HP Envy X2 Review - A Hybrid Tablet-Laptop Failing To Bring Up A Complete Package (Part 1)

3/11/2013 7:13:14 PM

Just like every self-respecting company that is releasing new Windows 8 devices, HP has renewed its current laptop lines with optimized features for touch which are ready to handle the new OS's gestures. But also like any self-respecting PC maker, HP is releasing a device with a more adventurous shape. Envy x2 stands out among other hybrid laptop running the same 1.8GHz Atom microprocessor with more attractive design, IPS display and nice features like NFC and pointing pen.

However, at the price of $850 with the included keyboard dock, it's more expensive than comparable products such as the Acer Iconia W510. So is the x2 a stable laptop ā€“ with the role of both a laptop and as an independent tablet? You know where to meet us if you want to find out.

Design and feel

X2 looks like a clamshell netbook - and an attractive one. The silver and brushed-aluminum chassis is nice but not slippery when touching, and the reflective HP logo on the back doesn't make us consider as too infringing (anyhow, you won't see it for most of the time). Compared to other hybrid laptops-tablets like the made-of-plastic Acer Iconia W510, this system feels elegant and well made. The x2's aluminum case is sturdy, but if you hold the device by the keyboardā€˜s bottom, the screen sways a bit at its hinge. Still, we don't think you'll hold the device this way too often, so it shouldn't be a big problem.

X2 looks like a clamshell netbook - and an attractive one.

X2 looks like a clamshell netbook - and an attractive one.

With 1.5 pounds and 0.3-inch thick as an independent tablet, Envy x2 feels very light; the LTE version of the Samsung ATIV Smart PC is 1.65 pounds weight and 0.39 inch thick in tablet form, though 10.1-inch Acer Iconia W510 is a bit slighter with 1.27 pounds. The x2's rounded edges and lightly rough rear creates a comfortable grip. With the keyboard dock attached, the device weighs 3.1 pounds, and it's quite easy for use, even when carrying with one hand.

We doubt our insight for a while when taking a look at this hybrid laptop's power button. It's located on the back of the tablet - along with the volume rocker - which just doesn't feel intuitively. Most tablets have these buttons on the sides, and we definitely prefer that setup. Once you overcome the initial confusion, you'll still have to think over a bit if you're viewing the screen from the front. Other ports are located in more traditional positions: along the left edge of the dock are HDMI and USB 2.0, while the right one holds the power connector, another USB 2.0 connection and an SD card slot. Remove the tablet from the dock, and you'll find the slate includes a microSD card slot, a 3.5mm headphone jack and a docking port that connects to the keyboard or the charging cable.

Connecting the tablet to the keyboard dock feels satisfying, but it can take a few moments to arrange the connectors correctly. Once you've handled that, slide the release latch and the device plucks into place. When it's on laptop mode, the device feels very solid. It won't fall out of place until you pull the latch in the opposite direction to release the slate.

Keyboard touchpad

At first look, Envy x2's keyboard looks pretty nice. The black, separate chiclets keys are well-spaced, and the layout doesn't feel cramped. (This is an advantage that hybrid laptops-tablets have compared to slider tablet; the slate doesn't infringe upon the keyboard deck). There's large space for your wrists. Get ready for the "but": the keys feel spongy; they don't offer the satisfying feedback we want. On a typing test we gained a lower wpm score - and a higher error rate than we typically found. We wouldn't consider this keyboard as horrible, but it's less comfortable than its looks would indicate.

At first look, Envy x2's keyboard looks pretty nice.

At first look, Envy x2's keyboard looks pretty nice.

We will use a stronger language to describe the Synaptics touchpad. On the positive side, it's very quick; we have no problem executing Windows 8 gestures like swiping in from the right to reveal the Charms bar, for example. But the fact is that this is too sensitive. Almost every time we accidentally graze the touchpad with our finger, it is manifested as a click or swipe. You'll find this issue especially troublesome when you're writing emails or working in a document, as the cursor often moves to a point at the begin in the text.

Screen and audio

Though Envy x2's 11.6-inch screen has a standard 1,366x768 resolution - this pixel number is especially common among hybrid laptops running Atom microprocessors - IPS technology creates a better-than-average viewing angles. We are able to view the content on the screen when moving to the far right and left angle, but pushing the panel forward excessively causes images to be diluted. However, beside this issue, colors look accurate, and text is crisp.

Evaluating the touch screen as an input method, we don't have any complaints. Performing specific gestures for Win 8 is easy and smooth. At the same time, the screen provides enough friction so that you won't accidentally click on items constantly. Envy x2 also supports pen input, though we aren't able to test this function with our review unit.

Envy x2's 11.6-inch screen has a standard 1,366x768 resolution.

Envy x2's 11.6-inch screen has a standard 1,366x768 resolution.

HP includes Beats Audio on x2, but it doesn't pack as much power here as it does on full-package laptops. Sound is very tinny and muffled - both for music and dialogue - and even at maximum volume, the sound isn't very loud.

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