HP Envy x2 (Qualcomm) First Impressions

Posted on March 21, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 51 Comments

HP Envy x2 (Qualcomm) First Impressions

Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, the HP Envy x2 delivers about 20 hours of battery life and always-on connectivity.

As such, the device targets the same market as Apple’s iPad Pro, an audience that values content consumption over creation, but still has a need for the latter. This market is, by definition, a compromise. But HP’s hope is that the Envy x2’s compatibility with full-featured Windows desktop applications will put it over the top.

HP might be on to something. In my regular and ongoing investigations into whether the iPad Pro provides a compelling productivity experience and a viable alternative to Windows-based PCs and Chromebooks, I have been consistently underwhelmed. What the HP offers is another take on this compromise. One that combines the premium look and feel of the iPad Pro with the familiarity, compatibility, and capabilities of a real PC.

iPad Pro 10.5 (top), Envy x2 (bottom)

On that note, the Envy x2 is a gorgeous 2-in-1 PC with a premium look and feel that rivals HP’s more traditional premium PCs, such as those in its Spectre and Elite families. The Envy lineup comes in at the low-end of that continuum, if you will. It’s sort of a high-end Camry, to use a car metaphor, rather than a low-end Lexus.

That’s a nice space, and it’s one that I personally value very much: With such products, you get many of the benefits of more expensive variants, but without the resulting costs of the true luxury brand.

One might argue, however, that the HP Envy x2 is not particularly inexpensive. An entry-level model with 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of UFS storage sits at $999, a price that many will find to be onerous. (The review unit features a more acceptable 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage.)

But this needs to be viewed in context. An iPad Pro with similar specs (including built-in cellular data support), a Smart Keyboard, and an Apple Pencil costs $1200 to $1350, depending on whether you opt for the 10.5- or 12.9-inch version. That is considerably more than the Envy x2, which includes its own versions of those accessories in its price tag. And it comes with far bigger compromises when it comes to productivity especially, not to mention far less battery life.

One might likewise compare the cost of the Envy x2 to other PCs. A comparable MacBook, which I feel hits at the same nexus of compromise, costs $1299 for a version with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. That’s comparable to the Envy x2, but it provides no touch, smart pen, or cellular data support. And HP and other PC makers all sell a wide range of Intel-type 2-in-1s and convertibles, not to mention traditional clamshell designs, at every price range imaginable.

But then, choice is the point of the PC market, isn’t it? The choice here is for those who value battery life and up-time over raw performance. The bet here, then, is that there is an audience of people who are mobile, and will do more consuming of content than creation, but still value the ability to at least run those full-featured apps that work (or life) requires.

Long story short, you are either intrigued by the HP Envy x2 or you are not. If you are, if you can sense that the nature of your PC experience is shifting with these modern times, if you value that connectivity and uptime, well. Then HP has a PC just for you.

Technically, the Envy x2 is a tablet. There’s no kickstand built-in to the device itself; instead, that capability comes from the wrap-around keyboard cover. And that keyboard cover works much like the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard, but with some major advantages over the lackluster Apple design, for which you must pay extra.

First, you get a real keyboard, with backlighting, and with a full 1.4 mm of key travel, much like a Surface Pro Type Cover. You also get a touchpad, which is completely missing on the iPad Pro, and a key reason why that device’s productivity experience is so frustratingly limited. As important, the Envy x2 keyboard cover’s kickstand provides a range of viewing angles, from 110 to 150 degrees, where the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard provides exactly one viewing angle.

You also get an HP smartpen. At first blush, this pen doesn’t look to be as nice as Microsoft’s Surface Pen or the Apple Pencil. But the pen is at least included with the Envy x2. And in my early testing, it provides reasonably accurate and lag-free writing and drawing capabilities. There’s even a pen loop built right into the keyboard cover, a major plus.

Looking at the aluminum body—the tablet bit—you’ll find a familiar HP 2-in-1 design that is elegant looking, thin, and light. HP describes the device’s 6.94 mm thickness as being a bit thinner than a standard number two pencil. But of course, adding the keyboard cover bulks it up a bit, to 15.29 mm. That’s just a tad thicker than the iPad Pro with Smart Cover, at 14.04 mm. But the HP’s keyboard cover design is much simpler to use and versatile than that of the iPad Pro. And it is still very, very portable. (I’ll compare this device to Surface Pro for my review.)

