HP Envy x2 (2018) review

A flawed fusion of mobile and laptop

HP Envy x2

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Here’s how the HP Envy x2 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

GeekBench: 770 (single-core); 3116 (multi-core)
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 18 hours and 4 minutes

Before we begin really delving deep into the performance of the HP Envy x2, we should explain some of the differences that come with the laptop running on Snapdragon 835, rather than a more common AMD or Intel processor. These differences bring both pros and cons.

As we mentioned, having the ability to insert a SIM card to use 4G/LTE for an always-connected internet connection is one of the benefits of the platform. Another is the fact that the HP Envy x2 turns on almost instantly, even when it’s been completely switched off. 

While Windows 10 does a good job on regular PCs and laptops of booting quickly, especially if you have modern, powerful, hardware, the boot times on the HP Envy x2 are very impressive, giving you an experience more like a traditional tablet or smartphone.

HP Envy x2

Another big benefit – and perhaps the biggest selling point of the HP Envy x2 – is the battery life. This is a laptop/tablet hybrid that can last for a seriously impressive amount of time between charges, which we’ll go into more detail in a bit.

However, there are trade-offs for this, and the most glaring is that the power of the HP Envy x2 is seriously lacking. Although the processor in the Snapdragon 835 platform has eight cores, don’t expect this to rival AMD or Intel’s multi-core processors. 

The CPU is incredibly low powered, scoring just 770 in the GeekBench 4 single core CPU benchmarks, and 3,116 in the multi-core tests. Compare that to the Acer Switch 3, a 2-in-1 device that’s far from powerful, but costs half the price of the HP Envy x2 at $439 (around £450, AU$560). It features a budget Intel Pentium Quad Core N4200 processor, yet it scores 1,466 (single-core) and 3,667 (multi-core) in the same tests.

So, while the HP Envy x2 can handle easy tasks such as playing local video files, browsing the internet and word processing, anything more strenuous seriously challenges the device.

So, while writing away in Microsoft Word is fine, once you start inserting pictures, especially 3D models, things slow to a crawl. Opening up apps and programs also suffer from pauses while the HP Envy x2 catches up. Most times it feels like trying to use an old laptop, not a brand-new 2018 machine. If this was a budget laptop, then maybe this poor performance would be justifiable, but HP is asking $999/£1,199/AU1,999 for this configuration (or similar in the case of the US).

HP Envy x2

That sort of performance for that kind of money is unforgivable. There are loads of great laptops for that price – or much cheaper – that absolutely blow the HP Envy x2 out of the water, performance-wise. Sure, you don’t get the battery life or tablet-like experience quite like the HP Envy x2, but for most people that’s not a price worth paying.

So, anything like editing videos, creating digital art, or gaming is completely out of the question. The HP Envy x2 ships with Windows 10 S installed, which limits the apps you can use to just the ones downloaded from the Microsoft Store. 

While many people feel this is overly restrictive, we actually think it’s justified with the Envy x2, as these lighter apps at least work a bit better than full desktop programs such as Photoshop.

You can upgrade to the full version of Windows 10 for free, which allows you to install more traditional apps, though there are still issues. Not only does the HP Envy x2 struggle to run many of these apps, but it won’t even launch x64 applications, so you’re stuck with 32-bit (x86) or ARM64 apps. With most modern apps running 64-bit, your options are limited.

Again, if this was an extremely cheap device we might be able to overlook this, but this is a device that comes with a very premium price tag.

For the tasks it is capable of doing, it does an alright job. The much-lauded Bang & Olufsen speakers are very good, producing rich and full sounds despite their small size. The 1920 x 1280 screen is bright and vibrant, although the unusual resolution means the screen has a taller height than a standard Full HD 1920 x 1080 screen. It means widescreen videos in 16:9 aspect ratio don’t fully fill the screen, and instead have black bars on either side. This is frustrating if you’re watching media, but it does give you a larger work area for productivity.

Battery life

While this review may read rather negatively, there is an aspect of the HP Envy x2 that’s seriously impressive: battery life. 

In our battery life test, where we loop a HD video with the screen set to 50% brightness, the HP Envy x2 lasted an astonishing 18 hours and 4 minutes. Part of the selling point of Snapdragon-based systems is all-day computing, and the HP Envy x2 pretty much nails it.

So, even on extremely long flights – or if you’ve forgotten your charger and are away from the home or office – the HP Envy x2 will keep on going. That’s a remarkable feat, and one which no laptop we’re aware of can match.

However, does this exceptionally long battery life justify the high price and greatly compromised power of the HP Envy x2? In our view, unfortunately not.

Final verdict

As you may have gathered from this review, the HP Envy x2 is a frustrating device. There are plenty of good things about it, especially how light and easy it is to carry, as well as its amazing battery life, but all that good is undone by one major thing: its price.

If this was a budget device we’d be more forgiving of its poor performance. If it was a couple of hundred dollars or pounds, we might even suggest getting one as a backup device, something you can whip out if your main laptop’s battery dies.

But, because it is so expensive, this would likely have to be your main device. And for the price HP is asking, we just cannot recommend it. Sure, the battery life is fantastic, but you could buy a cheaper laptop and a spare tablet for less than the price of the HP Envy x2, and use the tablet once the laptop has died. Or just, you know, plug the laptop in.

And, while the ability to use a SIM card for constant internet access is great, you could buy a mobile hotspot and use that to access the internet outside of Wi-Fi networks. Or use your smartphone as a mobile hotspot and tether it to a standard laptop.

Some may argue that this is a device that should only be used for light computing tasks. In that case, get a Chromebook, then spend the money you’ve saved on a holiday.

So, in summary, there’s no way we can recommend the HP Envy x2 at this price. There are hints at a good – maybe even great – product here, but the asking price is far too high.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.