HP Envy x2 review: an elegant design and excellent battery life elevate this classy Windows 10 2-in-1

Can this Snapdragon-powered hybrid deliver? T3 goes hands on to find out…

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T3 Verdict

Boy does this 2-in-1 have style and versatility. I love the look of the thing and it feels great in the hand, too. Top audio credentials, 4G LTE connectivity, and a simply awesome battery life add a sweet level of boon on top. I'm still not convinced by Windows 10 S, though, and the system's power to price ratio remains out of kilter when compared to other similarly priced systems.

Reasons to buy

  • +

    Awesome 20-hour+ battery life

  • +

    Thin, attractive design

  • +

    Bundled HP digital pen stylus

  • +

    Bang & Olufsen audio

  • +

    4G LTE capable

  • +

    Quiet and cool

Reasons to avoid

  • -

    Windows 10 S

  • -

    Spongy keyboard

  • -

    Comparatively expensive

HP Envy x2 specs

Thickness: 6.9mm 

Weight: 0.7kg (1.3kg with keyboard)

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835

SDRAM: 8192MB

Storage: 256GB

Screen: 12.3-inch WUXGA+ LED IPS (1,920 x 1,280)

Battery: Up to 22 hours

Audio: Bang & Olufsen

OS: Windows 10 S

Connectivity: 4G LTE, Nano SIM, USB 2.0 Type-C, 5mm audio jack, microSD card

Past iterations of the HP Envy x2 haven't exactly been unmitigated successes. The Windows 8-packing 2011 HP Envy x2, for example, despite offering excellent battery life left us wanting more in terms of power, design, and price, with us concluding that we were still waiting for a Windows device "that challenges the way we think about tech."

Fast forward five years and the HP Envy x2 is back in the form of the first Qualcomm-powered Windows 10 S 2-in-1 tablet-laptop hybrid. And, you'll be pleased to hear, this new system will not only make many fellow 2-in-1 users envious, but it has also made great strides at rectifying past issues. As we will see, it isn't perfect, but it is a strong and versatile system with a couple of absolutely blinding features that help to make it a serious consider for anyone currently in the market for a 2-in-1.

Before we get to the meat of the review though you should watch HP's Envy x2 launch trailer now, which gives a good overview of its form and strong points.

HP Envy x2 review: price and availability

The HP Envy x2 is available to buy now from a wide variety of retailers, including HP's official online store, PC World, and Currys.

The HP Envy x2 currently retails for £1,199.

HP Envy x2 review: design and build quality

HP Envy x2 review

The Envy x2's magnetic rear hinge feels quality.

Take the HP Envy x2 out of its box and the first thing that grabs you is how weighty and premium the tablet feels, despite the fact that is measures in with a waif-ish thin 6.9mm thickness. The frame of the tablet is CNC-machined out of aluminium and its display is covered with rock hard and compressed Gorilla Glass, which goes a long way to explain this.

Indeed, the Envy x2 feels very similar to the well-received Microsoft Surface Pro 4, but crossed with a dollop of the super high-end Surface Book 2.

In terms of buttons and ports, the system's power button is located, in a horizontal orientation, on the top right hand edge, while separate volume buttons and the device's SIM card slot can be found on the right. Move to the left hand side and you find the Envy x2's power port, which is the on-trend USB Type-C.

The rear cover can be bent at its midpoint via a luxe magnetic hinge to create a kickstand.

Round the back of the x2 you can find the system's 13-megapixel rear camera, and on the front there is a partnering 5MP one for video calling.

The system's faux leather-finished keyboard cover is attached via the bottom of the x2 tablet via magnetic clip-on, and covers the entire front and rear when closed. When in laptop mode, with the keyboard out for typing, the rear cover can be bent at its midpoint via a luxe magnetic hinge to create a kickstand. Pleasingly, this hinge is very sturdy and robust, unlike some we have experienced, and supports the tablet very well.

Finally, the x2's bundled stylus attaches to the keyboard on the right hand side via an elasticated holder. This HP digital pen stylus looks and feels similar to Microsoft's Surface Stylus.

HP Envy x2 review: hardware, screen, and battery

HP Envy x2 review

The HP Envy x2 is one good looking 2-in-1 hybrid.

The HP Envy x2 is notable as it is the first Windows 10 laptop that comes installed with Qualcomm's ARM-based Snapdragon 835 CPU. This is the same processor that was lodged in 2017's flagship phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Sony Xperia XZ Premium.

And this processor's mobile heritage grants the Envy x2 some very useful features, including instant on (press the power button an the screen is live), connected standby, and a fan-less design with built-in Gigabit LTE.

Cutting right to the chase, though, the Snapdragon 835 CPU is both the HP Envy x2's biggest strength and weakness. The Snapdragon 835 processor, in combination with the S version of Windows 10 (more on Windows 10 S later) is a large part of why this laptop boasts a battery life north of 20 hours. However, it is also the reason why the Envy x2 cannot deliver the same sort of performance that a hybrid equipped with, say, the quad-core 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-8650U processor fitted in the new Surface Book 2 can.

The HP Envy x2 simply lets you kiss battery anxiety goodbye.

