HP Envy x2 (Qualcomm) Review Check-In: Battery Life

Posted on March 22, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 54 Comments

HP Envy x2 (Qualcomm) Review Check-In: Battery Life

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:

powercfg /batteryreport

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:

powercfg /batteryreport
pause

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?

19:45:36.

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.

 

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Comments (54)

54 responses to “HP Envy x2 (Qualcomm) Review Check-In: Battery Life”

  1. ToddKlindt

    Great information, Paul. Thanks for the followup. I'm curious to here how more real world scenarios play out.


    Oh, and thanks for reminding me about powercfg. Now I have to go run it on all of my laptops and tablets. There goes my Thursday morning. :)


    tk

  2. feek

    The low resolution screen kind of makes the battery life a bit underwhelming. Pretty sure the XPS 13 with the 1080p screen has been rated at 22 hours since at least last year's model. I can't speak to the real life results, and it's not exactly apples to apples, but still.

  3. skane2600

    It would be best to test the battery life with a long-running Win32 program as well. That way a potential buyer could evaluate the battery life based on the primary way they intend to use the PC (10S or Pro).

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to skane2600:

      I wrote that this was only the first test and that it was done in Windows 10 S. But I will be testing under Pro, though with the same (Store) app.

      • skane2600

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        That sounds like it could be a redundant test. You wouldn't expect the Store app to use any Pro features. People who don't care about battery life while running Win32 apps have little reason to upgrade to Pro IMO.

        • Jorge Garcia

          In reply to skane2600:

          If one doesn't care about battery life, then they wouldn't be considering an ARM-based Windows machine in the first place, right?...given the multitude of better and cheaper Intel offerings, that is. WOA is a trade-off thing, and the people eyeing these machines will (hopefully) understand that. It's MS's job now to minimize the negative effects caused by the (very necessary) migration. But the bottom line is that non-techie people in 2018 want all of their computers to share all the best attributes of their true main computer...their smartphone. Right now my current job does not require me to be mobile, but when that changes, I will CERTAINLY be looking into a WOA machine. I don't care too much about some speed hits here and there, even significant ones.

          • skane2600

            In reply to JG1170:

            "If one doesn't care about battery life, then they wouldn't be considering an ARM-based Windows machine in the first place, right?"


            Which is why testing the battery life while running Win32 apps is so important for anyone who wishes to upgrade to Windows Pro on ARM.


            I'm a little confused about your position, however. Do you believe that only people that are concerned about battery life would buy this or is it your opinion that non-tech people might buy it because you believe they want a computer that shares the best attributes of their smartphone?


            I think most people whose needs are met by smartphones have never been all that interested in computers and won't be buying one.

            • Jorge Garcia

              In reply to skane2600:

              I believe that there is a significant number of people out there whose needs are "pretty much" met by a smartphone, but would still be willing to spend a couple hundred bucks on a laptop that would offer them a larger screen and a real keyboard with which to perform mostly the same tasks they perform on their smartphone. My girlfriend is one of these people and I consider her to be representative of many, many people. A lot of these people would prefer in this order 1.) An iOS laptop (only somewhat exists, and it's very expensive) 2. An Android laptop (inexplicably very very few decent options out there for this today....however note that a $79 garbage android laptop/hybrid called the RCA Galileo is a best-seller at Walmart) 3. A windows machine, simply because of inertia/misunderstanding. Note that I left out Chromebooks. I still do NOT see people warming up to them, although with the Play store now available this may begin to change a bit. My argument is if they do happen to land on their #3 choice, in 2018 they will expect battery life (and uptime) to resemble that of their iPhones and tablets. This is why I think Windows on ARM, wart-covered as it may be, is an indispensable for move for MS to make. It would be absolute suicide if they did not at least try to migrate Windows away from the late sixties architecture that is x86.

  4. Stooks

    The question I have for anyone is how important is battery life on a computer/laptop past 8 hours????


    I am sure that some will say it is a MUST HAVE! But I do not think many need that kind of battery life from a computer. From a smartphone yes but a computer no. Maybe yes for a tablet.


