HP Envy x2 revisited 45 days in

HP Envy x2 revisited 45 days in

Summary: I've been using the hybrid running Windows 8 from HP for almost two months, and this is what I think of it.

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(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

I bought the HP Envy x2 45 days ago after finding a really good deal on the web. I regularly get asked what I think of it from folks after they see my video review of the Envy x2 (view below), so here you go.

The Envy x2 is a tablet running Windows 8 and comes with a laptop dock. That is commonly referred to as a hybrid system. The 11.6-inch tablet is as thin and light as an iPad, even though it is larger because of its bigger screen. The tablet is well designed, with a tapered edge all around that makes it comfortable to hold. It feels so good in the hand that I use it as a tablet more than I thought I would.

The battery life of the tablet is a solid 10 hours, which makes it an all day device for day trips. The laptop dock has its own battery, which adds a good four hours to the tablet's battery life. It's pretty awesome to have 14+ hours of time away from a power outlet with the Envy x2.

Tablet use

I am using the Envy x2 without the dock more than I thought I might, as it is comfortable to hold despite having such a big touchscreen. The touchscreen is smooth to operate, although I find the touch calibration off just a little bit. I find I have to tap small controls on the screen a little higher than they appear to make sure I get them the first time. It's not off much, just enough to be noticeable. Calibrating the touch in the control panel (buried under Tablet PC settings on the desktop, not the Metro settings) didn't improve this.

I have come to appreciate that HP put the power button and volume controls on the back of the tablet, but this may not suit some users.

I like to use tablets in portrait orientation as I am usually in a web browser and this displays the page long ways. On the Envy x2, I end up using it only half the time this way, and the other half in landscape. This is partially due to the widescreen format being a bit narrow in portrait, and partially due to the Windows button beneath the screen in landscape.

The Windows button is not a physical button as it is on other devices, it is a capacitive touch button. If I hold it in portrait with this button on the left side, I find I accidentally activate the Windows control as I hold the tablet on this side. My palm is constantly touching the control unintentionally. I have to consciously make an effort to hold it in portrait with the Windows control on the right side. This is not a big deal, but if this was a physical button, this wouldn't be an issue. The screen will rotate to all four orientations, so it's a little annoying to have to consciously hold it a certain way to avoid the problem.

I find I use the HP Envy x2 on the Windows 8 legacy desktop most of the time, and spend little time in the Metro interface. I've gotten used to Metro and like the way it works; I'm running legacy apps most of the time. This is primarily the Chrome browser, as I use it heavily on all devices. Chrome works fine on the desktop, but it doesn't support touch operation as fully as the Metro IE browser. There are some websites I use for work that don't work with IE, so I have to use Chrome.

I use the Kindle app to read ebooks on every device I use, and really like it on the Envy. The long, narrow screen in portrait is nice for reading books, and the touch operation is great.

Laptop use

I find the Envy to be a solid laptop when docked, and enjoy using it this way. I make a living writing, and I love the Envy's keyboard. I can type like the wind on this keyboard, and it makes the Envy so useful for my work. This is where the 11.6-inch screen size makes a difference over smaller displays, as it allows for a bigger keyboard that works better.

The touch pad works well, but I have to be careful where I touch or swipe it. I have a bad habit of swiping too close to the edge of the touch pad and unintentionally activating Windows 8 actions I don't want. An example of what I mean is I often go to swipe right to left on the touch pad to horizontally scroll the screen, but I swipe on the edge of the touch pad. This pops out the Charms bar, which I must then make go away. Not a big deal, but anything that interferes with the desired action is annoying.

I don't use the USB ports, but it's nice to have them on the laptop dock just in case. I like that HP put an LED indicator on the power connector that plugs into the right side of the laptop. The LED indicates battery charge level using different colors, something so useful it should be mandatory on every mobile device.

The light Envy x2 (3 pounds) is great for what is a full laptop when docked. At first, the appendage that sticks out of the back of the laptop when closed bothered me. I soon got over that as this appendage (which is where the tablet attaches to the dock) rotates down when the lid is opened and raises the back of the keyboard slightly. This provides a nice angle for using the keyboard, and is worth the appendage sticking out.

