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Microsoft's touch-integrated Windows 8 operating system is changing the computing landscape, bringing about a new wave of hybrid notebooks that provide both tablet and laptop functionality for today's demanding mobile consumer. And while many of these hybrids suffer from major shortcomings, one system stands out from the pack.
The HP ENVY x2 11.6" Convertible Touchscreen Laptop is a strong addition to the hybrid world with its above-average design, snappy tablet performance, and all-day battery life. But is the ENVY x2 the ultimate hybrid, or another contender in an already-crowded arena? We pored over a wealth of reviews from well-respected tech sites to see how the bite-size offering from HP stacks up.
Despite its small footprint, the ENVY x2 has a dominating presence thanks to its striking design. Weighing just 3.1 lbs., it's clad entirely in brushed aluminum with rounded edges. In fact, you might even mistake it for a different popular laptop from Cupertino, although all comparisons are superficial; this Windows 8-powered ENVY x2 isn't just a shiny ultraportable. It also morphs into a fully-functional touchscreen tablet. And whereas many manufacturers have failed to create a hybrid that captures the essence of both a laptop and a tablet, The Verge says HP has created a "well-made device that feels 100% like a laptop, and 100% like a tablet."
A switch located above the chiclet-style keyboard releases the 11.6" screen, freeing up a 10mm-thick, 1.6-lb. tablet running a full version of Windows 8 (unlike the RT version that some competitor convertibles use). The tablet features a clean design, with just a power button along the back, volume rocker, headphone jack, and front- and rear-facing cameras. Ports and connections remain on the keyboard and include two USB 2.0 ports, a full-sized HDMI port, and an SDHC card slot.
In laptop mode, the ENVY x2's "overall typing experience is comfortable, with good key spacing and firm key action," says PC Mag. For an ultraportable with such a tiny footprint, we also found the keyboard well-spaced and satisfying to use. Likewise, the touchpad is wide and provides ample space for scrolling. We did notice that opening the laptop's lid requires a forceful prying motion, but this is probably due to the tablet-latching mechanism that juts out from the back of the system. This same mechanism also lifts the system from your desk, giving the keyboard a slight incline, which we enjoyed for typing.
The ENVY x2's screen offers a 1366x768 resolution with five-finger capacitive touch functionality. According to The Verge, this is sharper than most notebooks, but for tablets, "feels pretty low-res." And, despite featuring Beats-branded speakers, CNET recommends using the headphone jack instead for better sound quality.
Even though the x2 has dashing good looks, a device is only as good as its performance. Fortunately in tablet mode, the ENVY x2 leaves little to be desired. Laptop Mag says that the device is "completely fluid and responsive" and shows "no problems browsing the web, playing full HD videos, or even playing Windows 8-style games like the third-person shooter, Judge Dredd Versus Zombies." Likewise, we saw no stuttering or dropped frames when streaming 1080p content on the device. However, users might want to keep away from CPU-intensive apps, as The Verge points out that the ENVY x2 is most definitely not a gaming machine.
The ENVY x2's Intel Atom 1.8GHz processor prevents it from being a full-on gaming rig. Coupled with 2GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD, it makes the system ill-equipped for CPU-intensive tasks such as playing Borderlands 2 or transcoding video. But keep in mind this is a modern Atom CPU and not the sluggish ones found in ASUS' now-retired line of Eee PCs. As Liliputing points out, this means the ENVY x2 can handle certain high-performance tasks, such as HD video playback without breaking a sweat. And while it doesn't compare to a full-fledged laptop CPU like the Intel Core i3, the Atom Z2760-equipped x2 scored better in benchmarks than its competitors using the same CPU. What's more, the Atom Z2760 can deliver impressive battery life, as CNET managed to get 7 hours and 32 minutes from the ENVY x2 while in tablet mode and a remarkable 10 hours and 38 minutes in laptop mode.
While the x2 probably shouldn't be your primary laptop, if you treat it as a device that can do anything a Microsoft Surface RT tablet can do — with the added benefit of also running full desktop apps — then the ENVY x2 becomes an appealing option, says Liliputing. Further, for casual to light computing, CNET says the x2 is "one of the best-designed iterations of the hybrid detachable concept in the Windows 8 launch generation."
Interested in giving the HP ENVY x2 a try? Currently HP offers the basic configuration for $639.99 after coupon code "BLOOM13" (a low by $10). Or, take a chance on our HP ENVY x2 Sweepstakes; we're giving away our review copy to one lucky reader! Click here to enter. Then, while you wait to find out if you've won this nifty laptop, why not watch our Media Editor perform some "magic" tricks with the ENVY x2 in the video below?