It was late-2016 when Qualcomm, Microsoft and a number of other partners started talking about Windows 10 devices running on Qualcomm Snapdragon hardware. The reality has now arrived, with the announcement of the HP Envy x2.
Announced and shown off at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit, the hard-hitting headline feature that's being pushed is connectivity. With the Snapdragon 835 powering a number of leading smartphones, the aim is to bring that 4G connection to your Windows device, so there's no fuss - just instant access to everything online.
This is being backed-up with message about long battery life, distracting us from the sub-text: the last time this shift from Intel to ARM-based hardware was attempted was with Windows RT and that didn't end well.
This time, however, things look more hopeful.
Premium design for serious mobile users
- 2-in-1 format, tablet and keyboard case
- 6.9mm thick, 700g
HP has chosen a 2-in-1 design for the Envy x2. It's a design that's similar to the Microsoft Surface and other devices where the tablet is mated with a keyboard cover. It's a distinctly different proposition to the Asus NovaGo which has a more traditional laptop format.
HP turns to machined aluminium for the casing of the tablet, resulting in a premium finish. It feels great and there's great attention to detail. Using Snapdragon 835 means that this is a fanless design. That's not unique in these types of devices (there are fanless Intel chips too) but this isn't a tablet that's littered with vents for heat management.
That leads a seamless look to the tablet itself, but it remains unknown at the moment exactly how the Envy x2 will perform under load when that chipset might be getting hot. Time will tell.
Measuring only 6.9mm thick, the tablet attaches easily to the keyboard case using magnets, then attaching again to give the rear of the keyboard a little lift, so there's a better rake to the keyboard for typing.
The cover feels like good quality, with an executive feel to things. There's a contrasting silver hinge cutting across the back, dissecting the black finish. It's also a hinge that can be set at multiple angles to let you rest that attached tablet display at a comfortable angle.
The keyboard has a nice action to it, but from our brief time with it, we detected a little more movement toward the top keys than you'd perhaps like - but then it depends how furiously you like to bash out words.
A new spin on hardware
- 12.3-inch, 1920 x 1280 resolution
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage
- X16 LTE modem
- Windows 10 S
While design is something that HP have plenty of experience with - and it's a design that we think is rather fetching on first glance - the hardware proposition of the Envy x2 is rather more interesting.
Starting at the top there's a 12.3-inch touchscreen that supports a Windows Ink compatible pen, with a WUXGA+ resolution, or 1920 x 1280 pixels. It's pretty good looking from what we've seen, with great colour and vibrancy, although out on the sun, there's plenty of reflection - to be expected on a tablet display at this size.
Inside you're looking at the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset. That's the system on chip that's powering 2017's top smartphones, so it's a chipset designed for mobile first. It has integrated graphics and the X16 LTE modem for that 4G connection. It's backed up by 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid state drive.
Where this is different to a flagship smartphone, is that it's running Windows 10 S (although you can update to Windows 10 Pro if you prefer). It's here, the shift to Windows from the Android systems that we're more used to, that things are changing.
On one hand, the Snapdragon 835 is bringing seamless integrated connectivity thanks to Qualcomm's modem, on the other, Windows 10 has had a lot of work done to it to run natively on this new hardware.
For those who are more geeky, some of the application running is emulated, but there are tweaks through-out where Microsoft has altered the code to give you a better experience. Direct comparisons to an Android smartphone or an Intel-powered Windows 10 device might not be as straight-forward as you might think, because both Qualcomm and Microsoft are talking up various experience points unique to this arrangement.
Those new things include instant on and standby times that are hugely long. Because the Snapdragon 835 is designed to be efficient and for mobile devices, the promise is that you'll open up your laptop and you'll be connected and away with no delay at all.
This will also go hand-in-hand with the ability to leave your Envy x2 away from the charger for weeks, and be able to come back to it and still find that it has life, rather than having a dead battery.
Battery life has been widely touted at over 20 hours, but the message we're getting is that this very much depends on what you're doing. Fire up Netflix and you'll probably get that, but if you're on the train, running in and out of network connections trying to edit video, you'll likely find it a lot shorter.
As a Qualcomm person said to us, the battery life depends on how much you use it. It's here that we currently have more questions than answers: Qualcomm say that the Snapdragon 835 will run applications without throttling better than some other hardware platforms, but in reality, we have no idea how hot the Envy x2 might get, how smooth that Windows productivity experience is or how well that mobile connection handles.
It's a time of change in Windows. For those with a longer memory who remember the Windows on ARM jaunt that was Windows RT, you might be concerned, but this feels a lot more serious. The design of the Envy x2 looks and feels great. It's contemporary, offering things like a microSD card slot and USB Type-C, but there's not a huge range of physical legacy connectivity. For the mobile super-connected, that might not matter.
But the biggest questions around this new form of Windows running on this hardware remains to be seen. It feels exciting, but what we're still keen to discover is where this balance lies, how well this connected experience functions for the device as a whole.
We're sure that the mobile productivity experience within Office 365 will be great, but how it will run when you have to batch process 30 files in Photoshop, we just don't know. We also don't know how much the Envy x2 will cost, all we know is that it will be coming in Spring 2018.
An interesting move? Yes. Need to know more? Certainly.
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