HP Envy x2 (2018)

While there are many 2-in-1 laptops that claim to act as both a tablet and a laptop, there’s usually some sort of compromise. The HP Envy x2, a laptop built on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC Platform, aims to address that.

While some laptops can be used in a tablet mode – either by removing the keyboard or folding it backwards, they rarely offer an authentic tablet experience. The devices are usually more bulky than traditional tablets, and often have a fraction of the battery life that tablets do.

These two points can be explained by the hardware the machines run on. Until recently, to run Windows 10 on a device, you needed traditional laptop or desktop hardware, such as Intel processors, which are more demanding when it comes to power. This leads to more heat produced, so larger chassis are needed, and a lower battery life.

However, a new breed of device has emerged, of which the HP Envy x2 is part of, which uses hardware more similar to that found in tablets and smartphones. This allows these devices to benefit from longer battery life, thinner and lighter designs, and always-on internet connections with a 4G data connection. The trade-off is raw power, but does this move to a more mobile platform make a case for this sacrifice? Not really just yet, sadly.

Price and availability

The HP Envy x2 is available to buy right now, but if you were hoping that this laptop with smartphone innards would come with a budget price, you’re out of luck. Instead, it comes with a very high price of $999/£999.

This configuration comes with Windows 10 S installed, an octa-core SnapDragon 835 processor, 12.3-inch 1920 x 1280 display, 128GB SSD and 4GB RAM. This model doesn’t appear to be on sale in Australia.

There’s also a configuration with 256GB SSD storage and 8GB of RAM. That goes for £1,199/AU$1,999, yet this model isn’t available in the US.

That’s a fair old chunk of change at the best of times, and for that asking price you could get a premium laptop like the Asus ZenBook Flip S UX370 or last year’s Apple MacBook 12-inch. For not much more you could even get the Huawei MateBook X Pro, which currently sits atop our best laptops list.

Essentially, by slapping such a high price tag on the Envy x2, HP is inviting comparison with some very accomplished laptops. And, in pretty much every aspect, the HP Envy x2 falls far short.

It’s also a fair bit more expensive than the Asus NovaGo, which is probably its closest competitor, as it is also based on the Snapdragon 835 chipset, and costs $699 (about £527, AU$936).

When you’re asking for that much money for a laptop, then you’ll need to be sure that you’re offering a spectacular laptop. Unfortunately, the HP Envy x2 is not spectacular enough.

HP Envy x2

Design

The HP Envy x2 positions itself as a 2-in-1 device, but its design is definitely more towards the tablet side of things. The keyboard (which we’ll get to in a moment) easily detaches, leaving the screen to act as a 12.3-inch Windows 10 tablet. The dimensions are 29.3 x 21 x 0.69 cm, which makes it around the same size as an iPad Pro, which has dimensions of 30.5 x 22 x 0.69 cm. In tablet mode the HP Envy x2 weighs just 0.7kg.

This results in a tablet mode that really is a tablet. If you’ve ever been dismayed with a 2-in-1 device that has a tablet mode which is essentially a big, thick laptop screen with the keyboard folded back, then you may be impressed with the HP Envy x2.

The keyboard, which attaches to the screen via a magnetic connection, does not add much additional weight, with the whole thing weighing 1.21kg. This is because the keyboard is very thin, and is used as a screen protector, much like the keyboard covers you get with other tablets, such as the Type Cover of the Surface Pro.

While this makes the HP Envy x2 feel thin and light, anyone who has had to type for long periods of time on this kind of keyboard may despair. While the keys of the HP Envy x2 are nice and large, the shallow travel when pressed makes them feel rather insubstantial. The included trackpad is an improvement, but if you’re working for long periods of time, you may want to look for a laptop with a better keyboard.

Also, the keyboard is not backlit, unlike many laptop keyboards these days. It’s a little niggle in the grand scheme of things, but it does make typing in dark environments trickier.

HP Envy x2

Speaking of the keyboard, it's surrounded by a faux-leather fabric, with a loop that holds the stylus. When closed, the HP Envy x2’s design is rather nice, though it doesn’t offer quite as premium a look as some laptops do at this price range.

