Don’t Believe the Hybrid Hype: $750 Windows 8 Netbooks Not Worth It

Windows 8 hardware sales are off to a slow start as shoppers scratch their heads over Microsoft’s new operating system and flock to low-cost tablets instead. Could a souped-up netbook save the day? The latest hybrids powered by Intel Atom processors promise the best of both worlds: the versatility of a laptop combined with the portability of a touch screen slate. But now that we’ve tested a couple of these detachables, I’ve concluded that the folks who price these things are detached from reality. 

It’s important to understand why Atom-powered tablet-notebooks potentially represent the just-right porridge of the Windows 8 hybrid world. Unlike $499-to-$599 ARM-powered Windows RT devices like the Microsoft Surface, Windows 8 systems with Atom inside can run both traditional desktop applications and apps downloaded from the Windows Store. And while Intel Core-powered Ultrabook convertibles such as the Dell XPS 12 and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga are faster, they cost anywhere from $999 to $1,199.

Windows 8 detachables, such as the Acer Iconia W510 ($749), Samsung Ativ Smart PC 500T ($749) and HP Envy x2 ($849), sit between the two above categories in terms of price and power. These versatile combos sport designs that make it fairly easy to switch from tablet to laptop mode and Intel’s Atom Z2760 processor. This CPU was designed to deliver long battery life (as much as 10 hours of local HD video playback), along with three weeks of connected standby time.

Because these detachables’ keyboard docks have their own built-in batteries, users can enjoy epic endurance in laptop mode. The 11-inch HP Envy x2, for instance, lasted nearly 12 hours on a charge on the LAPTOP Battery Test. The smaller W510 (10 inches) lasted an even longer 15:09 with its dock.

The staying power isn’t as impressive in tablet mode. The Iconia W510 lasted 8 hours and 49 minutes, which is better than the ARM-powered Surface RT (7:43) and Vivo Tab (6:33) but still 3.5 hours behind the fourth-generation iPad. The larger Envy x2 lasted a fairly short 6:52, about an hour less than the average tablet.

Unfortunately, Atom-powered Windows 8 hybrids are just too slow to justify the premium. On PCMark 07, for instance, the W510 scored 1,305. A $549 11-inch ultraportable laptop such as the Acer Aspire V5-171, which sports a Core i5 CPU, notched 2,427 on the same test. That’s 85 percent faster for $200 less.

Atom-powered detachables also trail their Core-powered cousins in real-world performance tests. On our Spreadsheet test (matching 20,000 names to their addresses), the W510 took 29 minutes and 56 seconds and the Envy x2 29:45. That’s five times as long as the cheaper Aspire V5 notebook (5:48). Thinking about editing video? The HP Envy x2 took nearly 6 minutes to transcode a 5-minute HD video to iPod touch format. For those scoring at home, that’s slower than real time. The average ultraportable laptop takes 1:08.

These Atom-powered convertibles are also saddled with slow flash memory. While both the Acer and HP booted Windows 8 within 20 seconds, they took their sweet time on our file transfer test. The average ultraportable laptop offers a transfer rate of 77 MBps, compared with a measly 22 MBps for the Envy x2 and 10.8 MBps for the W510.

Here’s another example of how Atom-enabled hybrids will keep you waiting. It took the W510 8 seconds to open a 50MB PowerPoint presentation, versus 2 seconds for the Iconia W700 with its Core i5 CPU and 128GB SSD. At least the W510 beat the ARM-powered Surface’s 13 seconds.

Keep in mind that you’re getting half as much storage as comparably priced Ultrabooks. The W510, Envy x2 and Samsung Ativ Smart PC 500T all come with just 64GB of flash memory. That’s fairly good for a tablet but not for a notebook that’s priced in the $749 to $849 range. You can get a full-fledged Ultrabook like the Toshiba Portege Z935, which features a fast Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, for $799. By the way, the Toshiba weighs 2.4 pounds, compared with 3.1 pounds for the Envy x2, though only the latter has a touch screen.

