The trickle of hybrid notebooks is soon turning into a steady flow here in India. We already got a little taste of this new segment from the Dell XPS 12, and today it’s the turn of the HP Envy x2. HP has gone with an Asus Transformer design approach with the x2, where the entire screen is detachable from the keyboard dock. The main advantage of this design is that the notebook is more comfortable to use in tablet mode and lighter as well. The trade-off here is that you won’t be able to quickly transform it into notebook mode if you move around, unless you’re carrying the keyboard with you. This also happens to be one of the more affordable hybrid notebooks in the market, so let’s see how HP has managed to pull it off.
A video review
Design and build
After the Dell XPS 12, this is yet another superbly designed and built Windows 8 hybrid we’ve come across. The entire chassis is built using aluminium, which means there’s no flex whatsoever around the screen bezel or the edges. The x2 is designed along similar lines to the Envy notebooks in the past. We have sleek lines, rounded edges and very good attention to detail. The lid of the x2 features a brushed aluminium finish, so it’s relatively free of fingerprints. Besides the logo in the middle, we have an 8MP camera with LED flash and ergonomically placed power and volume buttons on either side for tablet use. We even have a microSD card slot at the bottom of the tablet.
The hinge bulges out from the back, so when opened, it props the keyboard at an angle, making it easier to type on. The ports on the side include two USB 2.0, SD card reader, HDMI, headphone jack and a charging port. The keys are decently sized with good amount of spacing between them. They aren’t backlit, however, which is a bit of a downer. The trackpad is generously big and works well. The same cannot be said about the buttons though. They are quite hard to press and don’t respond well every time. The battery is non-removable as the bottom is completely sealed off.
Switching to tablet mode
The Envy x2 runs on Windows 8 and packs in an 11.6-inch IPS display with a 1366 x 768 resolution. The resolution is a little low as compared to higher-end hybrids and the difference is immediately apparent. If it were a standard notebook, it wouldn’t be too bad, but since you’ll also be using it as a tablet, the closer you hold it, the more the pixels become visible. We also noticed a very faint backlight flicker, which was quite distracting. The sensitivity of the screen is good, but we’ve seen better. In tablet mode alone, the Envy x2 is slim and light, just like any other tablet. However, the keyboard dock increases overall weight, making it feel heavy.
Sleek and slender design
At the heart of the Envy x2 beats an Atom Z2760 Clover Trail SoC. In the way Medfield was created for smartphones, Clover Trail was designed for tablets and hybrid PCs. This is currently the only SoC available from Intel and is designed using Sandy Bridge’s fabrication process. Some of the highlights of the SoC involve Intel Burst Technology for dynamic scaling of CPU cores, Hyper Threading, support for up to 8MP camera, support for GPS, sensors and hardware level security. The SoC consists of two x86 cores running at 1.8GHz and a PowerVR SGX545 GPU for graphics.
The Z2760 does come with some major limitations. There’s only support for up to 2GB of DDR2 memory, no USB 3.0 support and the I/O controller only supports eMMC type flash memory rather than a SATA or mSATA interface. Despite these limitations, many OEMs have still chosen this SoC due to its ultra-low TDP of just 1.7W. This is the only way a Windows 8 hybrid/tablet can hope to achieve the battery life of ARM-based tablets.
Windows 8 runs smoothly and switching between Modern UI and desktop mode is quite seamless. The SoC handles 1080p playback very well through the Modern video player as well as the standard desktop player. Copying files to and from the notebook is quite slow as the read and write speeds are nowhere near those of even the slowest SSD. When compared to the XPS 12, the Envy x2 lags terribly in all the tests. Just have a look at the chart and you’ll know what we mean. 3DMark Vantage refused to run since it couldn't detect a DX10 compliant GPU, even though the PowerVR chip does supports DX10.1.
Vastly inferior to the Core i5
In short, other than HD media playback and simple tasks like web browsing, working on Office documents, listening to music etc., don’t expect demanding apps like photo or video editing applications to work without lag or too much loading time. The keyboard is quite comfortable to type on and the spacing between the keys ensures you always hit the right one. The trackpad works well, but the mouse buttons are way too hard for comfort. The volume level on the x2 is not very loud. Movies and music sound ok, but it lacks a certain punch.
Very good keyboard
The Z2760 prides itself on its ultra-low TDP and that reflects very well in Envy x2’s battery life. Using Battery Eater Pro and Wi-Fi turned on, we managed to squeeze out about 7 hours and 30 minutes before it died. This is really amazing considering the XPS 12 with an Ivy Bridge Core i5 ULV CPU managed just 2 hours. We can easily expect much more with regular use.
Verdict and Price in India
At an MRP of Rs 59,990, the HP Envy x2 feels quite expensive for an Atom-based notebook. Even a Core i3 would have been welcome at this point. The only reason one may pick this over the similarly priced Windows RT tablets is that you can still use legacy x86 apps. It does have a very good battery life and plays 1080p video like a champ, but if that’s all you’re looking for, then you’re better off with an iPad or any Android tablet and a keyboard dock.
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