Audio duties are handled by Bang & Olufsen. This renowned brand has worked with HP to tune the dual speakers included with the HP Envy x2, and HP is obviously proud of this fact, with the brand name etched down the right-hand side of the body.

Also on that side are two volume control buttons, a headphone jack and something you don’t often see on a laptop: a SIM card tray. This holds a data SIM card, allowing you to access 4G mobile internet, rather than Wi-Fi. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.

On the left-hand side there is a microSD card slot and a USB-C port, which is also used to charge the HP Envy x2. As with the SIM card slot, the microSD card needs a small pin to slot in and open it. This is a bit fiddly, and means it’s better used for permanently storing a memory card in the device to expand its storage space, rather than using it to regularly take a memory card in and out.

HP Envy x2

Overall, the HP Envy x2 is a nicely-designed hybrid, with an impressively thin and light design when in tablet mode. The keyboard isn’t great, however, and for the price HP is asking, we’ve seen more stylish and premium looking devices.

Always-on internet

So, about that SIM card slot. Thanks to the mobile design of the Snapdragon 835 platform, the HP Envy x2 can have a mobile SIM card installed. By inserting a SIM with a mobile data connection inside, and configuring Windows 10 to access the mobile network, you get a laptop that is pretty much always connected to the internet.

This means you don’t have to hang around Wi-Fi networks to check your emails, and by using a mobile data connection, rather than public Wi-Fi, it’s a lot more secure as well. If you do a lot of sensitive work that requires a constant internet connection, then this is a big selling point of the HP Envy x2.

HP Envy x2

We used the HP Envy x2 with a SIM from EE, a mobile network in the UK which has very good coverage, and excellent 4G network speeds. Having an always-on connection was superb, and it was great being able to work out and about, able to check emails and upload and download documents without having to find an open Wi-Fi network and enter in any passwords.

In the future, we’d love to see more laptops come with this ability. Of course, there are some caveats. The first is that this connection is only as good as the network coverage. If you live or work in an area that struggles to get 4G, then this feature won’t be much use. Also, you’ll need to buy a data SIM, or sign up for a contract. This is an additional expense you’ll need to factor in. Check out our pick of the best unlimited data SIM only deals if you’re interested.

So, does this feature justify the HP Envy x2’s high price? Unfortunately, not really. Sure, it’s extremely convenient, and the integration with Windows 10 is excellent, but you can get a similar experience by tethering your smartphone to your laptop via Wi-Fi and using your phone’s data connection. It won’t be quite the same, or as convenient, but it comes close.

However, always-on internet isn’t the only benefit of having a laptop running on a Snapdragon 835, which we’ll discuss in the next section.

Before we begin really delving deep into the performance of the HP Envy x2, we should explain some of the differences that come with the laptop running on Snapdragon 835, rather than a more common AMD or Intel processor. These differences bring both pros and cons.

As we mentioned, having the ability to insert a SIM card to use 4G/LTE for an always-connected internet connection is one of the benefits of the platform. Another is the fact that the HP Envy x2 turns on almost instantly, even when it’s been completely switched off. 

While Windows 10 does a good job on regular PCs and laptops of booting quickly, especially if you have modern, powerful, hardware, the boot times on the HP Envy x2 are very impressive, giving you an experience more like a traditional tablet or smartphone.

HP Envy x2

Another big benefit – and perhaps the biggest selling point of the HP Envy x2 – is the battery life. This is a laptop/tablet hybrid that can last for a seriously impressive amount of time between charges, which we’ll go into more detail in a bit.

However, there are trade-offs for this, and the most glaring is that the power of the HP Envy x2 is seriously lacking. Although the processor in the Snapdragon 835 platform has eight cores, don’t expect this to rival AMD or Intel’s multi-core processors. 

The CPU is incredibly low powered, scoring just 770 in the GeekBench 4 single core CPU benchmarks, and 3,116 in the multi-core tests. Compare that to the Acer Switch 3, a 2-in-1 device that’s far from powerful, but costs half the price of the HP Envy x2 at $439 (around £450, AU$560). It features a budget Intel Pentium Quad Core N4200 processor, yet it scores 1,466 (single-core) and 3,667 (multi-core) in the same tests.

