HP Envy x2 (Qualcomm) Review

Posted on April 25, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 81 Comments

HP Envy x2 (Qualcomm) Review

The HP Envy x2 represents a brave new world for Windows PCs with its always-on connectivity and mobile device-based hardware platform. But it falls short in too many ways and will disappoint the typical PC user.

Understanding this product

In my review-check-in Taking Stock, I explained how I had come full circle on the HP Envy x2 after answering—for both myself and others—some key questions about the underlying platform. And that my conclusion was to use the PC in the way in which the platform makers—in this case, Microsoft, Qualcomm, and HP—intended.

That was the wrong conclusion. I apologize.

We should never have to contort ourselves—in this case, how we get work done, or how we use a familiar PC design—because the product itself is limited. Instead, technology should make our lives better, more efficient. And this where the Envy x2—really, the entire Windows 10 on ARM platform—fails us.

I elaborated on this issue more in The Problem with Windows 10 on ARM (Premium). But for you non-Premium members in the audience, let me just say this: While Windows 10 on ARM is, in some ways, a technological marvel, the performance and compatibility issues are far too problematic for PC users. This platform is wrong for traditional PCs.

As Microsoft positions it, Windows 10 on ARM is its attempt to bring the legacy Windows code base to a newer, more mobile-focused hardware platform. In doing so, Windows 10 benefits from ARM’s integrated cellular connectivity, stellar battery life, and weeks-long standby times, helping the system behave somewhat like a smartphone.

Microsoft has been down this road before, of course: Windows RT was a previous attempt at bringing Windows, in that case, Windows 8, to ARM. But it suffered from two fundamental stumbling blocks: The performance was terrible and it could not run traditional Windows desktop applications.

The performance of Windows 10 on ARM is likewise terrible. But this system partially solves the second problem thanks to a Microsoft-created software emulator. That is, Windows 10 on ARM can run Windows desktop applications. But it can only run 32-bit desktop applications. 64-bit apps, like Adobe Photoshop and many others, will never run on Windows 10 on ARM. Neither will software drivers that require an Intel-compatible chipset. (Note that all software drivers require this.)

The issue is that the types of customers who might otherwise be drawn to one of these PCs will not understand which software will and will not work. It’s basically a game of whack-a-mole where you just pray for the best. But you will be disappointed: I ran into all kinds of unexpected roadblocks here.

So the question emerges: Does Windows 10 on ARM make any sense at all?

My conclusion is that, no, it does not. And that somewhat renders the rest of this review somewhat moot. Which is too bad, because the Envy x2 is, in fact, a beautiful and elegant device.

The Envy brand

HP has, perhaps, a few too many premium PC brands in its stable and you may wonder how/where the Envy fits into the scheme of things.

I think of Envy as a cross-over, if you will, from a branding perspective. Which means that Envy-branded devices fall beneath HP’s premium Spectre (consumer) and Elite (business) products, and above their more mainstream brands like Pavilion.

From what I can see, this positioning results in the proverbial sweet spot. That is, Envy brings enough style and new technology from HP’s truly premium brands to please virtually anyone. And it does so at price points that a far bigger audience can afford.

For the x2 in particular, the Envy positioning is smart: This device is too underpowered to be a Spectre or Elite product, but it has a beautiful industrial design that elevates it above the mainstream.

Design

The HP Envy x2 is a wonderfully thin and light portable tablet PC with a 2-in-1 design. It very clearly targets Apple’s 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and is an alternative to the low-end (Core m3) version of Microsoft’s Surface Pro.

And from a design standpoint, it holds up well in these comparisons. This is an elegant and professional-looking device.

With its type cover attached, the HP Envy x2 lands at just 0.6 inches (15.29 mm) thick and 2.67 pounds. That is just a bit thicker and heavier than an iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard cover, but it provides far more versatility: The HP’s keyboard cover is included, and not an added cost, and it covers the entire device when closed (the Smart Keyboard leaves the back of the iPad Pro exposed). It also provides for multiple screen angles, where the Smart Keyboard provides just one, and two keyboard angles where, again, iPad gets just one, flat. And, it includes a glass touchpad where no such capability is available on the Apple device.

I described the Envy x2 as a 2-in-1 because the type cover is included with the device. Truth be told, it’s really just a tablet: You can easily—perhaps a bit too easily—detach the tablet part from the keyboard cover and use it with the HP Pen, which is also included in the cost of the device. (Again, unlike iPad Pro, where an Apple Pencil is a $100 extra.)

By itself, the tablet is elegant, thin (.27 inches) and light (1.54 pounds), and would work well with the HP Pen if it wasn’t so laggy. It’s made of a single piece of CNC-machined aluminum with a scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass display, and it has proven to be stiff and durable during my usage. There are no fans, thanks to the Qualcomm chipset, and thus no fan noise or excessive heat. It would be a joy to use if it weren’t for the performance issues.

Display

The Envy x2’s 12.3-inch IPS display is both right-sized for the device and of excellent quality, with a nice 1920 x 1280 resolution and ideal 3:2 aspect ratio, both of which make plenty of sense for a device of this kind. It supports both multi-touch and smartpen capabilities, of course. And it is very bright, with deep colors and sharp text.

There’s no real bad news from a display perspective, but the bezels are a bit big on all sides. I’ve found that to be typical for 2-in-1s and tablets these days.

Components and ports

The Envy x2 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, a 10 nm System on a Chip (SoC) platform that is designed primarily for smartphones and incorporates Adreno 540 graphics, 2×2 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 5, and a speedy X16 LTE modem. Most Envy x2s will ship with 4 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD. But the review unit came with a more acceptable 8 GB of RAM, plus a 256 GB SSD. I would never buy a Windows PC with less than 8 GB of RAM.

