Windows 8 brings a whole bunch of touch-optimised gestures and fancy, colourful live tiles. You'll need a touchscreen if you want to have some real fun with it, but you'll probably need a keyboard too if you plan to settle in to some real work.
The HP Envy x2 has both. It's an 11-inch touchscreen tablet running on the full-fat version of Windows 8 that docks into a keyboard, turning it into a normal laptop.
It packs an Intel Atom dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM, for which you'll have to pay the spicy price of £800.
Should I buy the HP Envy x2?
No. Not until the price tumbles dramatically. As it stands, the x2's low-powered dual-core Intel Atom processor and measly 2GB of RAM deliver very poor performance, which would barely be acceptable on machines at less than half the price.
For £400, you can buy HP's Pavilion G6, which boasts significantly burlier components. If you particularly want a touch-enabled laptop for swiping around Windows 8, the Asus Vivobook can be had with an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and only costs £580.
Dell's XPS 12 and the Lenovo Yoga 13 are slightly more expensive -- around £1,000 -- but both have convertible designs for touch operation and both provide a lot more power. Either model would give you much more than the Envy x2 for not much more cash.
It's not all bad though -- the detachable design is handy and its aluminium shell is both attractive and sturdy. Sadly, that's really not enough to justify the price tag.
Design and build quality
When both the tablet and keyboard sections are plopped together, you'd be hard pressed to distinguish it from a bog-standard laptop. Both sections are clad in an attractive silver metal with a brushed effect, similar to the kind you'll see on HP's Pavilion Dv6.
It's quite attractive without trying too hard to pull off any kind of crazy style. The silver shell is neutral enough to look good in a meeting room or being pulled out of a messenger bag in a fancy Soho coffee shop.
It's 303mm wide, 206mm deep and 19mm thick, making it small enough to slide into all but the tiniest of bags -- and with a weight of 1.41kg it's not going to drag you down. If weight is a huge issue you can just take the tablet section with you, reducing the weight to 700g.
It might be weightier than tablets like the Google Nexus 10, but the metal shell helps make it feel very sturdy. There's very little flex in the chassis, nor is there any to be found in the keyboard tray or wrist rest. I also wasn't able to find any unpleasant creaking or rattling so I'm confident that it can put up with a good few knocks and bumps -- good to know, considering the high price.
Around the edge of the tablet section you'll find a microSD card slot, with two USB 2.0 ports and a full-size SD card slot. An HDMI port appears on the keyboard section. You'll spy an HD webcam on the front for Skype calls and an 8-megapixel snapper on the back for showing Twitter what you're eating for dinner. Oddly, there's what looks like a flash next to it, but no amount of hunting through settings could get it to fire up.
HP has only opted for a 64GB SSD drive in the Envy. While that's enough for your essential apps and photos, if you make a habit of storing a lot of video locally, you'll quickly start to run out of space. 128GB SSDs can be found in both Dell's XPS 12 and Lenovo's Yoga 13.
The tablet section connects to the keyboard dock with the same hearty 'kerchunk' witnessed on the Asus Transformer Prime. It fits snugly into the slot above the keyboard and doesn't offer much wobble when you're using it as a laptop.
Annoyingly though, the weight of the tablet makes it rather top-heavy. I found it tipped over very easily when using on my lap, which could become tiresome after a while. Thankfully, it's more stable on a desk.
The keyboard is pretty comfortable, providing wide, evenly spaced keys with enough travel to let you know when you've pressed them. The trackpad is large and easy to click, although it's not the most responsive I've ever used. It's fine for skimming around Windows 8 when you don't want to use the touchscreen.
The 11.6-inch screen boasts a resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is at the lower end of what I'd expect to see on a machine of this size. Full HD might be a stretch, but it wouldn't have been unreasonable to see 1,600x900 pixels, to help make HD video pop that bit more.
Still, it still allows for sharp icons and images and reading small text in the Web browser is perfectly comfortable. It's fairly bright -- although far from retina-searing -- and handles colours well.
If the Envy was aimed at the budget end of the market, the lower resolution would be fine, but with an 800-quid price tag, I really expect more. Dell's XPS 12 boasts a Full HD resolution that's both bright and extremely bold. It's a couple of hundred quid more but it's probably worth splashing the extra cash if you want to make the most of your high-definition video.
Power and performance
Inside the Envy you'll find an Intel Atom Z2760 processor clocked at 1.8GHz backed up by a measly 2GB of RAM. Those are very low-end specs and wouldn't be found in a regular laptop for more than £400. At more than double the price, the Envy really needs to put in a good performance to justify its cost.
Sadly, it doesn't. Things started badly on the Geekbench test where it reached a score of only 1,390. For a phone or normal tablet that would be quite good -- Google's Nexus 7 achieved 1,536 on the same test -- but this isn't the tablet-specific version of Windows 8, it's the proper one, designed to run all kinds of desktop apps.
General navigation around the Windows 8 interface was fairly swift, with little noticeable delay when switching between apps or jumping into the desktop. But it quickly started to stutter when I loaded numerous browser tabs and tried to stream high-definition video at the same time. That 2GB of RAM really doesn't offer much help for multi-tasking.
It struggled, unsurprisingly, with editing photos in Adobe Lightroom 4. There was an unpleasant delay in switching between the Library and Develop tabs in the program and lag between moving a slider and seeing the change take place on the photo. Even worse, it took almost a minute to export a single 2MB photo.
I was in for a long wait, too, when I asked it to encode my 11-minute 1080p video file into 24fps H264 video, using Handbrake. It took a frightful 1 hour 7 minutes to complete the task. By comparison, HP's own Envy 6 ultrabook managed the same task in only 9 minutes 22 seconds.
If you only want a machine for the absolute basics of social networking and email, it'll cope fine. If you plan to tackle more intense tasks, however, such as photo editing, multi-tasking or gaming, the Envy really won't suit. For the £800 price, that's a massive let-down.
The HP Envy X2 provides Windows 8 touchscreen fun from a sleek and stylish body. Its ability to act as both stand-alone tablet and laptop is undeniably handy.
But it's let down by extremely disappointing performance and a low-resolution screen that are in no way justified by the high price tag. Regardless of what type of Windows 8 machine you're looking for, your money can be better spent elsewhere.