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HP Envy x2: the latest attempt to blur the line between laptop and tablet

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The HP Envy x2 might look like a chunky netbook, but slide a latch and the 11.6-inch screen lifts off of the base, operating as an independent Windows 8 tablet.

Envy X2 lead tint
Envy X2 lead tint

HP is calling its upcoming Envy x2 a hybrid PC: it looks a bit like a chunky netbook, but slide a latch and the 11.6-inch screen lifts off of the base, operating as an independent Windows 8 tablet. It's an idea we've seen a number of times — Asus is particularly fond of it, most recently showing off PCs like the Transformer Book at Computex earlier this year. Details on the Envy x2 are scant: the PC will run on an Intel Atom Clover Trail processor and offer NFC, 32 and 64GB SSD options, and support an optional stylus. The tablet-display weighs 1.5 pounds, half of the entire ensemble. There's also an HD webcam on the front, an eight megapixel shooter on the rear, and Beats Audio.

The Envy x2's 11.6-inch IPS display offers a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution and made a strong impression during our (admittedly limited) hands-on time, serving up bright, crisp images despite the room's overly enthusiastic fluorescent lighting. The PC's power button and volume controls sit on opposite sides of the rear of the tablet. There is no power button on the base — HP commented that two power buttons would only confuse users. Touch plays a central role on the device and its touchscreen display didn't disappoint, tackling all of Windows 8's gestures quickly and capably. The primary flaw we found was the display's affinity for fingerprints, a problem that's all too common with touchscreen displays.

The laptop-end of the Envy x2 offers a fairly standard HP keyboard and touchpad. The keyboard's spacious chiclet keys were rather comfortable to tap away on and didn't feel especially shallow — a problem that often crops up on smaller devices. The smooth, glossy touchpad was similarly impressive, tackling general scrolling duties and Windows 8's multitouch gestures with aplomb. It's nice to see that the inclusion of a touchscreen didn't preclude getting the basics right, especially for those who aren't sold on Windows' new look. Of particular note is the docking mechanism. The tablet-display rests against a pair of posts, which are actually magnets that hold the display in place. They're deceptively strong, but designed to be easy to use: the tablet docks into the display easily, and pops off once you push the latch on the base.

Both the tablet-display and the base are equipped with a battery: both ends offer a charging port, so you can feel free to tote the screen about on its own. The device's power consumption habits follows the same model of devices like the venerable Asus Transformer Prime: the battery in the base drains first, leaving the tablet topped off for as long as possible. When the machine is plugged in the tablet's battery will charge first, so you'll be ready to disengage at a moment's notice. When the Envy x2 is fully assembled the battery props the machine up at a slight incline, forming a fairly comfortable typing angle. That said, when the lid is down the battery forms a rather awkward hump.

There's no word on pricing or release date; HP hopes to start shipping before the end of this holiday season, but we were told the company would postpone the release to make sure everything is just right. There are plenty of competing devices already in the works or on the market, however — Samsung stole a bit of HP's thunder by announcing the Ativ Smart PC and Smart PC Pro yesterday at IFA 2012. That device looks rather similar to HP's offering, and will include 3G and 4G connectivity options, and Samsung's S-pen stylus.