As I noted in my performance check-in, system performance ranges from acceptable to laughably bad, and this is the first modern PC I’ve used that reminded me of a netbook in this regard. No, that is not a compliment.

General UX browsing is fine, and most Store apps seem to run acceptably well. But desktop application performance—including the performance of desktop Store apps like Word 2016 and the rest of Office—is unacceptable. The issue there, of course, is Microsoft’s x86-to-ARM emulation software: Since the underlying platform is completely different from that of the applications you want to run, there’s a performance hit.

While it’s not completely fair to use a performance benchmark to make my performance point, I feel that this one is relevant: My normal video encoding test, in which I convert a 4K video called Tears of Steel to 1080p, took an incredible 2:13:44 to complete on the Envy x2. By comparison, the 2017 Surface Pro took about an hour less time, at 1:41:27. Quad-core CPU-based modern PCs like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon are even faster; the PC finished this test in just 1:21.

The good news? Thanks to the efficient design of the Snapdragon 835, the Envy x2 requires no cooling fans and it runs silently. I never noticed any real heat of any kind either.

From a ports perspective, the Envy x2 offers a minimalist approach with a single USB-C port that’s used for both power and expansion, a microSD card tray, and a proprietary keyboard cover connector.

There’s also a combo audio jack that is correctly located on the bottom right of the device when used in landscape mode with the keyboard cover.

(The USB-C port does not provide Thunderbolt 3 capabilities, but I feel that is acceptable for a device of this class.)

The Envy x2 also includes two cameras, a 13 MP rear-facing camera and a 5 MP front-facing unit, plus a Windows Hello-compatible IR camera on the front.

Connectivity

Since always-on connectivity is one of the primary benefits of any Always Connected PC, it should come as no surprise that the HP Envy x2 excels in this area. As I noted in my connectivity check-in, the PC provides a Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 cellular modem that supports Category 16 LTE-Advanced at speeds of up 1 Gbps, at least theoretically. However, as of this writing, the modem is limited to about 450 Mbps of download bandwidth. (HP says the download speed will improve with firmware updates over time, however.)

I’ve never achieved speeds like that in about a month of usage using T-Mobile via my Project Fi data SIM, at least to my knowledge. But switching between Wi-Fi and LTE is, at least, fairly seamless and I’ve not been bothered by any egregious pop-up warnings as I’d feared.

And not that it matters, but the way that the Envy x2 works with LTE is no different than how any cellular-equipped Windows 10 PC works. There is nothing special or unique about the software interfaces.

Beyond cellular, the Envy x2 provides the expected 2×2 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 5 capabilities, courtesy of a Qualcomm WCN3990 chipset. I never experienced any connectivity issues.

Keyboard, touchpad, and pen

The included keyboard cover is excellent and is roughly comparable to Microsoft’s Surface Pro Type Covers, even though it is made with a cheaper faux-leather polyurethane material. But I like it: It seems durable and doesn’t pick up stains, and is in keeping with the Envy brands low-end premium vibe.

It’s also really versatile: You can use the keyboard flat on the table or tilt it up against the bottom of the screen, as you can with Surface Pro (and can’t with iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard).

It also provides a new kickstand design that lets you angle the display itself between 110 degrees and 150 degrees, so you can find the most comfortable orientation. The iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard only provides one viewing angle for the display.

But the keyboard cover suffers from two inconveniences. It’s not terribly lappable, a problem shared by Surface Pro and other 2-in-1 designs. And because it attaches in a weird, non-standard way, and with magnets, it’s awkward to open and can separate from the tablet if you are holding it wrong.

As for the keyboard itself, it is backlit and surprisingly good, with an excellent 1.3 mm of key travel and a solid typing feel. Like any typing cover of this kind, there is, of course, a bit of flex, especially if you are a heavy typist like me. But it’s minimal and I had no issues cranking out text.

The glass touchpad is likewise excellent and is refreshingly right-sized, in my opinion, given the push to ever-bigger touchpads these days. No issues there either.

The HP Pen is less successful: It works pretty well for taking notes, which I’d imagine is its number one use case on this device. But those with artistic aspirations should look elsewhere: As I noted in my HP Pen check-in, the performance is laggy enough to be disruptive.

Portability

You won’t find a more agreeable PC from a portability perspective: The Envy x2 is thin and light, but doesn’t skimp on display size or quality, or on the keyboard and pointing experiences.

Best of all, the battery life is phenomenal: As I first reported in my battery life check-in, the real-world battery life of this PC is almost exactly what HP promised. I saw 19:55 in my most recent test.

The standby time is as impressive, if less easy to quantify. But I’m seeing weeks of standby time for sure, with the battery life only slowly declining day after day of disuse, thanks to the Snapdragon 835’s power-sipping efficiency cores.

Is this a major real-world advantage? I’m honestly not sure. If smartphones have taught us anything, it’s the value of charging these devices each night. Keeping a PC charged is not that onerous.

Software

The Envy x2 ships Windows 10 S version 1709, though I expect the PC to eventually come with Windows 10 Pro version 1803 in S mode; regardless, I upgraded it to Pro like anyone else would.

The PC ships with crapware from both Microsoft and HP, which is unfortunate. On the HP side, we see unnecessary apps like Phototastic Collage, Priceline.com, and a few others, but HP’s normal first-party utilities are nowhere to be seen, no doubt because they are Win32 desktop applications that will not work in S mode. Drivers and system updates are instead delivered through the Store, as is the case with Surface PCs. I prefer that.

The bigger software story, of course, is compatibility. And as I wrote in my compatibility check-in, it’s not a good story: The Envy x2 can run any 32-bit Store or (once you’ve switched out of Windows 10 S) desktop application, but it cannot run any 64-bit apps. Worse, it cannot install any normal x86/x64 drivers, which is a cute way of saying that it cannot install any drivers. That is a huge limitation.

