HP Envy x2 review: Half-tablet, half-laptop, all Atom

Performance
Windows 8 tablet-style convertibles and hybrids seem to be taking one of two paths: using a lower-powered Atom processor, or a faster Intel Core i-series CPU. The HP Envy x2 falls into the former category. It's basically the same computer as the Acer Iconia W510-1422 , in the sense that both have a 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2760.

The next-gen Atom (also known by the code name Clover Trail) is better than your typical old-school Netbook Atom, but don't expect this processor to perform anywhere near even a low-end Intel Core i3. Our benchmark tests show how very slow the Atom is, relatively speaking: the Core i3 processor in the budget Asus VivoBook X202E laptop is easily three to four times faster in just about any metric.

Of course, in everyday casual use, you might not notice much, especially if your expectations are ratcheted down toward iPad/Android/Netbook performance. Again, the Envy x2 performed very similarly to its nearest competition, the Iconia W510.

In fact, the HP Envy x2's interface was surprisingly zippy and responsive in tablet mode, exhibiting quick touch response and smooth app switching not unlike an iPad. However, during intensive Web work or more full-bodied computing (or keeping multiple programs or browser windows open), the x2 can hang. I had it crash once, and boot times aren't as lightning-quick as ultrabooks have spoiled us into expecting. The x2 does have fast wake-from-sleep speeds, though.

Basic casual games played well enough, from Zen Pinball FX to Jetpack Joyride. Don't expect your Steam games to run with ease; the Atom's integrated graphics won't handle any level of serious PC gaming.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Battery life: Atom's one advantage
The best part of the Envy x2, besides its compact form, is its battery life. In tablet mode, it lasted 7 hours and 32 minutes in our video playback test. With the keyboard base attached, that number leapt to an impressive 10 hours and 38 minutes. As good as that is, the Acer Iconia W510 did even better, at over 10 hours and 13 hours respectively. If you're considering a long-life laptop no matter the CPU performance or price, you probably can't do much better.

Are tablet hybrids necessary?
The questions are, does the battery life hold up, and is a Windows 8 hybrid laptop/tablet worth the investment? In other words, are you better off with a cheap laptop and cheap alternative Android or iOS tablet instead? I can't tell yet, but the HP Envy x2 might be the best version of this hybrid-function type of device that I've seen. I just don't know if I truly need my laptop to be a tablet. You may be thinking the same thing...and, as tablet prices continue to drop, that may be the biggest challenge of these hybridized Windows 8 devices: finding a purpose and avoiding redundancy.

I liked using the Envy x2 the most in traditional laptop form, and I found the keyboard (which isn't backlit, by the way) and touch pad to work quite well. Reaching the touch screen on a small 11-inch device like this is a snap and feels intuitive. I wonder if I'd forgo the splitting hybrid concept and pay less for just a snappy little touch laptop instead.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion
Windows 8 is the beginning of a dream in which tablets and computers seamlessly merge. Whether that dream has a happy ending or not remains to be seen, but the HP Envy x2 is one of the products that give me a lot of hope that this is all heading in the right direction. HP's combination 11-inch laptop and detachable full Windows 8 tablet isn't a wholly unique idea, but it's one of the best-designed iterations of the "hybrid" detachable concept in the Windows 8 launch generation.

That might not be saying all that much, since the detachable-tablet laptop-hybrid landscape is currently largely populated by a bunch of underpowered, overpriced machines running next-gen iterations of the Intel Atom processor: better than Netbooks of old, but a long way from the speed and power of any ultrabook.

If your fantasy always involved taking an 11-inch ultraportable like the HP dm1z and giving it the option of a detachable tablet screen in an attractive, comfortable laptoplike form, this is that product. If it weren't over $800, I'd be a lot more bullish about it. Even so, this is a somewhat sexy, if limited, device. Consider, too, that other very similar products like the Acer W510 cost less, an 11-inch touch-screen (but non-tablet) Asus VivoBook X202E with a Core i3 is $549, and more powerful Intel Core-based tablets like the Microsoft Surface Pro are around the corner (and don't cost that much more). Also, the processor and hardware landscape is bound to keep advancing quickly in a way that'll make this Atom-powered machine feel out-of-date sooner rather than later.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Load test (average watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations

HP Envy x2
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 747MB (Total) Intel GMA; 64GB SSD

Acer Iconia W510P-1406
Windows 8 Pro (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 747MB (Total) Intel GMA; 64GB SEM64G SSD

Dell XPS 12
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 256GB Lite-On IT SSD

Sony Vaio Duo 11
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Toshiba SSD

Toshiba Satellite U925T
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Samsung SSD

Lenovo ThinkPad Twist
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Resolution 1366 x 768 ( HD )
  • Operating System Windows 8
  • Installed Size 2 GB
  • Color brushed aluminum
  • Weight 3.1 lbs
  • Hard Drive 64 GB SSD
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics
  • CPU Intel Atom Z2760 / 1.8 GHz
About The Author

Scott Stein is a senior editor covering iOS and laptop reviews, mobile computing, video games, and tech culture. He has previously written for both mainstream and technology enthusiast publications including Wired, Esquire.com, Men's Journal, and Maxim, and regularly appears on TV and radio talking tech trends.