HP Envy x2 quick take: Good laptop and great tablet

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.

SHARE:
20130314_122133
(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.

20130314_122207
(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.

20130314_122344
(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.

20130314_122224
(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

20130314_122441
(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

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

33 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Looks great, missing only 1 thing

    No digitizer.

    Showstopper for me personally. I have not been impressed with the performance of capacitive pens on the 2 tablets I own: ipad 2 and Surface RT. The performance of the ipad 2 was really really bad, I mean, it is criminal to even suggest that a pen enhances the capabilities of the ipad. The performance of the Surface RT was okay, but only okay.

    I personally will not be buying a tablet that doesn't support a proper digitizer. Who knows, this time next year I might be rocking out to a Samsung Note 3 and a Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

    Samsung is truly crushing apple in the innovation department. Samsung, Nokia, Microsoft: the 3 innovative powerhouses in the market today.
    toddbottom3
    • There's a Digitizer.

      It's made by Atmel though.

      They should have gone with Wacom, or maybe even N-Trig.
      ForeverCookie
    • But you don't own an iPad 2

      So stop lying, troll.
      CaviarGreen
  • ThinkPad Tablet 2

    The pen is great for handwriting and drawing (if I could do the latter).
    JamesKendrick
  • No pen = No sale

    I have the Samsung ATIV 700Pro. Reason? Similar tablet, AND pen. Love it!
    hades_2100@...
    • ATIV 500

      Ditto, I took the Atom version, the battery life is more important than the performance. For the odd time I need more power, I have a Core i5 desktop at work and a Core i7 laptop at home.

      I love the pen, I've done a lot of writing. Apart from the odd pronoun, the handwriting recognition is excellent.

      And I downloaded Fresh Paint yesterday, wow, that shows what the Wacom S-Pen can do!
      wright_is
  • How about CPU...

    did you play Flash Video, Netflix, etc... on it and if so did it handle it without issues ? With Atom, I realize it may not be able to do CAD or other extremely intesive work, but hopefully it can do the Entertainment side of things reasonably well .
    jkohut
    • Video yes

      I play YouTube, Vimeo video all the time just fine.
      JamesKendrick
      • You must be careful, James. Just because you view videos from

        YouTube and Vimeo on the Envy X2 (or any other device, for that matter) it doesn't mean those were Flash encoded videos.

        I have a relatively powerful Surface Pro but when I play a Flash encoded video on it, after a few minutes the normally quiet internal fans are wailing away at high RPM. Quicktime or HTML5 videos played on my Surface Pro hardly tax the CPU at all and the fans remain very quiet but not so with Flash video, unfortunately.
        kenosha77a
        • Surprising

          Hmm, I wonder if either the Surface Pro doesn't support flash hardware acceleration or if it isn't enabled.

          Could you post a link to a Flash video that taxes your CPU? Now I'm curious to play it on my Surface RT. I've never noticed flash videos causing issues but that could certainly be because I don't watch many flash videos and maybe none of them have been flash encoded. Presumably though, if the Surface RT can play one of these flash encoded videos, an Atom device would have no problems at all.
          toddbottom3
          • Sorry, Todd, I couldn't find the links

            I've had my Pro for about a month and I've only heard the fans three or four times. If I can replicate this behavior in the future, I will find a way to get that link info to you.

            BTW, I never did install Adobe Flash on the Pro because I heard or thought MS shipped Flash support. Should I go to Adobe's site and download Adobe Flash?
            Kenosha7a
          • I downloaded Adobe flash pro

            today. What a mess. I have a win8 desktop, quite new. I went to a site and they said I needed to update my flash. So I clicked the link and it was the adobe site. When I went to install they had all kinds of junk they were trying to get me to install. I went with custom install and unchecked and declined everything.

            I still ended up with search conduit tool bar and a few other things. I fired up control panel and removed a couple of things but when I moved the curser over the conduit toolbar line it disappeared. I had to go to manage add-ons and internet options to get my browser back but it is still listed in the add-ons just disabled. It is hiding on my C: drive somewhere

            I was trying to download adobe reader the other day and it was downloading chrome and another toolbar at the same time. I canceled. I searched on the internet how to download adobe reader without chrome and found a link.

            Sorry to hijack this forum but I got so mad at adobe today that I could just spit!
            calfee20
          • A good test would be...

            to go to www.dailyshow.com (this is Jon Stewart on The Dailyshow). At the top of the page is an option for Full Episodes. You get some ads and then the Full Episodes.
            Sometimes tablet grade OS are seen as mobile and it won't play (hopefully full Windows 8 Pro and RT WILL). If you can play that sort of Flash based video. Not sure that the site is always perfect at playing, but I would think this would be a good way to tax the CPU and whole data buffering/stream.
            FYI, I can do this with Android (although I have to use the "Request Desktop Site" option in my Firefox or Native Android browser (in their infinite Wisdon/rush to HTML5 Google doesn't offer support for Flash in Android Chromre browser). I get some chop/jitter on Android, but like the content well enough that I live with it.
            jkohut
          • FYI on Youtube...

            from my experience on Android, Youtube is not a strain at all on CPU, bandwidth, etc... HD may be, but to really tax everything, you need to go to a real Full Flash site (such as Comedy Central/Daily Show which is why I mentioned them above). There may be other sites, but that one is a PRIMARY reason why I can't give up Flash (and will not purchase a device that cannot run it).
            jkohut
          • some problem there

            I changed over our Home Entertainment PC to Win8. Since then Comedy Central has been erratic. I think it has more to do with ad servers. When the commercial actually plays the show plays as well. About 70% of the time in the last week or two it goes to play the initial commercial and nothing ever happens. Right now it seems to fail during high traffic or common tv viewing time and work when you try it early or late.
            mswift@...
          • Flash works great

            I just tried what you asked on my HP Envy X2. I went to www.dailyshow.com and am watching a full episode right now. I'm not seeing ANY performance issues at all.

            At the same price as an iPad, this little machine is an absolute BARGAIN!
            Paul Brambilla
          • Thanks!

            I am considering what to get next. Not sure where I will go next, but nice to know that it gets the job done (I understand that there are times when the Server/Ads, etc.. are to blame). If it CAN play it reasonably well at times, then it is capabale. Can't control everything all the time.
            jkohut
          • A bunch of Flash idiots

            This is the kind of junk why the iPad banned Flash. Puny processors get taxed and battery life gets sucked out faster than a speeding bullet. Prime reason why windoze tablets want's it's Flash cake as well.
            CaviarGreen
          • You watch what you want to watch, we will do the same...

            as I like content that is Flash based. There are times when I have to deal with some Flash problems (but there are other times it works perfectly fine including on Android Phone and Tablet), but then that isn't really any different than coming on a site like this and having to put up with people like you calling someone an idiot for using Flash. I am sure you feel superior, but with a name like "CaviarGreen" I am not sure you are pulling that off very well !
            jkohut
      • Thanks, James.

        This was an extremely helpful review.
        zdnetreader123