Worse, it’s an unknown: You won’t know when you download an application or utility from the Internet whether it will even work. And the nonsensical error messages that Windows provides don’t help in the slightest.

Pricing and configurations

HP offers two versions of the Qualcomm-powered Envy x2. The base version, for $999, includes 4 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD. For $1299, you can upgrade to a version with 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. Looking at HP’s website today, however, I only see one model offered, the base unit, and it’s out of stock. That may be for the best.

Recommendations and conclusions

Despite its thin, light, and pretty industrial design, the HP Envy x2 addresses a potential market so small that it may, in fact, be imaginary. This device strikes all the wrong compromises, and I believe that most potential customers would prefer and be much better served by a PC that offered normal performance and compatibility with half the battery life and standby time of the Envy x2.

This isn’t HP’s fault, of course. And the PC giant did what it could to overcome the inherent limitations of the platform. But the performance and compatibility problems are very real, and with HP and other PC makers offering Intel-based Always Connected PCs too, there is no need to compromise on what really matters.

Put simply, I cannot recommend the HP Envy x2 or any other Qualcomm-based Always Connected PC at this time.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Stellar battery life
  • Weeks of standby
  • Premium style and materials
  • The upgrade to Windows 10 Pro is free

Cons

  • Netbook-class performance
  • Compatibility issues
  • Slightly laggy HP Pen
  • Cover and kickstand can be awkward

 

Tagged with

Join the discussion!

BECOME A THURROTT MEMBER:

Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Register
Comments (83)

83 responses to “HP Envy x2 (Qualcomm) Review”

  1. Avatar

    Demileto

    This is assuming hardware and software makers won't provide ARM versions of drivers and/or software. Isn't Microsoft, after all, releasing support for ARM64 development in the upcoming BUILD? For presumably both classic desktop and UWP apps?

  2. Avatar

    Waethorn

    "64-bit apps, like Adobe Photoshop and many others, will never run on Windows 10 on ARM. "


    So given that, don't you think that it was dishonest for Microsoft to show off Photoshop in their demo (even discounting the fact that all kinds of people picked it apart as being entirely fake)?

    • Avatar

      SupaPete

      In reply to Waethorn: I wonder if it was actually completely fake or whether maybe they actually have it working but with a future chip or emulation software version or similar which just didn't make it in time.
      I would at least hope so, would make me feel more positive about these devices for sure.


      • Avatar

        Waethorn

        In reply to SupaPete:

        It's fake. People have already tested the loading speed on superior hardware at the time - namely Core i7's with M.2 NVMe SSD's with far more RAM. The "demo" was supposed to have been running on an older Snapdragon 820 because the 835 wasn't released yet.


      • Avatar

        skane2600

        In reply to SupaPete:

        It would be very strange if they could demonstrate a better emulation experience in December of 2016 then they were able to deliver in March of 2018. But even if that unlikely scenario was the case, it would still be a deception.

        • Avatar

          SupaPete

          In reply to skane2600: Yes, it totally would be, of course. But: it's (sadly) not uncommon (at all).
          In games there is even a term for it when done for nicer than real "screenshots" called bullshots.
          And many other companies do it, too, for example meanwhile a lot of info has made it to light on the behind the scenes stuff of the first few iOS devices presentations and how basically most did not work well or at all yet when they did their presentation so they had to go through a very precise path through the OS and showing each feature to halfway make sure it would not crash in the middle of it and even with that they had several devices to show different features on different ones, again, to make it more likely it would work as they wanted to show it.
          It is also common in general advertising, where, at least depending on the laws of the different countries, they for example then have to state things like that the presentation is shown in accelerated form or similar in small text at the bottom.

          I also see it many times, especially in real time rendering presentations for 3d stuff at conferences where in small text or in a byline they sometimes mention it runs on an insane machine setup with like 20 cores, so something no usual consumer has yet nor will have over the next few years.


          It's a bummer in a way, but yeah, would at least make me hopeful that they have a more full fledged version in the works, at least for future hardware iterations.

          Better than if it remains at a general will never run 32 bit apps fast or will never run 64 bit desktop apps at all etc.


          • Avatar

            skane2600

            In reply to SupaPete:

            I'm well aware of pre-release fakery since I was involved in some as far back as 1981, but usually once the product is actually released its performance is as good as it's ever going to be.


            Microsoft had 15 months between the demo and the release of the product which is a lot of time to make the emulation as good as they could (and, of course, the emulation effort started well before then). There's only so much optimization one can do and the returns diminish rapidly.

    • Avatar

      montyfowler

      In reply to Waethorn:

      I'm running Photoshop in 32-bit mode just fine on my new Envy X2. It's not fast, but it works fine for basic tasks. Anyone who criticizes this device for it's poor performance for high-end content creation or gaming simply doesn't understand the intended audience for this device or category. Road warriors want exceptional battery life (full day plus), portability (thin & light), always-on connectivity, a great screen, and enough computing power to do the basics of Office apps, browsing, CRM, and content consumption. That's it. If you judge this device on those merits, it ticks all the boxes and outperforms on battery life and connectivity making it a winner.

    • Avatar

      ezraward

      This is a weird criticism from Paul since I just looked up Photoshop to see if there was a 32-bit version any more and there clearly is based on Adobe's website.


      It even says the Adobe CC installer picks the correct version to install when you install that way. I don't see the problem in this case.


  3. Avatar

    gwatts

    I have had this machine for about 2 weeks now, and I love it.


