Disclaimer: HP Loaned this Envy X360 to us for review for 2 weeks. That being said, HP have no editorial control over the outcome of this review, and no money has changed hands. The Model of X360 we have is the HP Envy X360 15-aq005na. This entire review was written on the Envy X360
HP is no stranger to high-end high-cost Windows Laptops, and since Windows 8 in 2012 HP has been trying more and more weird stuff, and they’ve found a few pieces that work really well, but sadly, just as many that don’t. HP Leant me this Envy X360, and after 2 weeks, this is my review.
Specifications (of the model I tested)
- 15.6” 1080p IPS Touchscreen
- Intel 6th Generation Core i7 6560U
- Intel Iris 540 Graphics
- 8GB DDR4-2133Mhz
- 128GB SATA M.2 SSD
- 1TB Mechanical HDD 7200RPM
- 56Wh Lithium-Ion Battery, 4-Cell
- Roughly 10 hours battery life
- 90% in 90 minutes fast charger
- 2.17kg weight
- 18mm thick
- 2x USB3.0 Type-A ports
- 1x HDMI (does not state if 1.4 or 2.0)
- 1x USB3.1 Gen Type-C port
- SD Card reader
- 3.5mm audio jack
More specifications can be found on HP’s site here
Let’s start with the hardware, It’s big. It might be because I’m used to 11” laptops and more recently, a 10” Lenovo YogaBook, but the Envy X360 is just a beast. At just a smidge over 2 kilos as well, it is more than double my C201 from Asus and nearly 3 times heavier than my YogaBook.
Not only is it heavy, it’s also just a big machine, the bezels on the sides of the 15.6” display are sizable, and the top and bottom ones are worse. Some will say that the increased bezel size is to make edge gestures on Windows easier, and I’d have to say Codswallop to that. Since Windows 10, Microsoft pretty much eliminated most edge gestures that they implemented in Windows 8, the only ones that remain are right edge swipe in for notification center, left edge swipe in for task switcher, and swipe down from top to close full-screen video playback. All of those have keyboard shortcuts that work better that the edge gestures or have visual cues such as the task switcher or the notification center.
If we move down onto the keyboard, we are met with something that I really dislike, but I appreciate that some will like, which is the inclusion of a 10-key number pad to the side of the full UK layout QWERTY keyboard. As I said, whilst I despise this addition, it moves everything off center and makes the trackpad centered with the keyboard, but not with the chassis, It looks odd, and I really didn’t enjoy its addition. That said, I showed it to a friend who has to enter a lot of numbers for her job, she does a lot of data logging and record keeping, where having the 10-Key number pad on the side is a fair bit quicker for her than having to stretch up on top of the letter keys. So it all depends on your use case, but know that I’ll secretly judge you for liking 10-keyed laptop keyboards.
A Bit of aesthetic flair on the X360 is the speaker grilles above the keyboard, instead of the circular perforations that we usually get, or actual mesh grilles, HP has got a lovely Deus-Ex triangle motif going on here as well as the Bang and Olufsen branding, whilst the triangular grilles don’t add anything to the (spectacular) sound, they do look cool and differentiate the HP from competing products. Another Aesthetic decision Is the choice to go with Silver keycaps and white LED backlighting, which once again I disagree with, unless you’re in a pitch-black room,the lighting is useless, there is light bleed around the perimeter of the keys (Only Razer seems to have solved this) and overall, I still prefer the look of black keycaps, though I do see why they would do it, to keep the uniform colour of the chassis through.
The layout of the keyboard is mostly normal, save for a few niggles, the arrow keys in the bottom right have been consolidated, there are still 4 keys, but the up and down arrows are half sized, whilst the left and right are full sized, making this strange sensation when typing for me. Another is that the enter key is half sized and the “#” key has been placed where the top of the elongated enter key should be, causing me to mistype rather a lot. In fact, my typing accuracy on the Envy X360 even after nearly 2 weeks is nearly as bad as it is on my Lenovo YogaBook, a device which has no real keyboard and is also a 10” device, what in the hell is wrong with this keyboard HP? the layout is weird it feels mushy and key are in the wrong place.
