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HP Envy x360 review - Hands on

Michael Passingham
31 Jul 2014
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A bendy 15.6-inch laptop with an innovative touchpad

HP Envy's x360 is for the most part a fairly typical interpretation of how to make a laptop that takes advantage of Windows 8.1's controversial touch-centric Modern user interface. Like the Pavilion x360, the laptop's touchscreen can be rotated all the way round to the back of the keyboard, turning it into a thick tablet. This function works quite well on smaller 10- and 13-inch devices, but HP's Envy is a whopping 15.6 inches diagonally and weighs 2.4kg, pushing the limits of what's possible - and indeed sensible - to carry around as a tablet.

Indeed, we tried to tuck the device into our left arm while prodding the touchscreen with our right hand, but it neither felt safe nor in any way practical.

HP isn't claiming this device to be a tablet replacement, though, and the screen rotation function exists to make the laptop as flexible as possible for use in multiple situations. Indeed, the tablet mode could be perfect for people who like to watch YouTube or Netflix in bed, for example.

There's also a tent-style mode, where the laptop is turned upside-down, with the device's edges used to keep it balanced. We tend to find this mode useful on smaller hybrid devices such as the Asus Transformer Book T100 as it is a neat space-saving feature when you're using your device for watching TV shows or movies. It's particularly handy on trains or planes where tray table space is limited, although we're not convinced this would work quite so well with a laptop as large as the Envy x360.  


You can also have the screen facing forward while the keyboard sits face-down on a surface. This mode once again puts the screen front-and-centre, although it has a huge footprint meaning there won't be many situations where this is preferable over having in tent, tablet or laptop configuration.


Finally, of course, the default laptop mode will be the one you find yourself using if you're sitting at a desk, and the Envy x360's keyboard is both stylish and reasonably responsive. It's backlit, too, which is a nice touch and not something you find on all laptops in this price bracket.

CONTROL ZONE

In laptop mode, you'll notice that the touchpad is different to that of a conventional laptop. HP has done some work to try and make Windows 8's gestures more touchpad-friendly.

The company calls it Control Zone, which essentially divides the touchpad into three sections. The central section is for the usual pointing and clicking, but the thinner areas on the left and right are used only for Windows 8.1-specific functions. If you tap or swipe in the left area, you'll open the app switching menu. Moving your finger up and down this area allows you to select another Windows 8.1 application, making multitasking in the Modern UI slightly easier. The right section, meanwhile, controls the Charms menu and works in much the same way as the left side.


While making Windows 8.1 more accessible to those not wanting to get fingerprints all over touchscreen, we initially had problems getting accustomed to the unique layout of the touchpad. This is because there's no physical divide between the three sections, and users who tend to click in the bottom left or right corner of their current laptop's touchpad will have a hard time getting used to the fact that they can no longer do this. If you try and click in the corners of this touchpad, you'll end up performing a Windows 8.1 gesture instead. If the Control Zone was configurable so it could be used for other functions, such as Desktop window switching instead of Modern UI application switching, we'd probably see it as fairly handy, but sadly this feature is only for die-hard Modern UI fans, and there aren't many of those.

SCREEN AND PERFORMANCE

We weren't hugely impressed with the 1,366x768 pixel display on the Envy x360; the lack of Full HD is somewhat disappointing, particularly on a 15-inch screen. We also saw a fair amount of motion blur and tearing when swiping through the Modern UI, which makes us worry that the screen won't get the best out of HD movies and TV shows.

The processor on board is a dual-core Intel Core i7-4210U running at 1.7GHz, backed up by 8GB of RAM. It's certainly not the fastest of Intel's chips, and while it will likely have no problem web browsing and video watching, more intensive multitasking may cause it to trip up, and playing the latest games will likely be a struggle.

HP is claiming a nine-hour battery life from this device, but we haven't yet had the chance to test these claims.

The Envy x360 is available now, and is well worth taking a look at if you're after a relatively inexpensive general-purpose laptop in several configurations.

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