    A few things that I don't totally agree with in the review: First, during normal writing (on a PDF or in OneNote) I notice no delay. Your phrasing above (that you used in earlier articles) lead me to expect I'd have some issues with using the pen for writing. While I'm sure using this for actual art or drawing might be an issue, I've seen no issues with the pen speed at all for normal note-taking and PDF markup. Second, the keyboard is more flexible than my SP4 keyboard - flexible enough that sometimes the mouse clicks accidentally when the keyboard is twisted by pushing down on one corner on an uneven surface (airplane fold-down trays!). I've also experienced some pen issues when the tablet is on a flat surface - the pen just isn't always detected (this could be a defect with my device).


    Usage. I'm not using this as my only thing when I travel or move around. I do physics research, and I need a machine with some muscle. For travel, I am currently using a SP4 for that. But this thing gets used for almost everything else. Not thinking about battery life is liberating! I took a flight from Seattle to Geneva, and used the Envy during the layovers, on the plane... Used it for email, notes, reviewing documents, watching some movies. When I arrived at the hotel in Geneva it still had 30% of its battery left. My SP4 can't make it even across the USA. I often have the Envy open with a pen to take notes as I work my way through the non-scientific part of my day. It is liberating just not worrying about battery life.


    I've not had to take it out of Windows S yet. What is missing for me? I need a LaTeX editor. Some way to access git/GitHub and bring the files locally. I found a ssh tunnel app in the store - so I can use that to get into the laboratory's firewall to get access to a Jupyter server (normally use WSL for that).


    At anyrate, I realize I'm a niche user. But boy this machine has been fantastic so far. Of course, ask me again in a year.

    • Avatar

      SupaPete

      In reply to gwatts: I think your experience shows that this can be a very nice device if a) one does not need any desktop apps/games at all or b) has a second device with one for when one does and hence uses this device mostly for the lighter non desktop apps stuff where longer battery life is then an advantage.
      I can totally see that, but i feel like it is a bit of a niche use case as you said where someone woule either not need desktop apps or carry a second device with him for those and on top would then not mind still shelling out a good chunk of money for this just second or third device.
      I get your workflow, on trips i very often do something similar, which is bring a proper intel laptop/convertible with me and next to that an arm tablet like an iPad or an Android one for when i don't do desktop os stuff and want to watch movies or do the light workflow things well doable on those and save the battery on my main work device (or just because the tablet is more comfortable to hold while watching movies/tv series).
      Me personally i just have a hard time justifying this device for such a multi device use case then because, well, one doesn't use it for that much more than what one could use any other arm tablet for and all those i already have and they also cost way less (besides the iPad pro which i did not buy because i find it overpriced for what one can do with it =) )


    • Avatar

      tobyburnett41

      I so agree with this. But then, I'm a niche user as well, in pretty much the same niche as gwatts.. I was looking for a replacement to my beloved Surface 3 (non-pro), whose battery life now sucks. My requirements are to be able to perform my physics analysis in a coffee shop, using something that I can comfortably carry around in a shoulder bag. That allows it to be a backup for the laptop I always take on trips. Given the Surface's smallish screen size, it was possible, but not optimal. The HP Envy x2 is somewhat larger, requiring a new bag, but not noticeably heavier. Before ordering it, a lot based on the glowing comments by Paul before this final blackball, I jumped on a brief window of availability at the HP site.

      Much of my work uses Jupyter, which only depends on a modern browser, satisfied by Edge, so no issue there. But to set up the communication to a site where the real computation occurs, I've been using x86 apps MobaXTerm and WinSCP. To my delight, given the jump into the unknown, both run just fine. I also depend on VS Code, which fortunately has a 32-bit version. (Of course I upgraded to W10 Pro.)

      I also need PowerPoint for generating presentations. Despite Paul's comment that Office aps are slow, it seems fine to me.

      So after only a few days, and no international or domestic trips with it yet, I've decided that this guy is not only a fantastic Surface 3 upgrade but also an adequate replacement for the Intel-based laptop that I usual take as well. I do not regret the impulsive choice to buy it, and am looking forward to using it on my next trip.

      So bottom line, what really counts is an individual use-case, which may only depend on a few apps.


    • Avatar

      Simard57

      In reply to gwatts:


      thank you - I think you nailed my use needs. The trend is towards people using smartphones for most of their needs and for consumption only. This seems to provide the efficiency of a smartphone along with the ability to create using typical office applications and performance will only improve as chip-sets improve AND as app providers convert to native ARM (new apps can do so easily).


      I have a Spectre x360 that HP upgraded me due to a bad I5 model I received. This has an I7, 16 GB Ram and 256 GB SSD -- I feel disappointed in the battery life which was the problem I had with the I5 model. It is better but nowhere near my expectations and certainly not adequate for full day use on trips and such.


  4. Avatar

    RM

    I wonder if Office 2019 will have a 64-bit ARM compiled version that has much better performance. Microsoft is working on a compiler to take a 64-bit x64 program and compile it for 64-bit ARM. That could be the biggest issue for ARM based PC's. Seems like ARM has less issues to be viable on the low end of PCs than Intel has to create mobile processors.

  5. Avatar

    jcalamita

    The failure of this device is ultimately the same failure as Windows RT.... Price. Why would anyone pay more or the same price for a device that does less? Put the Netbook-like performance at a Netbook price, then this makes a little more sense. These devices should be Chromebook competitors, not Surface/iPad competitors.

  6. Avatar

    nbplopes

    You have surprised me for the candid, open and objective review over a brand new Windows thing. Don't take my observation as condescending, I really am. Usually I agree with in about 50% of the times, but you provide always food for thought.


    There are few points of view I would like to share. I believe there is now a fair amount of confusion in the core device market regarding everything but smartphones, desktops and laptops. The later it was kind of forcefully dragged into the confusion.


