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HP Envy x2: Tablet/Notebook Review (gasp! it’s not an Apple!)

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Teacher Resources, Technology | Posted on 26-07-2013

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Staples HP Envy x2 iLearn Technology

If you have followed my blog or Twitter feed for any amount of time, you know that this review is kind of a big deal.  I have been a hard-core Apple evangelist for at least 10 years now.  As in: Apple is the only technology product that I own and use.  Why in the world, you might wonder, has she suddenly switched gears and started using the HP Envy x2?  The good people of Staples invited me to do a review for them.  Full disclosure: they sent me a HP Envy x2 to play with.  Being the tech geek that I am, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play with a new gadget!

After taking some gratuitous un-boxing pictures, I plugged it in and got ready to play.

Staples HP Envy x2

Staples HP Envy x2

Staples HP Envy x2

The thing is…I haven’t used a non-Apple product in a LONG time.  I forgot that Windows likes you to promise your first-born before you actually get to play.  After signing my life away (not really, but it felt like it!) I played with the Envy and did the tasks normally reserved for my MacBook Pro and iPad.  I’ve been using the Envy for almost a month (and exclusively in place of my iPad today, @jtenkely snuck mine away for a client presentation) below are my notes.

Staples HP Envy x2

The Awesome:

  • The last time I used a non-Apple touch screen, it was a train wreck.  I was pleasantly surprised that this touch screen was everything you expect a touch screen to be.  It is incredibly responsive and works like you would (and should) expect it to.
  • The battery life is pretty great.  I had it on for 4 days of off-on use without having to recharge.  I’m pretty sure I got every bit of the 12 hours of battery life out of it.  The tablet alone gets slightly less battery life. The thought that HP put into charging is pretty impressive, the tablet gets fully charged before the keyboard gets charged.  This makes a lot of sense since you want the most out of the tablet.
  • The cameras are decent quality, the resolution of pictures seems better to me than what I get out of my iPad 3.
  • Beats Audio is a nice touch, the sound quality is good for a notebook/tablet.  This let me rock out to Spotify while I worked.
  • The Envy has inputs on the keyboard base including HDMI, two USB, and SD ports.  This makes transferring, adding, sharing content really easy.
  • The notebook/tablet combination are lightweight at just a hair over 3lbs.
  • Aesthetically the HP Envy x2 is nice.  It feels sturdy but still manages to look sleek (everyone seems to be taking styling cues from Apple these days…hard to go wrong with that inspiration).
  • Flash works all the time. Not having to open a new browser just for Flash is nice.  So many educational websites are still built using flash so for a classroom setting, this feature is handy!
  • Bluetooth connectivity.

The Less Awesome

  • I like the HP Envy x2 better as a touch-screen computer than I do as a tablet.  The screen size is just a little too big and heavy to hold comfortably as a tablet for reading, typing, etc.
  • On this device, I constantly used the touch screen instead of the track pad.  The track pad drove me absolutely crazy.  It  wasn’t as sensitive as I was used to, and there are spots on the pad that were way too sensitive for my liking and kept sending me into full screen mode.  It also has some little grooves in it that make it feel like it is sticky. When you work with children, things that feel sticky are never good.
  • Windows 8- I don’t get it.  It seems hard to complete even simple tasks.  This could just be my bias toward Apple’s OS, but I am not impressed.  When I got the hang of navigating, things got smoother.  I still wouldn’t trade Apple’s OS for it.  One of the things that I missed (and this may just be the apps I was using) was that apps don’t integrate seamlessly together like I anticipated they should.  The Windows 8 store is not my favorite.  It isn’t easy to search for something specific.
  • While the camera’s resolution was good, I wasn’t impressed with the response time to get it to focus on something.

What to Anticipate for the Classroom:

The HP Envy x2 would make a fine classroom computer/tablet.  I like that students can use it as a laptop, they can type on it easily, can access downloadable content, and it stores away nicely so you are not taking up too much space in the classroom.  I also like that it transforms into a tablet so that students can make their learning, and capturing of their learning, more mobile.  Our students constantly take photographs and videos of their learning whether they are inside, outside, on a field trip, etc.  The keyboard dock would be too cumbersome to tote all over so it is great that students could just use the tablet portion when a task called for more portability.  I found the Microsoft store a little lacking in apps that are available.  I think that in the classroom, this gets made up for by the free Flash content you can access online.  I anticipate that with the Windows 8 interface, the learning curve for using the device would be more significant than with an iPad (which has no learning curve).  This is especially true for the primary grades.  It really took me some playing around with to get it figured out, and although I’m all Apple, I am also tech savvy.

Fun Find:

Most of the apps that I downloaded are those that I use regularly on my other devices.  I was impressed with some (Twitter app was great!) and less so with others (Pinterest app was ridiculous…it was easier to just use the browser).  One of the fun finds that I immediately searched for afterward in Apple’s app store was wordBrush (not there).  It lets you type some words into a box and then draw with them.  Pretty awesome!  This could be fun for vocabulary/spelling practice, poetry, book quotes, etc.

I was impressed with the number of free apps available for download.

Overall Impression:

The HP Envy x2 is a nice device that would hold up well in a classroom.  My personal preference is NOT for Windows 8, but if you are used to a Windows environment, it probably won’t phase you.  I was extremely impressed with Staples customer service, after I ordered the HP Envy x2, it came within just a few days. Everyone I worked with on the Staples side was great! (They didn’t even ask me to say that!) :)  At $699 this is a good competitor for the iPad.  The combination tablet/notebook is nice.  It really was like being able to use my iPad and then instantly turn it into my MacBook.  Being small, it doesn’t have the same capabilities as my MacBook, but for the majority of what kids do in the classroom, it would be great!

We use Staples a LOT at Anastasis Academy.  I’ve been there every day this week getting school supplies true story.  They have some great back to school deals that you should check out.  The first is Teacher Appreciation Day.  20% back in Staples rewards on all purchases! You can also enter to win a $25 gift card.  Check out the website to find out when your local Staples is holding the Teacher Appreciation Day.

Staples also recently introduced Reward a Classroom.  Sign up and then invite parents to help you earn rewards by buying the school and office supplies they do already.  This could help keep you classroom well stocked all year-long!

**The thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are strictly my own. Thank you Staples for letting me step outside of the Apple world to explore!