HP hasn’t been as active in tablets as it has previously been with laptops, but we might be looking at a paradigm shift, with the company’s first tablet that combines the smarts of hybrid design with the power and battery life seen in Windows 8 machines. Is this the Windows tablet you’ve been waiting for, and can it bring HP back to life?
The first Windows 8 tablet to try and appeal to consumers in the face of all of those Apple devices, the Envy X2 is a hybrid machine that brings with it a familiar internal design with a look designed to stay fresh.
First off there’s the screen, which runs a familiar 11.6 inch size and a 1366×768 HD display, which sits inside the tablet section. Being a tablet, this is, understandably, a multi-touch display, though you can also use a keyboard with it, which comes in the form of an external tablet dock with extra battery.
The computer is inside the tablet section, in a design reminiscent to other Atom-based tablets, and HP is reusing components we see on other tablets like this one, including an Intel Atom Z2760 processor clocked at 1.8GHz and running alongside 2GB RAM.
Only 64GB of storage can be found in here, though this can be upgraded through a microSD slot found on the underside of tablet section, or through a full-size SD slot on the right side of the keyboard dock.
Wireless connections are all pretty typical, with 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth both present, while wired connections exist through two USB 2.0 ports and an HDMI on the docking section.
Like many tablets, there is a camera here, with an 8 megapixel rear camera found on the tablet section, while the front-facing camera is a 1080p module for those selfies and video conferences you might plan to have.
There’s a little bit of extra functionality here, and thanks to that HP connection with Beats Audio, you’ll find Beats enhanced speakers and audio playback over the 3.5mm headset jack, of which there are two: one in the tablet and one in the keyboard section, depending on what’s plugged in at the time.
HP’s previous efforts to come up with the perfect tablet haven’t been the massive success it hoped for, but the Envy X2 tries to re-establish itself as a device that combines the style previously associated with products in the “Envy” series, while also making a more than capable hybrid tablet computer.
Aesthetically, it’s a very different machine from what we’ve seen in others purporting to be like this. HP has designed this to look more like one of its premium laptops, with a brushed aluminium design that’s noticeable from both the look and feel.
The brushed aluminium tablet section is very slick, although we’re not exactly enamoured with the power and volume buttons being positioned on the back.
Still, this is a sexy design with great build quality, and like other hybrid tablets, the tablet section can be locked into place inside a keyboard section with an extra battery inside. It’s also one very well weighted slate, and while it not far off the Apple iPad, by itself, it’s one of the only non-Apple tablets that feels just as good in the hands.
The 11.6 inch screen on offer looks great from all angles, and is perfectly suited for being a tablet, though it is very glossy. In fact, this is so glossy that practically any light on it shows up, and we could even see the reflection of our fingers typing this review.
Understandably, the keyboard in this section is a tad shallow here, hardly surprising given how thin the Envy X2 is. There didn’t appear to be much flex here, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable typing experience at all. We did lose a few characters, and even gained some extra spaces here and there, but overall, it’s a perfectly acceptable keyboard.
The trackpad scores points, however, for being one of the only ones we’ve used in a hybrid laptop to support Windows 8’s gestures, such as swiping from the left to change apps, swiping from the right to pull up the Start button, or swiping down from the top to get program options.
The brushed aluminium is certainly noticeable on the trackpad, though, so if you’re not used to feeling microscopic ridges run under your fingers as you move the mouse, you’ll have to get used to them here.
Performance here is about the same as other hybrid laptops we’ve checked out in the past few months, with HP employing the same chip used in those machines.
At work here is the 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Atom Z2760, which is enough to let you browse the web, run a few apps, get some work done, and play the odd casual game, but this isn’t a high-grade Intel Core processor, so don’t expect to be a Photoshop king or big gamer with this set of components.
Reviving the computer from standby is pretty much instantaneous, which is excellent, because it makes the computer ready to go when you are.
Storage is a little limited inside the Envy X2, though, with the typical 64GB solid-state storage, though that is trimmed to 31GB when all is said and done, as HP also includes a recovery drive in case anything happens and you need to restart from scratch.
There is a microSD slot at the bottom of the tablet section, and even an SD card slot in the keyboard dock, so most of the memory formats are here when you want to upgrade the storage.
On the plus side, the battery is just as strong as we’re used to in other Intel Atom-based Windows 8 tablets, with our experience showing us around 15 hours on WiFi doing work writing and web surfing. Detach the dock and run it in tablet mode and you’ll find substantially less, but if you use this machine like a laptop, it will survive an overseas trip.
The negatives, however, come from elements in the design.
While we’re fans of the brushed metal and durability, the metal clip that keeps the tablet in place when it’s docked might be seen as too tight, and can be really hard to push and release.
There are also two 3.5mm headset jacks here – one on the tablet bottom and one on the keyboard dock section – which makes it a little strange if you’re listening to music and you decide you need to dock the tablet half way through a track or an album. You will need to unplug from one – which disappears once the slate section is docked – and plug into the other, and it seems a little excessive when there only needed to be one headphone socket in total.
If you’re listening over the speakers, nothing changes when you dock, since the speakers are in the tablet section, but we still find it a little odd that HP feels the need to have two headphone ports, with only one usable at any time.
Like some of the other hybrid tablets, there’s also the problem of dock design, and that is if you’re using the tablet without the dock, you’ll need to put the dock somewhere, because it comes in two separate parts.
No USB 3.0 ports is a little surprising, especially since this is a Windows 8 machine, which means you’ll be limited to USB 2.0 speeds until you upgrade to the next model.
One last thing: the hinge raises the laptop up, offering your keyboard at an angle. While this didn’t bother us, there are some people who might prefer a flatter laptop experience who might be a little bugged by this.
For the first Windows 8 tablet effort from HP, the Envy X2 manages to score some real positives, with an excellent design, some great performance, and a real return to a quality computing experience from the company.
The price might be seen as a touch too high, and $999 is a lot of money for what is essentially the same – outside of the design – as every other Atom-based Windows 8 hybrid.
Still, the Envy X2 looks good, feels good, and handles quite well, making it a great option for people interested in a smaller Windows computer with the touchscreen thrown in. Recommended.