    The contention between tabletsvs laptops, mobile vs PCs makes the discussions around, "whats next?" extremely unproductive, rather frustrating, missed understandings and worst of all, to products that are not as good as they should be inspite of their potential.


    I was born in an era where there were no mobile computing devices. Heck I was born in an era were the PC was still being defined. In my Journey I saw a lot of concepts being materialised, PCs, Smartphones, PDA, Laptops, Notebooks, Tablets, Netbooks you name it.


    One concept that was never well defined is the concept of Notebook. So much so, that the name fell out of use. There was never much of a difference between a Notebook and a Laptop, if not an ambiguous difference around size and performance.


    The contention between mobile vs the PC Is not not a healthy one for understanding. A PC Laptop it is a mobile device. Just because a particular instance might not embed internet connectivity facilites its dos not make it a non mobile device. In that sense MS has a huge, a huge presence in the mobile computing space. Huge. MS has not lost mobile! If MS has lost mobile Windows would be as dead by now. The only reason why Windows is not dead its because it has not lost mobile computing. Through laptops it’s pretty much in the game.


    The generation after me, came up to adult life with laptops. Laptop (a mobile device) became so powerful and useful that the desktop became unnecessary for many people, if not most people. People that choose to compromise desktop performance for mobility. It works, it works very well. Microsoft end up defining what a laptop is in the mainstream market.


    But with the rise of laptops, hopes of an all in one device started surging. We should by now see that this hope is mislead. It creates more problems than it solves. MS never managed to escape from this hope. A hope and dream of many MS fans. A hope that lead MS to be caught totally of guard.


    Then came the modern smartphones that Apple end up defining . They became so powerful that made concepts such as PDA and Portable Music Players obsolete. Heck it made the concept of Mobile Phone obsolete. And for some people it probably is the only personal computing device they have.


    Then came the modern Tablet, that Apple again end up defining the mainstream market. Target as a reading / viewing device. An extension of the smartphone in many ways. Apple did it because it approached it totally focused solving Handheld Computing problems. Something that MS did not believed in it alone, hence it chooses to make it a theme of a Desktop OS to the point it stopped trying until a contender showed them how it is relevant.


    If you really look, what we find is that MS has not lost mobile revolution, it has lost the Handheld Computing revolution after being at the center of both the Desktop Computing revolution and the Laptop Computing revolution. Its as lost because it approach the Handheld like it approached the laptop. By trying to bring the the Desktop OS to the Handheld. Because it could not, it focused on the look and feel, but that was not good enough in practice. MS focused on the wrong without fully grasping the problems to solve that lead to be late, really late to the market. Bu the time it had something the market was already established both by Apple and than Google. Both with their Smartphones and Tablets, two kinds of Handheld Computing devices.


    One concept that has been very poorly tackled, so much so that it became moot by laptops, its the concept of Notebook! Notebook was always computing device that was supposed to work in tandem with a Desktop, not as an alternative. A device that was to be used to do productivity work and entertain when away from the desktop and extend the desktop capabilities when sharing the same physical space. As people replaced Desktops for Laptops the subject became moot due to its weak implementations.

    Nice As always it may be the case that many people only need a Notebook, like many may only need a Smartphone or a Tablet or Laptop or a Desktop. But that is not what its all about. The real question is, is there a space for brilliant notebook.


    Surface Pro's suffer from this: http://incrediblethings.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/swissarmius-utensil-holder.jpg


    Its is useful if you don't have a choice or live in a cave, but has many times argued, in reason one does not want to eat meals with it everyday. Once the novelty wares off, it is gone, unless one likes to day dream all the time. That is what happened to me.


    iPad Pro's suffer from being too attached to the Handheld way of doing things. It has the potential for being a very good Notebook, but still lacks the features necessary to fluidly work in tandem with a stationary computing device. Case in case it does not have the necessary capabilities to open a window to the power of the Desktop while on the road or a large laptop left in the Office and work. Neither Handoff is still evolved to the point of perfect multi tasking side by side with a Desktop.


    The case for a Notebook as a mobile device its to work together with a stationary computing device, but also have stand alone facilities. Much as Apple Watch is to the iPhone. If it does not fulfil that role it will be hardly very useful given other options. Worst the value proposition becomes confusing.


    Usually when I see a lot of confusion, a tension between concepts, case in case between Tablets and Laptops that people confuse with Convergence it means that something is emerging or reemerging with an fresh formulation. Maybe its the perfect Notebook.


    Windows on ARM solves nothing of importance to the end user in general terms. I really would like MS not see things so much from a technical perspective and actually focus on a broader computing vision nevertheless concrete, and then take the challenge from a technical perspective. Like they have done with the Hololens but in a scenario that its actually feasible in a shorter term.


    Cheers.

  7. Avatar

    Shawn11

    Okay, the Notebook looks legit but still, I would rather consider Lenovo Yoga series if I really need a hybrid computer for me. I have seen HP notebooks and when compared to Lenovo or Dell, I found HP little bit cheap in quality then the 2 other brands. I use free VPNs and Paid VPNs on my computer at heavy usage and HP just don't perform the way dell and Lenovo performs. The other thing, Mac still going strong.

  8. Avatar

    skane2600

    IMO the fundamental problem with WoA is that it isn't really Windows as millions of Microsoft's customers understand it. I haven't read anything to suggest that it's a porting of the full set of Windows APIs and underlying operating system resources merely ported to ARM.


    The emulator portion itself is more the answer to the question "Can you create an emulator that can run most 32-bit applications on ARM without regard to performance?" than it is a product that most Windows customers would find useful. The game of whack-a-mole that Paul described is a relic of the early days of IBM PC compatibles and simply not acceptable to users 30 years later.


