HP Envy x2 Laptop Review

I was so impressed with the HP Envy x2 laptop I saw at a recent HP event that I purchased one for personal use. Disclaimer, while I am an HP employee, I work in HP’s Industry Standard Server division and have nothing to do with the PC group.

The “x2” attempts to convey that this is a 2 in one device. It not only operates as a standard laptop but the screen detaches and works as a standalone tablet as well. With the exception of an original HP TouchPad I’ve avoided cluttering the house with tablets, everyone in the family has a laptop, a smartphone, and there are a few e-readers too. But when an unnamed family member dropped their laptop being used to display holiday recipes off the kitchen counter to an untimely fate, I couldn’t decide if I should replace it with a laptop or a tablet, so the Envy x2 seemed like a perfect combo.

First some of the tech specs. The Envy x2 has a 11.6 inch (1366 x 768) display, 2 GB SDRAM memory, and a 64 GB solid state drive in lieu of a traditional disk drive. It has an excellent standard keyboard (more on that later), and both front and rear facing webcams, the front-facing one being full 1080p HD. Finally, the processor, rather than a standard x86 processors, is a low power 1.8 GHz Intel Atom Z2760 with built-in Intel Graphics.

Ordering the laptop from HP’s website was quick and simple. There are basically no options for the base unit. I expect the majority of the general public buying a laptop online will appreciate this, the myriad of typical processor, memory, and disk options confronting today’s laptops are simply too difficult for most people to comprehend let alone understand what impact they will have on your user experience.

The laptop arrived via FedEx in single box, HP definitely gave some thought to avoiding excess packaging. My first thoughts as I picked up the box with the built-in handle was how light it was.

The box has a small plastic seal around the handle and after removing the seal the reclosable box easily opens. The setup instructions are very intuitive, easy to follow, and fit on a large fold-out piece of paper which is the first thing you see when you open the box. Well, almost. Hard to miss the Intel logo on the inside cover of the box.

Removing the instructions and a foam insert, HP’s new iconic design language and logo shine upon you from inside the plastic packaging. This doesn’t look at all like your father’s HP laptop.

The positive first impressions on the packaging continue as I pickup the laptop. I’m thinking I probably won’t be doing any heavy duty photoshop editing on this but it sure would make a nice travel companion, around the house or across the globe. I can’t keep “iconic HP design” out of my head as I stare at the laptop again.

Now the fun part. Setting up the laptop. I’ve never used Windows8 which comes pre-installed so I’m not quite sure what to expect. As I open up the laptop, before I even turn on the power I instinctively try out the keyboard. I type a lot on my laptop and the downright cheap feel of many laptop keyboards is one of my top complaints. The keyboard on my HP EliteBook is the gold standard for me, and I’m happy to report that the Envy x2, on initial use at least, matches the expectations of the EliteBook. The second thing I notice is the beautiful glossy screen. Photos taken on my cell phone camera overplay its reflective surface, good thing I have a day job and am not a professional blogger.

It actually takes me 30 seconds to find the on-off switch (I’m not following the fold-out setup instructions, which would have pointed out to me the location). Rather than being located on the the base of the laptop the on-off switch is on the top cover of the laptop (back of screen). Of course! When the screen disconnects and becomes a tablet you want a power button on the tablet. I want to slap myself on the side of the head for taking 30 seconds to find the switch.

A minimal number of setup screens are needed to startup the laptop.

Of course there is also the obligatory license screen.

Right about now I decide I should find a power plug to charge the battery. The x2 comes with a smallish AC adapter, just what you would expect for a small laptop.

The Windows8 interface is definitely new and we all know how some people don’t like new things, but it really is intuitive to use. You can navigate with the keyboard / touch pad or also simply by touching the screen. If you can’t figure this out you simply aren’t trying. But now on to the fun stuff, trying out the tablet. A small slider latch at the top of the keyboard lets you remove the screen from the keyboard/base of the laptop. While it is slightly awkward to slide the latch with one hand and lift up the screen with the other, after a few tries I get the hang of it. One hint, I found it easier to turn the laptop sideways to remove the screen.

My roommate the last year of college was a mechanical engineer and it is amazing how much mechanical engineering goes into computers these days, both servers and laptops. With the screen/tablet removed, I get a good look at the latch/hinge mechanism. When engaged, the screen opens and closes remarkable smoothly, with a sturdy feel that would never give away that it is detachable.

Laptop to tablet in 10 seconds flat. Not bad. While the wide variety of tablets on the market show that there is demand for all sizes, the 11.6 inch display seems like the perfect tablet size for watching movies, reading, and even the occasional work email.

So there you have it, the x2 is a double bonus. The tablet for people who sometimes want a full laptop, or the laptop for people who sometimes want a tablet. The 11.6 inch size of the screen means a no-compromise tablet, and the delightful keyboard makes the laptop. While my wife still reminds me of the many years I wouldn’t allow a Windows device in the house, Windows 8 sets new grounds in ease of use, specially with the touch-screen / tablet interface. While you can’t buy the new HP ElitePad 900 until next month, the x2 gives a great preview of what to expect. For the business user wanting a dedicated tablet, the ElitePad 900 is likely to set new standards, and my next work laptop is still likely to be an EliteBook with a slightly larger screen, but for a consumer device, the x2 gets my thumbs up!

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About Marc Hamilton

Marc Hamilton – Vice President, Solutions Architecture and Engineering, NVIDIA. At NVIDIA, the Visual Computing Company, Marc leads the worldwide Solutions Architecture and Engineering team, responsible for working with NVIDIA’s customers and partners to deliver the world’s best end to end solutions for professional visualization and design, high performance computing, and big data analytics. Prior to NVIDIA, Marc worked in the Hyperscale Business Unit within HP’s Enterprise Group where he led the HPC team for the Americas region. Marc spent 16 years at Sun Microsystems in HPC and other sales and marketing executive management roles. Marc also worked at TRW developing HPC applications for the US aerospace and defense industry. He has published a number of technical articles and is the author of the book, “Software Development, Building Reliable Systems”. Marc holds a BS degree in Math and Computer Science from UCLA, an MS degree in Electrical Engineering from USC, and is a graduate of the UCLA Executive Management program.
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2 Responses to HP Envy x2 Laptop Review

  1. phillip shiffrin says:

    I also bought the X2 to replace an aging laptop. I needed one that would run all Windows apps and like you thought that the combo tablet/laptop would be the future. I’m not convinced of that yet but am willing to see how the future plays out.

    I can’t say much against what you said above. I experienced pretty much the same thing in when setting it up, including the power switch (doh).

    PROs: light, small
    CONs: Screen is top heavy and it can easily be tapped and fall over backwards but that isn’t really a big deal. Power cord is unique and new; why didn’t HP use a micro USB? I guess Apple didn’t so why should I complain.

    Win8 note: Don’t buy a Win8 device without a touchscreen. While this has nothing to do specifically with the X2, I want to add that using the touch screen and keyboard with Win8 has become like breathing. It is so intuitive. Every laptop will go this way. In fact, I just bought my wife a touch laptop (HP Envy 4T Touchsmart). I was concerned because she is a creature of habit and likes to blame me when she can’t figure out tech things. Last year, I bought her a keyboard for her iPAD which she uses all the time with it. Same thing here: Keyboard and touchscreen are like bread and butter.

    • Thanks Phillip for your comments. Touchscreen definitely seems like the “killer app” or at least major reason to move to Win8 from earlier Windows OS versions.

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