As a notebook, the Acer W510 suffers from a cramped keyboard (about what we’d expect from a 10-incher), but even the 11-inch HP x2 fell flat in terms of feedback and comfort. We hope the Samsung Ativ, which also includes a pen for input, is better.

How good are these hybrids as tablets? Well, the 11-inchers not only are larger than the iPad but are heavier at 1.5 to 1.66 pounds, making them a bit awkward to hold for extended periods. The 10-inch W510, on the other hand, is lighter than the iPad at 1.2 pounds. No matter which size you choose, though, you’ll be disappointed in the shallow selection of apps in the Windows Store.

As a concept, Atom-powered Windows 8 hybrids have potential, but they ultimately don’t deliver the best notebook or tablet experience. I wouldn’t say they represent the worst of both worlds, but I certainly wouldn’t charge as much as $850. It’s just too close to Ultrabook territory when you’re not getting anywhere near that kind of performance. A $650 price tag would seem much more reasonable. Windows 8 device makers will lose more on each hybrid sold, but they’ll be able to manage expectations while Microsoft and its partners continue to fill the Windows Store with more apps.

Editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark’s SpoonFed column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can also follow him on Twitter. 

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  1. davidm Says:

    wow, what an absolute moron.

    calling these slow because they get a score on some benchmarking software of half of a core i5? that isn’t slow for a tablet. In fact this smokes any arm based tablet out there,and with battery life around 9 hours. only an idiot can turn this information into negative.

    I know whats really going on. you probably have one of those crappy android or ipads that run crippled mobile software,you know, like webpages that are made into an app,or some cheesy photo editing software that lets you add effects to your pictures. you’ve already got your cute cheerleader outfit on,and now that something superior has come out, you feel like such a doofus that you’ve bought every single ipad, twice. LOL.

    go back and play your angry turds,and leave real mobile computing to people who are not some pathetic corporate cheerleaders.

  2. Bryan Says:

    This review is ridiculous. You’re claiming these machines aren’t good because they’re slower and less powerful than Windows 8 laptops and more expensive or heavier than tablets. Of course, because THEY’RE HYBRIDS! The point is that you get one machine that can function both as a laptop and as a tablet. It may not be as fast as a “pure” laptop or as cheap and light as a pure tablet, but it does both in one device!

    A tablet that can dock up with a keyboard and mouse, and also has access to the largest app ecosystem in the world? That’s definitely a machine I would consider buying.

  3. Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    I pointed out that you get access to all desktop apps, which is a plus. But how much of a benefit is that if the performance is so far behind Ultrabooks in the same price range? How much functionality and speed are you willing to sacrifice to get both devices in one? That’s the challenge facing these pricey hybrids.

  4. Phil T Says:

    People seem to disagree with this article, but I have no idea what they are thinking. If someone needs a tablet for apps then buy a $200 Nexus 7 and if they need a tablet with a keyboard then get a convertible like the Lenovo Yoga or just buy a bluetooth keyboard for your tablet. For $850 you get a1.8-GHz Intel Atom Z2760 CPU, 2GB of RAM and 64GB of memory??? This is just illogical.

  5. John Says:

    The $499 Asus Vivotab Smart comes with the same Atom processor and 64 gigs of storage, which makes it an excellent deal in my opinion. Also, these Atom powered slates really shouldn’t be compared to Ultrabooks as they’re meant to be more of secondary pcs, much like tablets, although the recent crop of these slates are asking for a bit too much, admittedly. That’s why the $499 vivotab is definitely one to look out for, a windows powered slate with the same size and asking price of an Ipad or android tablet is a +1 in my book.

