Performance and battery life
The Envy x2 runs a 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760 processor, and that should be enough to tell you that Ultrabook-level performance is out of the question. On PCMark07, which measures overall performance, the x2 scored miles behind Ivy Bridge systems (read: 1,425 compared to ultraportable scores in the 3,000 to 5,000 range). Its I/O performance is similarly lackluster, with write speeds maxing out at 34 MB/s and reads hitting just 83 MB/s.
Cold-booting into the Windows 8 Start screen takes about 15 seconds, which doesn't feel particularly slow but definitely tails the 10-second boot time for most Win 8 Ultrabooks. As the x2's benchmark scores suggest, everyday performance is also less snappy. There's a slight lag when loading apps or launching several tabs in a browser. It's not more than three to five seconds, but you'll definitely notice the difference if your previous system ran a non-ULV chip.
Because the Envy x2 doesn't support DirectX 11, we weren't able to run our standard benchmarks, and we weren't able to load Steam games like Batman: Arkham City. We were able to play some casual online games (we're talking Tetris and the like) without issue.
The Envy x2 includes a battery in the keyboard dock in addition to one in the tablet, so we ran our battery test once with the keyboard attached and once without. (As you may know, this test entails playing a video on loop with WiFi on and brightness set to 65 percent.) In laptop mode, the machine lasted a very strong 12 hours and 30 minutes. When we ran the test on the tablet, it notched seven hours and 53 minutes.
Software and warranty
HP pre-loads the Envy x2 with the standard set of Windows 8 apps, including Bing, Finance, SkyDrive, along with shortcuts to eBay, the Kindle store and Netflix. There's also the Fresh Paint drawing app and iHeartRadio. Proprietary programs include the Snapfish photo service, HP Page Lift, HP Printer Control and the HP+ hub. Finally, there's a Getting Started with Windows 8 utility, which could be helpful for those still learning the OS' many gestures. We'll also mention here that the machine includes NFC support for sharing by tapping two devices together.
The x2 comes standard with a two-year limited parts-and labor warranty.
Configuration options and the competition
The x2 we reviewed happens to be the only configuration available. For $850, you get an Intel Atom Z2760 processor with 2GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD. The only real customization option is your choice of warranty; you can supplement the included support with up to three years of accidental damage and theft protection for $230.
There are several other laptop / tablet hybrids in the playing field, so we'll compare apples to apples as much as we can here. There's the Acer Iconia W510, a 10.1-inch system that packs a 1,366 x 768 Gorilla Glass display with a 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760 processor and offers a 32GB SSD. We weren't completely satisfied with the W510's build quality when we gave it a go late last year, but we like how light it feels (it's just 2.63 pounds with the keyboard dock). The device starts at a lower $500, but that doesn't include the dock -- for that, you'll have to spring for the $750 model, which steps up to a 64GB SSD. As it happens, we previewed a non-benchmarkable version of the W510, though we expect to have a full review up soon.
You could also check out the 11.6-inch Samsung ATIV Smart PC, which runs the same Atom chip as the x2 and W510 and is available with or without AT&T LTE. It'll cost you $700 on contract without the dock, and the WiFi-only version goes from $500 without the keyboard. The WiFi version does, however, include an S Pen, a feature that may entice stylus-wielding types.
Finally, there's the Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx, which includes many of the same specs you've seen in the aforementioned products (read: 1.8GHz Atom processor, an 11.6-inch IPS display with a 1,366 x 768 resolution, up to a 64GB SSD) in a similarly lightweight package (three pounds with the keyboard). The Lynx isn't shipping yet, but Lenovo has priced it at $600 for the tablet and $750 for the slate and dock.
Laptop / tablet hybrids have their work cut out for them: providing a fluid experience as both a portable slate and a productivity-minded laptop -- let alone with an Atom processor doing the grunt work -- is a tall order. Making the design comfortable and easily convertible isn't exactly a simple task for PC makers, either.
HP did hit some high notes with the Envy x2, especially with the attractive and lightweight design. Battery life in laptop mode is also nothing to sniff at, but there are several things that hold the x2 back from being a truly comfortable device. The mushy keyboard is a huge downside, and the Atom chip's meager performance isn't encouraging for shoppers who want this to be their one and only computing device. We'd say your $850 is better spent elsewhere, but if you're dead-set on a device in this category, you could do a lot worse than HP's option.