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HP Envy x2 with Intel CPU review: Just awful — but not for the reasons you'd expect

HP is on the forefront of releasing new and exciting hardware in the Windows ecosystem. The HP Envy x2 with ARM is one of our favorite devices, partially due to the overall design and execution.

That makes the Envy x2 with an Intel processor instead of ARM just ... baffling. Although the CPU is excellent, HP went and changed the keyboard and kickstand with consequences to usability, so much so that it is hard to recommend the Intel version.

See at HP

HP Envy x2 with Intel CPU – what's new?

HP announced the Envy x2 in late 2017, but even before that version hit the streets in the spring of 2018, the company had announced at CES 2018 that a variant with an Intel processor was on the way. That's not too unusual as companies often release variations of devices with different CPU and hardware configurations.

CategoryHP Envy x2 (ARM)
ProcessorIntel Core i5-7Y54 (7th Gen)
Memory4GB
Storage128GB M.2 SSD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 615
Display12.3-inch WUXGA+ (1920 X 1280)
Corning Gorilla Glass
KeyboardBacklit, Elan Touchpad
MaterialMetal
Camera5MP front-facing
13MP rear world-facing
StylusN-Trig HP Pen (included)
WirelessIntel XMM 7360 LTE-A
Intel 802.11b/g/n/ac (2x2) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 Combo
PortsTwo USB-C (Gen 1, DisplayPort 1.3 Power Delivery), microSD, headphone and mic, SIM tray
SecurityWindows Hello facial recognition
Battery49.33 WHr
WeightTablet: 1.72 lbs (0.78 kg)
With keyboard: 2.53 lbs (1.15 kg)
Dimensions (W x D x H)11.54 in x 8.28 in x 0.31 in
Price$1,149

Take the Envy x2 with ARM, make it about a millimeter thicker, a few grams heavier and replace the Snapdragon 835 with a 7th Gen Intel Core i5-7Y54, and you have HP Envy x2 (12-g018nr).

Also, there are smaller, more subtle changes compared to the ARM variant, including:

  • A second USB Type-C port on the right.
  • Elan touchpad instead of Microsoft Precision.
  • Single volume rocker instead of a split button.
  • The headphone jack is on the lower left-hand side (instead of right).
  • Ambient light sensor for the display.
  • Two (instead of three) far-field microphones.
  • The small ridge around the camera (for keyboard cover).
  • Intel XMM 7360 modem (versus Snapdragon x16).
  • Thicker at 0.31 inches (7.88 mm) compared to 0.27 inches (6.86 mm)
  • Windows 10 Home instead of Windows 10 S (which upgrades to Pro for free).

All of this is good for a 2-in-1 PC in 2018, but HP also changed one other thing that will have dire consequences for the usefulness of this device: the keyboard and folio cover.

Other things you lose with the Intel system is the "always on" capability, as the Intel system will hibernate after a few hours of standby resulting in a longer resume time. This feature also means that Skype calls always come in regardless of how long the device is resting, and there are audible email alerts. The ARM version being always-on like a smartphone means the Cortana far-field microphones are enabled making the Envy x2 with ARM an ideal Cortana assistant. Finally, there is battery life. The ARM version will get about 1.5 times the battery life of a similar Intel system, which is substantial.

Keyboard and cover are utterly terrible

Note the difference in trackpads on the Envy x2 with ARM (left) and Envy x2 with Intel (right).

Note the difference in trackpads on the Envy x2 with ARM (left) and Envy x2 with Intel (right).

For usability reasons, HP decided to go with the older style of keyboard and folio cover design with the Intel version of the Envy x2. Instead of a single, adjustable hinge for the kickstand, the Intel version uses a pull-out-and-reset style that Samsung was known to use a few years ago.

The result is one of the most frustrating PC experiences I can remember. Due to this change, the Intel HP Envy x2 now has a shorter keyboard base; only two angles for positioning; and a significantly smaller trackpad.

