Big-screen 2-in-1 laptops, the target of the shopper who wants it all, often come with trade-offs. Consider the HP Envy x360, a convertible notebook with a slick look, a huge, 15-inch display and sweet sound. Unfortunately, its screen is quite blah, its hinges are weak and its battery life is short, even by the admittedly low standard for large notebooks. Still, this notebook offers a decent number of perks at a price that's more affordable than most of its competitors, making it worthy of checking out.
The Envy x360 is made in silver (Intel) and black (AMD) designs, and features the sleek design aesthetic that HP keeps exclusive to its mid- to high-end laptops. The black AMD model is cooler and more distinct, while the silver design will get lost in the field of other PC laptops.
While it's easy to rotate the Envy x360's screen from laptop mode to the positions for the stand, display and tablet modes, I found that the 360-degree hinge is too loose. When I tapped the screen with my finger to use its touch screen, it shuddered and shook at each press.
Weighing 4.7 pounds and measuring 14.2 x 9.8 x 0.8 inches, both models of the Envy x360 are heavier than the 15-inch HP Spectre x360 (4.2 pounds, 14.0 x 9.9 x 0.7 inches), the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 (4.5 pounds, 14.2 x 9.6 x 0.7 inches) and the 15-inch Lenovo Yoga 720 (4.6 pounds 14.3 x 9.5 x 0.8 inches).
The Envy x360 notebooks split their dual USB 3.0 ports between their left and right sides, with an HDMI port and headphone jack also on the left side. A USB Type-C port (non-charging), SD memory reader and power port also sit on the right side.
While each Envy x360 renders a clear picture on its 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel screen, each panel is hurt by blah color and low brightness. Watching the Avengers: Infinity War trailer on the notebooks, I admired how crisp the Spidey-sense-raised hairs on Peter Parker's forearm appeared, but noticed that Steve Rogers still looked like he was in the shadows, even after he emerged from them; the purple had drained from Thanos' noggin; and that the green color of the trees of Wakanda seemed muted.
The Intel version of the Envy x360 produces 77 percent of the sRGB spectrum, making it equally as colorful as the Inspiron 15 (77 percent) and better than the AMD model, which produces 67 percent. Neither Envy could match the mainstream-notebook average of 102 percent. We also recorded higher ratings from the Yoga 720 (114 percent) and the Spectre x360 (130 percent).
The Intel Envy x360 emits a paltry 186 nits of brightness, while its AMD counterpart maxes out at a shockingly low 128 nits. Unsurprisingly, this leads to screens that need to be viewed head-on, as their colors darken significantly from 30 degrees to the left and right. Both marks fall below the 253-nit average. The 247-nit Spectre x360 and the 272-nit Yoga 720 are brighter, while the 148 Inspiron 15 sits between the two Envys.
At first, the responsiveness of the Intel Envy x360's touch screen was unreliable and required a heavy touch when it actually did work. Fortunately, I fixed this by downloading the HP Consumer Desktop/Notebook PC ME Firmware update. Once applied, we experienced smooth sailing and speedy reception of swipe gestures.
The Envy x360's keyboard offers an adequate, albeit loud, typing experience. A headphone-wearing colleague sitting next to me remarked, "Whatever you are testing, it is the most obnoxious keyboard you have ever used. It sounds like you're drumming your fingers directly against the desk."
During the 10FastFingers test, I hit a rate of 73 words words per minute. While the keys aren't as deep as we like (their 1.2 to 1.1 millimeters of travel is shy of the minimum 1.5 mm we look for), their required actuation force (77 to 79 grams, when we look for at least 60 grams) makes up for it.
The 4.7 x 2.3-inch touchpad offered accurate input tracking as I navigated the desktop. It also provided a solid feel to each click and speedy recognition of Windows 10's navigation gestures.
The speakers in the Envy x360 notebooks have been tuned by the audio wizards of Bang & Olufsen and filled our medium-size conference room with great reproductions of Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer." Flute solos sounded crystal clear, trumpets hit strong and Gabriel's falsettos came through accurately.
There's a preloaded Bang & Olufsen audio utility, but you can simply forget that it's there. The default Music setting is optimal for music and trailers, but its Movies setting distorts vocals and its Voice settings pave down all instrumentals.
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HP's Envy notebooks offer similar performance, with speed for solid multitasking. The AMD version of the Envy x360 we tested features a Ryzen 5 2500U CPU and 8GB of RAM, while the Intel-based Envy rocks an Intel Core i7-8550U with 16GB of RAM.
On the Geekbench 4 general-performance benchmark, the Intel Envy x360 notched a 10,079, which falls narrowly short of the 11,040 mainstream-notebook average, while the AMD Envy posted a lower 9,810. The Inspiron 15 (Core i5-8250U with 8GB of RAM) and the Yoga 720 (Core i7-7700HQ CPU with 8GB of RAM) took home higher scores of 12,076 and 11,951, respectively. The Spectre x360 (Core i7-8550U with 16GB of RAM) also earned a better score of 12,656.
