Well, I can say this much already: HP’s Envy x2 battery life claims are quite accurate.
You can catch up on my experiences with the first Windows 10 on ARM PC, the HP Envy x2, via two previous articles, HP Envy x2 (Qualcomm) Preview: Here Comes the Future and HP Envy x2 (Qualcomm) First Impressions. In a nod to the importance of this device, or, more specifically, the Windows 10 on ARM system it runs, I’m going through more than my normal review process. So I’ll be checking in from time-to-time to keep you updated. I know this one is important.
All first-generation Windows 10 on ARM PCs fall into Microsoft’s Always Connected PC category, meaning that they are portable PCs that offer stellar battery life and up-time, plus always-on connectivity courtesy of integrated cellular data. But the underlying Snapdragon platform, of course, is new. So we have questions. Questions about that battery life and uptime. Questions about performance, especially with legacy (Win32) desktop applications. And questions about compatibility, since ARM-based Windows 10 versions can only run 32-bit apps. (Support for 64-bit Store apps is coming, I’m told, but it’s not clear if support for 64-bit desktop applications is.)
I intend to answer all of these questions, and to do so as accurately as possible. But doing so is a bit convoluted. The Envy x2, like all first-generation Windows 10 on ARM PCs, ships with Windows 10 S. (Future generations will come with some Windows 10 product edition in S mode; probably Home.) Microsoft’s stated belief, which I find dubious, is that most users will choose to stick with that mode. But I need to use Pro to answer some of those questions.
So I have a plan. And it is progressing nicely.
The first question, of course, is about battery life. I’ll be testing this one repeatedly, but I wanted to do the initial test on a clean Windows 10 S install, so I signed in with my Microsoft account, made sure the system and Store-based apps were all up-to-date and kicked it off.
As you may know, I do a Wi-Fi HD video streaming test that I feel hits a nice balance between the real-world (watching videos on flights and in other downtimes is a standard, battery-draining activity) and an artificial benchmark (the videos are streamed, not locally stored). I configured the system as I always do for consistency. And at some time before 2 pm yesterday, I kicked it off.
The videos played all night. When I woke up this morning, they were still playing, and I knew at that point that I’d probably get closer to a manufacturer’s battery life claims than I ever have. When the screen finally turned off at a bit after 8:30, I did some rough math in my head: That’s between 19:30 and 20 hours of battery life. HP’s claim, of course, is about 20 hours.
But I wanted an accurate measurement, and I always use Windows 10’s built-in battery report feature to get it. This requires running a simple command line:
If you don’t switch to a different location in the shell, a file called battery-report.html will be generated in C:\WINDOWS\system32.
Well. That’s how it works in “normal” Windows 10. Windows 10 on ARM, as you may recall, has a few limitations. And one of them is that it doesn’t support command line environments like CMD. So when I used Start search/Cortana to find CMD, nothing came up.
But I knew that CMD was hiding in there really. Many of Microsoft’s Windows 10 S/S mode/Windows 10 on ARM limitations are, after all, artificial. So I ran the command line (powercfg /batteryreport) from the Run dialog (WINKEY + R). And sure enough, a command line window flashed on the screen, displaying some text. And then disappeared immediately.
I figured that the battery report had been generated, so I looked for it in its normal location, but I came up empty. I used Start search/Cortana to search for it too, and I again came up empty. (Search was very slow, too, which might be an ominous indication for performance overall.)
Perhaps that command line window had generated an error message. I had to know. So I wrote a command line script (a .CMD) file with just two commands:
That second command prevents the script from ending until I hit a key. Which would keep the command line window on the screen so I could read what it said. So I ran it. And got this.
LOL. Oh, Microsoft. You are so cute.
At this point, my plan was to switch to Windows 10 Pro anyway because my next step is to test performance, specifically desktop application performance. And I knew that in switching to Pro, I could also get that script to run. Worst case scenario was that the battery report wasn’t generated and I would have to just say that the initial battery life was between 19:30 and 20 hours. No harm, no foul.
So I selected the “See how” link in that dialog and chose to switch to Windows 10 in the Store.
This process took, literally, seconds. I didn’t even need to reboot. And then I ran the script. This time it worked fine. And it plopped the battery report right on my desktop since that’s where I saved the script.
And no I have the official numbers. I started the battery life test at 1:47:24 yesterday and the system ran until 9:33:01 this morning when it hit 3 percent battery life and went into Connected Standby. Total battery life?
That this figure is exactly in the middle of my 19:30 to 20-hour guess is kind of fun. But that it confirms HP’s battery life claim is, of course, the real point here. This is ungodly battery life.
To put this in perspective, I looked at the battery life I saw for the PCs I’ve reviewed over the past two years. Before the the Envy x2, the best battery life I’d seen was with Surface Book 2, which delivered 15:19. That is a much bigger machine, of course, and it comes with two batteries. The number two finisher, previously, was the Surface Laptop, at a bit over 13 hours.
With the Envy x2 now running Windows 10 Pro, I will install my standard set of core apps, which I coincidentally just detailed in Living with S Mode: Core Apps (Premium), and see how it goes. But I do have one bit of bad news to offer up-front.
First, because of that 32-bit limitations, some Store apps will not work with Windows 10 on ARM today. And among those apps, sadly, is Adobe Photoshop Elements 15. That app is 64-bit, so even though it is available in the Store, it will not install or run on the Envy x2. So I’ll need to find an alternative for that. I’m curious what other apps I use might be likewise blocked. And, of course, I’m curious about performance overall.
So we’ll see. I’m installing apps as I write this. And will report back again soon.