With nearly a quarter of the keyboard base now used to create a delta for the kickstand, the keyboard is awkwardly short. When placed in the lap, the Envy x2 naturally wants to fall back at even the slightest angle, making this mobile device far from ideal.

The trackpad is also now significantly shorter, which makes using it less enjoyable. To make matters worse, HP is using an Elan touchpad instead of the Microsoft Precision one found in the ARM version.

The pull-out-and-reset is clumsy, takes longer, has reduced viewing angles, and you must keep your hands on the keyboard when it's in your lap otherwise it may tip back and fall off.

The different kickstands on the Envy x2 with ARM (left) and Envy x2 with Intel (right).

The different kickstands on the Envy x2 with ARM (left) and Envy x2 with Intel (right).

All of this is made worse because clearly HP figured out the correct design with the ARM version. Part of the reason I loved the HP Envy x2 with ARM is due to the design: it's thinner, lighter, and better to use with a keyboard. Take away the excellent trackpad, make it smaller, make the keyboard base shorter, and you ruin the entire experience. Which is just what happened here.

For their part, HP states that the Intel version was intended to be more "laptop like" with the addition of a reading mode (secondary position) and inking (lay flat) - that is there is a reason for this change. Some users may find the laptop mode with its single angle ideal when not at a desk, but I struggled with it.

Intel and LTE performance

The dual-core Core i5-7Y54 is different from a traditional Core i5 processor thanks to the Thermal Design Point (TDP). Typically, a Core i5 processor pulls in 15 watts of power, though it can scale higher for quick bursts. The Core i5-7Y54, however, only pulls in about 4.5 watts of power, which results in it running cooler, allowing for fanless designs such as this Envy x2.

The other downside is while it can still burst up to 3.2 GHz it can only do so for very short durations before the internal temperature causes the system to throttle down. These caveats make the i5-7Y54 great for launching apps and quick tasks like web browsing, but it will perform poorly for prolonged tasks like gaming or any serious processing. But this is a light-computing PC, so those restrictions make sense and is no reason to criticize.

Teeny trackpad with Elan drivers? No thanks.

Teeny trackpad with Elan drivers? No thanks.

I won't dwell too much on the performance of the Envy x2 with the Intel Core i5-7Y54 and the Intel XMM 7360 modem, but here are a few observations:

  • Battery life is decent at about eight hours.
  • While it gets warmer on the back, it was never too hot.
  • Geekbench score reveals 3,699 for single-core and 6,779 for multi-core, which is very good.
  • LTE data speeds and performance are not as good as Qualcomm's modem.

When it comes to app performance, there are two ways of measuring it: Microsoft UWP Store Apps and everything else (Win32). Store apps are already optimized for ARM and Intel, so it's little surprise to find performance between those the same on either device. Both are fast. Obviously, with the Intel processor running "classic" Win32 desktop apps, it is going to be a better experience, and the i5-7Y54 is an admirable processor.

Modem performance was interesting. The Intel XMM 7360 is a relatively old modem, having been released in late 2015. It supports LTE-Advanced (Cat. 10), but only up to 450Mbps versus the 1Gbps of the Qualcomm Snapdragon x16 (Cat. 16), which came out in 2017. While those speeds may sound theoretical, the Qualcomm modem always outperformed the Intel one in real-world use regarding raw speed by a significant margin, with nearly double the data rate. For checking email, browsing the web, etc. such a difference won't likely make a huge difference, but it exists.

Bottom line on the HP Envy x2 with Intel CPU – do not buy it

The HP Envy x2 with Intel tablet hardware is excellent. The cameras are top notch, audio is outstanding, the display is exceptional, and for an Intel-based system, it performs as expected. As always, HP nails build quality. But you still shouldn't buy it.

The idea you would throw down $1,150 to use this solely as a tablet is a stretch. Most people will want to use it with the included keyboard. Due to the changeup in design, the experience is so bad compared to the ARM version that it makes no sense to buy the Envy x2 with Intel, which is a shame.

And, no, the keyboard and folio systems are not interchangeable.

Envy x2 with Intel (left) is thicker than Envy x2 with ARM (right).

