Judd Hingerty is a Sydney photographer and one of three winners in our recent HP ENVY x2 competition. He’s had his new HP Windows 8 convertible for a week now -- and already used it in the field. This is his road test experience...
As a small business owner, I coordinate a team of photographers to shoot roughly 20 events every week. I currently have the Dell XPS 1210 which is several years old. The Dell is no pleasure to edit lots of photos on these days due to its lack of processing power. I also use this laptop to watch movies in bed. I was excited to try the HP ENVY x2 as I hadn’t used Windows 8 before or owned a tablet, and I wanted to see how much power an Intel Atom processor had.
I find a hybrid device appealing because you can switch between the two styles depending on what you want to get done. A keyboard can be handy when the device will be used on a surface or when a lot of typing is required. Whereas a standalone tablet is even more portable and can be passed between users easily or to show off content while in one hand.
A hybrid device for me needs to have a good keyboard when docked and a powerful operating system as a tablet.
The HP ENVY x2 packs a 1.8GHz Intel® Atom™ processor, packs 2GB of RAM, 64GB of solid state storage, an 8-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, NFC and ports galore.
It also clicks into a nifty keyboard dock to provide as good a laptop experience as it does a tablet experience. Find out more.
HP ENVY x2: Getting Started
As I was opening the HP ENVY x2 box, I was excited to see the new toy within. I was quite pleased. It has a clean design look. The metallic brushed finish gives the product a professional yet sturdy/durable feel. The ENVY x2 is a good weight.
Setup was straightforward and easy. The system downloaded HP driver and BIOS updates, as well as Windows updates soon after connecting to the Internet. I’m not positive which it was, but the screen displayed a ‘restarting computer’ message for minutes on end without any indication of it going away. I thought I’d need to find a way to hard reboot, which surely wouldn’t have been good for it. But eventually the system rebooted by itself.
I had not used Windows 8 before nor had much time on a tablet/touch screen system before (other than smartphones of course).
When I saw the small Microsoft Office 365 box, I thought "cool -- gone are the days of optical discs that can be so easily scratched". And indeed, the ENVY x2 doesn’t have an optical drive like so many other portable computers on the market.
I wondered how I would install Office. Would it be USB or SD card? Then I saw a card the size of a credit card and thought it might be NFC (as when I was unwrapping the plastic off the screen, I remember seeing a diagram showing where the NFC was and it reminded me of the same shape). Turns out the card was simply just a product key and I needed to follow the instructions to download and install Microsoft Office 365 from the Internet.
Overall, this process was fine. However, I did need to create a Microsoft Live account, but that's OK. I Also: Once I starting downloading the program, my Internet ran really slow for some reason. The progress bar did not show how much data was downloading nor how fast. I think those should be given figures. Make sure you have a good Internet connection when you go to install this software.
Anyway, about an hour later the programs started installing and Office programs look and feel great on this device. I like this version of Microsoft Office and have enjoyed using it so far. I think it’s important to have programs you can open documents with while on the go. You may not always have Internet access to use services like Google Drive Docs.
Now to elaborate on Google Drive Docs on this device. The first program I installed when I connected to the Internet was Google Chrome. I don’t know if it’s Windows 8 itself, but using the Chrome desktop browser with a touchscreen was a nightmare to navigate and use. It was very buggy and responded poorly to where I was touching, and what I wanted to do. Internet Explorer works great, however, I don’t think the Google products work very well through IE... so this is why the Office software is currently useful on this device until I figure out what is wrong with Chrome.
My first impressions of Windows 8 were mixed. Although it is growing on me, I think one of the main reasons I found it so difficult to begin with is that I didn’t initially read the only booklet that came with the ENVY x2 -- Windows 8 Basics -- which explains gestures and how to navigate the operating system. I wasn’t expecting it to be so different from previous Windows versions.
The ease of detaching and reattaching the ENVY x2's keyboard was extremely easy. It also feels really secure when in place. I did feel I needed to use the edge of my nail on my left thumb to help slide the unlocking mechanism while lifting (pulling) the screen away with my right hand. Meaning I couldn’t easily move the locking slider with the soft parts of my fingers -- it needs a little more force.
Clicking the device back in was very fluid. The magnetic hinge is a big plus here.
I’ve used the device at home: on a desk, on my lap on the couch, on the coffee table, in bed. I’ve also used the device at a bar: on the bar itself while sitting on a stool and even in one hand in a club. And on my lap on the train.
Now for work, it sits perfectly well as a laptop on your lap or at a table/bar.
I will say the tablet (screen) does feel heavier than the keyboard base and although it never toppled backwards for me, I could see with the wrong angle and a little carelessness the device might fall over -- the screen taking the keyboard on a ride. Usually, I think the heaviest part in laptops is the base (the guts behind the keyboard); this isn’t the case here.
I’ve used the device as a tablet while on the couch too and the onscreen keyboard is enjoyable.
I thought the touch screen was responsive and accurate. Even though some links or files were small on the screen, I rarely found myself touching the wrong part of the screen. However it should be noted that my fingers aren’t massive, so someone with larger fingers may have a little more difficulty.
