The HP Envy X2 is marketing type’s dream. It’s small, sleek and portable. It has a shiny silver exterior done up in brushed aluminium with trendy tapered edges. In terms of simple aesthetics, it oozes appeal.
And then there’s the X2’s trump card. It’s both a laptop and a tablet. By holding a switch in place the screen detaches from the keyboard. It’s the sort of gimmick to make an impressionable geek swoon. On first inspection alone, the Envy X2 really will be the envy of your friends.
But once you start operating the X2 its pretty exterior seems utterly superfluous. It sports a number of galling flaws that prevent it from ever feeling like a functioning, portable work machine. Though it tries to pander to every whim, it never does any single thing well.
The first and most crippling offence is the X2’s lack of power. Presumably HP has designed the Envy for the sort of person who wants internet on-the-go in a small, portable package. That’s all fine and well. After all, you can’t expect to be firing up games or using Photoshop with 2 gigs of Ram and an onboard graphics card (as is the case here). But there’s nothing wrong with a laptop/tablet that caters exclusively to the office desk-jockey, right?
Except the Envy X2 fails to make browsing the internet a speedy or enjoyable experience. Thanks to its underpowered processor — a 1.8GHZ Intel Atom — surfing the net all too often turns into a sticky experience. While Windows 8 might boot speedily, the processor and the operating system work badly in tandem. With a sickening sense of clarity you’ll come to realize that, in owning the X2, you’ll spend as much time waiting for it to register your mouse clicks as you will enjoying the spoils of the web. Let this be known: if you want one of these, get used to it blinking in puzzlement as it tries to work out what you’re asking it do next.
Yes, the X2 cleverly transitions between being a laptop and a tablet, and it’s perfect for the ADD, OCD, schizophrenic, bipolar tendencies of today’s youth. It’s a clever gimmick. But it doesn’t gloss over the issue that the X2 is so underpowered it fails to ever get anything done properly.
Nor is the X2 any good as a storage device. HP advertises a 64GB hard-drive — which, let’s be honest, is paltry by today’s standards — but they should really come clean and admit to the mere 40 gigabytes left over after Windows is installed.
And then there’s Windows 8 itself. The operating system is tailor-made to work with tablets, and by and large it feels intuitive as a touch-and-go device. But when you count all the popular applications that don’t exist for it — like Flipboard — it comes off a tad antiquated. It still needs time to grow and flourish, but for the time being Windows 8 feels more like a product content to ride the bandwagon than a product with any real ideas of its own.
A Rushed Release
There are other bad signs. I encountered a number of BIOs issues during my time with the X2. The most annoying of these relates to the keyboard, which turned simple word processing into a protracted nightmare: often the keyboard will miss keypresses; other times it will duplicate keypresses instead.
Another BIOS issue affected the screen, which seemed to flicker at low brightness settings. Both the keyboard and the screen flicker might be solvable with a BIOS update, but still, these issues are unacceptable in a retail release.
Even the look and feel of X2 starts to come into question as you spend more time with it. With the screen in the keyboard dock, the screen doesn’t tilt back far enough in its dock but the balance of weight is still such that it’ll topple out of your lap on occasion.
The best thing about the X2 is its bright screen (the BIOS issues notwithstanding). You might also find the speakers to be loud and bass-laden. You might enjoy Windows 8 too. But these are a minor plus-points in a market where there a dozen laptops and a dozen tablets with better screens; where there are inexpensive headphones that amplify your aural experience; and operating systems like Apple’s with popular applications that Windows 8 doesn’t even have yet. Even a good battery, which keeps the X2 going for the best part of a day, seems inconsequential in the face of its slow operating system and dastardly keyboard. So whether you’re near a plug or on-the-move, getting work done is a pain nonetheless.
What the X2 does right it doesn’t do well enough to mask its other, galling flaws. And for the price of an X2, US$850 (or R10 000), you could afford to buy an ordinary 15” laptop and a separate iPad 3. Both would do a better job.
As such, the X2 might attempt to be the jack of all trades (a laptop, a tablet, an-on-the-go work device) but it never gets close to being a serviceable working machine. It’s both a laptop and a tablet, and it’s no good at being either.
Verdict: Burn, drown, destroy, in that order.