The display is appropriate for the product positioning: It’s a 3:2 IPS design, which I very much prefer over 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratios. But it runs at “just” 1280p—e.g. 1920 x 1280—which is quite a bit lower than the Retina- and PixelSense-class displays we see on truly premium PCs and devices. HP says this is by design: It feels that most customers will prefer the resulting battery life advantage and that the 1280p resolution works well for both streaming content (which, remember, will often come via paid cellular service) and productivity work.

On either side of the display in traditional landscape mode, you will find two Bang & Olufsen-tuned front-firing speakers with discrete amplifiers. These appear to work pretty well for video and music playback, and offer reasonable loud volume for those hotel nights on business trips.

And thanks to its 10 nm Snapdragon innards, the Envy x2 is a “real” tablet, with no fans and no resulting fan noise. It can be configured with up to 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, and my early feeling is that any prospective buyers should seriously consider those upgrades in order to future-proof this purchase as much as possible.

Regardless of the configuration, all HP Envy x2s include what is essentially three cameras, a front-mounted IR camera for Windows Hello sign-ins, a 13 MP front-facing camera, and a rear-facing 5 MP camera. Expansion is typical for the expected usage: A single USB-C port for both charging and expansion (but with no Thunderbolt 3 capabilities), a microSD card slot, a nano-SIM card slot, and a combo audio jack.

That nano-SIM slot is interesting: My understanding was that meeting the requirements of Microsoft’s Always Connected PC initiative meant that the device would have an internal E-SIM. But the HP does not. I’ve outfitted it with a Project Fi data SIM, which works just fine.

And connectivity is excellent. The Envy x2 ships with Qualcomm’s vaunted X16 LTE-Advanced modem, by which the device can provide download speeds of up 450 Mbps (CAT9) today. But the chipset can actually deliver even faster speeds, and as wireless carriers ramp up LTE in advance of 5G, HP says that it will ship firmware/software updates to enable even faster connectivity.

I will test the download speeds. But beyond cellular, the device provides the expected Wi-Fi ACN and Bluetooth connectivity as well.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the HP Envy x2 ships with Windows 10 S version 1709, though I bet that future editions of the product ship with the less expensive Windows 10 Home in S mode (once Windows 10 version 1803 is completed). You can “upgrade” (OK, switch) to full Windows 10 Pro for free, which you’ll need to do to run desktop applications using Microsoft’s emulation software. I will do so and report back on what that experience is like, but if you have any expectation of doing this, again, the upgrade to 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage is clearly a requirement and not just a recommendation.

In any event, Windows 10 S is a pretty good fit here, given the Envy x2’s mission, which is “mostly content consumption with some content creation.” For most people, the availability of full Microsoft Office on the product, plus reasonable web browsing capabilities from Microsoft Edge, will satisfy the latter need. And Windows 10 S’s unique combination of increased security, reliability, and consistent performance seems ideally suited for an ARM-based PC.

I have a lot of testing ahead of me, and as I noted in my HP Envy x2 (Qualcomm) Preview, I will be focusing on several key areas. Battery life, for both Windows 10 S and Windows 10 Pro. The performance of x86 desktop applications (which requires Windows 10 Pro). Connectivity, or more specifically, how seamless it is to move between cellular and Wi-fi data. And more.

I will be checking in again ahead of my final review in order to provide you with the answers to our many questions about this device and the platform on which it runs. More soon, starting with a peek at the software.

 

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Comments (52)

52 responses to “HP Envy x2 (Qualcomm) First Impressions”

  1. wunderbar

    I came for a line about a pen loop and I was not disappointed.

  2. longhorn

    One important question to consider: How long will Windows 10 support the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip? This isn't a generic x86 chip which can be used until it's truly obsolete. When Microsoft is done supporting this chip, this product is nothing more than a paperweight. The downsides of supporting ARM are real. We see it all the time with smartphones.


    Apart from that the device looks nice. They put a nice screen on it.

    • Yaggs

      In reply to longhorn:

      I'm not so sure that will ever be a problem... you could like put something else on this thing if MS ever stops support it... I'm sure it would be able to be morphed into a Chrome Book or something like that. Also... you can still install Windows XP on stuff... I am sure when/if MS stops supporting ARM you will still be able to use the thing with an older version of Windows.


      • longhorn

        In reply to Yaggs:

        Older version of Windows? Chromebook? The only thing that will run on this device is the OS it ships with. Not even Linux, because even if Linux supports the 835 chip you won't be able to install a working Linux distro on it. This device is going to be End-Of-Life when Microsoft decides it's time for you to upgrade. It's ARM and you won't find anything else to install on it. Only a few ARM devices enjoy community support by the Linux community and Android community.


