Take a tablet; add a keyboard. Turn it into a laptop. Do it with full Windows 8. This is the dream of the HP Envy x2, and the dream, it seems, of Windows 8 in general. Break down the barrier between tablets and PCs. Create progressive computing. The future is now. Well, the future was also four months ago, when Hewlett-Packard first started showing off the Envy x2 in public.
We marveled then that the device was well-built, comfortable to hold, and, when you think about it, pretty shockingly practical. After all, theoretically, this is the best of both worlds: a laptop and a tablet in one. This is what I dreamed about all the way back to the teased-but-never-real Lenovo U1 Hybrid three years ago.
Slide a little tab, and the whole upper lid undocks and becomes its own multitouch tablet. But, at $849, the Envy x2 is more expensive than most ultraportable laptops and tablets...and far more expensive than those little, non-touch-screened, non-detachable-screened 11-inchers of old. It's also Intel Atom-powered, as opposed to having a far faster ultrabook-level processor. You're paying for style, and also for that clever split-function feature.
There are other devices in this landscape, too, with nearly identical specs: the Acer Iconia W510-1422 costs less and showed better battery life in our tests. You could also put that $850 toward a thin laptop like a MacBook Air, or the upcoming, more powerful Microsoft Surface Pro tablet. Options abound.
This particular HP Envy x2 is a good device, but it's not an excellent one.
|Price as reviewed||$849|
|Processor||1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760|
|Memory||2GB, 1,066MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||64GB SSD|
|Operating system||Windows 8|
|Dimensions (WD)||11.9x8.1 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||11.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.1 pounds / 3.6 pounds (tablet + keyboard)|
Style vs. substance
Depending on your perspective, you'll either love what HP's trying to do with the Envy x2, or you'll hate it. But HP is hardly the only innovator: detachable-screen laptop/tablet hybrids have been kicking around in a similar form coming from several manufacturers, including Acer, Lenovo, and Samsung. It's an official mini trend in Windows 8 PCs.
This 11-inch ultraportable laptop is cute, well-constructed in largely brushed aluminum, and, yes, pretty sexy. It's got the style of HP's small dm-series laptops, and a blend of a small-business and a personal feel about it, much like Apple continually pulls off. It feels better-built than some competing models, and has a similar heft and discreet portability to the HP dm1z.
The x2 weighs 3.1 pounds with keyboard, or 1.5 pounds in tablet mode, just a bit more than the Retina Display iPad.
Tablet mode: Eject and enjoy
Pushing a little dock tab, situated right above the keyboard, to the left unlocks the top tablet. You need to pull it apart; it locks solidly. It detaches smoothly, too, but finding the connectors and lining them up to put the tablet back in can get pretty frustrating. Also, this laptop is top-heavy; the tablet part outweighs the lighter keyboard base, which isn't generally a problem in everyday use because of a hinge that projects a little lip at the back to elevate the keyboard and balance the whole package. It does, however, mean you can't easily open the Envy x2 one-handed like a regular laptop.
The tablet's top half has its own power button in the back, a volume control, and both front- and rear-facing cameras (8MP for the rear, HD Webcam quality for the front). It's comfortable to hold and a little larger than a Retina Display iPad, but still a well-designed tablet. On a train commute, it felt like a wide-screen iPad, minus the Retina Display.
The 16:9, 11.6-inch glossy glass-covered IPS screen has a 1,366x768-pixel resolution, and looks sharp from all angles. It isn't impressive in the face of Retina Display, 1080p, and other higher-pixel-density displays, but it matches the basic resolution of a small laptop. Picture quality is crisper than on the average laptop thanks to IPS, and wide viewing angles are no problem. That glossy screen will need frequent wipedowns, though, just like on any tablet.
The tablet top of the Envy has its own stereo speakers with Beats branding, but it's hard to hear what if anything that branding imparts. The wide-set speakers on the bottom front of the display do offer some better-than-average virtual surround effects, though sound leans to the tinny. A headphone jack on the bottom is your better bet.
A power button and dedicated volume rocker lie along the back side edges: you just have to feel for them. A rear-facing 8-megapixel camera (with flash) along with a front-facing 1080p camera offer some video recording/picture capture options, but if you ever found taking pictures with an iPad embarrassing, imagine what would happen with this.
Keep in mind the tablet half has no ports whatsoever: you'll need the keyboard base to take advantage of USB, SD card input, or HDMI out.
|HP Envy x2||Average for category [ultraportable]|
|Video||HDMI||HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, combo headphone/mic jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/mic jacks|
|Data||Two USB 2.0 (base), SD card reader (base), Micro SD card reader (in tablet)||Two USB 3.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC||Ethernet (via dongle), 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
Connections and configurations
Speaking of ports: there aren't that many, and none in the tablet itself except for a tiny Micro SD card slot on the bottom left edge that I didn't even know was there. The keyboard base has a secondary battery that nearly doubles the overall battery life according to HP, and that acts as a tablet recharge station, with two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, and a regular SD card slot. Sure, there's also support for Bluetooth, 802.11n, and even NFC (should you ever figure out a purpose for it), but dedicated Ethernet isn't here. Get ready to pack a dongle.
The Envy x2 11t-g000 we reviewed comes in only one configuration, with 2GB of RAM and a 64GB solid-state drive (SSD). That 64GB of storage can fill up fast: over 20GB was already filled right out of the box with basic Windows 8 software and applications.
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.
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.
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.
Find out more about how we test laptops.
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