The age of the convertible Windows 8 tablet/laptop is well and truly upon us. All the major brands have thrown their metaphorical gloves into the arena with a whole bunch of form factors, including sliders like the Toshiba Satellite U920t, twisters such as the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist, and even flip-screen models such as the Dell XPS Duo 12.
However, the most interesting convertible solution is the detachable slate with keyboard dock. This not only gives you a tablet without the weight of the keyboard when you don’t want it, but also means you get far longer battery life thanks to the second battery that’s usually integrated into the dock. The disadvantage is that – with a few exceptions such as the Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro and Lenovo ThinkPad Helix - most of these convertibles aren’t as powerful as a regular laptop, and usually rely on Intel’s Atom processor for their power. That’s exactly what the HP Envy x2 does, so is it a jack of all trades or master of none?
Let’s just quickly sum up the basics before getting into the nitty-gritty. Like its main rivals, the Asus Vivo Tab and Samsung Ativ Smart PC, HP’s Windows 8 hybrid is an 11.6-inch affair that consists of a tablet plus detachable keyboard base with extra connectivity and a secondary battery. One of the biggest selling points over Android and iOS offerings is that this tablet/laptop will run many of your legacy Windows 7/Vista/XP apps.
Check out our Windows 8 Laptops Tablets Convertibles and PCs roundup
With a Clover Trail processor backed by 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and a ‘common’ 1,366 x 768 resolution for its IPS screen, HP’s effort is hardly the most powerful Windows 8 machine around, but again these specs match the competition and ensure that the Envy x2 lasts long on a charge too, with claimed battery life of up to 14hrs.
As its name suggests, the Envy x2 is aiming for the premium market within its category, and this is reflected both in its £800 price (where direct rivals can be had for closer to £700), and in its design. While the Samsung Ativ Tab uses mostly plastic and the Asus Vivo Tab uses various shades in its brushed metal finish with plastic sections, the x2 sports an all-metal outer shell and offers a more ‘unibody’ look.
In fact, several people who saw this machine around the office asked if it was an Apple laptop. Mind you, with the Envy x2 closed you can’t miss the giant, shiny HP logo that dominates the lid’s centre. The webcam’s slight ‘hump’ is also something you’d never see in coming from the house that Steve Jobs built.
Another design feature we’re not too convinced about is how HP has decided to integrate the power button and volume rocker into its convertible; rather than putting them at the sides, it has made them part of the lid. This could have been very attractive, if only they had kept the same brushed finish as their surroundings. As is, they just break things up too much, and are just a bit harder to find. On the good side, they never catch the finger either, leaving the sides of the Envy x2 ‘tablet’ nice and smooth.
Having said all that, there’s no denying that the HP Envy x2 is a good-looking, stylish and well-built laptop/tablet overall, and its aggressive tapering makes it look like one of the slimmest Windows 8 hybrids on the market. While quite cold in the hand, that all-metal outer finish also gives an undeniable feeling of quality and avoids unsightly fingerprints.
Unfortunately, its lack of anodising or a tactile pattern makes the HP Envy x2’s tablet part slightly slippery. Also, HP putting the tablet’s headphone jack on the x2’s bottom (presumably for aesthetic reasons) is just a compromise too far – though you can still plug in some headphones with the tablet docked, as its keyboard base replicates the 3.5mm jack.
The protruding hinge that joins the tablet and dock raises the device’s rear up when in laptop mode. The dock’s hinge holds the tablet very securely and offers strong, nicely graded open/close action. The tablet part is easily released with a front-facing switch on the dock; though this mechanism was a tad stiff when first we played with it, it only required a little wearing in.
The 19mm-thick tablet part of the HP Envy x2 weighs in at 690g - heavier than the iPad 4 and Asus Vivo Tab - while adding the keyboard dock takes this to 1.39kg (the Asus is 1.35kg with dock). However, both the tab on its own and dock combo are lighter than the Samsung Ativ Smart PC by a few grams.