Performance

Some of you may be concerned that the Atom processor used in the HP Envy x2 may not be stout enough to handle operations. That has not been an issue with me as performance is good most of the time. There are infrequent stutters in operation that seem to be due to something Windows is doing in the background. They don't happen often and only last 2 to 3 seconds, so they aren't terribly annoying.

The rest of the time, the Envy x2 runs just fine, and the interface runs smooth as can be. I am happy with the Atom processor inside and how it makes that long battery life possible.

Conclusion

I am pleased with the Envy x2, and having used it now for a month and a half, I would buy it again for the same price. It's still a good laptop and a decent tablet, although I wish there were more apps to grab my attention. I'd like to spend more time on the Metro side of things, but most users will likely be able to do that.

I am happy with the hardware, as HP has done a good job with the device. The only thing I would change is replace the touch Windows control beneath the screen with a physical push button as detailed above.

Related stories

HP Envy x2 quick take: Good laptop and great tablet

HP Envy x2 for $525: I had to buy one at that price

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8

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31 comments
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  • Thanks

    Informative, thanks. My ASUS Transformer is pretty similar altough with a smaller screen, and works well. I was concerned with the size of the envy in tablet format so thanks for sharing your opinion on the matter.

    P.S: I found this an ironic hint at the olden times: "There are some web sites I use for work that don't work with IE so I have to use Chrome."
    Sacr
    • Hard to believe in 2013 there are still websites

      that are so bad at browser compatibility. IE10 is more html5/css3 compliant than chrome yet brain dead websites wouldn't know it.
      Johnny Vegas
      • Hahaha

        I totally agree with your comment but at first it made me laugh because you started in the title and continued in the comment box so seeing "Hard to believe in 2013 there are still websites" made my day :)
        jonathanlahdo
    • W3 Sites Broken

      Those sites that "break the web" due to All Flash, All Shockwave, All JS... need to get with the program; otherwise they'll be left in the dust, wondering "WTF" out loud... just sayin'
      Crashin Chris
  • I feel the same way about my Envy X2

    It has been the first real complete replacement for a portable computing device. Powerful enough to use for all my work related activities and equally as good as a tablet for entertainment needs.

    I don't miss the catalog of apps at all. Having a full powered web browser eliminates almost all the apps I would use on my Android tablet. There is no need for a twitter, facebook, gmail or any other app that connects to what is essential just a web page.
    Emacho
  • Connected Standby Disappoints

    I love my x2, however, I'm a bit disappointed by the Connected Standby mode of Windows 8. It seems to be overly susceptible to background tasks waking the system and/or causing excess battery drain while the unit is sleeping. You're supposed to be able to leave these devices for days or even weeks in a "suspended" deep-sleep state. However, in practice you're lucky to get a day or two before the battery is depleted.

    Minimizing the number of legacy Windows apps and/or restricting Metro apps by not allowing them to run in the background (e.g. Mail, News, certain RSS apps like NextGen Reader) helps, however, this also sort of defeats the "Connected" part of the Standby mechanism.

    Also, note, that some users have reported a vicious battery draining bug when the device is turned off while docked. It seems the dock keeps trying to charge the tablet portion and they both end up dead after a few days. Haven't reproduced this myself, however, I rarely turn the device off completely.

    Again, some of these issues may be Windows 8-specific. The hardware itself is a joy to behold - very sleek and elegant, and the tablet portion is surprisingly light. On the other hand, I find the docked configuration - which weighs in at a tad over 3 lbs - to be heavier than I might have liked. One of the trade-offs of having a slick, all-aluminum outer shell, I guess... :)

    RCK
    rkennedy01
    • True

      Got that same issue. Battery consumption while on connected standby is highly unpredictable. Full battery can last anywhere from 2 to 6 days on standby on my ASUSTransformer. I don't even want connected standby, but it can't be turned off.
      Sacr
      • Reset Time!

        I've decided to go with a clean install to see if it improves the situation. Unfortunately, it's a tricky procedure since the generic Windows 8 install image doesn't contain the necessary drivers. You have to download all of the packages in advance from HP and then use a mouse and the on-screen keyboard to complete the process and get to a point where you can add the chip set drivers, etc (the dock isn't recognized by default). A real PITA, but I'm desperate to get the issue under control. :(

        RCK
        rkennedy01
        • Have you run the HP driver support tool?