The onscreen keyboard is great. Each key is the perfect distance apart and it’s laid out really well with all of the extra symbols on the second page.
As I’m still learning the gestures (trackpad touch combinations), I find myself reaching to the screen to scroll and so forth. I know I’m going to take this new habit to a non-touchscreen computer and feel a little stupid when nothing happens.
The physical keyboard was really awesome -- there was not a problem at all here. I hate the tap on the trackpad counting as a click (I've always hated that function on laptops) so once I turned this off it was no problem. The problem I often had with the tap on the trackpad is that I’d accidently hit the trackpad with my thumbs or palm while typing and then I’d be in a different position on the page etc. It should be noted the trackpad does not sit deep inside the base and therefore unless I’m special, I think a lot of people may accidently touch the pad and make a click from time to time without meaning to.
Sound And Cameras
Music through the tablet speakers were OK-ish. Definitely tinnie, no bass. But the volume was good. When earphones were added the sound was great.
I did notice that after updating my Windows Apps, the default Music player (Xbox music) didn’t play my MP3s anymore. I would have to investigate why this is the case. When right-clicking an MP3, I realised Windows Media Player still exists -- and once set up (the usual questions before you can use the program for the first time) -- music played fine here.
I haven’t yet used the front-facing 1080p camera (or rear 8-megapixel camera) for Skype/Video, but hope to do this soon. However, I did use the camera for photos. Of course, being a photographer I will probably be more harsh than most. The front facing camera was fairly grainy. With the back camera, I was disappointed that to get the 8-megapixel usage it would shoot in a 4:3 ratio instead of the screen ratio 16:9 -- so you would end up with these empty sides to the photo at the higher resolution. It shot in 16:9 at 2.1MP. I was however impressed that you could manually adjust the exposure of the shot you were about to take. This would help in controlling how you wanted a shot to look in an awkward lighting condition. You know when you try to take a photo of an amazing cocktail at a bar in low light with your phone and it just looks like rubbish -- this might help here.
Battery Life And Performance
Battery life was impressive. There is definitely a market and purpose for Atom processors and the devices they can run. I can’t even hear or feel the heat of the processor, so you know it’s not eating up much battery.
Meanwhile, I honestly wasn’t expecting the atom processor with 2GB of RAM to be enough to get me (or anyone) by, but I was wrong. The device is impressive. A full shut down and reboot took no time at all thanks to SSD. In most cases you would be closing the lid or hitting the power button to put the device to sleep. In this instance, the device was instantly on when you pressed the power button again. This is really cool when you need to do something fast, say find the answer to something on Google or check if the latest gossip on a friend is true on Facebook.
I’m still getting used to Windows 8. I’m sure in time I will like many of the different features it has to offer. But I do feel I would need to set up my default programs correctly to make it run the way I like. The new default picture viewer is stupid. Open an image and then you can’t scroll to the next -- what the? So I changed that default app back to good old Windows Picture Viewer. XBox music had some problems playing my MP3s, so back to good old Windows Media Player also.
Now I did want to put the processor and memory to the test...
I had several tabs opened in IE, some containing PDFs, flash animation (a processor hog) and movie playback. While I had an MP3 playing, MS Word open and Lightroom 5 beta exporting a selection of photos. I did notice the responsiveness of all programs fall. I even got a memory error in Lightroom 5 beta -- but probably because it's beta software. Lightroom requires 2GB RAM with 4GB recommended. It can technically run the program fine, though it is a little slow between images. Processor heavy requests like rendering previews or exporting are a bit slow too. You can get by but you wouldn’t like to perform endless advanced editing through this device. Fine for important shots on a deadline or holiday snaps, though.
Should You Buy It?
I would definitely recommend this product to others. Mostly for a device that you can use casually to surf the web while on the couch or to watch a movie in bed. It does these things fantastically. And maybe also for entertainment in tablet mode in the car or so forth. It would also be good for showing friends holiday photos etc in tablet mode.
With the base/keyboard, the ENVY x2 is a nice little laptop. I decided to use the device as a tablet too and this suited the laid back use for when on the couch or with friends. I’m still excited to get some high res portfolio pics on this device to show some potential new clients.
The ENVY x2’s full Windows 8 install is superior to RT any day for me. The programs I downloaded and installed right away were: Chrome browser, Lightroom 5 beta, Adobe CS6 suite, Office 365. I couldn’t see the value personally for someone like me getting Windows RT and not being able to install programs. That’s the biggest advantage of a Windows OS in my opinion for a portable device. I haven't really installed any apps from the store yet.
Overall, the experience of the device was exactly that -- "an experience". I was able to experience a laptop, a tablet, Windows 8, an Atom processor, a touch screen... and where the future of portable computers is going.
I see this device being used casually at home on most days on the couch while ads are on the TV. I also see the ability to use this device on jobs that require fast turnaround times or when I need to catch up on work away from the office.
My only negative is for those that may classify themselves as power users and use the full capacity of the processor or memory with such applications as exporting a lot of photos. In this instance, the Atom and 2GB of RAM may not keep up with your needs.
Overall, though, the HP ENVY x2 will get a fair amount of usage in my lifestyle.