        I'm not saying Microsoft won't support it for several years, just that you are totally in the hands of HP and Microsoft if you buy this ARM device.


        The PC started as "IBM compatible PC". ARM isn't compatible with that eco-system.

  3. NoFlames

    can you run centenial x86 apps found in the store like spotify in S mode?

  4. unfalln

    3 cameras? This thing needs a notch!

  5. TechOCD

    This might be a great solution for me. I need the “instant on - always connected” and form factor (or close) of an iPad Pro but with Win 10 instead of iOS. Popping in and out of meetings, taking notes in OneNote - sometimes needing the pen/tablet instead of keyboard. Heavy use of MS Office. I’ve tried almost everything. Surface Pros are doing better resuming from sleep - but it’s not the same as the instant wake up of an iOS device - but I hate the crippled iOS for email and file access. If the X2 is just a LITTLE bit sluggish - that might be ok. If it is too slow, then I may get the Surface Pro LTE. But that just shifts your waiting from “in session” usage to the wake up process - unless the SP keeps improving its wake from sleep. Plus, the SP it is bulkier and heavier. My fngers are crossed for the X2! (And good input on the 8G/256, Paul!)

  6. brettscoast

    Good post Paul


    This looks like a highly desirable device and the battery life sounds terrific. Will be eagerly awaiting your review but the early indicators are good as you mentioned 8GB RAM 256GB SSD will be the sweet spot for power users but i will be interested to see the performance of the Qualcomm snapdragon chip as opposed to an Intel core i3 or i5. The qualcomm snapdragon 845 chip with its improved GPU performance would have made this device even more desirable.

  7. mariusmuntensky

    Touch is useless on this device because windows 10 has a submediocre touch UI and UX. I have to be a complete mad man to buy this over a standard ultrabook. If I want apps and touch, I buy an Ipad Pro with way better performance and decent battery life. Let's be serious, who on earth stays away from a powersource 10-15 hours day by day?? HP failed with their junk Elite X3 phone and will fail with this pathetic attempt. 999$ for a crippled device..LOL

  8. nbplopes

    If we cut through the chase, for the price, this is neither a premium content consumption tablet (1) or a mid range productivity machine (2). It is just made to look like one!


    I understand that people might get blinded for a while with the always connected and all day battery life, but that will not cloud the above for long.


    (1) As for content consumption and creativity machine the performance of this machine is sub par in real life compared to an iPad Pro. It does not have the graphics performance capability neither the display for that matter. As for creativity put something like Affinity Pro on it and it will be sluggish. It does not have either an on par app ecosystem either. This will be noticeable on a daily basis.


    Than there the thing, new iPad Pro’s are coming this year, I wonder ...


    * It should be noted that the $999 model only has 128GB while the mention iPad Pro prices are for the 265GB model. So we actually probably have around $100 price difference taking everything in consideration. If we go for the 256GB than it will be more expensive than the combination mentioned above. So what is decisive is (2) but ...


    (2) Clearly this does not have the performance of a mid range productivity machine, something that even the iPad Pro rivals and surpasses in many instances. Also 4GB is too short for a Windows productivity machine nowadays unless one is a sales duck, so one with reasonable experience would go up in the scale for the 8GB and 256GB. Than we are talking how much, $1299? I have no idea why they have not put the latter at $999 taking all things in consideration. But still even here the performance will be noticibly sub par in log term use, with updates so on and do forth (not just quick tests).


    The question is, “is there a market between the above in this price range?”. As you said, the bet is in the tech marketing around always connected and a all day battery life even though its something not unique to this tablet, if we see it as such. Their hipothisis is that its worth a lot for Windows centric users that simply don’t like for some reason either iOS (Apple) or Android/Chrome (Google), but for some reason would love something like an iPad or Chromebook but with Windows and for that reason accept any compromise necessary in comparison. It’s Windows after all for this users, that might be the core point. Let’s hope it is not Windows Phone scenario v2, but the fact that its like a laptop and Qualcomm is fully behind might just avoid this scenario. It will depend how the non S Mode actually performs I guess.


    On a positive note. HP seamed to have come with a brilliant solution for the Keyboard / Cover. It works as a full body cover / protection, without compromising what makes the core of a reasonably good keyboard. It shames the Apple solution for the iPad Pro in this regard or any other tablet for that matter. The Apple solution in comparison is like Frankenstein meets Origami. Maybe it will be “stolen” soon.