Envy x2 with Intel (left) is thicker than Envy x2 with ARM (right).

The Intel version costs $150 more, but there are some caveats to that. The ARM version ships with Windows 10 S, which can be unlocked to a Pro license for free. The Intel version ships with Windows 10 Home making a Pro upgrade a $99 add-on. Additionally, the ARM version is now on sale for $950 from HP (or $880 from Amazon.com), and it comes with free data from Sprint through the rest of the year. That's at least a $200 difference — $300 if you count Windows 10 Pro — and even more if you account for the free Sprint data or Amazon.com pricing.

See at HP.com

Pros:

  • Solid battery life.
  • Core i5 Y-series is zippy for short bursts.
  • Better for running "classic" Windows apps.
  • A great tablet-only experience.

Cons:

  • Keyboard and folio designs are terrible.
  • Tiny touchpad with Elan drivers.
  • 4G LTE performance is not as good as Qualcomm.
  • Costs a few hundred dollars more than ARM.

The HP Envy x2 with Intel CPU is a missed opportunity. The pricing difference begins to show how Qualcomm can undercut a similar Intel system, but for some users that price increase is an acceptable cost for the performance gain from using Intel.

However, due to the more clumsy keyboard and folio, the Envy x2 with Intel is a non-starter. If HP can fix that and merely mirror the system that it used on the ARM type, the game changes. But by that time, the Envy x2 with a Snapdragon 850 will be here (likely by the end of 2018), further shrinking the delta between ARM and Intel.

If the Envy x2 with Intel existed in isolation the design would be easier to forgive - after all, the PC part is great. But because HP did such an excellent job with the Envy x2 with ARM it makes a direct comparison between the two inevitable and when you do that the latter clearly has the better design (even if some may think it has a worse processor). If you can live with the keyboard and folio design the HP Envy x2 with Intel is a fine 2-in-1, but we think it may be difficult for many users to enjoy.

