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HP, finally, has a good answer to the iPad

Hewlett-Packard has come up with slick design that -- perish the thought -- could give the iPad a jolt.

HP Envy x2.
HP Envy x2.

Could Hewlett-Packard trump the iPad?

With Windows 8 general release due on October 26, it's a good opportunity to take a look at the competition coming down the pike.

In this case, from Apple's Silicon Valley neighbor, HP.

It took way too long -- Apple announced the iPad in 2010 -- but HP now has a real iPad alternative -- the Envy x2.

Or, put another way, should I think about swapping my iPad for the x2?

Personal musings aside, HP has a different design philosophy from Apple -- so it's not simply a question (for me at least) of which device is better spec for spec.

For example, the iPad's 9.7-inch Retina 2,048-by-1,536-pixel display is the clear winner in raw specs and image quality. But HP's 11.6-inch IPS 1,366x768 display (no display quality slouch, according to CNET Reviews) has been conceived as more than just a pretty touch display.

The x2's screen is an integral part of an organic whole: designed to be a laptop when that's needed and standalone tablet when that's called for.

And it's clear HP wanted to make sure the mechanism (see video below) for docking and undocking the display would pass muster with fastidious corporate customers as well as finicky consumers. In other words, it's not a third-party dock: the docking connectors (including magnets) are built into the screen.

And the keyboard dock also packs an extra battery to extend battery life.

HP also appears to have made sure it's well-made. No flimsy plastic screen bezels here.

Inside the device -- i.e., the electronics embedded behind the screen -- is an Intel Clover Trail system-on-a-chip, which runs Windows 8 just fine, according to early reviews.

No, it's not an iPad and it doesn't run iOS 6. But as great as that technology is, HP appears to have come up with a cool, practical device that does more than the iPad.

Of course, HP needs to consistently deliver a high-quality, finished product that doesn't suffer from the quality control problems the company has had in the past.

And apps are everything for a lot of people so Microsoft will need to make sure its has all of the latest core apps. That said, remember, the x2 uses an Intel chip and therefore will be able to run the millions of existing Windows applications out there.

That's a good start.