  9. TechOCD

    There are more than just two categories of device value: consumption & productivity. “Always Connected” pen based Windows tablets with decent keyboards could fill an important gap. If I need a machine that excels at consumption or productivity, then I pick up and use the right machine for that job in that moment. But there is a gap right now in the Windows ecosystem that “Always Connected” pen based tablets seek to fill. The question for me is whether the current 835 and emulation (of the 835 X2) sufficiency performs for this very specific mobile note taking use case. If it does I will gladly add this device to my inventory and fill that gap.

  10. jwpear

    Nice looking device! Can't wait to read your final review.

  11. JeJoCo

    A built in pen loop? Well, doesn't ruin the after market pen loop business? I mean, there are a lot of people making pen loops....I'm not sure that this inclusion is a good thing. And what of the colour choices? I mean, what if I want an aqua coloured pen loop? The rest of the machine looks pretty great though, especially the superb battery life. Might be the start of something big here, especially for university students, I'm thinking.....

  12. skane2600

    I realize that your testing is still to come, but wouldn't it be more prudent to wait until you've testing the 20 hour claim before just repeating the marketing claim? I also think it would be better to do the testing with the base model rather than one with extra optional resources.


    I'm primarily interested in the emulation performance particularly on Win32 programs that aren't among the "usual suspects". Microsoft might have focused their emulation testing on the more popular programs or even taken steps to boost their performance (not claiming they have but it wouldn't entirely be out of their historical character).

  13. Lewk

    I really want one.

  14. tonchek

    Paul, how (if) does it run VS2017? For occasional use of course..

  15. Daekar

    I think it's interesting that the prices on ALL of the products in this category are so high, because to me they ALL seem ridiculous. An iPad Pro for over $1200!? WTF? If I'm blowing $1000+ on a computing device, it damn well better do everything plus the kitchen sink at breakneck speeds, and do it for a long time. Without some SERIOUS advantages in battery life and wake time, there doesn't seem to be any reason to pick the Qualcomm version at this price point.

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to Daekar:

      There are people who spend $100 on a T-shirt, $6 on a cup of coffee, and $130K on a car. $1200 for the most powerful tablet computer you can buy is not an absurd amount to those people. For everyone else, there's plenty of decent tablets under $500, which is frankly what this HP should cost.

    • nbplopes

      In reply to Daekar:


      Hi


      The idea that form and function are two different things is not correct. Form and function are one and the same in a product. The distinction is indivisible. The question is, either the form/function is useful and worth the price or not.


      Don't confuse form with beauty. Beauty its a quality of the form. Like "break neck speeds" is a quality a a formula-one-car, yet you don't drive a formula one car in the streets. You could, but, let's face it, it would be form over function.


      The question is can you get the qualities you appreciate in this form ? No. If you can't than its difficult to argue against its price.


      People often misquote the term "form over function". Mind you, this principle comes from Modernist Architecture. This was a counter movement against excessive ornamentation. Things that suffice no function but decoration towards beauty. A characteristic for instance of gaming machines, both laptop and desktops, full of ornaments. You can see that on a all glass phones vs plastic. They both serve the same function, the difference is a question of ornament if we take the tactile experience out of the function.


      So the question is. Can we get better function out of that form or similar yet with negligible difference in that price range or cheaper? Is the form/function worth it? Not that you can buy a gaming specked machines with an entirely different form and so function, with an added bonus of full of ornaments at that price range.


      I personally find the presented option unbalanced at many levels. Something that would for sure be noticeable in my daily life to the point I would for sure buy in time a second device (either a better PC or a better Tablet depending on my core needs). Which would make the investment moot. The core value point for me of hybrid systems. This is something that no true hybrid like this machine and surface pro's has ever solved yet for me, so the compromise is not worth it I always felt the need for a second machine. And for that matter I might as well buy in time the best I can either way, no compromises instead of buying a patch.


      Cheers.

      • skane2600

        In reply to nbplopes:

        Despite historical origins, the understanding of specialists in a particular field or an idiosyncratic personal perspective, words and phrases can take on their own common meaning that are no less valid.

        • nbplopes

          In reply to skane2600:


          Valid when such common meaning is not used to simply wing around a rehetoric devoided of reason, only emotion or attachment to a particular way. Otherwise it’s pretense.


          I personally find this particular implementation extremely bad for the price. But it is also unreasonable to think that the only valid computing quality for defining price and function is speed.


          It is interesting how perception changes in time. For instance not too long ago people were bashing the iPad as being just a bigger iPhone. Meanwhile the same people started dreaming with a Phone that could run desktop grade applications, that could become a PC. But when they finally have something extremely close if not right there in capability, they seam not be able to recognize it. There is no prize for such achievements, probabkh it should cost 300 dollars or something.


