Power-sipping Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. LTE connectivity. Claimed long battery life.
Weak keyboard and touchpad. Uncomfortable for use on your lap.
- Bottom Line
With always-on technology, a Snapdragon processor, and an LTE modem, the HP Envy x2 is poised to usher in a new class of hyper-mobile Windows PCs.
The quest to add smartphone-like battery life to laptops may have just got a lot shorter with HP's unveiling of the new Envy x2, complete with a Snapdragon 835 processor. Yes, you read that right. Qualcomm's flagship CPU, which is commonly found in high-end smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S8, is powering a Windows PC for the first time ever. HP is promising to eke more than 20 hours out of the chip without a charge, and what's more, the Envy x2 and other Snapdragon-powered machines are designed to deliver that kind of battery life even though they're always on and come with LTE built in.
The big unknowns at this point, other than whether or not HP's battery life claims hold up to our own lab tests, is how the Snapdragon chip will stack up performance- and price-wise compared with competing Intel-powered PCs. We'll find out the answers to those questions and more when the Envy x2 goes on sale next spring, but for now, HP gave us a few minutes of hands-on time with one so we can offer you a sneak preview of what to expect from this detachable laptop that thinks it's a smartphone.
The new Envy x2 is almost unrecognizable compared with its brushed-aluminum ancestor, which featured all-day battery life but a painfully slow Intel Atom processor when it debuted in 2013. The new version looks more like a Microsoft Surface Book, complete with a folding keyboard cover and a kickstand, and a holder for the included HP Digital Pen.
The keyboard isn't adjustable, which means it will always be at a slight angle to the screen. Likewise, the stand can be flipped out to prop up the Envy x2 on a desk or other flat surface, but there are no additional folds on the stand to create a platform so that you can rest the machine comfortably on your lap. That means that you'll need to use the tray table when you're on an airplane.
The keys and touchpad are fine for web browsing or dashing off a quick email, but they don't have enough travel to be comfortable for longer typing sessions.
You can also detach the keyboard cover completely and use the Envy x2 as a standalone tablet akin to the iPad Pro. The 12.3-inch screen shares the same 3:2 aspect ratio with the iPad Pro and other large tablets, so if you're watching a 16:9 video, there will be significant black borders around it.
One edge features a USB-C port to connect peripherals or the charging cable, while the other edge hosts a volume rocker and a headphone jack.
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The version HP showed us contains a Snapdragon 835 processor running at 2.2GHz and just 4GB of RAM. That combination seems a bit anemic to us, especially when you consider that some Windows apps designed for Intel-powered machines will not run natively on the Snapdragon processor, instead requiring processor-intensive emulation. That said, Microsoft Edge and Windows Explorer windows seemed snappy during our brief hands on. Note that the Envy x2 will come preloaded with Windows 10S, which limits you to only using apps downloaded from the Microsoft Store.
Besides an always-on PC and immense battery life, one of the other benefits of a Snapdragon processor is that no cooling fan is required, so the Envy x2 will always be free of annoying fan noise.
A Qualcomm X16 LTE modem is responsible for wireless data connections. It's lighting fast, offering speeds of up to 450MB/s, even though no US wireless carrier has a network that can support those speeds (yet). The X16 modem is the same one found in the Samsung Galaxy S8, the LG V30, the Google Pixel 2, the Essential PH-1 and other flagship phones. It's also found in some versions of the iPhone X, which offer faster performance than the versions with Intel modems.
Packing all this mobile technology into a convertible laptop running Windows has the potential to be very exciting, but again, we don't know how powerful it will be, nor do we know the cost of the laptop itself or the wireless plans that will be required to realize its full untethered potential. Check back soon for our full review.
As a hardware analyst, Tom tests and reviews laptops, peripherals, and much more at PC Labs in New York City. He previously covered the consumer tech beat as a news reporter for PCMag in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where he rode in several self-driving cars and witnessed the rise and fall of many startups. Before that, he worked for PCMag's sister site, Computer Shopper, where he occasionally dunked waterproof hard drives in glasses of water. In his spare time, he's written on topics as… More »
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