Back when Windows 8 was still a thing, Acer shipped a craptacular 8-inch mini-tablet called the Iconia W3. That its bundled keyboard was bigger than the tablet was the only magical thing about this low-quality, plasticy travesty: Acer provided a neat clip-in divot on the bottom of the keyboard base that let you attach the tablet for travel.
Flash forward a few years and HP is trying the same trick with the HP Envy Note. But this time—as is so often the case with HP these days, frankly—they’re getting it right. Yes, the Envy Note is an 8-inch Windows mini-tablet with a keyboard base that is larger than the tablet and provides a bottom-mounted clip-in area for traveling. But the similarity ends there. Where the Acer was cheaply made and had a terrible, unreadable screen, the Envy Note is beautifully-designed and made of high quality materials. Night and day.
The idea behind a mini-tablet with a full-sized keyboard is a good one, providing a nice combination of light weight portability and functionality. And where I had really wanted to that Acer to work, it’s pretty clear from my hands-on time with this device a few weeks back that a combination of HP and Windows 10 will put it over the top.
The tablet itself is an 8-inch design with a 1080p/Full HD screen housed in an ultra-thin and stylish aluminum body. It features a 1.44 GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8300 with Intel HD Graphics, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and microSD expansion. There are two web cams, a front-facing 2 MP unit that offers 720p video for video chats, and a 5 MP rear camera with auto focus and Full HD video at 30 fps.
Expansion is limited: There is a microUSB 2.0 OTG port for charging and connecting accessories (with adapter). And the keyboard also features its own microUSB 2.0 port for charging. (Plus that microSD slot.)
It features built-in LTE connectivity (Verizon in the U.S.), as evidenced by the black strip along the tablet’s back, which is common to HP’s late 2015 premium devices. It also features Bang & Olufsen Play audio.
The keyboard—technically called the HP Envy Note Folio–is full-sized and very closely resembles the keyboard found on high-end HP notebooks like the Spectre x360. As noted, the Envy Note clips into the bottom of the Folio base for traveling. But unlike the Acer I keep harping on, HP includes a flip-over cover that further protects the tablet in transit, a nice touch.
On top of the Folio there is a channel in which you can sit the tablet in either landscape or portrait orientation, your choice. That said, the tablet isn’t connected to the base in any way–there are no magnets, for example, or clip-in bits—so you will need to be careful about knocking it over.
The HP Envy Note is also compatible with the HP Active Pen, which is common across all of HP’s high-end portable PCs (including, yes, the Spectre x360 I enjoy so much). And HP includes its Active Pen-specific apps, like HP Instant Note and HP Notes Hub, which may seem a bit superfluous to some.
The HP Envy Note will be available starting November 8 for $330, or in a bundle with the keyboard Folio and Active Pen for $430. Given my aging eyes, it’s unlikely that I’d be able to use this on the road, but this will be a very compelling option for those who value portability but still need the full power of a PC.
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