    Except for using "Windows" as part of the name "RT" was a more honest product, An ARM-based OS implementation that couldn't (or didn't allow, depending on what you believe) run existing Windows programs.




  9. Avatar

    Markld

    Really wanted this new system on Arm to work at least halfway decent. Paul you have spoken about tech being good enough, well this Envy is not one.

    It doesn't match its name nor make anyone envious.



  10. Avatar

    Simard57

    Paul - is it possible to give a performance comparison against an intel line?

    it clearly is not I5 but is this Core M speed?

    is it Celeron speed? Pentium? Centino? Atom?


    I am trying to get a handle on how many generations behind Intel the Qualcomm is.



  11. Avatar

    Downwind

    I could not disagree with this review more. I bought one of these puppies last week and have been using it every day as my daily driver. I'm kind of a road warrior. I work in coffee shops and restaurants. This machine runs all the stuff I use. I upgraded to win pro and after I downloaded Chrome on Edge I switched to Chrome full time. It works fine. So do all the other apps. Is this machine as snappy as my 7th gen core i7. No. But it's about the same performance as my old Surface 3 with the Atom chip. And that's fine. That's all I need. More importantly, I can work all day and into the night without looking for a plug in. It's the first HP computer I've ever had that will charge off a power pack. (I've got 3.) Not that I'll ever need to with the insane battery life. The the LTE is amazing. It switches from wi-fi to the sim chip like Project Fi does. Seamlessly.

  12. Avatar

    Simard57

    Microsoft has been a strong advocate for Trusted Computing concepts. Is there anything akin to a TPM or SGX in the Qualcomm line that Microsoft is taking advantage of?


    does bitlocker work?

    is there a hardware root of trust?


    I would hope a review would mention some of these more business oriented features -- perhaps on Petri?

  13. Avatar

    dallasnorth40

    So, the key take-away is: DO NOT upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. Stick with Windows 10S and everything will be just fine.

  14. Avatar

    jaredthegeek

    This is disappointing but not surprising. I daily use a Surface 3 with 4 gigs of ram and LTE. I was excited for the prospect of this device but I knew that MS could not really pull it off. I am content with just store apps for a device focused on mobility like this but the continual confusion of branding this as Windows is problematic. WIndows has certain assumptions attached that they will never overcome. Let alone the poor performance of the device overall.


    The price is really incredible considering I could get a Surface LTE for a couple hundred more or another brands Surface knock off for cheaper.

  15. Avatar

    Tony Barrett

    It's a very niche device with a personality crisis. It doesn't do x86 well, and the ARM chip is only just able to handle Windows' bloated demands, and considering you can buy x86 2-in-1's from Dell and others for LESS than this, again, it's a product without a market. It's way more expensive than most Chromebooks, and it doesn't have the pull that the iPad does with Apples loyal army of buyers who are very unlikely to be moved by *anything* running Windows.

    Someone had to be first I guess, and HP were there again, but how long will they keep doing this as MS keeps burning them with products nobody wants to buy. WoA will surely go down as another failed MS experiment, just like RT did.

  16. Avatar

    davidblouin

    Can't wait to read reviews of next year models if there ever are ones.

  17. Avatar

    Jorge Garcia

    I know for sure that I will never, ever be buying an x86 laptop ever again, Windows or otherwise. My next laptop MUST be able to charge off of the same cable my phone does, and should be completely worry-free, like this gorgeous HP is. Since I do not do "high end" stuff on the road, I will certainly trade the always-on, always connected capability and extreme battery life of WOA for a small hit on performance, any day of the week.

    • Avatar

      skane2600

      In reply to JG1170:

      I try to avoid broad generalizations but I feel fairly safe saying that you're probably the only computer user on earth who considers being able to charge off of the same cable as your phone as a "make or break" requirement for buying a PC.


      The fact that you differentiate between what you do on and off the road suggests that you operate multiple computers as part of your work which also indicates your deviation from the average user.

      • Avatar

        Jorge Garcia

        In reply to skane2600:

        I am far from the normal user and have never billed myself as one. But I do feel that my needs for a laptop "on the road" very much intersect those of the lion's share of "road warriors". I do believe that WOA will serve many of them very well.

        • Avatar

          skane2600

          In reply to JG1170:

          Road warriors or not, I think many people don't want to buy two PCs when they can buy one that does all they need. If battery life is a big issue, smartphones are adequate "plan B" devices for consumption, email etc. It's really at the point where people try to use smartphones to replace full Windows, that they become inadequate. IMO smartphones are worthy competitors to Windows on ARM in a way that they can't compete with full Windows PCs.

    • Avatar

      Stooks

      In reply to JG1170:

      "My next laptop MUST be able to charge off of the same cable my phone does"


      Are you serious or being sarcastic? That is your requirement? Always is great but not great when whatever you do with it sucks because of lack of apps or horrible performance in emulation.


      If all you are doing is using a web browser then a Chromebook is probably your best option.


      I only use laptops so they are 15inch (2 Macbooks and 1 Thinkpad) and they are maxed out. The Thinkpad stays at work and I only use it when I need Windows. I have a newer Macbook Pro (2017) that goes with me everywhere (work/home/vacation/training/industry events etc). It replaced my 2013 Macbook Pro that is now my home only Macbook that is docked at my home office most of the time. It is still in fantastic condition.

    • Avatar

      Ugur

      In reply to JG1170: I would like to know what you see as "worry-free"?
      I mean to me it is not worry-free seeming at all when one can't know for sure which apps/games a thing can or can't run. Nor when one needs a driver and it won't work.
      The one aspect i could see as semi worry-free is that maybe, theoretically, a chance of less viruses and slower windows cluttering up thanks to less stuff in registry/autostart, but yeah, it's mostly a theoretical point and for that one is trading not being able to use most desktop apps and games, nor any drivers.