  6. jameson Says:

    Your article really didn’t have a conclusion

  7. tahyk Says:

    This review misses the main point: A Clovertrail tablet can replace your laptop AND your tablet. You can buy an $550 laptop and a $200 tablet and you are at the same price. You can argue that those two are better than this one in some scenarios. (I think in those scenarios you are better off with a desktop PC and a TV anyways.) So I disagree, while you don’t have to carry two device to start with. Also, Android-Windows interoperability is not that great, while it is no issue for a single Atom tablet by definition.
    I hope it can soon repalce my phone too with VoLTE and a BT headset, and it will well worth $1k, while I would pay a whole lot more for a smartphone-tablet-laptop trio.

    And the lack of apps in the Win8 store does matter for a WinRT tablet, but not for a real Win8 tablet.

  8. Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    Good point, tahyk. There is a convenience in having two devices in one. However, are you willing to pay $850 for a device that has the power of a secondary computing device? These hybrids are priced as if they’re primary PCs.

  9. Chris Says:

    This can be the savior for windows 8.win8 was built for’s just micro’ couldn’t’t see that.They made win8 a laptop-tablet os but they’re pushing mediocre device or google can’t compete with microsoft in the hybrid should release a premium hybrid.That’ll just save windows8

  10. Anthony Says:

    I purchased both the Acer W510 and HP Envy X2 as Christmas gifts for family members and I think this article is typical Apple slanted article meant to mislead readers.

    Obviously Atom processors are slower than full laptop processors. But my family members do not process spreadsheets with 20,000 names nor do they encode video on their tablets. The obvious question is why is the author comparing tablets against laptops instead of against the iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook, Surface, etc. He puts in a throwaway line about app selection. Well these are full Windows 8 tablets that run millions of Windows programs and are compatible with millions of Windows hardware peripherals; they also have expandable memory via both SD and microSD slots. And for that reason these devices are worth more than an iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook, Surface. They also get much better battery than any ultrabook.

    Nobody claimed these tablets were meant to be full desktop replacements, but for casual users (99% of PC/tablet users) who mostly browse the web, print documents, play casual games, listen to music, watch videos, do some word processing, social networking, etc. these devices are extremely speedy. These are not the netbooks of yesterday. I’m typing this comment on the W510 in the Metro IE browser. Why do I need to have a Core i5 to do activities like this? YouTube is about the hardest thing that ever gets thrown at this device and it handles HD video just fine.

    The article mentions you could get a crummy laptop with better performance for less money but NO TOUCH screen and less than half the battery life. Huh??! Well then that eliminates most of what is valuable about having a tablet. And there are almost 30,000 apps in the Windows Store after just a few months so the store has been a huge success. Those tablet apps are of much less value on a crappy laptop without a touch screen.

    There is a huge gulf in between people who can live off of an iPad and people who need a laptop for gaming and video encoding. The iPad too limited in functionality, ports, expandable memory, hardware/device compatibility. The laptop overpowered, too big, no touch screen, and usually too expensive. These devices serve the people in the middle which is MOST people.

  11. Anthony Says:

    Oh and how come this article doesn’t mention that the Atom processor blows away the performance of ARM processors for the same price? The Acer W510 is only $499 for the 32GB tablet at the Microsoft Store. In the Metro interface these hybrids are screaming fast and fluid. Boot times and wake times are nearly instantaneous.

    Dumb article, just really slanted and salacious, meant to garner clicks rather than deliver a cogent point. It ignores the reality that most consumers do not need a laptop, want a light touch screen device with more functionality than an iPad/Kindle/Surface.

  12. John Says:

    So it takes 6 seconds more to open a PowerPoint presentation on the Acer W510? How many seconds does it take on the iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook?

    Reality check.

