I could go on for days about the virtues of a lightweight laptop that's constantly online, but I'll control myself. I'll just say that it was a delight to be able to whip out the Envy at my favorite karaoke bar, pull up the song library and have my friends look over my shoulder instead of having to flip through crummy old folders. The Verizon SIM that came in my review unit and Intel's XMM 7360 radio provided quick downloads pretty much everywhere I went. Some videos took longer to load than on Snapdragon laptops I've tested, but overall the speeds were comparable.
I ran a few Fast.com speed tests on the Envy x2 and the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 outside the Astor Place subway station, and the two devices usually came in within 0.3 Mbps of each other. The Snapdragon device tended to hit higher peaks, but the average speeds were similar to those on the Intel-powered machine.
One of my biggest concerns with Windows on Snapdragon (WoS) is app compatibility, and here's where Intel has a huge advantage. Though Microsoft has made strides in enabling native 64-bit app compatibility for ARM-based systems, and you can get most important apps on WoS these days, there's still some noticeable emulator lag. On Intel's Connected PCs, though, I can use any program I want without worrying about performance trade-offs.
Performance and battery life
The Envy x2 also performed smoothly for the most part, though it has hung on me twice so far. Still, it smoked the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 when I used both to batch-convert a set of ten photos using Faststone Image Resizer. The HP machine managed to resize, brighten, sharpen and saturate all the images in just 12 seconds, while the Snapdragon-powered Galaxy Book 2 took two and a half excruciating minutes to do so.
Intel may have the upper hand when it comes to app compatibility, but Qualcomm's machines have the Envy x2 beat on battery life. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison, but the ASUS NovaGo lasted 14 hours on our battery test, soundly beating the HP Envy x2's 10.5 hours. Snapdragon-powered devices promise up to 20 hours of battery life in Windows 10 S mode, so you could potentially see even better results there, since I ran our tests on full Windows. The Envy x2's battery life is respectable, of course, but a few extra hours could really help you meet that deadline when you're on a transatlantic flight.
If you're considering a connected PC, you'll need to choose between Intel and Snapdragon options, and your decision will boil down to whether battery life or app compatibility is more important. For those who don't do a lot of photo editing and work mostly within a browser, Snapdragon systems will be suitable, while everyone else should consider Intel machines like the Envy x2.
There are quite a few Intel alternatives available, from brands like Lenovo and Acer, but sadly we haven't gotten around to testing any of them and can't vouch for their performance and battery life. If you spot one with the same Intel XMM 7360 radio and Core i5 configuration, though, chances are you'll get similar LTE speeds and performance with these other systems.
On the Snapdragon side, you'll find more affordable options like the Lenovo Miix 630 detachable and the ASUS NovaGo laptop, both of which use the older Snapdragon 835 CPU. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Book 2 uses a faster Snapdragon 850 chipset, but it costs a whopping $1,000 (keyboard and S Pen included). The Intel-powered Envy x2 is slightly cheaper, starting at $899, and includes the terrible keyboard.
If you're simply looking for a good detachable, consider the Surface Pro 6. It's a powerful, long-lasting workhorse that comes in a stylish matte black finish. The only drawback is that it doesn't have built-in LTE (yet), but in every other regard it's a superior device.
I started this review wanting to find out which is better: an Intel Connected PC or a Snapdragon version. I don't have a definitive answer yet, largely because none of the devices we've reviewed are perfect and each has compelling advantages. The Intel-powered HP Envy x2 is a better option than its Snapdragon counterpart for most folks, since it offers decent battery life and, more important, has much better app compatibility. But due to a terrible keyboard folio and odd glitches, the Envy x2 fails to deliver on the always-connected PC promise.