    However I am never on battery for more than 8 hours even that is super rare. Maybe 4 times a year at remote sites, working in a small computer room will I be on battery for about 4-6 hours. I have a power brick if I need it. 95% of the my computer usage is sitting at a desk (home/work) where my laptop is plugged in.


    If battery life is the only selling point for these Windows 10 on ARM devices.....they are not going to sell.


    The only review area I care about is the Win32 emulation. What are its limitations (no 64bit apps etc) and how bad is it?

    • RobertJasiek

      In reply to Stooks:

      This can be used like a tablet, for which long battery life is important. Used outdoors at maximum brightness probably about halves the time and suddenly it is shorter than needed.

    • Bill Strong

      In reply to Stooks:

      If you never travel, then 8 hrs is fine. What about taking a camping trip over the weekend, and want movies to watch at night. Or you are using howto videos to help gut your first deer, or light your first fire. Or on a 12 hr flight and then discover that you don't have the right charger for the country you are in. I could go on.

      • Waethorn

        In reply to Bill_Strong:

        If all you're going to do is watch movies at night during a camping trip, you're not doing it right.

      • Stooks

        In reply to Bill_Strong:

        " What about taking a camping trip over the weekend, and want movies to watch at night. Or you are using howto videos to help gut your first deer, or light your first fire."


        The whole reason to go camping is to NOT bring technology and get away from it. I camp a lot and it is a great way to get the kids off that junk. I also hunt and yes watching a video for my son's to dress a deer was great for them...at the house before we left. In the field I taught them how to do it. Getting your bloody hands all over your laptop/tablet because you are watching a how too video on dressing a deer?????????? Sorry that is a fantastic example of what not to do.


        I travel but mostly in the US so no flight is ever going to be more than 5 hours? I guess with lay overs it could be past 8 hours? Even then I am not on my devices every single second. I might watch a movie on my iPad and then put it away for a while. Also in every airport I have been in there are lots of places to charge things, so if I had a layover I could re-charge if I needed too. Even traveling to Europe I am not on my devices every second. May iPad can easily go 8 hours.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to Stooks:

      It's not about some one-time need for battery. It's about using it for a week and never charging it. This is the "uptime + battery" thing. That kind of testing will take time and will be less scientific.

      • skane2600

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        I can imagine that in a 3rd world country where power is available only for a few hours a week, this might be useful, but I don't see how it's a selling point for most people.

        • Jorge Garcia

          In reply to skane2600:

          Because you obviously don't understand people. As Paul said, it's about uptime as much as it is about usage time. Battery is the number one reason that people (esp. children) love iPads and won't even consider (often superior) Android tablet offerings. You can throw an iPad onto the couch when you're done and come back in a week and its battery has barely dropped. That is what normal people (not us) value above pretty much all else. Go figure.

          • skane2600

            In reply to JG1170:

            Sure I can imagine young kids exclaiming "I won't even consider an Android tablet!" Get real. If you don't follow any kind of regimen for charging a tablet the more likely scenario is the kids will start crying because the iPad is discharged. So whether you have an iPad or an Android tablet with better battery life (iOS or Android I don't care), you should charge it regularly if you don't want to be disappointed.

            • curtisspendlove

              In reply to skane2600:

              In our household no one ever seems to remember to charge anything but me. So I’m sure even with this thing we would have charging cables in the house, all the cars, the camper, etc.


              However there are definitely some that see the battery/charge to power trade-off to be worth it.


              It is a primary reason I love my iPad over my phone and laptops.

              • skane2600

                In reply to curtisspendlove:

                I agree that some people would be willing to accept the trade-off. Of course your iPad doesn't achieve it's power savings by compromising the iPad experience you're already familiar with.

                • curtisspendlove

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  “Of course your iPad doesn't achieve it's power savings by compromising the iPad experience you're already familiar with.”


                  No, but it has the same functional trade offs. I can’t code on it without a bunch of compromises. So, in effect I do similar things with it to what I’d be doing on a Windows ARM laptop.


