Like most Windows 8 hybrids, the Envy x2 has two personalities, but HP designed this device to be a laptop first and a tablet second. That’s why the company spent so much time on the magnetic hinge design–to make it simple to dock the 11-inch slate when you want to use the keyboard. The x2 promises long battery life, too, thanks to its low-power Intel Clover Trail CPU, and it comes with NFC capability. But does this convertible have what it take to win over the masses? Here’s our hands-on impressions.
The x2 sports a sturdy and sleek aluminum design that feels light in tablet mode at 1.5 pounds. The slate alone measures a very trim .33 inches thick. In laptop mode the x2 weighs a still very portable 3.1 pounds.
We like that when you lift the lid in laptop mode the design elevates in the back, which some may find more comfortable for typing.
However, we’re not fans of the camera bulge on the back that breaks up the smooth lines. In addition, HP placed the volume controls and power button on the back of the slate. Yes, you can find them by feel, but it’s awkward.
HP also didn’t put a power button on the keyboard deck, telling us that it didn’t want customers to mistakenly press the button when the screen was undocked (which would do nothing). We’d like to meet the folks who believe wireless electricity is already here.
The base of the x2 features two USB 3.0 ports and HDMI, as well as an SD Card slot. The slate portion houses a miroSD card slot.
One of the benefits of opting for an 11-inch screen instead of a 10-inch one is that there’s plenty for room for a full-size keyboard. The x2’s layout is spacious and offers solid tactile feedback. Just don’t expect backlighting. There’s also a gererously sized clickpad, which supports Windows 8’s touch gestures and offered smooth navigation.
Thanks to the use of magnets, guiding the x2 onto the dock is fairly simple. Undocking is a little trickier; you need to slide a switch to the right to remove the slate. We prefer the simpler push-button mechanism on the Samsung Series 5 and Series 7 Slate, but we got the hang of it after a couple of minutes.
While the Envy x2′s 11.6-inch screen doesn’t wow in terms of resolution (1366 x 768), it does offer 400 nits of brightness. That means you should have no problem using this hybrid outdoors. Plus, because the panel uses in-plane switching (IPS) technology, you should expect wide viewing angles. On the pre-production units we played with Windows 8′s Live Tile interface popped, though colors weren’t terribly rich.
Beneath the screen is a capacitive Windows button that helps return you to the Start screen at any time. We experienced some lag when pressing this button, but HP said it’s working to trim the latency in software.
We didn’t get to try it out, but HP will offer the Envy x2 with Beats Audio technology. You’ll get the best results through headphones, as there’s not much room on the chassis for speakers.
HP includes a couple of special features for the Envy x2. There’s an NFC chip on board for sharing photos, contacts, and URLs with a tap of an NFC-enabled phone. So, for example, you could walk up to this hybrid with your Galaxy S III with a website loaded in the browser, and it should pop up on the Envy x2’s screen.
The Envy x2 will come with an optional pen as well. While this tool will come in handy for taking notes and drawing, the fact that there’s no slot for the stylus on board means few will take advantage of this feature.
Like other Windows 8 laptop-tablets we’ve seen, the Envy x2 will have Intel’s new Clover Trail chip under the hood, promising “hundreds of hours” of connected standby time. HP promises that as soon as you wake this hybrid up you’ll have all of your email and other data up to date. While HP wouldn’t give us a target for real-world battery life, the company did tell us that the battery in the keyboard dock will discharge first and then the slate.
HP will bundle the x2 with its new Connected Music software, powered by Meridian. With this app you can stream tunes from your phone to the device, as well as download and stream music. Connected Photo promises to sync your images across multiple devices, and it offers both editing and social sharing capabilities.
Without knowing the price of the Envy x2, it’s hard to gauge whether it will be a success. But assuming this device is in the same $650 ballpark as the Samsung Series 5, this laptop-tablet hybrid could be a hit. The bright and responsive screen, sturdy aluminum chassis, comfy keyboard, and magnetic latch are all pluses. On the other hand, HP made some odd design choices, including putting the volume controls and power button on the back. It’s also not clear how much performance the Atom processor will give you relative to a Intel Core CPU. Stay tuned for our full review.