Thursday, 07 March 2013 17:21

HP ENVY x2 does not inspire envy: REVIEW Featured


Prior to getting my hands on a review unit of the HP ENVY x2, the new hybrid Windows 8 notebook and tablet PC from Hewlett-Packard, I felt a sense of quiet anticipation that perhaps this could be a great come-back product for the troubled computer giant. Sadly, however this machine is the exact opposite and a disappointment on many fronts.

On the surface, the HP ENVY x2 looks like a beautiful, gleaming package of the ultra-thin small notebook variety - light, sleek, wide landscape style high res 1366 x 768 LED backlit 11.6 inch touch-screen display, 64GB SSD, beautiful solid aluminium casing, and a very usable touchpad keyboard with bevelled keys that sits up at a slight angle for ease of typing.

Handily, the new HP device also comes with two USB ports, an ethernet port and HDMI.

In addition to all of that, the HP ENVY x2 has the added benefit of having a detachable display that then becomes a standalone tablet.

And if that's not enough to tickle your fancy, there's the fact that the HP ENVY x2 comes preloaded with the latest thoroughbred out of the stables of Microsoft, Windows 8!

OK, let's get back to reality. This device is an overpriced, underpowered clunker that tries to be two products in one but doesn't do a good job at being either.

First a word on the price of AUD$999. This is quite simply outrageous, not only because it's far too much to spend for such an under spec'd machine but also because of the price disparity between the US and Australia.

If our politicians want to go after Apple and Adobe, they should also set their sights on HP for this one because in the US the list price is US$849 and I'm told by my US counterparts that they can be picked up for as little as US$749.

Price aside, in order to do a fair appraisal of the HP ENVY x2, one has to do it in two parts - one as an ultra portable notebook PC and the other as a tablet.

As a PC, the starting point of the HP ENVY x2 when I first laid hands on my brand new review machine, at first glance everything looked brilliant. It took me a few seconds to figure out that the power on button was on the back corner of the display - as you would expect on a tablet.

Once fired up, the machine went through the rigamarole that one would expect from vendors like HP and Microsoft. I dutifully logged on and registered with all the necessary parties and before you knew it I was set up and presented with the Windows 8 tiled user interface.

The first thing I noticed about my review notebook PC was only a minor irritant but for me significant enough to mention. The display doesn't swivel back quite far enough for my viewing comfort - a few degrees extra give would have given me a much better viewing angle.

On the positive side, I found the brightness and resolution of the screen to be very good and it was sort of nice to be able to touch and swipe the screen itself rather than just using the keyboard touch pad. On the surface, the responsiveness of the touch screen for swiping looks good.

So the first thing you see on set up are instructions on how to use Windows 8 - you know, move the mouse (or touchpad) cursor into any corner and magic happens. Except, that for me the magic didn't happen. In fact I had to jiggle the cursor around to all corners until I finally found the right spot to bring up the menu icons such as "home", "share", "settings" and so on. After a while, I found that I could also raise the icons by swiping the screen in a particular way.

Given that this is a PC, you should be able to do some serious work on it. Forget about it if you're looking to do anything beyond some simple MS Office stuff - this is a slow computer. Even the web browsing is slow - particularly if you use the default browser, the latest monster hatched by Microsoft, Internet Explorer 10 (downloading Firefox or Chrome are mandatory if you want reasonable browsing speed).

The sluggishness of this device as a PC is not surprising, given that it's running Windows 8 with 2GB RAM (not upgradable) and powered by a dual core Intel Atom processor designed for power saving rather than heavy processing.

By comparison, for $999, exactly the same list price, you can buy a 11 inch MacBook Air with 4GB RAM, also with 64GB SSD, powered by a real PC processor, a 1.7 GHz Intel Core 5, that absolutely kills the HP ENVY x2 in the performance stakes - and the MacBook Air itself is certainly no road racer.

But hang on, the MacBooK Air isn't also a tablet with a touch screen!

Well alright then, let's look at the tablet attributes of the HP ENVY x2.

The tablet part of the package also doubles as the display of the PC and is easily detached by sliding a small spring loaded latch near the base of the screen on the swivel bar at the head of the keyboard. Slide the latch to the left and the screen can be simply detached from the two male points on the swivel bar plugged into the female sockets on the screen.

The next couple of pars are wrong so a big red-faced apology - the tablet can be charged separately by simply sticking the the charger into the tablet once it is detached from the dock.

Now, as many of us like to do, we often take tablets to clients and when we travel instead of a notebook because they're lighter, smaller and much better suited to road trips. Well, if you're thinking of doing that with the HP ENVY x2 forget it because the charger only plugs into the keyboard! 

Yes that's right folks, the geniuses that developed this little monster have given us a tablet that can't be charged unless you also have the keyboard. Therefore, for anything more than a day trip, when you travel with the HP ENVY x2 you're taking the entire notebook whether you like it or not.

On another note, a lot of folks these days are downsizing to 7 inch tablets because they reckon 10 inch tablets are a bit big (not me, I like the bigger tablets). However, at nearly 12 inches tall by 7.6 inches wide, the HP ENVY x2 is a relative giant of a tablet and is simply not comfortable to hold.

Are there some positive points?

Yes, the HP ENVY x2 tablet has an excellent 8MP back mounted camera (as well as the usual front facing webcam) and it also has built in NFC (near field communications), although I have to admit I cannot imagine a scenario where I would use a large tablet for either application.

Coming back to pricing again, the $999 price tag of the HP ENVY x2 is way above similarly configured tablet competitors. The list price for the iPad 64GB is $699 and the 3GB Galaxy Tab 2 with 32GB plus 32GB Micro SD card running Android 4.0 can be had for $498. Add another $100 (or less) for a wireless keyboard for both of those devices and they still come in way below the hefty sticker price of the HP device.

In my view, HP could turn this whole thing around because as far as a piece of engineering goes the HP ENVY x2 is a nicely put together package, despite the tablet being a bit big and unwieldy. What I would like to see is the same hardware running Android, an operating system designed for tablets, instead of Windows 8.

As I said at the beginning of this review, I didn't start out to be negative about the HP ENVY x2. One reason is that I saw many positive reviews about this device, which gives me cause to wonder if there's something that I'm missing here.

If so, I'm happy for any HP ENVY x2 user reading this article to tell me what it is.

Envy x2 11-g001TU



Brushed Metal Silver


Intel® Atom™ Processor Z2760 (dual core, 1.80GHz)

n/a (SOC)


Beats Audio™ 2 speakers; Beats Audio™ playback

11.6-inch diagonal HD BrightView LED-backlit IPS Display (1366 x 768)

On-board 2GB 533MHz LPDDR2 SDRAM

RAM not User Upgradeable

64GB solid-state drive


802.11a/b/g/n WLAN and Bluetooth®




2x USB 2.0



RJ-45 / Ethernet

1x Headphone-out

Front-facing HP TrueVision 1080p HD Webcam with integrated digital microphone

Rear-facing 8.0MP camera




Convertible between a tablet or a Notebook

Aluminium Finished Chassis

Dual battery feature




(Lockable from base only) Kensington® MicroSaver lock slot

2-cell 25WHr li-ion battery (Slate); 2-cell 21WHr li-ion battery (base)


1.41kg (Slate only 0.71kg)

30.3 cm(W)x 19.3cm(D)x 0.86 cm (max H)

Windows 8 Standard Edition

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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.



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