Gaming laptops are traditionally full of compromises.
HP Envy X2 Notebook PC
A 2-in-1 tablet and PC that makes you think a little differently about how a PC should look and feel
- 15.6in, Full HD screen
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- Good array of ports
- Big and heavy
- Glossy screen
- Touchpad is awful
Price$ 1,300.00 (AUD)
There's a strangeness to the HP Envy X2 (15-c001tu) that's hard to overcome. This mostly comes from its detachable keyboard, which features a touchpad on the right side, rather than below the keys. But there are other things, such as the size of the tablet itself, which is 15.6 inches, and the design, which looks a little like a novelty HTC smartphone (once someone in the office pointed that out to us, we couldn't stop seeing it).
A big and heavy tablet
The Envy X2 looks like it could be a bigger version of Microsoft's Surface Pro. It has the requisite built-in kickstand, and it includes a detachable, magnet-held keyboard cover so that you can attempt to use the product like a regular notebook. Primarily, though, the X2 is a product that you should consider if you've been hankering for a large tablet that can work with an active stylus for handwriting and drawing tasks.
It's not a product that can be used as a laptop (that is, with you resting it in your lap while you type on its keyboard), but it can be of use as a notebook PC if you have the space to spread its kickstand and unfold its keyboard. The benefit of the Envy X2 is that when you want to use it as a tablet, it's simply a matter of detaching that keyboard and making off with the screen.
You can use it to play touch-based games, for drawing, or simply to navigate through photos and other types of app interfaces that are more conducive to touch than mouse control. At 15.6 inches and 1.79kg, the tablet is large and heavy, and it shouldn't be thought of in the same way as a smaller unit that you can use to browse the Web while lounging on the couch.
A native resolution of 1920x1080 adorns the 15.6in screen, and it's a decent one to look at overall. However, we found the brightness to be a little too low for our office environment. Reflections were noticeable, and the brightness of the environment drowned out the the screen easily, especially when we weren't viewing from directly in front. But it's not meant to be a work computer, so it should fare differently at home.
Basic performance, long-ish battery life
Inside the tablet, the configuration consists of an Intel Core M-5Y10 CPU (a CPU that has been specifically designed for the tablet form factor), 8GB of DDR3 SDRAM, and a 500GB hard drive with some solid state cache to speed up the boot time. It's a configuration that won't set the world on fire, and it's a configuration that's underwhelming when you take the Envy's price tag of AU$1300 into account. It won't give you the equivalent of Intel Core i5 performance, for example, and its hard drive will bog down over time and make you wish you had a fast solid state drive instead.
In our Blender 3D rendering test, the Envy X2 recorded a time of 1min 7sec, which is sluggish when compared to other Core M-5Y10-based tablets that we've seen from Lenovo. In particular, it was 7sec slower than the Lenovo ThikPad Helix 2 and 6sec slower than the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. There were times during our evaluation period when the tablet felt sluggish in some applications that we tried to draw and write using the active pen.
Hard drive performance wasn't quick, with CrystalDiskMark reporting a speed of 98.14 megabytes per second (MBps) for sequential reading, and 93.89MBps for writing. Meanwhile, battery life was just over six hours in our tests, in which we loop a Full HD MP4 file while the screen brightness is set to maximum and the Wi-Fi is enabled. In a tablet of this size, which can house a big battery, we expected a long life like that.
The Wi-Fi in this tablet is dual-band, 802.11ac, using an Intel Wireless-AC 7265 module.
Writing and drawing
We don't think the Envy X2 is a product that professional artists or anyone serious about their pen input will want to examine; it's better suited to casual use when you want to just mess around with some painting or sketches, or when you just want to jot down some notes by writing instead of typing. There is an optional HP Active Pen that can be used to facilitate using the tablet in these ways, and when it's not in use it can be attached to the tablet via magnet, or placed in the loop on the right side of the keyboard.
During our tests, we noticed that the active pen didn't work properly unless the batteries we were using had enough voltage in them. When the pen isn't being used, it's not meant to draw any power, but we found that the original battery that shipped with the pen lasted only for a couple of uses before it stopped working. A replacement battery that we used also depleted quite quickly. The pen uses a single AAAA battery, which we couldn't find in retail stores. We had to order a packet from our office stationery supplier.
Read more: HP Stream 8 tablet with Windows 8.1
The pen has a button on it that's located just above the typical holding position, and this can be pressed to show an on-screen target or bring up a right-click menu. Because of the distance between the glass surface and screen, there is a noticeable gap while drawing and writing, which takes some getting used to. For the most part, the pressure-sensitive pen flowed smoothly over the surface, and it was mostly responsive to input commands.
As we mentioned earlier, though, there were times when the pen input was sluggish. This was primarily noticeable in GIMP. In other programs mostly designed for having a bit of fun, and also when using Windows 8's built-in handwriting recognition, there was a minimal delay between making a mark and seeing the mark appear on the screen.
Wayward touchpad location
Using the detachable keyboard was an interesting experience for us, mainly due to the placement of the touchpad on the right side of the keys. It's an unnatural placement that we never got used to, and we kept putting our finger on the palmrest when it came time to move the pointer. We remedied this by folding the keyboard so that the palmrest was hidden, which at least meant we didn't go looking for the touchpad on the palmrest.
The touchpad itself is horrible. We experienced a lot of sluggish movements. It also tended to stick quite a lot, causing a few things to happen that were unintentional on our part. One time, the system thought we clicked on the option to open a removable drive with the pre-installed CyberLink software when, in fact, all we wanted to do was scroll down the list to tell Windows to just open an Explorer folder.
Long typing sessions on the keyboard were fine, with the keys being a standard size (mostly) and offering an adequate amount of travel. The up and down arrows are half-sized, and can be a pain to hit at times. It's a Bluetooth-based keyboard, so in order to get it working you have to pair it. During the set-up of the system, you are asked to do this. Just switch on the keyboard, press the Bluetooth button down for a few seconds, and enter the PIN that's shown on the screen. You can use the keyboard even when it's not physically attached to the tablet, but it feels weird doing so.
Front-firing speakers are located on either side of the screen, and even though you might see the Beats logo and think the audio from this tablet is top-shelf, that's far from the truth. The speakers put out a sound that isn't dynamic enough for enjoyable listening. You are better off plugging in headphones or using a Bluetooth speaker. You can continue to use the Bluetooth keyboard while a Bluetooth speaker is connected.
There are two USB 3.0 ports on the right side, a full-sized HDMI port, and a full-sized SD card slot.
What's the verdict?
We're not completely taken by the HP Envy X2. It sometimes felt like a chore to use, mainly because of the layout of its keyboard and touchpad, and also because of the performance of its touchpad. For notebook usage while resting it on a desk, we'd use a different keyboard and a dedicated mouse rather then the fold-up, detachable one.
We could see the tablet being of use on its own, perhaps for those of you who like to tinker with drawing programs, but not in a professional sense. It might also be a good unit for a photographer who wants a large tablet on which to view photos while out in the field (screen reflections notwithstanding).
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