Sadly, things don’t get much better about the trackpad, but let’s start on a high note, It’s rather large, but unlike the new 2016 MacBook Pros, it isn’t too large (Yes, that really is an issue). I could have lived with a slightly narrower one if it was slightly taller, but it is no way near as bad as the trackpad on the YogaBook, thankfully. Now I have to be a little more harsh, starting with the actual tracking, it’s almost as if it is too sensitive and is still tracking my fingers once they are removed, for instance, If i use two fingers to scroll down the page and remove one finger and move the cursor, I can almost 100% guarantee it’ll scroll, because it still thinks there are two fingers on the trackpad. There have been 2 Synaptics trackpad updates since I’ve had this machine, and neither solved the Issue.
Another Issue is with synaptics itself. I Think it is time for Microsoft to put its foot down and demand that OEMs use the precision drivers that Microsoft supply, because dear whatever lord you pray to, this Synaptics/Elan drivers problem has to stop, it is bad for the consumers and it is bad for Microsoft and further integrates the thought that to get good trackpad you need to get an Apple machine, which is just not the case anymore. Dell on it is newer XPS 13s and 15s use the Microsoft Precision drivers, and they are awesome, and others do as well, they track well and they handle gestures valiantly. Sure, they’re less customisable than what Elan and Synaptics offer, but you know what they offer instead? A good user experience which is more important.
Looking at the externals of the machine, on the left-hand side, there is Power button, a Kensington lock slot, one of the USB 3.0 Type-A ports, the 3.5mm combo audio jack, as well as the volume rocker as well as a HDD indicator LED. swapping to the right side we have the AC power jack, the HDMI port, the other USB3.0 Type-A port and the new USB3.1 Gen1 Type-C port and lastly the SD card reader. This is a really nice selection of ports on HP’s part, not too many, but also not too few. HP hasn’t gone all in on Type-C and thunderbolt 3, leaving you in #DongleLife (Which isn’t all that bad, but whatever).
Do I wish we had more Type-C ports? Sure, wish that HP had gone with TYpe-C and USB-PD as the charger for the Envy X360? Of course, but I’m not mad with the port selection on the Envy X360, and I’d like to commend HP for including an SD card reader, but also one that essentially mounts the card flush with the body so you don’t snap the SD card, which, yes I have sadly done.
Last thing on the hardware front is why the laptop is called the X360, it is able to do a 360 and become a tablet. Why you would want a 15.6” 2kg tablet, I’ll never know, but it is there, and It presents a weird problem for the X360, wherein the magnet that holds it closed is almost too strong, but the friction hinges also don’t seem strong enough to properly support the weight of the screen portion in tent mode, causing the screen to wobble and bounce whenever you touch it. As with Most convertibles, I do wish HP had just made a really solid laptop with a really solid hinge. Even without a touchscreen, HP could have slimmed down the size and weight of the X360 or just the screen portion and made it more manageable, I’m not asking for XPS 15 levels of compactness, but at 15.6” a 2-in-1 convertible makes little to no sense, especially when this thing still has a mechanical spinning hard drive.
Software and Performance
Well, it is Windows 10 with the Anniversary update, which you’ll either like or not like. I am in the former category, I love Windows 10, I think it works very well for what I want to use it for, and on the Envy X360, it works really well.
With the hardware the Envy X360 is packing, i’d be surprised if it wasn’t snappy as all hell. With a Skylake Core i7 (With SpeedStep no doubt) 8GB of fast DDR4 RAM and an SSD as the main OS Drive, HP have outfitted the Envy X360 with the capability of being a full on workhorse, despite the machine shipping with 8GB of RAM, it can handle up to 16GB, despite shipping with an M.2 SATA SSD, it can take PCIe NVMe SSDs as well, such as the newly announced Samsung 960 Pros, you can upgrade the Envy X360 to a machine costing much more, and you can extend the life of an awesome machine.
The fundamentals of the X360, such as the screen, battery and CPU are all where they need to be, 1080p at 15.6” is perfectly adequate and any more would just destroy the battery, my only really gripe with the screen is that when on battery power, HP limits the screen to dimmer than I would like. I do not have a colorimeter to check the actual luminosity of the screen, but if I had to guess, when on battery I would say that somewhere around the 250nits mark wouldn’t be out of the question, Again, this limit isn’t there when you’re plugged in, for obvious reasons, but with a laptop, you’re more likely going to not be plugged in, something that HP could fix with a software update down the line.
Running the CrystalDisk benchmark this shows that the SSD provided is indeed a SATA based one, luckily for us it is an M.2 SSD that is capable of taking PCIe SSDs as well, so as I said, a Samsung 960 Evo/Pro could be in your future if you so desire it.
