HP Envy x2 13 review
If you can’t beat them, join them. That appears to be the mantra for HP with its new Envy x2 13. Where the previous Envy x2 partnered an 11.6in tablet with a keyboard dock, 2015 sees it grow into a larger 13.3in tablet replete with a built-in kickstand and a thin, clip-on keyboard; a design clearly inspired by the Microsoft Surface Pro 3.
HP Envy x2 13: design
If you’re hoping to be bowled over by a futuristic, super-svelte hybrid, though, we suggest you look away now – this simply isn’t what you’ve been waiting for. The main problem is that it’s far too big, especially given that it’s powered by one of Intel’s latest Core M processors, purpose-built for thin-and-light devices.
In fairness, the Envy x2 isn’t a horribly ugly thing, but HP has made some truly baffling decisions in the design department. For starters, the pair of Beats-branded speakers take up a couple of centimetres at each side of the display, and the thick bezels top and bottom mean that with the keyboard attached the Envy x2 is as wide and tall as most 15.6in laptops. It positively dwarfs the Surface Pro 3 and, at 14mm thick, it’s never going to win the award for slimmest Windows tablet, either.
It’s a pig to handle, too. The tablet alone weighs in at 1.22kg, and the only real plus point of this is that the silver metal body feels pleasingly solid in the hand. But the build is too hefty to make much sense as a pure tablet. Unless you’re a regular at the World’s Strongest Man (or Woman) competition, this isn’t a tablet you can hold in one hand and comfortably use on a sofa. The presence of a sturdy, fold-out kickstand at the rear does help a little, though: it’s easy to prop the HP up on a flat surface, and since it folds right back to almost flat, it’s comfortable to use in tablet mode whether on a lap or a desk.
HP Envy x2 13: keyboard and touchpad
Thanks to the layer of fetching grey material on its underside, the clip-on Bluetooth keyboard looks rather smart. This clasps magnetically to the tablet and folds against the display when you need to pop it in a bag, with strong, hidden magnets holding it firmly in place. A loop of fabric on the keyboard’s edge hints at stylus support, but this is a £32 optional extra. Sadly, though, the keyboard doesn’t have a reserve battery for keeping the tablet topped up – instead, it draws its power from the tablet.
The keyboard itself is pretty good. We’re not fans of the vertical strip of Page Up, Page Down, Home and End buttons on the far-right edge – the arrangement makes it far too easy to press these buttons by mistake – but the widely spaced, backlit keys provide just the right amount of feedback, and the soft leather wristrest makes for comfy typing. The touchpad, however, made us glad there’s a touchscreen to use; it’s far too sensitive to taps, yet feels oddly laggy and unresponsive to cursor movements, and it often registered left-clicks when we were simply trying to scroll the mouse cursor across the screen. We can only hope that a driver update might improve matters.
Otherwise, the Envy x2 suffers from several of the same usability issues as Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets. The x2 is fine on a desk: the kickstand provides an excellent range of movement, and the large keyboard and screen make for a workable laptop substitute. However, things go downhill rapidly once you try to use the Envy x2 in other situations. The heavy tablet and lightweight keyboard make for an unstable combination on your lap, and the sheer size of the Envy x2 makes it a poor travelling companion.
HP Envy x2 13: display and performance
Thankfully, there are glimmers of quality here and there. The Envy x2’s display is great. This stretches a Full HD resolution across a 13in IPS panel, and it bursts with dynamic, punchy images. Brightness tops out at 392cd/m2, contrast reaches 1,095:1, and the panel covers a very respectable 93% of the sRGB colour gamut. It’s by far the HP’s strongest suit.
Behind the scenes, Intel’s Core M-5Y10 CPU provides the Envy x2’s processing power, a chip that sounds rather frugal on paper. It runs at a base frequency of only 800MHz, boosts up to 2GHz and has a TDP of a mere 4.5W. In truth, we were primed for disappointment since the faster-clocked Core M-5Y70 in the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro turned in some very mediocre numbers.
Happily, the x2 confounded our expectations. In our Real World Benchmarks, the combination of the Core M, 4GB of memory and 128GB SSD turned in an Overall score of 0.59, which is well ahead of the Yoga 3 Pro’s 0.45 and not far off the performance of Ultrabooks and rival hybrids with Core i5 Haswell hardware. It’s clear that, with the right hardware design, Intel’s Core M has a surprisingly healthy performance kick. What’s more, the fanless design means there isn’t a whisper of noise, even when the Envy x2 is working flat out.
Battery life is more limited by the demands of the Envy x2’s display than the power-frugal CPU, but the HP acquitted itself reasonably well in our tests. With the display brightness set to 120cd/m2, our looping video test saw the Envy x2 chew through its capacity in a reasonable 6hrs 8mins. We were hoping for more, however: given the Core M CPU, this is by no means a record-breaking performance.
HP Envy x2 13: connectivity and features
The Envy x2 wants for little when it comes to connectivity. There are two full-sized USB 3 ports, one on either edge of the tablet, a full-sized HDMI output and a microSD slot. Speedy 802.11ac wireless networking is the order of the day, and Bluetooth 4 is included, too. The front-facing 2-megapixel webcam isn’t stunning, but there’s detail enough for video chats over Skype.
The final disappointment here is the Envy x2’s speakers: despite taking up a sizable chunk of space either side of the display, sound quality is middle of the road. There’s plenty of volume, and enough energy to make music and movie soundtracks listenable, but there’s a harsh quality to the sound that made several of our test tracks sound far too edgy and thin, and the lack of low-end and mid-range warmth sees basslines disappear almost completely. We expected far better.
HP Envy x2 13: verdict
After a few days with the Envy x2, we kept returning to one question: what’s it actually good at? It’s too big and unwieldy to make for a tablet we’d want to use with any regularity, and the clip-on keyboard is borderline impossible to use on your lap or in most situations when you’re travelling. The Envy x2 is most at home when it’s sitting on a desk, but even in this scenario we found the touchpad to be a regular aggravation.
It’s a shame because it has its moments. The excellent display and solid performance tick two important boxes, and the £649 price is a huge plus point. The Surface Pro 3 is much pricier at £849, and that’s without the keyboard. Despite the keen pricing, though, the HP’s flaws make it impossible to recommend – for a device that promises the best of both worlds, the Envy x2 delivers neither.
HP Envy X2 13 specifications
|Processor||800MHz Intel Core M 5Y10|
|Memory slots (free)||N/A|
|Size (WDH)||355 x 216 x 14mm|
|Weight||1.22kg (1.76kg with keyboard)|
|Sound||Stereo speakers, 3.5mm headset jack|
|Pointing device||Touchscreen, buttonless touchpad|
|Screen resolution||1,920 x 1,080|
|Graphics adaptor||Intel HD Graphics 5300|
|Ports and expansion|
|USB ports||2 x USB 3|
|Memory card reader||microSD|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 64-bit|
|Operating system restore option||Recovery partition|
|Parts and labour warranty||1yr RTB warranty|
|Price inc VAT||£630 inc VAT|