          Interesting isn’t it?

    • William Clark

      In reply to Daekar: Agreed and when you compare this to an Acer Switch Alpha 12 at under $700 with keyboard and pen, Core i7 with 256G SSD, It's hard to even consider this.


      • digiguy

        In reply to waclark57:

        I had bought the Switch alpha 12... cheap, but crappy device. I returned it. Poor battery life, rather heavy and the keyboard gets dirty like a 3 year old... This is much lighter and has 4 times the battery life... Not everyone needs an i7 on the go... Also, the price of the Acer went down in time, this is brand new... Having said that I'll be waiting the next generations (more power, better software and hardware support) before trying these WOA devices...

      • MikeCerm

        In reply to waclark57:

        The battery life on the Alpha 12 is horrendous though. If you need to be off the charger for more than 4-5 hours, the HP will do it every time, and the Alpha 12 will not. A device that can't last a full work day isn't really a portable device. (But in terms of performance, you're totally right. It's really just a matter of whether you care about portablility or performance.)

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Daekar:

      Fair. But the compromise here is potentially meaningful to some audience. I'm with you, of course.

  16. Irving Park

    Interesting new product. I've checked out some of the other reviews one noting that Win 32 apps don't work that well.


    Kind of surprised Google has been silent in this category. One would have thought Google would have come up with something by now in this category -- meaning Android tablet with keyboard with cellular.

  17. tarnishedtinman

    I am not sure I understand the point of this product.


    For a grand (but Paul says to spend more), I get a tablet that sort of runs Windows. I mean it runs the ARM version of Windows, not some cut down version like Windows CE was. (I still have my Compaq C140 handheld, as a reminder not to fall for that again) But it will need applications to be recompiled to run natively, or it will allow you to run only win32 versions of intel applications?


    The actual Intel version is also going to be available soon. (At least according to the HP website) Why wouldn't I buy that one instead? Sure it's a little thicker, doesn't look like by much. Also has LTE, still claims 19 hours of battery life, versus the ARM versions claim of 22 hours.


    So why would I buy the ARM version again? Maybe next go around, once more apps are natively available for it. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the apps that Paul depends on actually do on the ARM version.


    Personally, I put my email address in for updates on the Intel version.

    • Daishi

      In reply to tarnishedtinman:

      The biggest issue I can see with the Intel version is that it has an iPad Pro style folding keyboard cover. Both solutions (kickstand with keyboard attachment or folding cover) are terrible, but I think the latter is clearly worse.


      That said, I completely agree that getting the Intel version is an obvious choice. Practically the same sized package with vastly better performance and no questions about program compatibility. It's a no brainer

    • Matthias Kraßnitzer

      In reply to tarnishedtinman:
      Instant on / allways connected is for sure the biggest argument for that. This is one of the biggest arguments for iPads and tablet in general. Having it ready, in the momant you open the keyboard.
      My mother often switches on the desktop-pc, goes to do the laundry and then comes back to us the pc, once its finished booting up and ready to use. I can totally see replacing the 15 year old desktop PC with this device. The perfomance might be the same or maybe a bit better, but form the premium feeling, the fact, that they can carry it around, it's leight weight and have it always ready would be woth it for them. They dont care about the performance, they dont need it to run the Adobe Suite. They are fine with basic browsing, office suite and being able to organize their docoments in folders. For most of the things they are doing on their PC an iPad actually might be fine, but the limited multitasking and the lack of pointer support would. They would be fine with this PC for the next 10 years.


      • RobertJasiek

        In reply to mottle:

        Not in my case, although I sit on a 9 years old PC and would be happy with a modest CPU sufficient for office and use a desktop keyboard. I do, however, not accept the glare (instead of matte) display of the HP Envy. Besides I would probably have trouble missing the one or two 64b softwares or drivers I need.

  18. RossNWirth

    lapability? Does the keyboard stay connected (like the Surface Pro), or does it disconnect all the time (like the Huawai Matebook)?

  19. RossNWirth

    Paul it's out of stock on hp.com - all of your & Leo's excitement and they're sold out!

  20. Stooks

    Please quote me. Windows 10 on ARM or whatever this is called (this week) will be a failure.


    Reasons....


    Windows 10

    Windows 10S

    Store

    UWP apps

    Constant meaningless change in the OS at a rapid pace.

    Store for native ARM apps

    Emulation mode will suck!!!!

    The percentage of people that care about battery life beyond 8 hours is microscopic.



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