                  That said, most of those problems can be solved with software. I think...anyway. iPad hardware is certainly fast enough for web coding. I’m guessing with a proper “windows store” app, coding would be possible on this laptop too.


                  Though you still have all the shortcomings of being able to run dev servers, etc. The same workarounds would be necessarily for both systems.


                  IAll that said... prefer my compromized iPad to a compromised Windows laptop.

      • Stooks

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        I kind of get that, but so you won't charge this device during the week but you will charge all kinds of other devices, phone, watch, BT headset, camera etc.


        My point being is that "Charging" is something everyone is accustomed too. Most do it when they go to bed as most of their devices easily last a day. A day being for most not more than 8 hours on a laptop with out plugging it in. I am typing on my MacBook Pro at work....that is plugged in to power/monitor/keyboard/mouse. I am taking it into the computer room later this morning for a few hours. When I leave today it goes in my bag. At home I put it up on my kitchen desk and plug in the power.


        Yes it would be fantastic if my watch, smartphone, laptop, tablet and headset did not need to be plugged in each day. Most of them can last two days, some over two days but I still plug them in every day.

  5. gabbrunner

    Paint.NET had been available from the store for some time although I'm not sure if it isn't 64-bit.. Depending on your exact needs that might be good enough?

  6. jimchamplin

    I wish more software was native for ARM on Windows, but it may be a while before we see that. I’d love a comparison of an emulated and native version of an application.

  7. nbplopes

    Battery life for video playback is really, really impressive. This kind of values I've never seen.


    Nice, nice.

  8. Waethorn

    So I see this thing on WW that Leo just got and already the trackpad is starting to show greasy fingerprint stains @59:05. Frankly, that's crap. I've had far cheaper laptops with keyboards and trackpads that don't show grease wear after 2+ years.


    I'd bet you won't see it again on any of Leo's other shows.

  9. mikiem

    "...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."


    PaintShop Pro comes in 32 & 64 bit flavors -- you have the option during install to choose either or both -- has many of the features you're used to using in P/Shop Elements, & has a trial available.

  10. TheJoeFin

    This is pretty exciting. The idea of a Windows computer which can last that long is hard to believe. Devices like this running UWP apps faster gives UWP devs a competitive edge in this always connected on-the-go use case.

  11. kodos78

    Do these machines allow for the Windows Subsystem for Linux? If so, I might get one!

  12. ezraward

    I know there's been a lot of talk about Intel machines getting comparable runtime performance with ARM systems, but what really interests me is the standby time. Setting this device down like an iPad and coming back a week later to pick it up and have it losing almost no charge is very appealing to me (if that turns out to be the case).


    I'd really love one of these devices made by Microsoft, but I doubt it would be a huge seller and my needs != most people's needs and wants.

    • Daekar

      In reply to ezraward:

      This is what I want to know. I have an Intel tablet that I tried to use like I use a phone or Android tablet, and that was a complete non-option. Things didn't sync or update, notifications didn't come up when they actually should have, and the battery was dead in a day or two. That kind of functionality is REQUIRED for a mobile device, IMO. I don't know how people have used laptops so long without it.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to ezraward:

      Yes. This is the big strength of these devices. It will take a while to figure out how well that works, of course.

  13. johnbaxter

    Hi, Paul...


    Consider store app Affinity Photo. Regularly $50, on sale for 2 more weeks at $ 37.50.


    Sorry, I don't know whether it is 32 or 64 bits, but fear the latter. But based on what I've seen I think you should consider it anyhow as an alternative or replacement for Photoshop Elements, since S mode is not in your future.


    I don't take or edit photos, so I can't give a first hand report. It started on Mac and moved to Windows, so when you give up and switch you'll be set. (My most recent several photos have been of product labels, a habit I recommend to replace turning the device over and reading the micro type.)



  14. jaredthegeek

    I would like to see the test on LTE. LTE is a battery killer in my experience on my Surface 3 LTE with 4 gigs or ram. I love the idea of the HP as the screen is a bit bigger and I am a bit older. I also want the battery life. I don't need a hardcore machine for mobility. I want OneNote and office apps and some time killers. If Plex, Netflix work then I am fine.

  15. MikeGalos

    That's not just "HP’s Envy x2 battery life claims are quite accurate". That's really "HP’s Envy x2 battery life claims under promise and over deliver - by a lot".


    Manufacturer's battery life numbers are usually based on "typical use" scenarios and not on 100% duty cycle of constant video. That figure is usually a lot lower than the "claimed battery life". In fact, it's not unusual for that test to only get about 60% of "claimed battery life". Getting 98.75% of "claimed battery life" on this test is pretty amazing.

  16. lilmoe

    I watched this machine in action in Windows Weekly, and I have to say, the performance of Win32 apps (at least) is absolutely unacceptable, even for a casual user... Coupled with a price that high? I really don't know. The Snapdragon 845 isn't going to be that much faster, and I have doubts that performance will be satisfactory anytime soon.


    Also, more importantly, like I said (in detail) in my comment on your post about "Microsoft needs to look at what Apple is doing with iOS", the UWP is an absolute trainwreck in terms of speed, responsiveness, and UI "richness". Everything wrong with UWP can be summarized with 5 minutes of using Microsoft Edge. UWP's UI isn't even comparable with HTML 5 and a modern javascript library.


    No, just NO. This is NOT a good start. Again, if Microsoft's future vision of WINDOWS is a walled-garden (which is fine for consumers), then UWP XAML and UI needs to be at least 75% as powerful as WPF XAML, and just as responsive as Win32 on an Intel/AMD machine. Otherwise, forget it, it's DoA. Why would anyone choose a mobile version of Windows over an iPad, since both would work just about the "same".

    • Stooks

      In reply to lilmoe:

      Wow the downvotes you get for speaking the TRUTH. (at -3 until I up-voted you).


      DOA is right, just like Windows RT.


      Update - just watched the Windows Weekly video, the part with this device (59min mark) and OMG that looks so utterly painful to use any non UWP store app. Leo clicked on the close button for chrome (red X) and it took 30+ seconds to close.


      I would cry if I bought one of those and brought it home....and then quickly return it. I see ZERO use case for this device.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to lilmoe:

      The performance is definitely slow. But having 8 GB of RAM instead of 4 helps. I think the transition to the more powerful 845 chipset will help (but not help current users). Sticking with Store apps really helps. And its possible that improvements to the emulation software could help.

  17. RobertJasiek

    Very interesting (and entertaining how Windows security makes a joke of itself).

    I would also like to see battery life for browsing over WLAN at 50% brightness, and then at 100% (the typical outdoor use). Some computers are good at video playback time, others good at browsing over WLAN. Furthermore, an office test (WLAN deactivated) at 50% brightness would be interesting if you can emulate this.

    If the 50% brightness tests also yield close to 20h, we can start to speak of full work day life (yes, those work days do occur!).

  18. Daekar

    Paint.net!


    Glad to hear the battery testing is going well. After the Win32 test, I am REALLY interested in how long it will go in connected standby... you know, where it's not being used but my mail is still coming in, OneDrive changes are still synced, etc. That is a thing, right?

  19. lhavenst

    You may not like the design but GIMP is available in 32 and 64 bit versions.


    The installer contains both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of GIMP, and will automatically use the appropriate one.


    At the Envy X2 screen resolution the interface should work ok. The icons are tiny on a Surface Pro (5).

  20. Waethorn

    I'm noticing that clean installs of 1709 with the latest updates on lots of systems are not resuming from sleep recently. The culprit seems to be poor support for ASPM on USB composite devices preventing USB controllers or their respective root hubs from going into sleep mode. I have lots of clients with this problem. Systems resume on their own, but only provide a black screen. This, despite drivers being installed from the system OEM, or by Windows Update. Many HP laptops seem to be affected by this. Both Intel and AMD. It's also NOT ALWAYS happening. Sometimes resume from sleep works. Sometimes it doesn't. I guess "power management is a difficult computer science problem", despite it being supported in Windows since Windows NT.


    Oh, and just to note: some clients have moved to various Linux builds on the same hardware and sleep works as intended.

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