  13. meengla yip Says:

    This blog cherry picks and is not very convincing. I have owned the Acer W510 for nearly a month now and here are my thoughts:
    1) The W510 can be had for only $399 shipped from Microcenter to most states without paying any taxes–so that Atom tablet is not some $750+ as the author tries to stress.
    2) The W510 is lighter than iPAD; the app count is low but then tell me when iPad’s browser can run Java, Flash, custom ActiveX controls in the browsers. Now, Windows RT is crippled, I’d concede that.
    3) Again, let’s consider W510′s four different form factors. Is there ANY device out there which has these form factors and yet provides a very light 10″ tablet?
    4) W510 can’t be my main computer; the horse power is not there; the screen res is too low. But I don’t foresee myself crunching 20,000 Excel sheet calculations on this device. If I need to do serious work then I can go to my workstation and get it done there or Remote Desktop to it without installing any ‘apps’.
    5) The author thinks that W510′s battery life is lower than iPad’s. Yes, only slightly lower in the tablet mode but then W510 has 10″ screen too. Also, the so-called high price of W510 is because of the keyboard dock which doubles the battery life to much more than iPad’s battery life. This should have been pointed out by the author in a post which is complaining about the high price of Atom based tablets.

  14. Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    Anthony, if what your family members are just looking for is mostly “browse the web, print documents, play casual games, listen to music, watch videos, do some word processing, social networking, etc.” why would you spend $850?

  15. Ben Says:

    I completely agree. I was considering an HP Envy X2 for $850. It has a sleek design and peripheral upgrades like Beats Audio and NFC. But I decided that the Dell XPS 12 offered much better value with a full HD 400-nit touchscreen, Core i5, and 128G SSD for $1200.

    You pay a premium for the tablet quality touchscreen in both cases. But a souped up netbook with a touchscreen shouldn’t cost more than $600.

  16. Trent Says:

    Thats the cost of portability, of course its not going to be as powerful as an i5 processor, but its still going to be a hell of a lot more powerful than an ipad

    Sometimes a bit of common sense would help before writing articles such as this

  17. meengla yip Says:

    Please quit saying $850 constantly to hype your point: This is not an Apple eco system we are talking about where you are limited to a few crippled high priced devices. As I mentioned, you could get a 32GB Acer W510 for $400 which would give you a tablet lighter than an IPAD while still allowing access to millions of Windows applications and a growing number of efficient Metro applications. Also, the Metro has enough apps to satisfy the needs of most casual users: Music, games, Kindle, web browsing, while at the same time, if need be, run millions of Windows applications. I’d rather have full versions of Office, Visual Studio, Photoshop, even if slower, to get work done then to have some ‘apps’ which are crippled, often expensive.
    Your article has really compared apples to oranges, cherry picked good and bad about devices, ignored strengths of Atom devices while hyping up Apple’s devices. I don’t think you are fair in this article.
    Freedom from the closed platforms like Apple’s is a wonderful feeling to have. Even my Google Nexus 7 is crippled (no Flash, Java) compared with my Acer W510. When I am out with the W510, I don’t have to worry about any ‘apps’ or battery life all day.

  18. Stan Says:

    On the other hand, I think you’re missing the targeted audience entirely.

    I bought an Envy x2 for about $800 with educational pricing. The only available 64GB iPad costs $700 new. The Nexus 10 is $500 for half the storage, so factor in at least $30 to bring it up to par in terms of free space.

    I need a few specific things out of a notebook. It’s got to be able to run Office or an equivalent. It’s got to be able to run a few pieces of mission-critical software. It’s got to be portable and have great battery life.

    An iPad can’t do it. It can’t run the x86 or OS X software I need, and the productivity apps are…clunky…at best unless you have an external keyboard. Ditto for the Nexus. A Core ultrabook can do it, but there goes the battery life.

    An Atom SoC satisfies all of those requirements and close to the price of an iPad, and it keeps me from buying and carrying two purpose-specific devices. For $100 over the iPad, I’ve got a full-sized dockable QWERTY, expansion options, a multitouch trackpad(!), and a very nice touch experience. That can run Photoshop if necessary.

    I know it’s cool to poop all over the new Atom architecture, but it’s also worth noting that the majority of users probably have requirements much more like mine. Atom can do it in a low power, low heat way.

  19. timbi Says:

    just shows how much the tech co’s are trying to create a “premium” product when in fact its over-priced crap.

