Review HP Envy x2 touch screen

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HP Envy x2 (11-g010nr) - Transformer style Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT tablets are quickly becoming the norm, and we have Asus to thank for popularizing the form with their Eee Pad Transformer and Transformer Prime Android tablets. HP is the most recent to market with the Envy x2, and it's the most sophisticated yet. Yes, the aluminum casing, very good keyboard and lovely IPS display come at a price, but road warriors looking for a highly portable second machine with long battery life may find it worth the price of admission.


Specs and Features at a Glance

The Envy x2 has dual band Broadcom WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC. There's a 720p front camera for video chat in apps like Skype and a surprisingly capable 8MP rear camera that can shoot 1080p video. The HP Envy x2 is sold bundled with the keyboard, and it's priced between the relatively inexpensive Acer Iconia Tab W510 and the pricey Asus VivoTab TF810C with keyboard. It's the same price as the Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T with optional keyboard dock, and it's available now online and at local retailers. The tablet has an SDXC microSD card slot and a 3.5mm audio jack but no GPS. The keyboard dock has two USB 2.0 ports, a full size HDMI port, 3.5mm audio jack and a full size SDXC card slot.


review HP Envy x2


Performance and Horsepower

This is a 1.8GHz dual core Intel Atom Z2760 Clovertrail machine with 2 gigs of DDR2 RAM and a 64 gig internal flash drive for storage. It can handle 1080p video playback and casual gaming, including 3D games in the Windows Store but forget about Warcraft or Call of Duty. The Atom is paired with PowerVR SGX545 integrated graphics licensed from Imagination Technologies, and it's an improvement over the GMA500 graphics used on older Atom machines. When playing 720p YouTube video, the Envy x2 shows 40% CPU utilization using IE 10 in desktop mode, which is pretty reasonable. Interestingly, when using the Chrome web browser to test the same video, CPU utilization is 55%, so Microsoft gets kudos for their browser performance with Adobe Flash.

HP calls the drive an SSD, and yes it is flash memory for fast response and motion-immunity, but like all current Atom and ARM-based machines, it uses the slower eMMC interface rather than the lighting fast mSATA interface used on more expensive Intel Core Ultrabooks.


Design and Ergonomics

The Envy x2 features an aluminum casing that looks great and isn't slippery like the Samsung ATIV tablets. Nor does it look a bit cheap and plasticky like the Acer W510 (which to be fair, costs less). Fit and finish are excellent with well-matched seams, smooth edges and an overall quality look befitting the Envy brand. The x2's hinge doesn't go very far back, but given the IPS display's wide viewing angles, we didn't feel a need for further backward travel. The docking mechanism uses two long magnetic metal locator tabs and a dock connector for a secure fit. There's a slide-to-release button on the keyboard deck and it's easy to insert and remove the tablet from the keyboard dock. The tablet's tapered and curved sides make it comfortable to hold and it doesn't dig into your palms. The smooth visual lines are disrupted by the rear protruding hinge/dock connector, but we'll take robust and well designed over a cleaner look. The hinge is stiff and the display doesn't bobble when you touch the screen. The tablet and dock each weigh 1.5 lbs. and thus are fairly balanced and not terribly prone to tipping over backward like the Asus transformer style tablets and the Samsung ATIV 700T where the tablet is much heavier than the battery-less plastic dock. There's one design oddity: the tablet's 3.5mm audio jack is on the bottom edge, so you'll have to unplug your headphones from the tablet and plug them into the dock should you feel a need to switch to laptop style usage.



HP Envy x2


IPS Touch Screen

The 1366 x 768 IPS display is bright, sharp and colorful. Though the resolution isn't bleeding edge, it's one of my favorite Windows 8 transformer tablet displays thanks to excellent contrast, wide viewing angles, good brightness (400 nits according to HP) and pleasing colors. It's simply sharp and easy on the eyes. TThe digitizer and pen are made by Atmel rather than the usual Wacom or N-Trig, so we're not sure what the inking experience will be like. In the meantime, handwriting fans and digital artists in the market for an Atom tablet should look elsewhere like the Samsung ATIV 500T or the Asus VivoTab TF810C that come with Wacom digital pens. The display supports 10 points of capacitive multi-touch and it will work with capacitive styli, though those are far less precise and don't support pressure sensitivity. HP's own pen, should it surface, will support greater precision and 256 levels of pressure sensitivity. The resolution works well for the 11.6" size with no teeny-tiny text in desktop mode. It's very glossy though, so glare can be annoying. HP stated that the tablet will work with a digital pen to be sold as an optional accessory, but it's not available yet.