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

44 Comments
  • This review could go down in history as the key turning point - intel vs ARM under well defined control experiments. Same OEM and management best practice: HP! same in so many ways Except for CPU, Soc with key differences for LTE modem chip, OS... It is unclear why Intel version is made - purposely with worse design? What is the business strategy? How will this impact any future chance for Intel to compete in term of shareholder approval? A seemingly day to day review could cost millions or perhaps billions to intel when the pro and cons presented are leveraged in strategic ways by Qualcomm marketing team.
  • I'd hazard a guess that the Intel version keyboard folio is cheaper and used to keep the cost closer as well as the older WiFi module. The Core M aka Core i5-7Y54 is no doubt more expensive cost offsets were needed, otherwise it would have been in the $1400 or $1500 range at which point consumers would instantly pass. Here they may be duped into a purchase.
  • Forgot to mention the cheaper Windows 10 Home also instead of Windows 10S with free upgrade to Pro. Follow the money on manufacturing/product decisions.
  • It's not only about money. It's also about what they 'want' to do with their company future. After Spectre and it's many related bugs, and the fact that fixing that took 20% performance off Intel's already quite overpriced mobile x86 offerings, Intel's price points probably hang on to the fact that they are the only option for x86 in a world where x86 is vital to a lot of people, even if we can clearly see that their chips are not of great value. Intel should get more into offering SoCs where that Secure ARM core they have in their Platform Controllers and Management engine gets used for more than spying and server maintenance. HP are doing to Intel what Apple did to Flash, and delivering the product without trying to cover up the sacrifices that taking that Intel option causes. In a perfect world though, they would have gone Core-M instead and kept all the ergonomic stuff then offered a much more upmarket i5, but from what I gather, upmarket just doesn't sell anymore because resale value sucks unless there's a big brand (Apple/Alienware etc) and that's the point. HP doesn't want to do an x86 version, but they know they have to, so they make it stink.
  • " In a perfect world though, they would have gone Core-M instead and kept all the ergonomic stuff then offered a much more upmarket i5,"
    There really is no more Core-M; Core-Y replaced it. Same idea/concept though. You may mean what is referred to the Core m3 processor, which is really an i3 vs. i5 at 4.5W, which is what they did use. Wouldn't have changed the price by much at all.
  • When I first started to use the x2 (ARM) I was sceptical about the kickstand design, but I quickly learned to love it.
    Don't understand why they would cripple the experience on the Intel device.
    I'll stick to the snapdragon line, I guess.
    Haven't even enabled Pro yet and I am really no longer sure I will.
    Haven't opened my Original SB at all over the last few weeks and while me desktop is still there, it mostly runs idle.
  • I don't understand why they did the Intel version kickstand that way. In a similar fashion but well executed is what comes with the Samsung Galaxy Book 12, the part of the kickstand which is behind the tablet folds back as a protective case for the tablet when folded but doesn't shortens the keyboard space. I don't know why I don't hear more about that tablet (Galaxy Book 12) as it is excellent even if a bit expensive.
  • I have the galaxy 10, it’s really well designed and the screen is amazing
  • Picture quality of Samsung is amazing. If I remember reading the specs of both the 10 and 12 when shopping, the 10 doesn't have an AMOLED screen which the 12 have and I've never seen a better computer screen in my life before, but as you say it still have an excellent screen. In general, Samsung screens are excellent, my TV, this tablet and 4 monitors at home are Samsung.
  • Do not worry enabling Windows Pro. There are not really any downsides of switching to Pro. In fact you can run ARM64 compiled desktop apps only with Windows Pro.
  • Also, there's a setting in Settings section where you can restrict apps to "store only". Essentially the same as S mode, with the advantage of being able to grant exceptions when really needed.
  • An 8 hour battery life claims usually means 6 or less in real use case. Plus there is no mention of the standby battery life, which is very important. The unit becoming noticeably warm can be a distraction during extended use. I think the WinARM version is the ideal device for the intended use case. That is repeated short and long sequences of light compute tasks, with instant sleep and resume mixed. A solid platform stability is also required, and I have never seen a Wintel platform up to the task.
  • The irony is, that in particular under heavier compute tasks, the Snapdragon 835 easily outperforms the Core M. Try running something like the 7-zip benchmark, where all cores are loaded and the Core-M starts throttling to know what i mean.
  • Ah forgot, you need to use the ARM64 version of 7-zip, which i uploaded here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1uXOuyqDhxFJOOSTD5K5qyT-Fve6NeRw-
  • Why is everyone focusing on the minutae of why it's not a good buy... You don't need to look further than the price. Especially in light of the recent price changes of the entry level Surface Pro 4. $1100+ ??? Are you KIDDING ME?
    C'mon! This is ridiculous.
  • Ikr? 1100$ for a light computing device/laptop-wannabe (per the article's saying) that performs poorly in the laptop category. How is it as a tablet, though? Is the screen touch decent? Pen support?
  • 1500 for an iPhone X is just as rediculous.