  20. Vakeros Says:

    A confused review, mixing up the worst of the tablets when only comparing one of them and talking about the Windows store when these devices can run any programs and not just those in the Windows store. In addition the W510 is cheaper and lighter than the iPad 4.

  21. Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    I note the benefit of being able to run both desktop and Windows Store apps. But to get the most out of desktop apps you would need to spring for the keyboard. Is that versatility worth $750 to you?

  22. Stan Says:

    “However, are you willing to pay $850 for a device that has the power of a secondary computing device? These hybrids are priced as if they’re primary PCs.”

    Or they’re priced as high-end tablets that can do PC-level work. They’re in the same ballpark as high-end iPads, and they can run almost every piece of Windows legacy software out there.

    These aren’t RT devices. These are notebooks AND tablets. Obviously that’s worth something to several people, so why keep repeating that point? I think a much better point would be why pay for a high-end tablet when you can get a hybrid. Don’t be such a shill.

  23. Mark Says:

    I was on Win 7 for about a year – moved to Win 8 and using the Surface. Having used the ipad i actually think Win 8 is pretty awesome barring some tiny annoyances. haven’t used it on a desktop yet but can imagine and believe the hype – win 8 is all about mobiles and tablets not really desktops….

  24. Daniel Says:

    Usability is more important to people that benchmark scores. When you actually use these devices to do the things you want, you find they more than adequate. Don’t worry about what the benchmarks say, if it does what YOU want and feels great to YOU, then it’s the right device for YOU.

  25. Martyn Hare Says:

    “I note the benefit of being able to run both desktop and Windows Store apps. But to get the most out of desktop apps you would need to spring for the keyboard. Is that versatility worth $750 to you?”

    Yes it is. a £500 laptop with double battery life that can also run as a tablet is worth it if it can run apps from now to the beginning of the x86 PC (yes, Windows 8 still runs DOS apps). If Microsoft makes Windows 8 into horrible BS, one could even wipe the OS and replace it with Ubuntu, RHEL or Fedora.

    Also, unlike the iPad, these tablets all have a longer support lifespan (Windows 8 is supported till 2023) and can theoretically get upgraded to Windows 9 or 10 if/when they are released.

  26. Ellie Says:

    Mark Spoonauer,

    Normally, I would leave inflammatory articles like yours alone. So a hybrid doesn’t work for you, I get it. You can keep that opinion for all I care. However, you seem to be genuinely trying to find a valid counter-point for why someone would spend so much for something that isn’t stellar at anything. You certainly commented on your own article enough to make me think that. Therefore, I would like to point out a perspective that hasn’t come up yet. Yes, this is only one scenario that hybrids meet a need for, but it is still valid. Perhaps it will help you understand what the others’ comments try to get at. (Be warned: this is going to be lengthy.)

    Ever since I was a kid (well before the dawn of tablets), I have dreamt about having a computer that acted exactly like a dockable tablet with a good stylus. (Yes, I was, and still am very nerdy. But who here isn’t?) I had first imagined that my whole elementary desk surface was a computer screen, but I eventually decided I wanted something the size of a normal piece of paper as I saw how laptops were progressing. Essentially, I wanted a piece of paper with all of the capabilities of a computer. It could function as your textbook, your notebook, and you could take it home and write all of those menial essays with a dockable keyboard.

