[pictured here, the ENVY x2 gets my coveted "Thumbs Up!"]
If you were to go from Zero-to-60 – from being completely off to the Windows 8 Start screen – it’d take just under 14 seconds with my ENVY x2. That’s one of the first things I noticed about the reasonably snappy Atom Z2760 CPU in HP’s hybrid PC. It works well for the everyday tasks you throw at it. To put that nugget in context, other premium, popular tablets I’ve played with take as long as 44 seconds just to boot into OS. The point: If you’re trying to grasp what the ENVY x2 is capable of doing, this story is for you. If you’re already a believer and own an ENVY x2 (like me), this story is still for you. I’m updating my list of software recommendations for the ENVY x2 right here.
First, to get this out of the way: The ENVY x2 is tablet-slim (since all the components are behind the screen) and it comes with a keyboard-battery-and-port-replicating base. Since it is capable of running a full Windows 8 OS, you might be tempted, but don’t go comparing this to bigger, bulkier, less flexible laptops. It’s made to be lean, mean and still offer tons of features. But, while we’re on the subject, this is how the system rates:
How does that translate? An older Atom processor-based CPU couldn’t even dream of running Windows 8. In fact, they only handled Windows XP. Not judging, just sayin’ is all.
Another thing that I noticed: I needed to download updated drivers. Let me repeat that: DOWNLOAD UPDATED DRIVERS for the ENVY x2! I was one of the earliest adopters and there are a few updates that improve performance that posted after I received my x2. Or, you could just take advantage of the HP Support Assistant installed on the PC.
Last bit of tweaking advice for now: Take programs to the Task Manager. The graph in the performance tab gives you an easy glance at how the CPU, RAM and hard drive are being pushed at any given time. I just jump to the “Startup” tab, which shows all the programs that boot when you hit the power button. A nice change with Windows 8: You can easily see the impact each app has on starting up the ENVY x2 and you can easily toggle these apps on or off. For example: I disable all my iTunes-related apps and Valve’s Steam client from starting at boot.
OK, so let’s talk about what you’re doing with this Hybrid – as broken down in different categories.
Productivity / Utilities: I have a full office suite installed on the ENVY x2 – Office 2013, since you’re asking. I usually have Lync, Outlook and Word open most of the day. I’m grabbing my everyday work files from cloud storage (for example, Box.net has a good Windows 8 app). I’m a security nut so I went out of my way to install Norton Internet Security – Norton Studio sits on the Windows 8 Start screen giving me updates on any protected computers. I don’t usually dip into PowerPoint (thankfully), but I could potentially see some hang-ups if you’re constantly creating new presentations.
Normally, I’d have recommended something like EverNote to track all your info and notes….HOWEVER, OneNote is hard to pass up. Sure, a version of it comes with the new MS Office, but a version sits there in the Microsoft Win8 App store, for free.
Multimedia (as in video / music): Hulu Plus, Netflix – obviously no-brainers, these are go-to apps that everyone has – or may use sooner rather than later. Need something to listen to wherever you may roam? There’s Audible for a good book. Wanna catch a couple podcasts? Podcast Bandit. Get it. Plenty of Internet Radio options abound – for now, I’m using Slacker Radio and 5-0 Radio. (Also couldn’t hurt to grab YouTube Downloader Apps if you want to share some of your faves for later viewing.)
I also enjoyed goofing around with Music Maker Jam. What I lack in any ability to create sweet music, I make up for with this app. Create your own jam sessions and record out the results. Kinda neat….and there are plenty of musical styles available to download and jam to (for a fee)
Random Lifestyle / News: Don’t judge me, but I like the Cocktail Flow app. It’s got a slick interface, easily breaks down recipes…and suggests other drinks that you might like. I did. I read a ton on my Kindle (app) and through Comixology. Besides that, there are plenty of sites busting out their own news apps. I’m still sticking by my News Bento for now….if you’ve got something else you swear by, I’d love to hear it.
Photos: In the past, I’d recommended Fhotoroom, Fresh Paint, as well as HP Scan and Capture (the later is a quick-n-dirty capture app that works great with the x2’s touch screen and makes it really easy to control your scanner.). Add to that list, CameraStudio +. It lets you do a LOT more with your images. Including selective overlays.
Social: While there isn’t a sanctioned, official app from Facebook or Twitter for Windows 8, there are a couple options now that I’d recommend you check out for yourself. Facebook + Lite handles Facebook. Rowi is a great Twitter client. Otherwise, I’d also suggest grabbing Skype and IM+.
Games: How much time have you got? I mean, really. I could go on all day here. BUT out of the Windows 8 that have come out recently, here are a couple I’d suggest you at least try out for yourself. Gunstringer: Dead man Running, Skulls of the Shogun, Gunpowder, Rizing…. (and I go into a whole lot more with game suggestions in this story. Check it out.)
One last thing I will rehash, though, is what you should consider doing with one of those memory card slots: Look into emulation. You listening, my Retro-gaming buddies? In that card slot parked in the keyboard base, I’ve got a 32GB card loaded with MAME (arcade game emulation) and SCUMMVM (graphic adventure emulator). I'd recommend you grab both.
Well, that’s how I’ve got my ENVY x2 tweaked and suited up for the time being. How about yours?
AFTER ONE WEEK WITH THE ENVY X2 OK, one last thought since my week with the ENVY x2 stories are coming to a close: This machine has done everything that I needed. Seriously. It may not be suitable for running some of the high-end, high-performance software I crave (games like FarCry 3, for example), but I was pleased with what the latest Atom was able to deliver performance-wise. And the battery life? Crazy. The whole work day would go by and I’d never blink twice thinking about checking how much juice I had left (provided I remembered to plug it back in at the end of the day. )
If you still have questions after my past couple days, don’t worry. I still have more stories to tell on the blog….and I’m always happy to answer what’s on your mind right here. So hit the comments!
Follow Darren’s continuing adventures with his ENVY x2 on the blog and @gizmogladstone on Twitter.