HP Envy x360: Convertible laptop that’s nearly the best of both worlds

Review: Whether you use it as a tablet or regular PC, it will tackle most tasks with ease

Product name: HP Envy x360

Price: €949.0

Where to buy: www.currys.ie

Website: hp.com

Thu, Aug 22, 2019, 07:45

   

In the era of online shopping, we are now used to getting small products packed in big boxes. We – okay, then, I – seem to spend our time both perpetually disappointed by the fact that it’s actually that cable we ordered a few days ago and not some massive surprise present, and annoyed at the utter waste of packaging on the item.

In the case of the HP Envy x360, it was actually a good thing to find the main product inside a standard-sized laptop box was smaller than I expected.

I’ve used a previous version of the x360 and, while I liked the device, the newest iteration of the laptop makes it look antiquated in comparison.

This version, the 13-ar0001ja, comes with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid state drive and is powered by AMD’s 2.10GHz Ryzen 5 chip, with Radeon Vega graphics. If all that is word and number salad, what it means is that it will tackle most tasks the average user can throw at it with ease. Over the course of the trial, it performed fine with my virtualised work desktop, a couple of games and some light video editing. Where it did stutter a little was with more power-hungry games, but this isn’t designed for serious gaming.

Updated innards

The x360 convertible has the obvious updated innards for a start, but it also has a better look. The design has been refined, making it a sleeker, more compact device. It has a 13.3-inch screen, but HP has cut the bezel down to almost nothing, so it feels smaller.

Because it is a convertible, you can flip the screen and turn it into a tablet. The amount of times I took advantage of that were few, mainly for watching Netflix if I’m honest, but the option is there. Windows 10 Home automatically recognises when the screen has been flipped, prompting you to switch into tablet mode. The hinged screen also feels like it could take some use (and probably abuse) without causing problems.

The risk with convertible devices is that they excel at neither one thing nor the other, but are just “fine” at both. The x360 doesn’t suffer from this. In tablet mode, the screen itself is responsive, and the thinner case makes it less unwieldy. When you are using it as a regular laptop, the keyboard doesn’t feel too cramped, so although HP has trimmed the size of the case, you won’t end up with hand cramp trying to type out a few documents. The trackpad is also a decent size, feels sturdy and works properly, which seems like it should be a given but it’s not always the case. Life is too short to struggle with a trackpad that needs constant adjustment.

Sound quality

The Bang & Olufsen speakers across the top of the keyboard are a design feature, which cuts down the space for the trackpad. As far as sound quality goes, they won’t challenge your home sound system – or even some other laptops – but they’ll handle everything from conference calls to Netflix.

On the ports front, you have a few options. There are two USB 3.0 ports and one USB C connector, a microSD slot and a headphone jack.

One thing that is missing is the built-in port for HDMI or mini display, but the box contains a USB C to HDMI adapter, which covers you for more modern external display outputs.

HP is acknowledging the current focus on privacy with the ability to switch off the webcam at the touch of a button. There is a slider switch at the side that cuts it off instantly, which is a nice touch, but there is no obvious shutter on the camera so, if you are wary of webcams, a physical block would be nice.

One annoyance is the charger. It has one of those power cables that has three points instead of the standard figure-of-eight type you seem to get on almost every other appliance. When it stops working – as they inevitably do – it will be a little more inconvenient to hunt down a replacement. In saying that, the charger itself is quite compact. Having lived through years of power bricks that could double as an actual brick, it’s always a pleasant surprise to see something that won’t take up a massive amount of room in your bag.

The good The touchscreen. Yes, I know we aren’t supposed to need touchscreen laptops, but they’re nice to have. And in some cases they are more convenient. The screen on the x360 is vibrant and also extremely responsive, so no annoying lag when you select something.

The not so good The webcam shut-off is nice, but I’d rather a physical shutter. And if you want to do some more serious gaming, you might need to skip this one. The fan is also a bit on the noisy side and kicked in quite regularly.

The rest The fingerprint reader is nice but not essential, and probably won’t appeal to anyone who is wary of biometrics. The battery life isn’t astounding but will get you through a few meetings without needing a recharge.

The verdict A nice thin and light laptop, but the almost-€1,000 price tag may be pushing it for some.