    This is exactly what hybrids accomplish, and they are perfect for my current needs. Due to the nature of my school, a laptop in class is highly frowned upon by professors and students alike. My classes are conversation-based, and a laptop puts a barrier between you and who you’re speaking to, which is just rude. A tablet, however, is not a barrier because it doesn’t act as a partition. It unobtrusively lays flat on the table. Also, I get a lot of PDF’s from my professors, which are usually 20-30 pages each time, and printing them out gets really expensive. We’re also encouraged to mark up our notes, and a laptop can’t do that in a feasible way (especially since I can’t bring it to class). However, a tablet with an active digitizer can, and I can save all of that ink and paper that inevitably clutter my teeny dorm room. Also, all of those packets have to be touted to and from class, and they get to be heavier than my textbooks. I don’t want to print hundreds of pages of paper, but it is my best option right now. Also, as a science major, my notes mainly involve equations, which don’t work well with a keyboard AT ALL. If you’ve ever had to type a partial derivative on a keyboard, you know exactly what I mean. But with a tablet and stylus, I can take notes like how would normally would in a notebook, and with OneNote, I can have SEARCHABLE NOTES!!! :D This way, I don’t have to figure out where in my thousands of pages of notes I wrote down something I need to know (especially when I have to look up some obscure Calculus thing from years ago). Plus, it doesn’t get dusty and fade over time. I can keep my notes forever, and I’ll need them in my chosen profession. On the entertainment side, I rarely ever use a keyboard. A tablet suits me perfectly because all I do for fun on a computer is occasionally watch Netflix and browse websites. (I don’t get much free time.) So why don’t I just get a “normal tablet” with an active digitizer and be done with it, if my laptop is so useless? I have 10-20 page essays to write. I still need a real keyboard, even though most of the time it gets in my way. I want one thing that can handle my needs perfectly, and a hybrid is it. As my narrative has shown, I don’t need massive computing power. I want to be able to take notes, view PDF’s, write essays, and stream Netflix.

    Are hybrids overpriced right now? Yes. Is that one perfect dockable tablet with a stylus out there for me? Kind of. A digitizer limits my options significantly, and I haven’t found one with the “perfect” specs yet. (I came really close with the Asus Transformer Book, but they left off the digitizer, which is the whole point of the hybrid for me.) If I did find my dream hybrid (within reason) and it was overpriced, would I still get it? Absolutely. I’ve been wanting this long before the technology existed.

    TL;DR: Hybrids (with digitizers) are perfect for college students because they can take notes with advantages never seen before (handwritten AND searchable AND can be saved forever without getting dusty and faded AND the tablet is not bulky like in the early 2000’s. The no compromise part is why it’s never seen before.). They can treat ebook textbooks exactly like paper textbooks, but without the spine-crushing weight. They can write essays, and then take off the keyboard when it gets in the way. They can highlight PDF’s and bring them to class without printing them out, which turns into spine-crushing weight quickly.

    Combined, reasons like these are why someone would spend so much on something with such mediocre performance. It’s the form factor that counts in this case, not the insides. Unlike something like the amount of memory or a variation of processor chip, form factor is something you can’t compromise on.

    And this form factor is not just a gimmick. It has the potential to revolutionize education in a way that the laptop couldn’t quite do.

    I will leave you with one last thought about the hybrid “fad.” If laptops are so perfect in their pure state, as you seem to imply in your article towards the end, why do we as a society still depend so much on paper and pencil?

  27. TGM Says:

    Well I for one don’t need more than my ASUS transformer, at half the price can do everything the Win tablets can do. And the app replacements aren’t expensive either, with a complete ecosystem. Why should I use Windows?

  28. netscorer Says:

    Atom-based convertibles at current prices are absolute BS. There are too many compromises in both tablet and PC usage. Even at $499 they will not find mass market. If anyone thinks that they can use Atom-based computer as a regular PC – keep dreaming. The thing stutters every couple of minutes, it can’t take any reasonable amount of multitasking, many everyday tasks, such as unzipping, photo/video editing, light gaming will only drive you mad as this thing completely stops in its tracks when asked for any native multi-threading app.
    As a tablet it’s too heavy, too low-res display, Windows 8 is a ghost store and whatever apps are available are overpriced compared to competition.
    In addition you would have to make sacrifices everywhere: bad cramped keyboard, bottlenecked Wi-Fi cards, cheapest speakers on this face of the Earth, compromised performance for both RAM and storage, the list goes on.

