Disappointingly, the x2 tablet’s own physical connections are very limited, more so than rivals. In fact all it has is a microSD card slot, headphone jack and proprietary data/charging port at its bottom. By comparison, the Asus Vivo Tab and Samsung ATIV Smart PC both throw microHDMI into that mix, and the Ativ offers a native full-size USB 2.0 port while the Vivo includes an adapter.
We really feel a full-size USB port should be standard on every Windows tablet, but HP doesn’t even include the adapter to hook up memory sticks or peripherals. If you want to connect these out of the box, you’ll need to keep the tablet in its dock.
The Envy x2’s keyboard dock/base holds most of its other connectors, including twin USB 2.0 ports, a full-size HDMI, a full-size SDXC card reader, and that ‘duplicate’ headphone/microphone jack. Unfortunately full-size SD card readers seem to have been dropped by the wayside on most of the x2’s rivals, something the average photographer probably won’t be too happy about. As such, HP deserves extra kudos for still including one.
On the wireless front, the x2 is decently endowed with Wi-Fi N, Bluetooth and NFC for wireless payments and linking (a feature both the Microsoft Surface and Apple iPad 4 lack), but the Ativ outdoes it with optional 3G/4G.
While we’re on the topic of connections and accessories, it’s worth noting that unlike its Ativ and Vivo rivals which come with iPad-like chargers, the x2 uses a more traditional charging brick without its own plug, which takes a clover power cable like most laptops. This may not look as elegant, making it a slightly odd choice on a designer machine like this convertible, but we do appreciate the extra flexibility it offers.
At least when it comes to usability, the Envy x2 almost lives up to its premium tag. While not up there with Lenovo’s ThinkPads, HP consistently makes some of the better laptop keyboards around. The one on the x2’s dock isn’t its best effort, but it’s certainly usable, and the typing experience it offers is slightly above that of the Asus Vivo Tab. Layout is spot-on with well-spaced keys, while key travel is average with a fairly responsive click, and the palm rest is comfy.
The touchpad, meanwhile, is a visual and tactile treat. It’s raised from its concave surround and sports a natty concentric ring pattern, offset by a chrome trim around its edge which also helps to keep your fingers in bounds. The ring pattern is just enough to give pleasant feedback without wearing out your fingertips. A touch that’s unique to HP touchpads is that double-tapping the top left corner will activate/de-activate the pad, though the pad never interfered with typing for us.
As with every high-end tablet, the Envy x2 offers both front and rear HD shooters, with 1080p video from both. Unfortunately, as with most tablets they’re not exactly great.
Shots from the 8 megapixel rear camera are a bit noisy and lacking in subtle detail, and for any non-urgent snaps you’re better off using your smartphone or (shock, horror) an actual digital camera. The front model is just about good enough for video chatting duties.