HP Envy x2 - Design, Connectivity, Keyboard & Touch
IntroHP might have arrived a little late to the Windows 8 convertible tablet/laptop party, but it does so in style with the HP Envy x2, and we went hands-on to see how it holds up. Like its main rivals, the Asus Vivo Tab and Samsung ATIV Smart PC, HP’s Win 8 tab is an 11.6-inch affair that consists of a tablet plus detachable keyboard base with extra connectivity.
With a Clover Trail processor at its heart 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.
HP Envy x2 Design and BuildThe Envy x2 tries to differentiate itself from the crowd and justify its slightly premium price tag with a slick, distinct brushed-metal design that’s certainly a step up from the plastic Ativ and also manages to look nicer than the Vivo, thanks to a more cohesive and streamlined aesthetic.
Part of this is that the power and volume buttons are integrated very differently than on any other tablet, from Windows 8 alternatives to the iPad 4. Rather than having protruding plastic buttons which would break up the smooth outer lines, the HP Envy x2 integrates metallic-finish ones into its chassis.
This and the lack of any large ports on the tablet part of the x2 means there are no sharp edges or ridges to catch your fingers on, which makes for a great ergonomic experience. From a looks perspective it’s also quite attractive, though we still prefer the minimalism of the iPad. And 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.
Despite its all-metal construction, the Envy x2 doesn’t make quite as solid an impression as a MacBook Air or even the Asus Vivo Tab, but build quality is nonetheless very good. Panels are neatly fitted and there’s no sign of unwanted flex or creak, while the hinge mechanism is solid and – unlike the awkward release on the Asus convertible – easy to detach.
This Windows 8 machine’s subtly brushed finish is smooth without being slippery, and doesn’t show off fingerprints too much. The slate weighs 700g on its own, while adding the keyboard base brings this up to 1.4kg.
HP Envy x2 ConnectivityThe 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. The keyboard base holds most of the other connectors, including twin USB 2.0 ports, a full-size HDMI, and that ‘duplicate’ headphone/microphone jack. On the wireless front, the x2 is decently endowed with Wi-Fi N, Bluetooth and NFC.
HP Envy x2 Keyboard, Touch and StylusA ‘proper’ keyboard is the biggest advantage that Windows 8 convertibles have over the iPad or the vast majority of Android tablets (with the exception of the Asus Transformer family and a few similar solutions). Essentially, with keyboard base attached the Envy x2 becomes an ultraportable laptop, and given its 11.6-inch chassis there’s plenty of room for a great keyboard – which we were certainly hoping for considering HP is generally only second to Lenovo in providing a good typing experience.
When it comes to layout, the x2 doesn’t disappoint. All its keys are exactly where you would want them to be, perfectly spaced and just the right size. Unfortunately feedback suffers from this convertible’s slimness, as it’s a tad shallower than we would like. However, this Envy is still a pleasure to type on, beating the Asus Vivo Tab and Samsung ATIV Smart PC by a kitten’s whisker.
HP has given the Envy x2’s touchpad a nice concentric-ring finish that’s somewhat reminiscent of Asus’ Zenbook line. It’s visually attractive but just a smidgeon too smooth. The pad’s integrated buttons offer a superb click though, and gestures are effortless. Of course, you can also touch the screen, which works just as well as any other Windows 8 tablet.
Mind you, for a spot of digital handwriting, sketching/drawing or design, there’s apparently an optional stylus, though we didn’t get to play with it. This, along with the fact that it’s optional and that HP is not promoting the stylus aspect of the Envy x2, all makes us worry a little. We’re hoping HP has gone the Wacom or at least N-Trig route, but at this stage, the pen could well be capacitive (i.e. not pressure-sensitive, and just as rubbish as all those cheapo styli you can buy for a few quid online). We’ll be sure to let you know in our full review.