HP Envy x360 15 hands-on review

The convertible Envy x360 15 has one key flaw

The HP Envy x360 15 is a perfectly polished powerhouse.
The HP Envy x360 15 is a perfectly polished powerhouse.
The HP Envy x360 15 is a perfectly polished powerhouse.

Highs

  • Gorgeous, premium design
  • Top notch screen
  • 2-in-1 form offers great convenience
  • Good value

Lows

  • Hinge too weak to support screen
  • Keyboard off center

Stylish, powerful, and refined, the Envy x360 15 should be a dream. It’s convertible, supports tablets and inking, and has powerful internal components. You get the option of either a standard Intel offering or an AMD-powered model which includes Radeon Vega graphics onboard to boot. On top of that, it looks simply gorgeous.

A few quirks to the product left us scratching our heads, but we’re hoping production models iron out the wrinkles.

Premium as a master chef’s kitchen

The design is unquestionably premium: The Envy x360 is made from a smoked gray, CNC-machined aluminum (HP calls it “Dark Ash Silver,” even though it isn’t silver at all), and feels great in the hand. Cheap laptops are simply cases that hold components, frames for a screen and a keyboard. HP has carefully beveled the back edges and polished them to give the machine an angular profile, and a subtle “Damascus steel” pattern is etched into one of the faces. Damascus steel, HP notes, is commonly used in fancy chef’s knives, and often have a distinct pattern. Go check out your fancy knives, and you’ll see what it means.

Beyond just the material, there’s the 2-in-1 design of course. The Envy x360 has geared hinges that let you flip the screen around to enter either tent mode or full on tablet mode. At 4.85 pounds, it’s a bit heavy to carry around, especially compared to the lightweight 13-inch laptops that have become so popular, notably Dell’s XPS 13. To compete, HP offers the Envy x360 13, of course, which weighs just 2.87 pounds and has a Gorilla Glass 4 coating on its screen for added durability.

The Envy x360’s hinge isn’t strong enough to support the screen.

To talk about 2-in-1s is to talk about hinge design, which is a Thing. Microsoft made a point of underscoring the work that went into the fulcrum hinge on its Surface Book lineup, while the Lenovo Yoga 920 has a very different take on what a hinge should be. HP’s geared hinge – which actually has mechanical gears inside it, that mesh and ensure smooth motion – may not be the best of the bunch.

We often carry our laptop by the corner near the keyboard, an admittedly precarious way to treat a precision piece of equipment but a very common one nonetheless. The Envy x360’s hinge isn’t strong enough to support the screen like this, drifting slowly back until parallel before ultimately bending backward, 270 degrees from the keyboard. That ain’t good. It also means that the pressure of your finger from routine use of the touch display will gradual push the screen back toward the desk behind it. Again, not good.

We asked HP, which suggested the hinge was preproduction and the issue might be fixed before the unit finally ships. We hope so. That’s one small misstep in an otherwise beautiful design, of course.

Great for typing purists, despite an odd choice

Speaking of that beautiful design, the keyboard is fantastic. It feels great to type on, with a satisfying key depth that made this reviewer want to type and type. And it makes very little noise at all – although mechanical keyboard fanatics will lament the silence. People, please: Enjoy the silence.

HP Envy x360
Jeremy Kaplan/Digital Trends

But before you get to enjoying the keys, you’ll probably notice the keyboard and trackpad are weirdly misaligned, something HP swears customers prefer. The off-kilter keyboard accommodates a numeric keypad, which some will call a godsend and others will regard as an artifact. Who does data entry anymore? Because of the keypad, the resting position of your fingers on the ASDF and JKL; keys aligns you with the left half of the screen. And the touchpad is centered with them, rather than the center of the display.

It threw us off at first, but it’s something business-focused people will definitely appreciate.

The 4K screen – FHD resolution, meaning 1,920 × 1,080 pixels — is sharp and crisp and really bright. It caught our eye from across the room like a movie star. We didn’t have enough time to benchmark the system, of course — we’ll leave to our full review. But in our brief experience, apps launched promptly, and the entire system felt zippy. It’s worth noting that the Envy x360 turns on in the blink of an eye as well. Open the cover, and the system is instantly on and awake. It feels very responsive overall.

Support for inking via HP’s newest pens is a very good thing – and so are those pens. The latest models have tilt support, which lets you shade you in a sketch, and a button on the end that can launch apps via Bluetooth, a la Microsoft’s Surface pens. We didn’t have a chance to test this out, unfortunately.

The Envy x360 15 starts at $870 for a model with the 8th-gen Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and onboard UMA graphics. If you opt for AMD, you can the alternative of a cheaper configuration, starting out at $760, packing a Ryzen 5 CPU and 128GB of SSD storage. As a bonus, you should get some better graphics performance with the AMD option, pushing up to Radeon RX Vega 10 for the spendier configuration.

Product Review

The MacBook Air plays the oldies we love, but the band is getting old

We’ve waited for a long time for an update to the MacBook Air, and Apple finally delivered one. With a lot of features ported over from the MacBook Pro, is this new laptop what Apple fans have always wanted?
Computing

These laptop makers produce the most reliable, quality hardware today

If you want to buy your next laptop based around a specific brand, it helps to know which the best brands of laptops are. This list will give you a good grounding in the most reliable, quality laptop manufacturers today.
Product Review

Long live the king! Dell’s new XPS 13 defends its throne with ease

The redesigned Dell XPS 13 doesn’t reinvent the laptop’s winning formula, but does offer much-needed tweaks including the latest Intel hardware and a thinner, lighter body. Is it enough to keep Dell’s laptop at the top of our ratings?
Computing

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. This list of the best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.
Computing

These Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts will update your OG Windows skills

Windows 10 has many new features, and they come flanked with useful new keyboard shortcuts. Check out some of the new Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts to improve your user experience.
Computing

Protecting your PDF with a password isn't difficult. Just follow these steps

If you need to learn how to password protect a PDF, you have come to the right place. This guide will walk you through the process of protecting your documents step-by-step, whether you're running a MacOS or Windows machine.
Apple

iPhone users are finding themselves randomly locked out of their Apple ID

According to posts on Reddit and Twitter, it looks like users on Reddit and Twitter having some issues with their Apple accounts. Specifically, it seems as though users are getting randomly locked out of their Apple IDs.
Computing

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.
Computing

Here’s how to install Windows on a Chromebook

If you want to push the functionality of your new Chromebook to another level, and Linux isn't really your deal, you can try installing Windows on a Chromebook. Here's how to do so, just in case you're looking to nab some Windows-only…
Photography

Edit portraits with A.I. and adjust focus in the new ON1 Photo RAW 2019 editor

ON1 Photo RAW 2019 now has a dedicated tab for portraits that automatically recognizes faces to help with retouching. The update also brings a new focus stacking tool, enhancements to layers, and improvements to local adjustments.
Computing

Your MacBook can live in the lap of luxury with this leather case

Though there are several cases which we think are best for covering up MacBooks, Twelve South's Journal case is one of the newest available, providing luxurious leather coverage for your Apple laptop.
Music

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Computing

15-inch MacBook Pro gets more powerful with new AMD Vega GPUs

Confirming Apple's quiet October announcement, new configurations for the top-range 15-inch Apple MacBook laptop are now available, coming complete with AMD Pro Vega 16 or Pro Vega 20 graphics cards on board.
Emerging Tech

Intel’s new ‘neural network on a stick’ aims to unchain A.I. from the internet

To kick off its first developer conference in Beijing, Intel unveiled the second generation of its Neural Compute Stick -- a device that promises to democratize the development of computer vision A.I. applications.