So, while the HP Envy x2 can handle easy tasks such as playing local video files, browsing the internet and word processing, anything more strenuous seriously challenges the device.

So, while writing away in Microsoft Word is fine, once you start inserting pictures, especially 3D models, things slow to a crawl. Opening up apps and programs also suffer from pauses while the HP Envy x2 catches up. Most times it feels like trying to use an old laptop, not a brand-new 2018 machine. If this was a budget laptop, then maybe this poor performance would be justifiable, but HP is asking $999/£1,199/AU1,999 for this configuration (or similar in the case of the US).

HP Envy x2

That sort of performance for that kind of money is unforgivable. There are loads of great laptops for that price – or much cheaper – that absolutely blow the HP Envy x2 out of the water, performance-wise. Sure, you don’t get the battery life or tablet-like experience quite like the HP Envy x2, but for most people that’s not a price worth paying.

So, anything like editing videos, creating digital art, or gaming is completely out of the question. The HP Envy x2 ships with Windows 10 S installed, which limits the apps you can use to just the ones downloaded from the Microsoft Store. 

While many people feel this is overly restrictive, we actually think it’s justified with the Envy x2, as these lighter apps at least work a bit better than full desktop programs such as Photoshop.

You can upgrade to the full version of Windows 10 for free, which allows you to install more traditional apps, though there are still issues. Not only does the HP Envy x2 struggle to run many of these apps, but it won’t even launch x64 applications, so you’re stuck with 32-bit (x86) or ARM64 apps. With most modern apps running 64-bit, your options are limited.

Again, if this was an extremely cheap device we might be able to overlook this, but this is a device that comes with a very premium price tag.

For the tasks it is capable of doing, it does an alright job. The much-lauded Bang & Olufsen speakers are very good, producing rich and full sounds despite their small size. The 1920 x 1280 screen is bright and vibrant, although the unusual resolution means the screen has a taller height than a standard Full HD 1920 x 1080 screen. It means widescreen videos in 16:9 aspect ratio don’t fully fill the screen, and instead have black bars on either side. This is frustrating if you’re watching media, but it does give you a larger work area for productivity.

Battery life

While this review may read rather negatively, there is an aspect of the HP Envy x2 that’s seriously impressive: battery life. 

In our battery life test, where we loop a HD video with the screen set to 50% brightness, the HP Envy x2 lasted an astonishing 18 hours and 4 minutes. Part of the selling point of Snapdragon-based systems is all-day computing, and the HP Envy x2 pretty much nails it.

So, even on extremely long flights – or if you’ve forgotten your charger and are away from the home or office – the HP Envy x2 will keep on going. That’s a remarkable feat, and one which no laptop we’re aware of can match.

However, does this exceptionally long battery life justify the high price and greatly compromised power of the HP Envy x2? In our view, unfortunately not.

Final verdict

As you may have gathered from this review, the HP Envy x2 is a frustrating device. There are plenty of good things about it, especially how light and easy it is to carry, as well as its amazing battery life, but all that good is undone by one major thing: its price.

If this was a budget device we’d be more forgiving of its poor performance. If it was a couple of hundred dollars or pounds, we might even suggest getting one as a backup device, something you can whip out if your main laptop’s battery dies.

But, because it is so expensive, this would likely have to be your main device. And for the price HP is asking, we just cannot recommend it. Sure, the battery life is fantastic, but you could buy a cheaper laptop and a spare tablet for less than the price of the HP Envy x2, and use the tablet once the laptop has died. Or just, you know, plug the laptop in.

And, while the ability to use a SIM card for constant internet access is great, you could buy a mobile hotspot and use that to access the internet outside of Wi-Fi networks. Or use your smartphone as a mobile hotspot and tether it to a standard laptop.

Some may argue that this is a device that should only be used for light computing tasks. In that case, get a Chromebook, then spend the money you’ve saved on a holiday.

So, in summary, there’s no way we can recommend the HP Envy x2 at this price. There are hints at a good – maybe even great – product here, but the asking price is far too high.

Matt Hanson
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