy x2 quick take: Good laptop and great tablet

Summary:HP has created a solid hybrid in the Envy x2. It's the rare device that works well as both a laptop and a tablet.

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Image: James Kendrick

The HP Envy x2 became an object of my gadget fixation when it was introduced, but its high price tag quickly cooled me down. Then promotions started appearing at retailers, and due to a very good one , I now am the owner of an Envy x2. It's a very good tablet and a decent laptop, bundled with Windows 8 to take advantage of it all.

Hardware

The Envy x2 is a hybrid computer, one of those gadgets that are both tablets and laptops. Many hybrids fall short in either the tablet experience or as a laptop, but the x2 does both jobs well. All the computer parts are in the tablet, yet it is as light as the iPad and even thinner. The laptop dock, which is included with the tablet, turns the tablet into a good laptop, with a solid keyboard and trackpad to take full advantage of the Windows 8 experience.

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Image: James Kendrick

This tablet/laptop won't win any awards for computing performance due to the Intel Atom processor, but for those wanting a computer for typical tasks, it's probably powerful enough. The Atom processor allows the x2 to shine in the area of battery life, and the second battery in the laptop dock takes it as far as most people will need.

Specifications:

  • OS: Windows 8

  • CPU: Intel Atom 1.8 GHz

  • Memory/storage: 2GB/64GB

  • Memory expansion: SD slot (laptop dock); microSD (tablet)

  • Ports: 2x USB 2.0; HDMI

  • Audio: Beats Audio

  • Cameras: 1080p webcam (front); 8MP (rear)

  • Connectivity: wi-fi; Bluetooth

  • Battery life: 8+ hours tablet; 14+ hours with keyboard dock (has second battery)

  • Display: 11.6 inches, 1,366x768

  • Dimensions: Docked (closed) — 0.76x11.93x8.12 inches; tablet — same, but 0.3-inches thick

  • Weight: 1.5 lbs tablet, 3.1 lbs with keyboard dock

Use as a laptop

With the tablet docked, the Envy x2 is a true laptop that looks a lot like the MacBook Air. It is very thin, and tapers down toward the front, just like the Air. The whole package is just a tad over 3 pounds, so it's as portable as Apple's offering.

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Image: James Kendrick

The chiclet keys on the keyboard offer a solid touch-typing experience, something very important to this writer. The multi-touch trackpad in front of the keyboard is a decent size, and handles the Windows 8 touch gestures just fine. It was a little sensitive to accidental touches out of the box, so I turned that down in the settings and it's worked fine since.

The 11.6-inch display (1,366x768) is nice and bright, and it's easy to forget it's really a detachable tablet while in laptop mode. The viewing angles are good, and it's not obvious to observers that this isn't a typical laptop.

When the tablet is docked in the keyboard, the battery life is an impressive 14+ hours. This is due to the second battery in the dock that augments the tablet battery. HP has included intelligent battery management for these two batteries. The dock battery is depleted first, and then the tablet battery kicks in. This is to ensure that the tablet has the maximum possible charge at all times. When the laptop is plugged in to charge, my testing shows that the tablet battery alone is charged first up to 80 percent, after which the system charges both tablet and dock batteries simultaneously.

Tip: When installed on the desktop, BatteryBar Pro ($8) will give information about both batteries in the taskbar when enabled to do so in the settings.

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Image: James Kendrick

The Envy x2 has a nice design of brushed aluminum, and is solidly constructed. When closed, the x2 looks like a pure laptop. The hinge on the back sticks out a little, but it swivels down when the lid is opened to elevate the laptop into an ergonomic typing position. Some folks may be put off by the location of the power switch on the back of the tablet, but I quickly found it to be a good location for it.

The power connector is proprietary, and has an LED on it to indicate the charge level, even when the system is off. This attention to detail is found throughout the system. The mechanism for latching the tablet to the keyboard dock is another detail to be appreciated. The tablet connects firmly by popping it into the slot by the hinge. This includes a magnetic seal, which keeps the tablet firmly seated in the dock. It is possible to turn the whole thing upside down without the tablet coming out of the dock.

I am pleased with the laptop user experience of the Envy x2, and the only thing I'd like to see changed is to have backlighting for the keyboard. I suspect this omission is to keep battery consumption down, so I can live with that. The Envy x2 does everything I need on a regular basis, and I'm willing to trade higher performance and a backlit keyboard for the outstanding battery life.

Tablet user experience

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Image: James Kendrick

Where the Envy x2 shines is as a tablet. While the 11.6-inch screen would make one think that it's too big for a tablet, the light weight and thin profile counter that quickly. This tablet is actually thinner than the iPad (0.3 inches) and the 1.5-pound weight is roughly the same.

This tablet feels good in the hand and can be used for all the normal functions a tablet is used for. HP put a wide bezel around the screen, and that's a good thing in tablet mode to keep the hands off the screen.

The Windows key, located below the screen in laptop mode, is not a real button, and that's sometimes a problem when used as a tablet. It is a capacitive touch button, and can be triggered by the hand when held as a tablet. You quickly learn to hold it in portrait mode, with this button away from the hand that holds it.

Verdict

The HP Envy x2 originally debuted for $749, and it is not worth this high price. HP's current price of $699 is still higher than I would be willing to pay.

Third-party retailers are now offering the Envy x2 for $599, a price I would be willing to pay now that I have used it. The special promotion price of $525 I paid is a bargain for the quality hardware HP has produced.

See also

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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