HP Envy x2
HP's Envy x2 won't launch until later this year, but at an Hewlett-Packard event in San Francisco last week, I got a chance to get some hands-on time with the device. HP has not announced a price yet, but since Microsoft has yet to officially price its Surface tablet, that's not surprising.
It's interesting to watch HP attempt to bounce back from the TouchPad failure. From what I've seen of this tablet (HP calls it a "Hybrid PC"; I'll continue to call it a tablet), the company is on the right track.
Price is still my biggest concern.
Sexy and durable
Taking a cue from Asus and its Transformer line of tablets, the 11.6-inch HP Envy x2's claim to fame is its full-size aluminum keyboard attachment with trackpad. The keys are about the same size as what you'd find on a notebook computer, and the tablet can easily be unlocked from the keyboard, via a latch mechanic.
Simply slide the latch button to the left, and the tablet slides right out. I was even able to accomplish this while holding the tablet with only one hand free. The tablet slides smoothly back into the keyboard and once it locks in, the latch button clicks back to the right. HP says that making this a smooth and easy process was a high-priority goal when designing this tablet (even going so far as to use magnets to guide the tablet back into the keyboard), and it seems to have paid off.
Both the tablet and keyboard sport thin aluminum bodies and feel durable and solid to hold. Typing on the keys feels comfortable, and my hands didn't feel as cramped as when typing on small tablets with keyboard attachments.
On the keyboard's left edge sits both an HDMI port and full USB port. On the opposite edge is the power connection port and an additional full USB port. On the tablet's back is an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, with an "HD" (no megapixel spec was given) camera opposite it on the front.
The tablet features smooth, rounded corners with a fairly wide, seamless black bezel and sports a glossy, fingerprint-attracting screen. On the bottom middle of the bezel sits a Windows home button. The back features the power button on the top left and a volume rocker on the top right, each made from aluminum as well.
The screen's 1,366x768-pixel resolution never looked pixelly or lacked clarity during my demo, and its IPS panel delivered the wide viewing angles you'd expect. HP claims a screen brightness of 400 candelas per square meter.
The tablet sports an Intel X86 processor (no word yet on which one exactly) and runs the full version of Windows 8.
The keyboard houses an additional battery which, according to HP, will offer about 45 percent of the package's full battery capacity, with the tablet's battery delivering the other 55 percent. When used in tandem, the batteries have been optimized to drain the keyboard's battery first.
The tablet also features Beats Audio, NFC, and an optional stylus.
I must admit to being quite impressed with the Envy x2, mostly based on the attention to quality HP has demonstrated here. I can't speak to its performance as of yet, but it definitely has intriguing features and an impressive design.
A lot of the Envy x2's success will rest on what Microsoft does with Surface, especially its price. Right now I can't see the Envy x2 costing less than $1,000, which would make it a direct competitor to the Macbook Air. From what I've seen it would be a worthy competitor, but is anyone ready to pay more than $1,000 for a tablet?
HP's resistance to call this device a tablet may be a clue that the company doesn't think anyone is ready to actually pay $1,000 or more for something not called a PC.