          I forget the name of the program at the moment, but it will download several bios and driver updates.

          Not sure if I have the same power issue as you do, but I turn off my X2 every night. The thing turns on so fast I see no real reason to leave it on overnight and reduce the overall battery life.
          Emacho
          • Fixing Connecte Standby

            Well, I nuked the installation and started from scratch. Now, with just Windows 8, the Windows Live apps and Office I'm getting 4% battery drain per 16h (per "powercfg -batteryreport") under Connected Standby, which is actually better than the Microsoft certification spec of 6% per 16h.

            This compares to the 20-40% drain I was seeing prior to the reinstall, so clearly there was something running - a service, background task, driver - that wasn't cooperating with the new sleep mode. I'm now slowly reintroducing my normal software stack and then re-assessing via the battery report to see if CS drain is increasing.

            Next up: Skype! :)

            RCK
            rkennedy01
    • This is where Apple has things right!!

      My Envy X2 has about the same battery life whether it is on, in standby or fully shutdown. Well I'm exaggerating a little but not much. How could HP let a machine to market that drains the battery while shutdown in only a few days? This even with USB charging disabled. POS!
      LarsDennert
  • Stylus

    Does it have a Stylus so I can use it to take notes in OneNote? If yes, how well does it work?
    alsw
    • Not for Inking

      I use OneNote and Inking with the stylus a great deal in Win8. I haven't evaluated the Envy, but I looked at the Samsung Ativ when it came out. My feeling with the Ativ was that the Atom processor (at least this generation) is not powerful enough to provide a good Inking experience. I went with the Core i5 version of the Samsung Ativ, and have been very happy with it. The only caveat is that the battery life is not as good with the Core i5.

      I would be curious if James has any comments on the Inking experience with the Envy.
      andy88488
    • No inking

      I didn't mention inking in the article because it doesn't do that. I wish it did, even with a 3rd party pen (it doesn't come with one) but nothing is available.

      Early on HP indicated a pen option was coming but has since removed all mention of that from its web site.
      JamesKendrick
      • That's a show stopper

        Thanks for the response. I really want to upgrade my Asus R1F....it looks like I'll be waiting on a Haswell Surface Pro this fall/winter.
        alsw
    • Take a look

      at the Samsung ATIV SmartPC if you want to do inking.
      wright_is
      • Agreed

        Absolutely. However, the Ativ's built-in pen is sort of rudimentary. I bought the add-on pen from Amazon, and have been very, very happy with the Ativ/Pen solution.
        andy88488
  • You like anything as long as it doesn't come from Redmond.

    How is it possible to find this device acceptable and at the same time find Surface Pro useless? Ah, you find $699 too expensive for this device. You think everything has to be priced around iPad. You think everything has to be a toy.

    Well, here is a fact. A superb tablet PC, HP 2710p, was priced $2,000. It existed before iPad. It runs all heavy applications iPad cannot even dream of running. It had a Wacom pressure-sensitive stylus. Its battery only lasted an hour. Yet many used such devices for both play and work without much complaint.

    Another fact. This machine that you find acceptable runs the same OS that runs Sufrace Pro. This device works the same way Surface Pro does. Any sane person would find a Surface Pro much more useful - keyboards can be chosen according to personal taste, and additional stylus makes it even more useful. Surface Pro's power cables are neither big nor heavy.

    I suspect you may be willing to say something pleasant to anything other than a work of Redmond because you essentially see Surface as a threat to Mac you love. You would rather see Surface completing with its kinds than see it revealing the fact that iPads are obsolete in workplaces.

    Or you may just be a person that doesn't make any sense. You criticize Surface Pro and find this device acceptable, but when one compares a Surface and this device against iPad, he/she would naturally find that a Surface and HP Envy X2 are not so different from each other while being so different from iPads.
    Jae K Oh
    • requirements

      "Any sane person would find a Surface Pro much more useful"

      Surface Pro offers more performance and a more portable form factor at the expense of battery power.

      If you need a very portable device and 4 hours battery is enough, the Surface Pro is the superior device. If you need all day battery, the Surface Pro is not even an option.
      Sacr
    • Surface Pro?

      I don't know where you're coming from as I haven't criticized the Surface Pro. I haven't even used one nor will I with the short battery life.
      JamesKendrick