The 1TB, 7200-rpm SATA hard drives in the Envy x360s reminded me why we at Laptop prefer faster, solid-state drives, taking 2 minutes and 39 seconds (AMD) and 3 minutes and 4 seconds (Intel) to copy 4.7GB of multimedia files, for rates of 32 megabytes per second (AMD) and 27.7 MBps (Intel). Those are far below the 264.7MBps category average, as well as the rates from the SSDs in the Inspiron 15, Yoga 720 and Spectre x360, which fall between 267.9 MBps and 508.9 MBps.
The Intel Envy x360 completed our OpenOffice macro test (matching 20,000 names to addresses) in 3 minutes and 21 seconds. That's less time than the 4:16 category average and a faster time than what we got from the Inspiron 15 (3:43), the Yoga 720 (3:42) and the Spectre x360 (3:25).
The AMD Envy x360 couldn't run OpenOffice, but it finished the same task in Excel in 1 minute and 20 seconds -- 4 seconds shorter than the 1:24 posted by the Intel model. Both are only slightly below the 1:26 category average.
Gaming and Graphics
It doesn't matter if you rock the AMD Envy x360's Radeon Vega 8 GPU or the Intel machine's integrated UHD Graphics 620, you're going to get the same result: good performance on modest games and zero fun on anything demanding.
The AMD model ran the Dirt 3 racing game (at medium graphics and at 1920 x 1080) at a smooth 91 frames per second, while the Intel version delivered 54 fps. Both leapt over our 30-fps smoothness threshold, but fall short of the 97-fps average. We saw rates of 55 fps from the Inspiron 15 (Intel HD Graphics 520), 110 fps from the Yoga 720 (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 2GB of memory) and 165 fps from the Spectre x360 (Nvidia GeForce MX150 with 2GB of memory).
But we saw that the AMD chip didn't make a huge impact when we tried these notebooks out on the Rise of the Tomb Raider's budget notebook test (exclusive full screen turned on, anti-aliasing set to SMAA and graphics presets set to high). The Intel machine and AMD notebook both failed to hit acceptable speeds, with scores of 6 and 15 fps, respectively.
Over on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test, the Envy x360 earned a subpar score of 68,187, similar to the Inspiron 15's score of 67,767 and below the 100,129 mainstream average. The Yoga 720 notched a higher 119,006 and the Spectre x360 bested them all, with 134,129.
You'll need to carry the Envy notebooks' power cords wherever you go, as they fail to meet the already-low standards for big-screen notebook battery life. The Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing at 100 nits) drained the Intel model of its charge in 5 hours and 49 minutes, while the AMD model hit empty after 5 hours and 11 minutes. Those times aren't just shorter than the 6:34 mainstream notebook average, but below the 6:14 from the Inspiron 15, the 8:41 from the Spectre x360 and the 8:59 from the Yoga 720.
The nicest thing I can say about the 2.0-megapixel webcams in the Envy x360 notebooks is that they're serviceable for the bare necessities.
I can identify myself in the selfies I shot on these cameras, but the photos featured washed-out hues and a grainy tone that reminds me of archival shots I saw in my collegiate History of Photography 101 classes.
Both the Intel and AMD Envy x360 laptops stay cool. Our heat gun clocked the touchpad, keyboard and undersides of the AMD notebook (from 73 degrees Fahrenheit to 88 degrees) and the Intel notebook (77 degrees to 82 degrees) at levels well below our 95-degree comfort threshold. That's a regular day at the office for an Intel notebook, but it's a win for AMD, which has a bad history of hot laptops.
The Envy x360s feature a standard set of preloaded software, with both useful utilities and the same junk you find slapped in every PC notebook. So hold onto Support Assistant for its driver download tools and quick links for tech support, as well as Recovery Manager for the options to manage backups and recovery disks. But, remember, Support Assistant won't fix the issue we experienced with the spotty touch screen.
We tested an $859 version of the Intel Envy 360, which features a Core i7-8550U CPU, 16GB of RAM (an $80 bump up from the default 12GB), a 1TB, 7,200-rpm hard drive and an IR camera (a $50 upgrade). The AMD variant we tested costs $729 and features a Ryzen 5 2500U processor, Radeon Vega 8 graphics and 8GB of RAM.
They featured similar-enough performance to the point where I'd tell people to buy the AMD model over the Intel one, because then you get the black paint job and an extra $130 in your wallet. I'd use that $130 to swap out the 1TB hard drive for a 256GB PCIe NVMe S.2 SSD, which will be much faster.
The entry-level $669 model packs an Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB of RAM, no IR scanner and a 1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive. While that might be enough power for you, don't take the bait on the $200 4K display upgrade, because that's going to destroy your battery life.
The HP Envy x360 is a big-screen notebook that's best for those looking for solid audio and a sexy design. Unfortunately, it's held back by its dim, uninspiring screen, loose hinges and short battery life.
For a laptop with better battery endurance, a brighter display and faster performance, check out the Yoga 720, though you'll spend more for the $999 model we tested. But if you want a huge screen that doubles as a tablet at a better price, the Envy x360 is worth considering.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag