A Windows 8 tablet than transforms into a netbook
Windows 8 was designed with computers that can be used as both a laptop and as a tablet in mind. Manufacturers have come up with numerous quirky designs for such hybrid computers, but we've so far been unconvinced by any of them. The HP Envy X2 could easily be mistaken for an ultra portable laptop such as a Macbook Air, but release the small latch on the hinge and the screen detaches for use as a tablet. This requires two hands, but is easy to do.
The slender, tapered design weighs just 1.2kg, while the tablet on its own weighs 650g - both compare well to laptops and tablets of similar sizes. It may be light, but it's sturdy too with both the tablet and the keyboard dock made from brushed metal and silver-coloured plastic.
The image quality of the 11.6in screen is average at best, but it is very bright and, thanks to the 1,366x768 pixel resolution, text isn't too small to read and is reasonably sharp too. As a touchscreen, it recognised our prods and pokes without any hesitation or delay.
The Envy X2's keyboard isn't backlit for working in dark environments, but it is very comfortable and responsive to type on with no undersized keys. The touchpad is accurate and responsive, but we weren't impressed by its attempts at replicating the touchscreen gestures used to control Windows 8. The precise gestures needed to activate the Charms bar, for example, were very fiddly and difficult to achieve.
We were worried that the chunky, heavy hinge might make the X2 lop-sided when used on a lap as a laptop, but it proved to be surprisingly well balanced. The screen can't tilt back very far so you may have difficulty finding a comfortable viewing angle, but we didn't have any trouble in everyday use. More annoying was the placement of the touchsensitive Start button on the tablet's bottom edge. It was far too easy to press this by accident.
One slight annoyance is that the X2 has two headphone sockets, one on the keyboard dock and one on the tablet. When switching between the two modes, you'll need to unplug your headphones from one port and plug them into the other.
There are also two memory card slots, one on the keyboard dock another on the tablet. The keyboard dock's slot accepts full-sized SD cards for importing photos from a camera. The tablet's slot only accepts micro SD for storing files.
There's a battery in both the keyboard dock and the tablet. When used as a laptop in our light usage test the battery lasted just under ten and a half hours. This is very good and longer than any other laptop we've seen. When used as a tablet in our more demanding video playback test it lasted just six hours which is disappointing and not as long as some other tablets.
The most serious problem with the X2 is performance. The 1.8GHz dual core Atom processor was fine when running just one program such as a web browser or video player but struggled when running more than program at the same time. Programs slowed to such a crawl that it became unusable. Quitting programs fixed this and this is easy, if tedious, to do with the keyboard and touchpad, but there's no easy way to do this using just the touchscreen.
The HP Envy X2 is a potentially great Windows 8 laptop-tablet hybrid ruined by its unusuably slow Atom processor. It's hard to justify spending £800 on the Envy X2 when the substantially cheaper Microsoft Surface, which admittedly has quirky design problems of its own, feels so much faster and more responsive despite having a theoretically slower ARM processor. In other words the Envy X2 is just poor value.
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A promising Windows 8 laptop-tablet hybrid let down by its almost unusably slow performance.
Lightweight either as a tablet or as a laptop; Comfortable keyboard
Incredibly sluggish performance; Expensive
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