    It fails as a PC, it fails as a tablet and it would only make sense as a hybrid at budget prices, which they are not and never will be due to Wintel which charges premiums for both Windows 8 license and Atom CPUs.

  29. Paruhang Chamling Says:

    I think this article is basically for troll baiting… write some very opinionated bs and expect people to share for ridiculousness and comment a disagreement. Comparing hybrids to laptops? Really? How about comparing them with ARM based tablets? Many people own a laptop just for preparing a lousy presentation once in a while which you can’t do in a tablet. And then you get comparable battery life, much better performance and full fledged OS if you need it. How about that instead of iPad+keyboard for comparable price?

  30. Brad Says:

    I’ve just read through the comments and nearly everyone agrees that this article was inflammatory and did not offer reasonable discussion. I’m irritated that Mark, the author, keeps responding to the comments with the rhetorical question, “Would you pay $800 for that?”. Obviously many people believe that $800 is reasonable for these devices, so why keep asking this question? Why not devote some energy to try to understand these consumers, rather than trash a really fabulous new range of devices?

    The critical mistake Mark makes is to make hasty comparisons of Atom-powered hybrid devices to ultrabooks. Instead, I suggest it is more fruitful to compare them to tablets, since that is the market they are primarily aimed at.

    As I see it, there are 5 broad options in tablet-style computing. From lowest to highest price, these are:

    1. Budget priced Androids like the Nexus 7.
    2. Higher-end Android devices (like Samsung Galaxy 10.1) and low-end iPads.
    3. High-end iPads (with cellular connections and high storage capacity)
    4. Hybrd tablets with Atom processors, like the ones in this article.
    5. Hybrid tablets with i5 processors, like the Microsoft Surface Pro.

    I think #1 is absolutely the best option for basic media consumption (i.e. for people who want a dead-simple device that doesn’t cost much, and that you just pick up when you want to browse the internet or watch a movie). #2 provides more processing power and various other features, but still limits the user to a tablet operating system.

    I’ll admit my bias: #3 is a bad option. It’s just too darned expensive. (Where is the review article comparing iPads to ultrabooks, Mark?)

    That brings us to the hybrid tablets. With both #4 and #5 you get FULL WINDOWS 8. Android and iPad apps are dreadful compared to the functionality that comes with a “real” computer. Am I willing to pay a premium for that? Yes, of course. Who wouldn’t? The question is whether a consumer interested in a Windows 8 tablet should go for #4 or #5. As I see it, both of these make compromises in order to squeeze a tablet and a laptop into a single device. #4 opts for a richer tablet experience (lighter, cooler to the touch, longer battery life, lower cost), while #5 gives stronger laptop performance (i.e. comparable to an ultrabook) but does not do as well in the tablet form factor.

    When looking at things in this more balanced way, I don’t see why anyone would automatically dismiss Atom hybrid tablets. They are the second best in overall features, and (surprise surprise) the second most expensive. I think it’s wonderful that tablets have reached a stage of development in which there are options for every price point and every purpose. We can finally buy the device that is right for us.

    One thing is certain: I won’t be reading visiting this blog again.

  31. Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    Thanks for your comments. If the value proposition of devices like the x2 is so strong why has the price dropped by $150 in a few months? You can now get one version for just $599. That’s a much better deal but it tells you most consumers thought the original price was too high as well.

  32. nolegrl Says:


    I just purchased the Envy x2 for $600 at Office Depot. While I agree that the initial price was too high. I have no problems paying that reduced price for this machine. I have a Toshiba Thrive tablet (which has all the ports), but the OS and web browsing experience was crippled by Android. This machine is perfect. It has the battery life of the Thrive, with the OS and web browsing experience of my laptop. I don’t need more processing power if I’m just browsing the web. Anything more intensive, and I can just switch/remote-in to my i-core laptop.

    I bought this machine for the computer features with a tablet-like battery life. Show me an Ultrabook that can last 10+ hours.

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1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1920x1080 1920x1200 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
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