I ran the PCMark 8 OpenCL accelerated Home benchmark, and got a score of 3460 which PCMark sid was better than 55% of other laptops, but fell short of gaming laptops, which makes sense given that although the Intel Iris 540 GPU is more powerful than the standard GPU that Intel provides, it’s nothing compared to the discrete GPUs that AMD and Nvidia provide or even the integrated GPUs on AMDs higher end mobility APUs.
Sadly I wasn’t able to test games, but something I was able to do, was some 4K UHD video streaming and checking the power draw and the system speed. On YouTube with Chrome, the Envy X360 was able to stream MKBHD’s 4K UHD Surround studio tour, with a whopping 544 dropped frames over the entire 10-minute video (19705 frames, the video was 3840×2160 resolution with 30 frames per second so there are tens of thousands of frames). The One thing of note during this test was that the Envy had it’s fans on full, and I was watching the video with the screen at roughly 270 degree angle, which is where I found out that HP had sneakily hidden one of the fan vents, but this meant that sadly the hot air blew out onto my hands, and boy was that air hot.
Moving the test onto Edge yields some interesting results, I’d love to say that it as close, and that with Edge the Envy dropped marginally more or fewer frames, but that would be a lie. Over the same video with the same 19705 frames, the Envy X360 using Edge dropped 0 frames, not a single one, and the weirdest thing, the Envy was quieter than when it was running the test on Chrome. Although the vent seemed to be blasting just as much hot air at me, for what it is worth.
Let me just get this out of the way, you’ll likely not get the 10 hours that HP claim, even with the brightness at 50% (which felt too dim) and what I consider to be light usage, with no video editing and little video watching the Envy got me around 6 hours, and that dropped to closer to 4 If i tried to do some video editing, or even just watch a lot of YouTube or Netflix. The Envy is big, and it is heavy, which usually means they packed a heap of batteries into it, but that is clearly not the case with a 4 cell 56Wh battery. The 90% in 90 minutes also seems somewhat of an exaggerated claim. If the machine is off (and I mean off, not in sleep mode) and then plugged in, you might be able to get the 90 in 90 claim, but if you want to use it? No chance, It’s not draining as fast as it charges, but it does feel like 2 steps forward and then one step back, it charges, but not as fast as you would be lead to believe.
The charger is a 45w unit that’s small and light, and I wish it was a USB-C charger using the USB-PD protocol, but to my dismay it uses the standard barrel jack connector that has been used for years. Moving to USB-C for charging would mean that someone would be able to have a single charger and charge their phone (rapidly, as well) as well as their laptop, or in some cases, if they had a power bank with USB-PD they could (slowly) charge their laptop, without it being plugged into the wall. But going with the legacy power jack, and not enabling the USB-C port on the laptop to charge at all, well that just seems like a waste.
The Envy X360 has the potential to be an awesome, high-end windows machine for actually not that much cash, now hear me out.
Whilst £999 is still a lot of money, the other laptops at that price point, are inferior in many ways to the Envy, one of which would be the CPU used, the i7 6560U is a 15w Skylake CPU, like others in the same price bracket, but this SKU uses Intel’s Higher end Iris graphics (not quite the Iris Pro ones though) Finding devices with Iris graphics under £1000 is no small feat, plus you get an M.2 SSD slot, which you can upgrade later on, as well as a 2.5” SATA HDD, which you could later upgrade with a higher capacity SSD if you so wish. Not only that, but the RAM is standard DDR4 SO-DIMMs, meaning that that too is upgradeable, prolonging the lifespan of this machine.
What HP is selling here is a workstation-lite machine, at ultraportable levels. For a similar price to this you can get the Entry level XPS 13 from Dell, with 4GB RAM (soldered on), a 128GB SSD (SATA) and a dual-core i5 with standard Intel HD graphics, a much more limited machine both out of the gate and upgradability wise.
Would I buy the Envy X360? No, it is too big and bulky for what I need a laptop to do, but for a lot of people, who want a good screen, fast performance, and long lifespan of their machine, they could do a helluva lot worse than what HP is offering with the Envy X360.
HP Envy X360 15-aq005na£999
Size and weight8.0/10
- Lovely display, although a tad dim
- Performant enough for most anything
- Hard to find better specs at this price
- Ridiculously good speakers
- Great port selection
- Big and heavy
- Tablet mode is stupid for 15
- Battery life is only so-so
- Number pad is divisive
- Trackpad could use work