HP Envy x2 review
HP's take on the Windows 8 tablet-meets-laptop concept comes in the form of the Envy x2, an 11.6-inch brushed-aluminium hybrid that, on initial inspection, looks to be a quality nugget of glistening tech. Under the silver-like skin there's the likes of an LED-backlit IPS display and NFC connectivity, yet with a 1.8Ghz Atom processor acting as the beating heart the x2's £799 price tag sounds like a stretch for the limited power. Is this the touch-capable hybrid laptop-meets-tablet that'll make you the envy of all your friends or is its price a serious stride beyond sensible?
We're suckers for brushed aluminium, although it's a surface that's far from indestructible: The x2's top had scratched in only a matter of days while on our travels. No turning back from that unfortunate gaff, although we've done the very same to a Macbook Pro's chassis in the past too.
Still, on the whole the Envy x2 is a good-looking slab. It's small, despite a bulbous protrusion where the screen meets the keyboard dock, and its 1.4kg combined weight is on the right side of light too. But despite it not being heavy as a whole, the screen - or tablet when it's detached - makes the device top-heavy when in the laptop position. In some lap-situated positions it often feels as if it's on the cusp of tumbling over. It does just about hold up and is fine when on a flat surface, while the detached tablet - which weighs in close to 700g - obviously doesn't suffer from such balance issues.
To remove the screen and play the whole tablet game there's a switch to the centre above the keyboard which needs to be tugged to the left. But it isn't half fiddly - it tended to need a bit of a wiggle with one hand while the other pulled at the switch to get a clean release.
The x2's keyboard is also a bother. It looks the part, the keys are well spaced and have enough bounce to them but also seem overly "sticky". Our typing ended up with letter repetitions which was a real frustration when working on documents. It'll take some getting used to.
Beneath the keyboard is a textured trackpad that we thought fared much better. It's not large, but even so a slip of the finger resultes in smooth navigation, further improved by two-finger gesture control for scrolling through documents and the like.
On the tablet front we're fairly impressed on the whole. The curved-edged slab sits neatly in the hand, is bright to the eyes thanks to the 1,366 x 768 resolution LED-backlit IPS panel and is responsive to touch too. As a Windows 8 tablet it works a treat.
Yet there's not a lot of power behind the scenes, which is much less of a treat. That wouldn't be a moan if it wasn't for the price point, but at £799 the HP Envy x2 feels overpriced. Why buy this instead of a more-powerful and cheaper tablet?
There are some logical answers to that question, such as the lower power consumption of the Atom processor. This means the x2 will offer up near double the battery life compared to many of its competitors - apt for the "x2" name's sake. We've used the HP over a long weekend in the south of France and it's held up without needing to be plugged in once - double-figure battery life sure isn't out of the question when the screen is dimmed down a little. That's good news if long-lasting is high up your priorities list, although when not linked up to the dock, battery life won't last out nearly as long.
But if it's core power that you want then look elsewhere. The Envy x2 didn't have any issues with browsing, playing back movies, word processing and the like; we even managed a bit of light photo editing without issue. But that's pretty much where it ends - no pumped-up programmes are going to truly kick it on this machine, at least not to the level of its close-priced competitors such as the Dell XPS 12.
One standout Envy x2 feature is its NFC support: tap a second near field communication device to the HP and it's possible to share documents in a flash. A great solution that we'd like to see on more devices and great to see HP leading the way on this front. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are also on board, while physical connections are a little more restricted to an HDMI out, two USB 2.0 ports and an SD card slot.
Another Envy positive is that there's an SSD on board instead of the conventional hard disk drive. It means loading is snappier - roughly 10 seconds to fire up from cold - than much of the competition. However the 64GB capacity feels more "iPad" than dedicated hybrid device. We expected at least double that storage capacity at this price point - even a 128GB iPad 4 costs less, and, in true Apple fashion, they're mega pricey.
HP also offers an optional stylus if pen-controlled input is a preference, but this wasn't something included in our x2 review sample's box so we're unable to comment on how it works with the device.
The HP Envy x2 is a product that we were excited about when it was first announced. But that excitement has largely evaporated thanks to the product's price point. See, the HP Envy x2 isn't a bad product by any means, it's just badly positioned on the price ladder.
On the positive side the x2 combines a decent build with great battery life and a bright, wide-viewing-angle screen. Its future-thinking features such as NFC are also a bonus.
But such positives can't counter the near-£800 price and limited performance from the Atom processor. That's the long and short of it: the HP Envy x2 is a smart little hybrid, but there are cheaper and more powerful competitors out there and that's what holds this model back.