HP was one of the OEM partners that has presented a new Snapdragon-powered laptop at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit in Maui, Hawaii. The HP Envy x2 is an extremely thin 12.3-inch laptop built with a detachable tablet chassis. It is essentially a thin table which attaches to a Surface Pro like keyboard/stand with strong magnets. HP Boasts about ~20 hours of video playback, and weeks of standby power.
Unlike the ASUS NovaGo which tries to be a good do-it-all productivity laptop, the HP Envy x2 looks very fancy and slim. With dimensions of 293×210.2×6.9mm, it looks like a very fancy Android tablet, but it runs Windows 10 S out of the box.
If you are not familiar with Windows 10 S, it is a streamlined, more secure and optimized version of Windows that only runs apps coming from the Windows Store. You might want to check if the apps you need have a store equivalent, but many common use cases are covered, although we expect the road to be potentially bumpy as people have gotten used to download random apps off the Internet and run them. Hopefully, they have store equivalents now."THE DESIGN OF THE HP ENVY X2 IS EXTREMELY SLICK"
The design of the HP Envy x2 is extremely slick. We took it next to a Galaxy Note 8 with a thin case, and the laptop was noticeably thinner. This happens because the internal volume is still high thanks to large width and height dimensions.
As you look around, you will not find any vent and hot air exhaust. At the moment, Snapdragon-powered laptops are all fan-less designs, and the Thermal design point (TDP) isn’t expected even to reach 5W. Laptops commonly have a TDP of 15W, even many that use an Intel Core i3 processor, which is a less performing line of CPU products. TDP is a metric for thermal dissipation but is commonly used when talking about laptops, because it somewhat correlates with power usage (Intel made this popular). The more power is used, and the more heat is created and needs to be dissipated.
The HP Envy x2 has a single USB-C port in its machined Aluminum unibody chassis. The computer seems very rigid and feels solid.
The detachable keyboard is mostly made of plastic and works similarly to the Surface Pro keyboard: it attaches to the tablet using a powerful magnet. The keyboard also serves as a protective cover and a kick-back stand. The stand design is well-done and can accommodate al angles between 110 and 150 degrees. It is also possible to open it to 180 degrees if you want to lay the computer flat and still have a usable keyboard.
With a key travel of 1.3mm and a chiclet key layout, the keyboard feels comfortable to use during a short test. It has a little bit of flex when typing because it is so thin. In general, this is a bit detrimental to maximum comfort and typing speed (depending on your style), but the keyboard quality is high within this style of product.
The display quality of the HP Envy x2 seemed very good. We did not have the tools to measure the brightness independently, but it seemed to be somewhere around 350 and 450 NITs, which is quite common for today’s laptops.
The colors were nice and saturated, and black levels were very decent. Most people would be satisfied with this level of image quality.
The 1080p (FHD or 1920×1080) resolution is a good fit for a 12.3 inch tablet. Some people like the extra sharpness of a higher PPI display, but we expect this computer to be priced at a level where 1080p is expected. We will know for sure soon. Phones already have higher resolution displays, so we know that the hardware can manage more.
The HP Envy x2 always-connected PC has a 49 Wh (watt-hours) battery capacity, which is commonly used in the laptop world. You can compare that with the 11.5 Wh of energy stored in the Galaxy S8 smartphone, using the same processor and you have an idea of what kind of battery life could be achieved. This is five times a smartphone battery capacity.
Obviously, some things are different. First, the display on a laptop is much bigger. However, we already know that Qualcomm can achieve ~20+ hours of video playback with a 1080p display at ~150 NITs brightness."THIS IS FIVE TIMES A SMARTPHONE BATTERY CAPACITY"
Video playback is often a best-case scenario because the video is decoded with special low-power units and the screen becomes the primary power consumer. However, a normal computer usage rarely entails using the system for more than a few hours at a time. An on and off usage means that power savings features become important when you do nothing, or close the lid. That is what Qualcomm is good at because our phones already work like that.
The chances are that battery life will be excellent as promised, and beyond what Intel PCs can offer. However, the question shifts to the performance: what kind of speed and user experience can we expect from such a computer.
At this stage, it is a bit premature to reach any conclusion. First, we need to see if there are tests that run with native ARM code. We don’t want to run benchmarking apps that will run the emulated code, unless we want to measure “emulated” x86 code running. Even in that scenario, the X86 code is not emulated line by line, but rather recompiled to ARM code and cached. Therefore, there is a one-time hit for the compilation; then the execution becomes native. Keep in mind that the recompilation is not optimal because the compiler doesn’t have a global knowledge of the app as the original compiler would from source code."LTE NETWORK PERFORMANCE IS ALSO AN IMPORTANT FACTOR"
Still, we know that an Intel Core i5 or i7, especially then new 8th generation, should outperform a Snapdragon 835 in sheet CPU performance. Even Qualcomm has said that it targets specific basic computing or productivity computing rather than high-end PC specs. The question then becomes: is the performance good enough.
As we played with the early hardware from both HP and ASUS, we felt that the general user experience and responsiveness during things like UI browsing and Web browsing were quite good. Next, we would like to run some tests with more apps, more web tabs, and normal things that would be a bit more challenging for the machine. This will have to wait for when the unit arrives in our office. So far, this is looking good, in fact, better than Core-M powered ultrathin we tested before (these have since switched to Core i5).
The LTE Network performance is also an important factor to take into account. Of course, PCs have had SIM cards and wireless broadband for a while, but they often trailed smartphones when it comes to cellular connectivity quality. For once, a PC gets the best modem in the smartphone world, completely integrated into the laptop.
From memory, I don’t think that there’s an Intel-powered Gigabit-class LTE PC on the market before these.
If your usage model is compatible with using Windows 10 S and the Microsoft store apps only, you could be in for a huge change in how you use a laptop. It is undeniable that today’s usage is still largely influenced by the fact that battery anxiety sets in after 3-5 hours.
Snapdragon-powered laptops offer a credible way to push this far enough that you would not need to take the power supply with you, just like you might do with a large battery tablet.
It seems like the hardware and software are just about ready for the always-connected PC (that includes easy carrier activation as well) and that real-world testing can begin soon. We are looking forward to completing this article with real-world data taken over several days and weeks.