  • And they have hundreds of billions of dollars in accounts held offshore... i.e. They charge way more than it costs to build them resulting in huge profits. When will anyone see the blatant greed for just that and stop paying for them when they wont even give back to the people that made them rich or the people they hurt doing it. Sure they make highly publicized donations to third world countries as penance to make you think they are holy. This business model is not sustainable and ultimately must crash, the longer it goes the worse it will be.
  • I did not pay 1500 bucks for my iPhone. I usually buy last generation versions that are reduced in price, therefore keeping more of my money for me. Also, with the iPhone, I get 4-5 good years of Support. Buy an android phone and be lucky to get one year of updates. Windows phone, I got updates, but had to do work arounds to get 10 m on my 1020.
  • I went from my L640 W8.1 to W10M with zero issues though...
  • The 640 was on the supported list as far as I remember. The 1020 had to use the insiders option and was never officially supported for w10m because a few dummies said it was slow.
  • Dan you did mention the Intel version throttling - which is very common for an passively cooled Intel device. At the same time i never experienced the Snapdragon version throttling. This also means that the Snapdragon version is quite a bit faster under sustained loads than the Intel Core M version. Would have been nice if you could have mentioned this.
  • And the usual suspects said this device would be the death of w10 on ARM since once it released nobody would buy the ARM version. Hilarious that it is worse in every aspect.
  • winarm is already dead. it did not need this model to kill it. $999 for a 4GBs RAM ARM laptop :)))? seriously? You guys here said the same about the X3 Elite phone: wow, it will sell, it will have success, it will...it will...and it failed miserably! No all users are desperate fanboys willing to pay for any junk MS thing an OEM comes up with.
  • Thanks Dan. Intel is great for heavy computing, but light computing... ugh! Too thick. Too heavy.
  • The reason for the mechanism difference comes down to thickness, to maintain the same thickness as the ARM device HP had to exclude the kickstand, there are reinforcements probably around the hinge area which couldn't happen in the intel version.
  • This sounds reasonable, but is not the reality. The real answer is more banal.
  • Pls do an article on comparing S mode to using Windows 10 Settings to restrict app installations to "Store only".
  • Banal??? Just how often do you use that word in your daily vocabulary, LOL! After this, cliche' will be stricken from use in my vocabulary. Thank you for sharing! :{)
  • Nice review. I think the real reason is to offset the costs. The Intel version probably requires more expensive case for the cooling & parts and the m proc is probably more expensive.
  • Nah, nothing to do with cooling. Ironically, the Intel's folio covers the back of the device 100 percent of the time adding a layer of insulation, vs. the exposed ARM version. So, Intel version technically has the worse cooling ability.
  • It's a shame because the folio approach looks terrible and thankfully I saw your review and how useless it is.
  • the real answer is more banana's .. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) cause they are out of their banana's if they believe I'm gonna buy that Intel microwave oven regardless of its banana keyboard.
  • It's obvious HP wants the ARM-based Envy X2 to showcase this and future highly power efficient and modern architecture devices. The Intel-based Envy X2 got the design equivalent of sloppy seconds.
  • A toy keyboard on a $1000+ device? I disliked this sort of folding back & fixed position covers the moment i first saw them on crapPads and Samsung nonsense, but Apple and Samsung make niche computers and/or mobile phones (yes, really few people use Macs outside the US), HP on the other hand has no excuse for adopting such a limiting and bad design - they have always been in the business of mainstream work machines.
  • Your desperation in promoting that junk ARM is laughable.
  • Your lack of a coherent counterargument to my review is the real joke here. But glad Intel fanboys exist. Cool. Next time bring your A-game or find another place to troll.
  • Sounds like two different teams designed the folio case or one team worked on the intel version and the other worked on the arm version. Anything else doesn't make sense.
  • Three letter reason: MDF
  • I think this has been one of the worst move from HP. If this is their way of telling users, go buy a winARM device, it's not gonna work. Haven't they learned from the catastrophic failure of their phone X3 attempt? Pathetic...
  • It's actually a conscious choice to drive some differentiation between the two versions and HP really believe in the design of the Intel one. I just think they're wrong here. It's not HP tipping their hat to one company versus another. They worked with Intel on this device, do you really think they want to piss them off and purposefully sabotage it? Because that is what you are accusing them of with zero evidence Who do you think HP does more business with Intel or Qualcomm? It's not even close. Who do you think HP would sweat more losing as a partner or losing favorability for new chips - Intel or Qualcomm? C'mon. But I get it: internet, comments, just make up whatever sounds good...that's just not how it actually all works.
  • "The idea you would throw down $1,150 to use this solely as a tablet is a stretch." Huh.. People buy iPad Pro for a comparable price and it is still a tablet as well.
  • Sure, but they are including the keyboard cover here bundled with the cost. Like I said, if they hadn't nailed the design with the ARM version I would be more forgiving, but it's clear which is the better design here.
  • Why not just get the Surface Pro with LTE if LTE and intel modem are desired. Granted it is more expensive, but does give you intel performance, a QUALCOMM modem along w/ a better type cover/hinge experience.