      I hope MS and partners ush to get full x64 app support going and driver support and full opengl and directx support going and try it aain with faster chips and then we can maybe talk


      • Avatar

        Simard57

        In reply to Ugur:


        Windows has always had the worry about apps ability to install and be usable - hence minimum system configuration labels on apps, especially games. How is this any different?

        • Avatar

          skane2600

          In reply to Simard57:

          Of course people understand that high-powered applications or high-performance games may require resources beyond what is typically available "out of the box" for average systems. The difference is that those issues can often be addressed by adding more RAM or a better graphics card. There's no upgrade path to allow applications to run on a Windows on ARM PC with an OS that wasn't designed to run those applications.

          • Avatar

            Simard57

            In reply to skane2600:


            there is no upgrade path for most laptops. either buy what is required or live with the limitations. more of the same here. People complain that it doesn't meet their need, fine it is not intended for them just as a lightweight laptop may not also meet their needs. It is not a WoA issue - it is the right machine for the job issue. nothing new here!


    • Avatar

      MikeCerm

      "I know for sure that I will never, ever be buying an x86 laptop ever again, Windows or otherwise. My next laptop MUST be able to charge off of the same cable my phone does,"


      There are a number x86 laptops that charge over USB-C, including the HP Spectre X2, which is basically thesame as the Envy x2 but with a Intel Core M. USB-C has nothing to do with ARM or x86.


      "and should be completely worry-free, like this gorgeous HP is."


      What makes you think that this laptop "completely worry-free"? It's still Windows. It will still be succeptible to some types of malware. It's still NTFS, so you might have to run chkdsk now and again. You'll have to worry that Edge can handle every website that you use, because it's too slow to run Chrome or Firefox via emulation.

      • Avatar

        Jorge Garcia

        In reply to MikeCerm:

        Worry free in the way that your smartphone is. You just close it, throw it in your bag and leave. When you open it again, it starts right up, didn't consume much battery and never lost touch with the world (your notifications or anything else). If the battery gets low, and in the worst case, there is a high probability that there is a smartphone charger around, especially once USB-C takes over completely. We nerds often gravely underestimate how important little conveniences are to normal people and how much they can make/break usability/purchasing decisions.

  18. Avatar

    SWCetacean

    Huh, looks like it could be a good device for my dad. He is a huge fan of Windows RT; he bought the Asus tablet (which was pretty crap as I had a ton of problems with it), and the Dell RT tablet (which he loved and used until he dropped it on the floor and the screen went bad). He had an Asus Transformer (x86) which he kept on Windows 8.1. He uses the Metro Internet Explorer and a variety of Windows 8.1 Store apps. I don't think he would find the limitations of this device limiting. Although he doesn't like the tablet experience on Windows 10, so I guess it's still a non-starter.


    As for a better use case for WOA tech, I would suggest a small 8-inch tablet. I bought one of those NuVision 8" tablets with an old Bay Trail Atom processor for like $50. That thing was kind of cool, but it was just so slow that I'm sure the Snapdragon 835 would be faster than it. WOA probably has a niche in this market, and I'm sure that such a device would have its fans, especially if it had a pen.


    Another, more interesting idea is that of an x64/ARM hybrid device. Similar to how ARM big.LITTLE combines high-performance cores and efficiency cores, perhaps one could develop a device with high-performance x64 cores and efficiency ARM64 cores. The OS and applicable apps/services could live on the ARM cores and use the x64 cores when needed. So normal x86/64 apps use true x64 cores, while the OS and things that don't need x86 could run on the ARM cores and get the benefits of lower power consumption. Of course, such an arrangement would be very tricky to build, but something like that already exists: the PlayStation 4 has an ARM processor that is used when the console is in standby mode so that the console can manage system and game updates and other background tasks. So such an architecture is possible, it just takes a lot more effort to develop than with a standard system.

    • Avatar

      Simard57

      In reply to SWCetacean:

      I too bought the NuVision and have the same experience that you do. Excellent screen, very light but man so frustrating to use. not only underpowered but poor power management. I look forward to WoA based 8" tablets that are inexpensive. NuVision could deliver a better performant, more efficient 8" tablet for the same cost as the Atom based ones. I would get one to replace the one I have.

    • Avatar

      SupaPete

      In reply to SWCetacean:

      Hold on a minute, you just suggested an excellent thing i feel like no one in the Windows world has brought up yet =)

      The thought of using an arm/intel hybrid device is not a bad one at all.

      As far as i know only Apple is doing that so far and looks like they are only doing it for the (crappy) touchbar and (good) finger print scanning in it, too.

      I can totally see how a device like this one could be much more appealing if they also had an intel chip in it and the intel chip would be used whenever one actually runs any desktop app/game so it would have full compatibility will all desktop stuff, including drivers, apps and games but then whenever one doesn't do any of those then it could use the arm chip instead and hence have longer battery life.

      I feel like that would be well worth looking into

  19. Avatar

    Stooks

    Did anyone seriously think this Windows 10 on ARM inititiative was going to get any serious traction??


    The store and its lack of apps has been a problem for all ARM based devices running Windows (Phone/RT/This thing) and in general is a failure for UWP on x86 CPU's. With out lots of native ARM based Windows 10 apps it will fail. Failure is only enhanced by the fact that emulation on any platform takes a performance hit. Emulation on a lower powered ARM chip was doomed from day one.


    I am not trying to be super negative but for the love of god the writing was on the wall from day one. My first thoughts were "Why in the heck are they going down this track again". The only real selling point was 20+ hours of battery life. Well good laptops x86 will give 9+ already and Android/iOS hardware will give you many hours as well, effectively nuliffying the battery life advantage.

