For years, the smartphone's LTE has chuckled at the laptop's limited, Wi-Fi-only connectivity. But the HP Envy x2 ($999 as tested) is a part of a new breed: a laptop with an LTE modem that comes standard and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. The goal: ubiquitous internet and a battery that lasts longer than most Intel-powered notebooks. Also, it's a detachable 2-in-1, so this Envy x2 can really can go everywhere, making it contender for our Best Surface Pro Alternatives page.
But with that insane battery life -- more than 15 hours! -- and 4G goodness also comes a couple of pretty big caveats: The performance can be pretty sluggish, and the ARM processor inside this machine has trouble running some Windows apps. But thanks to its comfy keyboard and great screen, the $999 HP Envy x2 delivers a solid experience for those with modest demands.
With its grippy, wrap-around polyurethane-leather keyboard cover, the Envy x2 looks as if it belongs in business class. As for the tablet computer, it's a sliver of silver CNC-machined aluminum, and it feels sturdy, as does its Gorilla Glass display.
With its keyboard cover attached, the Envy x2 weighs 2.7 pounds and measures 0.6 inches thick, which is similar to the Lenovo Miix 720 (2.6 pounds, 0.6 inches when attached), lighter than the Asus NovaGo TP370QL (3.1 pounds, 0.6 inches), and heavier than the Microsoft Surface Pro (2.4 pounds, 0.5 inches with Type Cover) and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2.3 pounds, 0.6 inches with Smart Keyboard).
The cover's hinge allows for the screen to be set at a wide variety of angles, both oblong and acute, for when you're standing above it or sitting and looking directly at it. Setting the Envy x2 in laptop mode is fairly easy, as you just open the keyboard side of the case, bring it down to the surface, and fold the top half of the back end down. The hinge's wide range of viewing angles is similar to the Miix 720 and the Surface Pro, and far better than the one angle you get with the iPad Pro.
Using the Envy x2 in my lap wasn't a great experience, however, as the hinge didn't feel that stable. The Surface Pro and the Miix 720 have the same issue, while the iPad Pro felt more balanced in my lap, as its weight was better distributed through the keyboard cover.
The Envy x2's USB Type-C port, which it uses for power, sits on its left side, below its SD memory reader. Its Nano SIM tray is on its right side, next to its volume buttons and headphone jack, and below its power button, which is on its top edge.
A docking connector on the bottom edge connects the keyboard folio to the tablet, and a fabric loop on the cover allows you to clip the HP Digital Pen stylus onto it, so you don't lose it.
Although one port may not feel like a lot, it's not irregular. The iPad Pro is Lightning-only with no SD memory-slot, and the Surface Pro is stuck with one USB 3.0 port and a mini DisplayPort. The Miix 720 features both a Thunderbolt 3 port for charging, and adds on a USB 2.0 and a USB 3.0 port on top. The Asus NovaGo TP370QL, a more traditional bend-back laptop, has a USB 3.0 port and HDMI-out.
Take it from me, as someone who's tried to use the Wi-Fi at many a convention center, coffee house, hotel, concert hall and office space: it's terrible and we deserve better. Not only do unsecured Wi-Fi networks leave you open to attacks and practically require the use of a VPN, but they're also often overloaded and nearly worthless.
This is why I love the idea of LTE-based laptops. Using the Envy x2's LTE modem is really simple, because you just turn it on from the same task bar menu as Wi-Fi. Before it's ready, though, you'll need to contact Verizon (the exclusive certified provider) to set up an account first and get a Nano-SIM. Once you're good, just make sure to check the box that allows Windows to manage your connection, and it will all turn on and off smoothly.
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For most of the time I used the LTE modem in public, things were great. Apps (such as Outlook) requested permission to use mobile bandwidth upon opening, and proceeded to work well, refreshing themselves with new emails from the server, even after I closed the case and put the system to sleep. Testing our connection on Speedtest.net, I got an average download rate of 41.3 MBps, and an average upload rate of 9.3MBps.
You might need to check with Verizon about metered internet, though, as notifications warning me that the Envy x2 was on a metered network came up throughout the experience. The only time this got in the way was when I tried to stream video. While watching Netflix, both via the Windows 10 app and in Chrome, I noticed digital artifacts and a lack of clarity in Chris Rock's stand-up special as I sat in a downtown NYC cafe. Opening YouTube, I saw that the automatic resolution setting adjusted to 720p, and if I changed it to 1080p, videos would stop and start, stop and start, frequently buffering.
