HP’s first Windows PC powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is coming next spring, but I got a chance today to spend some time with a pre-release version of the upcoming HP Envy x2.

HP Envy x2

It’s a 2-in-1 tablet with a 12.3 inch display, a detachable keyboard cover, and a digital pen. And honestly, if I hadn’t known it was using a Snapdragon processor, I might not have guessed. It felt reasonably responsive when running Microsoft Excel and the Edge web browser.

I only had a few minutes with the computer, and HP representatives say they haven’t run benchmarks yet to see how the performance compares with a similar PC sporting an Intel or AMD processor… but the company does suggest that if you want a high-performance computer you’re probably better off going with a model featuring an x86 processor.

What makes the HP Envy x2 with its ARM-based CPU special is its thin, light, and fanless design, its extra-long battery life, and its always-connected capabilities.

The HP Envy x2 weighs just about 1.5 pounds, measures less than 0.3 inches thick, and it feels remarkably light for a tablet with a 12.3 inch display. It’s pretty comfortable to hold in one hand, and if you’re a digital pen fan, you can use one with the HP Envy x2, which would make this a pretty decent writing slate.

My handwriting is horrible, so I’m more interested in the computer’s laptop mode. It comes with one of the more interesting keyboard covers I’ve seen. The cover protects both the front and back of the tablet when folded up. But there’s a flap on the back that you can fold down to use as a kickstand.

It supports pretty much any angle from 110 to 150 degrees, giving you some control over the position of the screen while you’re typing. It’s not quite as much control as you’d get from a more traditional laptop-style device, but it’s pretty good for a keyboard cover kickstand.

The keyboard also features backlit keys with 1.3mm key travel and a decent-sized touchpad that felt pretty responsive.

Out of the box, the HP Envy x2 ships with Windows 10 S. But users can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free if they do it by September, 2018. I suspect the choice between operating systems is basically a choice between frustrations: do you want a stripped down version of Windows that only runs apps from the Windows Store? Or do you want a more capable version of Windows that runs any Windows application… including some more resource-intensive applications that may not run all that well on the relatively slow hardware.

That’s not entirely a new choice: try running Adobe Premiere on a computer with an Intel Celeron N3060 processor and see how much fun you have.

On the other hand, that Celeron N3060 processor won’t offer up to 20 hours of battery life or up to a month of connected standby time, which is what HP says you should be able to get from this computer. When you turn off the screen, the computer enters connected standby and operates a lot like a smartphone with the screen off. You’ll be able to continue getting updates and notifications in the background, and pressing the power button will bring the computer back to life almost immediately.

Its built-in Qualcomm Snapdragon x16 LTE modem means that you’ll also be able to get notifications and updates in the background whether you’re at home, the office or on the go (assuming you pay for a data plan).

What remains to be seen is whether those features are compelling enough to justify buying a computer that has less raw horsepower than a mid-range laptop with an AMD or Intel chip and which currently only supports 32-bit applications, because Qualcomm and Microsoft haven’t yet added support for running 64-bit Windows apps on devices with Snapdragon 835 processors.

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23 replies on “Hands-on with the HP Envy x2 Windows tablet with Snapdragon 835”

  1. I don’t want a computer that needs a kickstand to keep it from falling down!

  2. Add a companion device with a keypad to use the modem in the laptop to make calls. Like a dumbphone terminal….

  3. This hardware is pretty much exactly what I want from an Android tablet, but instead it gets to run a gimped version of Windows. Great.

  4. What’s funny is how they expect to sell this roughly in the same price bracket as x86 machines; while these ARM devices are supposed to be thinner and have outstanding battery life, in practice performance is limited, it runs a limited OS (ok so the upgrade to Pro will be free for at least a few months) and this is essentially yet-another spin on netbooks.

    I get that the hardware isn’t entry-level (SD 835 is a premium chip, the panel isn’t your every-day trash TN screen, etc), but why would anyone go for this instead of a more powerful x86 device going for the same price (or barely more) again?

  5. “HP representatives say they haven’t run benchmarks yet to see how the performance compares with a similar PC sporting an Intel or AMD processor… ”

    Right. They spent millions of dollars developing a product without knowing how it’s going to perform. Sure. No matter, the scores are available. It performs somewhere between an Apollo Lake Celeron and an Apollo Lake Pentium.
    https://mspoweruser.com/first-leaked-benchmarks-windows-10-arm-alarming/

    ” up to a month of connected standby time, which is what HP says you should be able to get from this computer. ”

    Can’t happen. Windows Update will run, both for A/V definition updates daily and full updates every 2 weeks or so, which will destroy battery life.

    Snapdragon 835 is a great SOC and makes for a pretty powerful mobile device, as long as it’s not running Windows 10. I do think it would make a hell of a Chromebook though. It would probably make a pretty good Linux notebook too, provided drivers are available.

    1. So you don’t believe the numbers they will provide, but insist the numbers they won’t provide are real? Interesting.

      I’m taking performance with a grain of salt for now. When I asked about benchmarks, I was specifically told that they couldn’t run them yet because the equivalent benchmarks weren’t available for Windows 10 S yet.

      So why don’t you switch to Windows 10 Pro and run them, I asked?

      We haven’t done that yet.

      *shrug*

      The take home is that they’re promising acceptable performance for every day tasks, but not bleeding-edge performance for resource-intensive tasks. If you want a fast machine, you should buy one with an Intel or AMD chip. The selling points here are long battery life, compact design, and always-connected capabilities.

      We’ll probably have to wait until closer to launch to be able to make real-world performance comparisons. But MS, Qualcomm, HP, and Asus seem to be banking on people treating these as notebooks and tablets with phone-like capabilities which justify spending $500 and up on a machine that offers performance that’s more on par with what you’d normally expect from a $200 – $300 laptop. The Envy x2 certainly has a nicer design than any $200 model I’ve seen to date. But it also certainly remains to be seen whether there’s a significant market for this sort of device at this sort of price.

      I find it noteworthy that when Intel announces a new chip there are dozens of new PCs announced that use that chip. So far we only know of two Snapdragon 835-powered devices. It seems like PC makers are being cautious, and I can’t blame them. But there may be a chicken and egg problem at play: since it’s unclear how much demand there is, PC makers are slow to adopt the platform. But since there aren’t a lot of options for folks who want a Snapdragon-powered PC, demand may remain on the low side.

      Personally I’m fascinated at the possibilities that ARM-powered PCs represent. But right now they’re pretty much nothing but potential.

      1. FYI, some did managed to pry benchmarks out of those ARM powered Windows notebooks, example here https://www.ultrabookreview.com/19015-asus-novago-impressions/ and here https://www.pcworld.com/article/3240484/computers/hands-on-asus-novago-snapdragon-based-windows-pc.html Looks like they are not 100% stable yet, also performance is rather poor in many cases. Only in Sunspider with native Edge browser, around performance of Intel’s Apollo Lake but the other web benchmarks (Octane and Jetstream) are much slower than Intel’s Apollo Lake and sometimes even slower than Intel’s Cherry Trail (in Octane). In older Cinebench R11.5, around Intel’s Cherry Trail performance. Geekbench was slower than both Intel’s Apollo Lake and Cherry Trail (as already known from earlier leaks). As for that 20 hour plus battery life, checkout this http://www.zdnet.com/article/qualcomm-announces-always-connected-windows-10-pcs/ looks like its down to the breakdown of typical usage scenario (not continuous) and interleaved with standby periods. We should have already figured out and realized that there’s no way any device will get 20 hours plus on battery with the 1080p screen always on.

    2. Good comment. If performance was good, they would be advertising it along with the battery life. They are just hoping people assume that it performs well… just like the M$ Surface 3 (non-pro model).

  6. I can’t see ANY of the comments on this site, but it lets me post. Waaay too much broken layers of scripting bloat happening here.

    1. I had the same issue. Still have it, actually. But found a couple of workarounds. Originally, I was switching from the mobile site to desktop. Then I found that on both mobile and desktop, scrolling to the bottom would trigger the comments to load. I’m using Firefox. Perhaps that info will be useful in figuring out what the problem is.

      1. Today I can see comments. Plus I don’t get the horrible dysfunctional Google Recaptcha nonsense any more.

  7. These $600-$800 devices are the wrong segment for this, the advantages are outweighed by the compromises. Let’s see what happens when these start competing head to head with those $300 celeron laptops.

  8. If the ARM version of Windows 10 Pro can’t run 64 bit programs, it really isn’t Windows 10 Pro.
    Imagine the confusion: upgrade an Intel-based Windows 10S PC to Windows 10 Pro and it will run all legacy Windows programs at native speed. Upgrade a Windows 10 S PC on ARM to Windows 10 Pro and it will run 32 bit legacy Windows programs slower through emulation and it won’t run 64 bit Windows programs at all.

    Microsoft needs to come up with a different name for their non-standard version of Windows 10 Pro if they don’t want to mislead and confuse their customers.

    1. IIRC, the x86_64 (64-bit)/Win64 emulation/JIT recompilation comes later on. You will need to wait further updates to Windows. Most likely will be announced with 2nd gen devices (or later, who knows). Majority of applications for general people will be native, e.g. the browser and office. Also one can use Visual Studio to compile Windows Desktop apps (native) to Windows ARM/ARM64, but it did require some extra work ~6 months ago.

      1. “the x86_64 (64-bit)/Win64 emulation/JIT recompilation comes later on”.
        My assumption too, I can see these devices working very well in entreprise for the salesforce, once it’s available from Dell and emulate x86-64.
        I might get one to see what they’re like.

    1. I’m wondering if any OEM is going to add ingress protection.
      Basically rubber gaskets and grease to the ports. Reservoir for the speaker/mic grills.

      Would be nice to see some Windows tablets with IP68 protection, so you can use it in the rain or by the pool or in the bath tub.

  9. Isn’t the real interest in Windows-on-ARM the possibility of finally finding the Holy Grail, the phone replacing the desktop? If an 835 can handle Windows, then a dock (or better yet a Bluetooth 5 “desktop net” that activates in proximity) would be the real deal!

    1. I fully agree, but Windows 10 isn’t a phone OS. Also, we don’t know how good the code emulation is yet.

  10. Paragraph below the pic of you holding it as a tablet in portrait mode – ’20 days of battery life’. I think that is probably ’20 hours’, no?

  11. I could see something like this being hugely popular for companies that want to give their employees options for using Microsoft Office products on the go, with great battery life.

    I think these will also be very popular in the Education market.

    If Lenovo used a Snapdragon and made a really rugged but thin Thinkpad laptop, with a 20,000mah battery, I think they would have a winner on their hands.

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