Is that a deal breaker? Absolutely not. What does that mean in terms of it being a potential proposition? Well, that depends on what you need from the device. If you want a premium tablet that runs a version of Windows 10 and can also offer a slick, light computing experience too, running for hours and hours without needing to be recharged, then this internal hardware combo will definitely deliver for you, and deliver spectacularly, too. 

On the other hand, though, if you need your hybrid to deliver a medium to heavy computing experience, with tasks like editing 4K video files as well as playing demanding PC games frequent occurrences for you, then this hardware combo will in most cases not deliver the same levels of performance.

Be under no illusion, though, that raw power trade off does deliver a quite staggering ability to run and run and run in terms of usage time. Up to 22 hours for a single charge - and in the real world certainly over 20 - means that very few hybrids can compete with the HP Envy x2 in terms of battery life. The fact that I used this hybrid for a week almost every day, and for some serious amounts of time, too, and still had 17 per cent remaining in the tank at the end tells you all you need to know. The Envy x2 simply lets you kiss battery anxiety goodbye.

HP Envy X2 review

Writing and drawing on the HP Envy x2 with the included stylus was a pleasurable experience. Better than Matt Groening, right? 

And that's good news, as the battery has to power the Envy x2's 12.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,280-pixel display. Despite the not very exotic resolution, I found the panel to be really pleasant and natural to use. Colour depth and contrast was good, as too brightness and viewing angles, although as you would expect from a glossy screen, glare in direct sunlight was quite strong.

The screen was also responsive and accurate in terms of touch inputs, both with finger and the HP digital pen, the latter making drawing and writing with the stylus on the Envy x2, as evidenced by the nearby Homer Simpson doodle, pleasant. It is important to note here that I did notice small amounts of lag, though, when scrawling and scribbling at speed, which I'm guessing is tied to the aforementioned hardware pairing.

HP Envy x2 review: connectivity, audio, and OS

First of all, let's talk about the HP Envy x2's stock OS. The good news is that it is Windows 10. The bad news is that it is Windows 10 S.

For those of you not familiar with Windows 10 in S mode it is a stripped-down, streamlined version of Microsoft's excellent OS that restricts you to only install and use apps downloaded from the Microsoft Store, as well as to browse exclusively via Microsoft Edge.

I have to be honest right away and say I am not a fan of Windows 10 S. I find it too restricting for my needs as a Windows power user and, despite any speed benefits it grants to systems with certain hardware configurations, I always prefer to use a full fat edition ideally.

HP Envy X2 review

You could use the HP Envy x2 to read T3.com and then switch to read T3 magazine. You would be living the dream!

I can totally understand why the HP Envy x2 comes with S stock out of the box, as it contributes to the light-computing experience I feel the hybrid is aiming for, and it also no-doubt contributes to the outrageous battery life you get from the system. However, I was still a bit miffed when I found out that I couldn't install my set application suite on the system, many applications in which are not available through the Windows Store.

Could you install a full-fat version of Windows 10 on the HP Envy x2? Absolutely, however, from past experience with systems like this doing that can often lead to compatibility issues. We didn't feel we should install none-S Windows 10 on the system either, as that is not how the product is delivered out of the box.

Naturally, if you are perfectly at home within the Windows Store ecosystem then this issue will not affect you, and it may even add to your enjoyment of the system.

Another of the x2's notable features is its 4G LTE capabilities. Stick in a 4G SIM card, preferably with a large or unlimited data allowance, and the usage experience you get with the x2 is elevated to a higher level.

Finally, in terms of features, I very much enjoyed some genuinely impressive (for a tablet) audio reproduction. The speakers on the HP Envy x2 are tuned by Bang & Olufsen,  and offer legitimate room filling sound. 

HP Envy x2 review: verdict

HP Envy x2

Overall, the HP Envy x2's premium build quality, stunning battery life, and top audio credentials won me over when testing the machine.

I still have very, very little time for Windows 10 S, though. I understand why it comes stock on the Envy x2 because of the hardware spec, but as a massive advocate and fan of the full-fat version of Windows 10, as well as a tech-savvy power user, the limitations of S really grated on me. Providing you are happy to be largely restricted to Windows Store apps and browser-based computing, though, then this won't be an issue for you.

The x2's screen and stylus are good, and despite it being a tad spongy, the faux-leather cover's keyboard is spacious and easy to type on, too (indeed, I wrote this review for the system on it with ease).

The HP Envy x2's 4G LTE SIM capabilities also are most welcome on such a highly portable and long lasting 2-in-1. From working online, to streaming content from Netflix, and onto uploading and downloading large files on the go, providing you have the data tariff to burn, an x2 equipped with a 4G LTE connection handles them all with ease and, just like with the battery, removes any anxiety about entering no Wi-Fi downtimes.

So, overall then, I can recommend the HP Envy x2, but suggest that you ask yourself what you need and prize from a hybrid system before you pull the trigger. The HP Envy x2 is not the most powerful hybrid by far thanks to that ARM-based architecture, and for the money you can get more punchy systems, but it is one of the most capable and versatile in terms of a tablet use and light-computing, offering outstanding battery life and a good all-round supporting package.

More information about the HP Envy x2 can be found on the system's official web page.