Prices for your service may vary, but right now, your best bet is to place this on an unlimited plan with other devices. Verizon's Go Unlimited plan charges, after taxes and fees, $40 per line for four lines for unlimited 4G LTE data, with the caveat "In times of congestion, your data may be temporarily slower than other traffic."
I'd rather spend a little more for the Beyond Unlimited package, which charges $50 per line for 4 lines, and limits its metering to when your traffic exceeds 22GB per line, "in times of congestion."
The Pros, Cons of ARM Processors
The bigger news, though, is that the Envy x2 ships with Windows 10 S mode (aka Windows 10 S) and is a 32-bit machine. Out of the box, that means you can't run the Chrome browser or a variety of other popular apps that aren't in the Windows Store. Because almost none of our benchmark tests or apps we want to use would run in S mode, we upgraded the x2 to Windows 10 Pro, a free process that takes about 60 seconds.
After the upgrade, I had no problems installing most of the stuff I personally use, such as WhatsApp Desktop and Slack. 1Password, though, refused to work right. Chrome installed but was quite sluggish (more on the performance below).
One of the greatest reasons to get the Qualcomm version of the HP Envy x2 is it's epic battery life. On the Laptop Mag Battery Test (constant web surfing at 150 nits), it took 14 hours and 22 minutes of constant web surfing on Wi-Fi to drain the Envy x2 of its charge.
Impressively, we saw an even higher 15:05 on Verizon LTE. That runtime beats the 12:57 from the Qualcomm 835-based Asus NovaGo TP370QL, dwarfs the 8:46 premium notebook average and the 5:40 from the Miix 720. The iPad Pro lasted 12:09 on a previous version of this test.
The HP Envy x2's major weakness is its laggy performance, as its Qualcomm 835 CPU and 4GB of RAM don't provide a ton of speed, especially when you're running non-Windows store apps. I first noticed this when I tried to open Chrome from the desktop, but accidentally opened two windows, because the first was taking so long to generate that I had tapped the screen again.
On average, Chrome took 9 seconds (which felt too long) to load, while the Netflix app was a shorter 6 seconds and Outlook took 14 seconds, which seemed like forever. Booting the Envy x2 took 25 seconds, but waking it from sleep was nearly instantaneous. The Surface Pro (Intel Core i7 7660U CPU with 16GB of RAM) booted in 11 seconds, opened Chrome in 2, Outlook in 6 seconds and Netflix in 3 seconds.
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Once Chrome was open, I managed to split my screen between a 1080p YouTube video and five Chrome tabs, including Google Docs, Giphy and Slack. While it was moving fast enough for me to write parts of this review, I noticed a pause each time I tapped to switch between tabs, which I don't expect to see on systems that cost a grand.
Using pinch and zoom to shrink and magnify windows worked well, but I saw the animation move slightly smoother in Edge than in Chrome; there was lag with the latter browser. In general, Edge ran much better than Chrome, probably because Microsoft's browser is a Windows Store app.
The Envy x2 turned in a low 2,989 on the GeekBench 4 benchmark, which falls very far below the 9,582 premium notebook average, the 9,414 from the iPad Pro (A10X Fusion chip, 4GB of RAM), the 8,434 from the Lenovo Miix 720 (Intel Core i7-7500U processor, 8GB of RAM) and the 8,652 from the Surface Pro. The similarly-powered Asus NovaGo TP370 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 8GB of RAM) earned a 2,954.
The Envy x2 finished our Excel VLOOKUP test in 2 minutes and 43 seconds, almost a minute longer than the 1:44 average for premium laptops, but shorter than the 4:08 from the NovaGo TP370QL.
The 128GB UFS hard drive in the Envy x2 duplicated a DVD's worth of content in 47 seconds, for a speed of 108 MBps. That's slower than the 270 MBps category average and the 145 MBps from the NovaGo TP370QL (128GB UFS). It's also behind the 204 MBps rate from the Miix 720 (256GB PCIe SSD) and the 339 MBps rate from the Surface Pro (512GB SSD).
Watching an Infinity War trailer on the HP Envy x2's 12.3-inch display, I was impressed by the level of detail and color. From the purple in Gamora's hair, to the red of Spider-Man's mask, to the glimmering gold of Thanos' armor, the hues popped with strength and accuracy. The 1920 x 1280-pixel screen provided excellent detail for the bird's-eye-view shot, when I saw each little soldier milling about on the battlefield, like ants in a colony.