  20. Avatar

    Chris_Kez

    In your Taking Stock article last month you wrote "....Word 2016 on the Envy x2 ... experienced absolutely no slowdowns or laggy performance. It worked normally, like it would on any PC." What happened since then? Has a new build impacted performance?


  21. Avatar

    Chris_Kez

    As a reviewer, I don't think you made a mistake in trying to use the product as the maker intended. I think a good review will at least try to address the question "does this product accomplish its mission?" This is especially true for new products. No, you shouldn't have to "contort" yourself or give a pass to poor performance but some flexibility is a good thing.

    • Avatar

      wright_is

      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      Exactly, coming into the situation, saying that your usecase is running multiple Hyper-V VMs and it failed to load Hyper-V, therefore failure or you play first person shooters and you get 2fps and lag killed, therefore a failure is missing the point of what the device is and what it is for.

      Therefore it is warranted, that the device be tested against the scenario(s) for which it was designed. You can point out that those other things don't work / are incredibly slow, but that in-and-of-itself doesn't make the device a failure. If you take that attitude, you can say that a Ferrari is a sh*t car, because you can't carry 7 people and luggage and the Kia Carnival is much better; the fact the Kia would probably roll over if you tried to corner it as hard as the Ferrari can is neither here-nor-there.

      Each has its usage scenario and it is whether the device fits that usage scenario or not that is important, at the end of the day. Paul points out what it can and can't do and you have to decide, whether your usage scenario fits in with what it can do. If the product still fails to achieve its designed purpose as well, that is another thing entirely.

  22. Avatar

    Ugur

    I thought about this forth and back. I mean right off the bat, it sounded like a complete nonstarter to me. Because hey, if i don't know if some app i want to run will or will not work, that's not cool.

    Then i thought to myself: Hm, wait, maybe i look at it wrong. If i look at it as like a Windows laptop/tablet/convertible, it is of course disappointing because it doesn't run all my apps and games.

    Maybe i should look at it instead as contender to an iPad Pro or Chromebook.

    Because it is more powerful than most chromebooks and can run more desktop stuff than both iPad and Chromebook, no?

    And people like those, too.

    But then i thought: well, those still have advantages on other ends, they are easier to maintain and more intuitive, fun and easy to use.

    Windows main strength is really the desktop apps and games, with those gone, or even "just" most of them (and the others running worse), i just can't see a big argument for this.

    I mean in Windows land, we have the full win 32 apps running laptops, tablets/convertibles, so i really just can't see why one would pay just as much money for something which can run way less stuff.


    The one point i could see would be if someone thinks hey, i will have less security issues and less maintenance/"bitrotting" if i don't install win 32 apps and hence maybe less likely to get viruses and less stuff cluttering up the registry and running in auto start etc.

    I sorta can see that part in theory, but it is mostly theory, as we know UWP apps leave stuff behind, too and yes, one can still get viruses on these things, too.


    So yeah..


    As bottom line for the ARM based windows devices they just don't make sense to me until they get full x64 app/game support, full opengl/directx support and full driver installation support.

    Then one can add s mode as per account setting admins can turn on and off per account and add exceptions which win 32 apps/games s mode setting users can use in s mode and it would start to make sense.


    Else, for regular windows devices, i just want MS to make windows more comfortable, fun, intuitive and clean to use, upgrade and maintain, get those aspects better without cutting away existing usability and functionality and app and game support.

  23. Avatar

    Oasis

    Your math is questionable. An Hour off of 2:13:44 is 1:13:44, so neither of these was an Hour quicker in that test.

  24. Avatar

    longhorn

    Great review, but please don't let Intel see it.

  25. Avatar

    jimchamplin

    Important question for me at least...


    Can you install alternate OS’s, or is the boot loader locked down?

  26. Avatar

    chrisrut

    Damn. Paradise Lost...

  27. Avatar

    montyfowler

    As always, I truly appreciate the depth and breadth of your technology reviews. I particularly appreciate the amount of time and ink you've dedicated to reviewing this product and new category. I think we both agree that it has the potential to be an important addition to the computing landscape.


    I agree with your findings as they map to my experience with the HP Envy X2 after a month of almost daily use in a variety of scenarios. I should state up front that I am a MacBook Pro owner and have a firm bias toward MacOS. I generally dislike the Windows computing experience and find much of the hardware uninspiring and lacking in design. That said, I have been waiting for the Windows on ARM redux since Qualcomm announced the initiative last summer. It seemed to promise to deliver on a few things that are still gaps even in the Apple ecosystem—exceptional battery life and always-on connectivity in a design that is truly portable. In that regard, HP has truly delivered.


    As a typical road warrior who needs email, browsing (research and CRM access), and the Office apps all day, every day, my needs are fairly simple to meet with a variety of devices. But no matter what I've tried, none of them give me the untethered, power-efficient experience I've been looking for. But the Envy X2 does.


    Is it slower than my MacBook Pro? Hell yes. Does Chrome suck on this device? Unspeakable. Can I run every application I want to? Nope.


    But it does deliver extreme portability, enough computing power to do all of the things my job requires (and it's glorious for video content consumption), always-on connectivity without having to use my iPhone as a hotspot, a gorgeous screen, a pen if I ever need one, a touch screen, a keyboard cover with trackpad that is quite good, and two full days of battery life. Two freaking days! And somehow...I'm not really sure why...this device has even helped me hate Windows 10 a little less. So for me—and I would bet a lot of folks just like me—this might be the perfect device.


    I expect that the Wave 2 devices coming this fall/winter from Qualcomm and friends will be incrementally better. And by next year, Microsoft should have the 64-bit emulation issue solved. There is a bright future for this category, so I hope that you will give the next wave the same excellent shakedown as you did on this iteration.

Leave a Reply