At first glance, the HP Envy x2 looks like an ultraportable laptop. It has an 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel display and a full-sized QWERTY keyboard. But what sets the Envy x2 apart from other HP laptops like the Pavilion dm1z is that you can pop off the keyboard and use the screen portion as a tablet.
In other words, you can either think of the HP Envy X2 as a laptop with a removable tablet section, or as a tablet with an optional keyboard.
Either way, the portable computer is designed to be used with Windows 8. It has a 10-point multitouch capacitive touchscreen display which you can use to interact with Windows 8′s new touch-friendly user interface.
The touchpad below the keyboard also supports multitouch gestures, so you don’t have to reach up and tap the screen when using the Envy x2 in laptop mode — although you can if you want.
The mobile computer is powered by an Intel Atom Clover Trail processor, and during the few minutes I got to spend with the tablet it seemed pretty responsive.
HP says Clover Trail chips offer significantly better performance than the current Cedar Trail Atom chips — and that Windows 8 also does a pretty good job of playing well with the processors so that the tablet doesn’t feel sluggish in a cheap netbook kind of way.
The low power chip also supports connected standby mode, which allows the tablet to go online periodically to check for new email messages, social networking updates, and other information even when the computer is in sleep mode. That way when you hit the power button, you’ll see the latest data on your start screen — much the way you would on a smartphone.
The HP Envy x2 features 2GB of RAM and a 64GB solid state disk. It supports WiFi, Bluetooth, and NFC communication. There’s front-facing HD camera and a rear-facing 8MP camera.
The brains of the computer are in the tablet section, but the laptop dock isn’t just a keyboard.
The dock also features a full-sized HDMI port, 2 USB ports, and its own battery. When you’re operating the tablet alone, HP says you should get “all day” battery life. But you can double that when you connect the keyboard.
You’ll find a microSD card slot in the tablet portion, but there’s also a full-sized SD card slot in the dock. Since both of these ports accept high capacity SDXC cards, you can increase the amount of available storage pretty considerably.
Despite the fact that the Envy x2 has an 11.6 inch display while most consumer tablets on the market have 10 inch or smaller screens, the tablet feels almost as thin and light light as an iPad — and that’s because it is pretty close. HP’s tablet measures 0.33 inches thick and has a light-weight aluminum case that helps keep the weight at 1.6 pounds. The iPad is 0.37 inches thick and weighs 1.46 pounds.
The unit I checked out this week is a pre-production model and the final design could change a little before the tablet is released — but I did find the speaker placement a little odd. Instead of edge-to-edge glass on the front of the tablet, HP put speakers in a small gap between the glass and one edge of the tablet. This should help provide clear audio, but it also makes the tablet feel a little funny if you grip it so that your fingers are over the speakers.
The 1366 x 768 pixel widescreen display is also a little awkward for holding in one hand. If you grip the tablet in landscape mode with both hands, it feels great. But if you switch to portrait mode and hold it with one hand, it just feels a bit off balance.
When you add the keyboard dock, the computer weighs about 3.1 pounds. That might sound heavy for a tablet, but it’s not a bad weight for an 11.6 inch laptop.
The screen attaches firmly to the base thanks to magnetic locks in the hinge area. Once the tablet is docked, you could hold the computer upside down by the keyboard and the screen wouldn’t fall out. You need to slide a switch to release the tablet.
But the screen on the demo unit I tested does wobble a tiny bit if you poke it. So if you plan to use the touchscreen while docked in laptop mode, don’t expect the computer to be perfectly rigid.
The HP Envy x2 will be available in time for the 2012 holiday season. HP hasn’t determined the final price yet.