According to our colorimeter, the Envy x2 produces 121 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which is greater than the 112 percent category average and practically tied with the 122 percent from the iPad Pro and the 119 percent from the NovaGo TP370QL. The Miix 720 (130 percent) and the Surface Pro (140 percent) posted higher numbers.
The Envy x2's screen also gets super-bright, emitting a maximum of 486 nits. That outshines the 293 category average, the 393-nit Surface Pro, the 276-nit NovaGo TP370QL and the 361-nit Miix 720. The 555-nit iPad Pro is even brighter.
This luminance allows for viewing the display at a wide range of angles, as colors stayed strong at up to 75 degrees to the left and right. Frustratingly, the glossiness of the screen made it nearly impossible to watch a Jessica Jones episode in direct sunlight, though visibility got better when I moved to the shade.
The touch screen in the Envy x2 tracked my taps accurately as I navigated the web and my desktop. It also correctly registered Windows 10's edge-swipe gestures.
Keyboard, Touchpad, HP Digital Pen
Detachable keyboards have a bad reputation, but the Envy x2's bucks that trend, offering surprisingly comfy typing. Testing it out on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I clicked my way to 76 words per minute, nearly reaching my typical 81 wpm rate. This is possible thanks to the 1.5mm of travel in the keys -- more than we expect for a detachable -- which makes up for the low 50 grams of actuation force required to click a key.
By comparison, the Envy x2's keyboard is far more comfortable than the iPad Pro's Smart Keyboard and is similar in comfort to the keyboard on the Surface Pro.
The 4.7 x 2.2-inch touchpad in the Envy x2's keyboard offers accurate tracking and smooth scrolling. It was quick to recognize Windows 10's three-finger swipe gestures for window navigation.
Writing on the Envy x2's glass screen with the HP Digital Pen felt natural and smooth. The device did an acceptable job of keeping up with my squiggling, though I did notice some slight lag.
The Bang & Olufsen-tuned speakers in the HP Envy x2 produce a lot of sweet sound, enough to fill my living room with a solid rendition of Shoji Meguro's "Last Surprise" (the battle theme from Persona 5). Vocals came through clearly, drums hit crisply and bass sounded accurate.
The 13-megapixel (rear) and 5-MP (front-facing) cameras in the Envy x2 are better than most you find in laptops and tablets. The back camera captured plenty of small, architectural details of a bright-gray building in SoHo as well as the yellow of an NYC cab, while the selfie shooter did a fine job capturing the messy condition my hair was in. Still, the focus of the front camera looked a bit on the soft side, and the rear camera required a few taps to avoid bad white balance and washed-out images.
While these shots are good for this kind of product, I still prefer to use my smartphone, as a 12.3-inch tablet is harder to hold with any stability. I'll admit, though, if you want the biggest viewfinder for your photos, these cameras will capture decent shots.
The HP Envy x2 stays quite cool under pressure. After I streamed 15 minutes of HD video on the detachable, our heat gun picked up a series of readings ranging from 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, all falling below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
HP barely put any pre-loaded apps on the Envy x2. Sure, you'll find the Verizon app for data- usage management, and the basic Windows 10 cruft like Candy Crush Soda Saga and Netflix's app (which is great for saving TV shows locally).
How Much the Envy x2 Costs
The $999 Envy x2 comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
The keyboard cover is included, unlike the $160 to $169 keyboards sold with the Surface Pro (which starts at $799 for a Core i5 CPU/4GB of RAM/128GB of storage). Microsoft is also selling a $1,449 Surface Pro with an LTE connection.
With its epic battery life and always-on 4G connectivity, the HP Envy x2 is a tempting choice for those who are constantly on the move. We also love the bright and colorful display and comfortable keyboard. However, the performance of this ARM-based machine isn't what we expect for $999; the lag is quite noticeable compared with similarly priced Intel-powered 2-in-1s and ultraportables. Users who are happy with Edge as their main browser and sticking with only Windows store apps will have a better experience.
If you don't need a detachable, you can get similar battery life and connectivity for less with the $599 Asus NovaGo TP370QL, which also has a Snapdragon chip. Those who crave as much speed as they do 4G mobility should take a hard look at the Surface Pro, which has much better performance, but less battery life. HP is also releasing an Intel-powered version of the Envy x2, which may be faster but is not available yet. Overall, the Envy x2 is one of the most truly portable laptops ever made, and is worthy of your consideration, but Qualcomm has some kinks to work out.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag