HP Envy x2 (Snapdragon 835) review: A huge gas tank, but not enough horsepower
Putting a smartphone processor inside a Windows laptop is an interesting idea, but too expensive for its own good.
Every year, new smartphones come out with fancy new processors that promise quicker speeds than you've ever experience. Every year, I buy one of these smartphones and find that, yeah, it's fast, but that new power isn't really needed to browse the internet or surf Instagram.
That's why when Microsoft and Qualcomm announced a new line of Windows 10 ARM laptops and two-in-one's, using smartphone processors, I thought I wouldn't notice a huge day-to-day difference. My phone has been fast enough for years, so the latest smartphone processors should be more than robust enough to power most basic laptop functions.
Unfortunately, the transition isn't all that smooth.
HP Envy x2
|12.3-inch 1,920x1,280 touch display
|2.6GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Processor
|8GB 1866MHz LPDDR4x onboard
|Adreno 540 710MHz
|802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.1
|Microsoft Windows 10 S/Pro
The HP Envy x2 is 12.3-inch tablet that doubles as a laptop thanks to an included keyboard case. It runs on Windows 10S, a modified version of Windows 10 that only allows you to use programs from Microsoft's app store, although it's easy to upgrade to the full-fledged Windows 10. The hook? Thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor inside, which replaces the more traditional Intel CPUs found in most laptops, the Envy X2's battery can last up to 22 hours, at least according to HP . Plus, it has always-on LTE connectivity.
The catch? With a starting price of $999 (£999, AU$1,999), it's noticeably slower than similarly priced laptops. It can do all the tasks a regular productivity laptop can, but you'll notice more lag than you'd like. Also, note that you'll also have to pay your service provider separately for that always-on LTE connection.
Bells and whistles worth envy
The laptop's underperformance is a bummer, because there's a lot to like here.
For one, it's a snazzy-looking device. The tablet itself, while rather big at 12.3 inches, is slick, and its 1,920x1,080-pixel display is bright and beautiful. The front bezel is a deep black with just the right amount of gloss, while the sides and back are professional-but-not-boring silver.
The leathery keyboard case is similarly regal, and feels more substantial than others like it. I was pleasantly surprised by how pleasant the keyboard is to use. The trackpad, meanwhile, is far from bad, but you're going to want a mouse for long sessions. And, of course, the keyboard cover is included, while Microsoft's Surface Pro line makes you buy it separately.
It comes with HP's Digital Pen , which, equipped with a pressure-sensitive tip, mimics the feeling of pen to paper. It's nifty, as it lets you use the tablet's touchscreen without smudging it up with your finger, though it's an accessory that only auteurs will reap meaningful benefit from.
The base model comes with 128GB of storage, though there's also a configuration with double that. All models support Hello Windows, which lets you unlock the computer with your face. There's a 5-megapixel front camera, and a 13-megapixel rear shooter.
What it doesn't have, however, is ports. There's no HDMI or even traditional USB port, just USB-C -- and there's only one of them. This isn't unusual in tablet-land, but the chief concern the Envy x2 is designed to assuage is battery life, and people who need all-day battery life tend to use their laptops for productivity purposes. Those people, I would hazard to say, would be disappointed by the lack of ports.
And yes, Apple exclusively offers USB-C ports in its new MacBook Pro lines, but Apple's gonna Apple.
Big tank, small horsepower
Long battery life is wonderful, but it counts for naught if actually using the computer is a pain. It would be unfair to say that using the Envy x2 is painful, but its performance is certainly below average.
I used the laptop as an everyday device in my testing. There was nothing too complicated, no photo or video editing, just browsing, video watching and writing. Even still, the Envy x2 is noticeably slower than both my personal MacBook Pro and my work's Dell Latitude, both of which run Intel Core i5 CPUs.
There have been some egregious cases, like a specific app crashing over and over again for no reason, but I'm happy to write some of these off as bad luck. But I've in general experienced conspicuous lag when loading Facebook pages, surfing YouTube and even writing in Google Docs. It's not terrible lag, but it sure is lag.
This would be more forgivable if the Envy x2 was less expensive. It's not a rip-off, as between the premium design and build quality, Digital Pen and the quality keyboard case, it's easy to see where your $999 is going. But that doesn't make it much easier to deal with the fact that almost every similarly priced laptop is much faster.
Part of this problem is evidently the Snapdragon processor-Windows operating system combo, as we experienced similar problems with Asus' NovaGo, which uses the same processor. Windows 10 is evidently more demanding than iOS and Android (duh). It seems, so far, smartphone hardware cannot run laptop software with the efficacy that most users would expect.
Also inside is Qualcomm's Snapdragon X16 LTE modem, which means you'll get 4G cellular connectivity wherever you go. This worked as advertised in my testing, with internet speeds comparable to what you'd get from a phone. That said, this will be dependent on your particular carrier. If your carrier struggles to connect in certain areas via your phone, expect the same here.
The main event here is the battery life, and sure enough it is impressive. It lasted just under 12 hours in our video testing, making it a truly elite machine in the category. That said, it's not head-and-shoulders above the competition. Dell's exceptional new XPS 13 line lasted a few minutes longer, for instance, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro lasted around 11.5 hours.
The Envy x2's battery life is terrific, but not enough to justify the price when you consider the processing power you're sacrificing.
This disappointment is compounded with the fact that Windows 10, while an excellent operating system, isn't as useful in tablet mode as iOS and Android. That means it's not as good a tablet as an iPad Pro, nor as good a two-in-one convertible as HP's own Spectre x360.
A smartphone processor inside a Windows laptop is an interesting preposition. Just not at this price.
|HP Envy x2
|Microsoft Windows 10 S/Pro; 2.6GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile processor; 8GB 1,866MHz LPDDR4x onboard; Adreno 540 Graphics; 256GB SSD
|Asus NovaGo TP270QL
|Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.6GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile processor; 8GB 1,866MHz LPDDR4x onboard; Adreno 540 Graphics; 128GB SSD
|Microsoft Surface Pro with LTE Advanced
|Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i5-7300U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
|Acer Aspire E15-57G6
|Microsoft Windwos 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz, 2048MB Nvidia GeForce MX150; 256GB SSD
|Acer Switch 3
|Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Pentium N4200; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 505; 64GB SSD
|Apple MacBook (12-inch, 2017)
|Apple macOS 10.12.5 Sierra; 1.2GHz Intel Core m3-7Y32; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 1,536MB Intel HD Graphics 615; 256GB SSD