Could HP's latest hybrid notebook offer a taste of things to come and are HP likely to re-enter the mobile device market in a big way? Lots of questions and a hint of an answer from our hands-on encounter with the HP Envy x2.
The compact notebook actually broke cover back at IFA in Berlin earlier this year and hit online and physical store shelves at the end of October with UK availability coming in December. We were lucky enough to be at the HP Connected Music event, where the company not only spoke at length on the trials and tribulations of designing their latest wave of products, including the Envy x2, but also announced the new music streaming and experience service they're offering to customers.
Stacy Wolff, HP’s VP for Industrial Design explained that the latest batch of HP products like the Envy x2 were defined by four design principles, they needed to be gestural, thin, iconic and device+. The Envy x2 certainly looks the part in the flesh, the brushed metal and faux metal plastic on both the body and the back of the display. It certainly exudes a sense of the ‘premium’, even if the heavily rounded aesthetic isn’t to everyone’s taste.
As the ‘hybrid’ element we mentioned earlier suggests, the Envy x2 actually offers users a detachable tablet keyboard dock-based product, much like the Asus Transformer Pads, however the biggest difference is the OS. HP appear to be gunning for the likes of Microsoft’s Surface tablets with a full version of Windows 8 running on a notebook with an 11.6-inch 1336x768 HD display. Of course, unlike the current Surface the Envy x2 features a full blown Windows 8 OS, which means that there’s greater software and hardware support when compared to Microsoft’s offering.
The construction and the user experience feel solid and slick from the tablet latching mechanism to the lagless frame rate of the UI. HP also bolster the existing Windows experience with a few apps of their own, including access to HP Connected Music.
Despite the fact that this tablet isn’t strictly a mobile product with such a comprehensive desktop OS onboard, the likelihood of an ARM-based equivalent or at the very least a spiritual successor when HP do decide to start releasing Windows RT products, is entirely possible, particularly when you consider the price.
The HP Envy x2 with its full Windows 8 credentials and the flexible tablet form factor mean that prospective customers have to be prepared to shell out around £799 to pick one up, whilst an RT equivalent could theoretically offer a similar hardware package for around £100-£200 less. It’s simply a case of whether HP think Windows RT will offer them more luck than they experienced with WebOS and the TouchPad.
Check back later to see a full hands-on video with the HP Envy x2.