HP Envy x2 vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 6

HP Envy X2 review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The Envy x2 is HP’s attempt to apply Intel technology to improve the mediocre performance of its ARM-based version of the same tablet. With its 7th-generation low-power Intel CPU, the Envy x2 on paper promises decent productivity performance and solid battery life to go with always-connected internet thanks to its LTE support.

But Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6 was just released, and that premium tablet stands in the way of any upstart that enters into the increasingly competitive detachable tablet market. Does the Envy x2 have what it takes to challenge the most successful Windows 10 tablet ever?

Design

Surface Pro 6 Review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

The Envy x2 fits the detachable tablet mold perfectly, with an all-metal chassis (except for a strip along the top of the backside) that’s well-constructed and solid. It’s a conservative silver color with largish black bezels up front — in other words, it’s a good-looking device that doesn’t stand out in what’s becoming a sea of tablets. It’s a slim tablet at 0.31 inches, and it’s light at 1.72 pounds, meaning it’s easy to hold in hand and use as a slate with the included HP Active Pen. You’ll find two USB-C ports (no Thunderbolt 3, unfortunately) to go with an LTE SIM slot and a 3.5mm audio jack, and so connectivity is good.

Unfortunately, the included keyboard cover isn’t quite as nice. In fact, it’s rather poorly designed, supporting only three angles with none of them being particularly comfortable. The most upright angle isn’t upright enough, the second angle is too far back, and the flattest angle isn’t flat enough. In addition, the cover isn’t stable, meaning it’s one of the least lapable detachable tablets you’ll find on the market today. The keyboard mechanism and touchpad are good, which just highlights the poor design of the cover itself.

For its part, the Surface Pro 6 carries on Microsoft’s highly recognizable Surface aesthetic and robust design. It’s a sliver of silver-grey magnesium that’s light (1.72 pounds), thin (0.33 inches), and extremely well-built. The Surface Pro 6 looks and feels like a substantial chunk of metal and glass, and it’s likely the most elegant and modern Windows tablet available. It also has the market’s smoothest and most flexible kickstand built in, which is vastly preferable to the Envy x2’s snap-on option. The usual Surface connectivity hasn’t changed, however — or should we say, it hasn’t improved. There’s a single USB-A 3.0 port and a mini-DisplayPort matched up with the usual Surface Connect port for power and docking. You won’t find a USB-C port on Microsoft’s latest tablet, which is a shame.

At the same time, the Surface Pro 6 is an outstanding 2-in-1, with support for all the usual input methods. The Type Cover, a $160 keyboard add-on, has a snappy key mechanism and consistent backlighting with a Microsoft Precision touchpad that provides smooth support for the full range of Windows 10 gestures. And then there’s the $100 Surface Pen that offers 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt support, and the quickest response times around. And, of course, the Pixelsense display is also touch-enabled.

The Surface Pro 6 is not only a better tablet, but it’s also a better laptop. It wins this round handily.

Performance

HP Envy X2 review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

This HP Envy x2 is actually HP’s Intel version, released alongside a Qualcomm Snapdragon version to offer better performance than the ARM processor could provide. By equipping an Intel Core i5-7Y54, the Envy x2 delivers performance that’s good enough for general productivity and media consumption use and not much more. The Envy x2 won’t be your video editing workstation, and the SATA solid-state drive (SSD) won’t win any storage speed awards either. The limited 4GB of RAM also means that multitasking performance will be limited.

The Surface Pro 6 received an upgrade this time around to Intel’s 8th-gen U-Series processors. The Core i5 and i7 processors are quad-core CPUs supporting eight threads, and they’re both efficient and fast. That means there’s significant power squeezed inside the Surface Pro’s slate that’s good for more demanding productivity tasks. Thanks to the fast PCIe SSD that Microsoft sourced for the Surface Pro 6, this is one fast tablet.

Considering the display, the Surface Pro 6 is again a step above the Envy x2. It uses a 12.3-inch IPS display that’s quite sharp thanks to a 2,736 x 1,824 (267 PPI) resolution, and it’s also productivity-friendly thanks to a 3:2 aspect ratio. HP used a 12.3-inch 1,920 x 1,280 (188 PPI) display that’s not nearly as sharp, and you’ll notice more pixels when you’re staring at text. The Surface Pro 6 also enjoys the significantly higher contrast and brightness, although both tablets have just average color gamuts for premium machines.

The Surface Pro 6 is faster and it sports a much better display. What’s not to like?

Portability

Surface Pro 6 Review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Both of these tablets on their own are equally thin and light and thus easy to carry around. Attach their keyboard covers, though, and the Surface Pro 6 is slightly more svelte. Even so, they’re just about lost when tucked inside a backpack, and that’s a good thing. But size and weight are just two factors to weigh when considering portability. Battery life is also important, and here these two tablets are again closely matched.

In our most demanding Basemark web benchmark, the Envy x20 managed over five hours where the Surface Book 2 petered out in less than four hours. Each tablet lasted right around nine and a half hours when browsing the web, and taking those two scores together you’ll likely get slightly more productivity work out of the Envy x2’s battery. But the Surface Pro 6 lasted for a very long 14 hours playing a local video while the Envy x2 shut down after 11 hours — meaning that you’ll get more video binging out of Microsoft’s tablet.

This category is pretty evenly matched, and your choice comes down to whether productivity or media consumption longevity matters more to you.

The Surface Pro 6 doesn’t get much of a challenge

surface pro 6
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

The Envy x2 is a relatively affordable tablet if you go by the current sale price of $900 (compared to a retail price of $1,150). That’s for a configuration including a Core i5-7Y54, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SATA SSD, and the keyboard cover and pen are in the box.

The Surface Pro 6 is more expensive, starting at $900 for a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD in the Platinum color. However, the Type Cover isn’t included, meaning you’ll spend at least another $130. If you want to ink with the Surface Pen, then you’ll have to budget another $100. If you max out the Surface Pro 6, then you can spend as much as $2,300 on a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD.

Yes, the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is costlier, but the adage “you get what you pay for” applies here. You’re much better off spending the extra money to get a much better detachable tablet.

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