Intel's Atom CPU: Silence and Long Battery Life at the Expense of Performance

Why consider the HP Envy x2 over the MS Surface Pro, Acer Iconia W700 or Samsung ATIV 700T running on Intel Core i5 CPUs? Beyond the excellent laptop ergonomics vs. the competition, this Envy is silent thanks to the fanless design and battery life is double (more when attached to the keyboard dock that has a second battery). Standby lasts weeks rather than hours or days and there's no need to shut it down (just put it to sleep). If your computational needs are light but you want a silent, cool and long-lived mobile tablet-laptop, then the Intel Atom has an advantage. It can handle streaming HD video, MS Office, photo editing with Photoshop, Adobe Flash and email just fine. Windows 8 Live Tile apps run quickly enough. Just don't expect it to be your HD video editing workhorse or a gaming machine--it's not. And don't expect to do heavy multi-tasking on Intel Atom CPUs with 2 gigs of RAM. Stick to simultaneously running MS Office, email and a web browser and you're fine. But Photoshop, Office, a web browser with a Flash game running; well that will slow things down. As a consolation, the tablet itself runs for 8 hours on a charge and when combined with the keyboard dock that has a second battery and you'll get 11 to 11.5 hours. Nice!

Battery Life

As mentioned, the HP Envy x2 runs a long time on a charge compared to Intel Core i5 and i7 Windows 8 convertibles that so far have mediocre battery life, and even Windows 7 Ultrabooks that have good battery life. The tablet itself averaged 8 hours on a charge with brightness set to 50% (that's fairly bright thanks to the bright display), WiFi on and active in a mix of tasks including MS Office 2013, email running in the background, social networking, an hour of music playback and 45 minutes of video playback. You can plug the included very small notebook style charger into the keyboard dock to charge both tablet and keyboard, or you can plug them in separately if you wish (the charger plugs into the dock connector on the tablet). The keyboard dock has a second battery (the battery icon in the taskbar under the desktop shows charge level for each) and we averaged 11.5 hours of use when docked. The Envy x2 so far has used the dock battery first to conserve charge in the tablet.

Conclusion

The materials and build quality are the best we've seen so far in an Intel Atom Windows 8 ultraportable, and when docked it's the only transformer that looks and feels like a laptop rather than a tablet with a keyboard accessory. The tablet is a pleasure to use by itself since it's reasonably light, has an excellent IPS display and good performance with Windows 8 Live Tile apps and MS Office. Battery life is a dream and we've found it more stable than other Atom Windows 8 tablets. Is it worth $850 for a machine with a somewhat improved version of a netbook CPU? If you need an ultraportable on the road for light Office tasks and multimedia fun that lasts forever on a charge and is silent and cool, then yes. And of course it transforms into a tablet, making it versatile. We like that it runs full Windows 8 so we can install Windows 7 apps and USB device drivers just as we would with a regular notebook, but keep in mind this isn't a computing powerhouse and it's not meant to be your primary computer unless your needs are modest to moderate.


Specification HP Envy x2 touch screen


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List Price: $849 (includes keyboard dock, tablet not sold separately)
Website: www.hp.com
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Specs:

  1. Display: 11.6", 1366 x 768 IPS display (400 nits brightness, 10 points of capacitive multi-touch). PowerVR SGX545 graphics. Full size HDMI port on keyboard dock. Optional digital pen (not available as of this review). Has accelerometer, ambient light sensor and gyroscope.
  2. Size: 11.93 x 8.12 x 0.66-0.76 inches. Weight: 3.06 pounds for tablet and keyboard together, tablet alone weighs 1.5 pounds.
  3. Camera: 1.3MP front webcam and rear 8 meagpixel camera with LED flash on rear that can shoot 1080p video.
  4. Audio: Built-in stereo speakers with Beats Audio, dual array mics on tablet and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack on both tablet and keyboard dock.
  5. Networking: Integrated Broadcomm dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC.
  6. Software: Windows 8 32 bit.
  7. Battery: 2 cell 25 WHr Lithium Ion rechargeable battery in tablet and additional 2 cell, 21 WHr battery in keyboard dock. 20 watt compact laptop style charger included.
  8. Performance: 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760 dual core CPU with 2 gigs of LPDDR2 533MHz RAM (2 gigs is max RAM). 64 gig eMMC flash drive soldered to motherboard.
  9. Expansion and Ports: 1 microSD card slot on tablet and full size SD card slot on dock (both SDXC). 2 USB 2.0 ports on keyboard dock, full size HDMI on keyboard dock, 3.5mm combo audio jack on both tablet and doc.

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