It was a year ago last month that HP managed to annoy a decent chunk of users by shutting down a hot new tablet, not even 30 days after releasing it. It was even more annoying if you realized that this wasn’t the first time HP had done this. HP previously released the Slate back in 2010. A Windows 7 tablet that grabbed a lot of attention, the Slate was also shelved fairly quickly, despite a huge swell of interest.
Last week at IFA, HP announced a few Windows 8 devices. As Windows 8 is all about touch, it was unsurprising to see a tablet in the mix. The HP Envy X2 may look like the tablet/laptop hybrid form factor that’s seemingly dominating this year’s IFA, but HP has stuck goodies under the hood to make the X2 worthy of its high-end Envy branding. Oddly, one of those choices is an Atom processor, a type usually associated with netbooks and decidedly not high end. Still, Atoms have good battery life, which makes sense for a portable. The Envy X2 will also have Beats audio, a metal chassis with a combination mechanical/magnetic lock to hold things in place, NFC (which is starting to feel like a standard), and most impressively, an 11″ IPS display. HP has yet to announce pricing or exact availability beyond “holiday season.”
Overall, I think devices have a lot to do with the DNA of the company that made them. The Envy X2 feels like a device designed to be a laptop and sometimes be a tablet. That makes sense, considering the tablet comes from a laptop maker. However, I question if HP has managed to create a device that can successfully compete against Sony, Samsung, and even Dell’s more impressive designs. In the press shots I’ve seen, the X2 lacks that eye-candy factor that pervades the other products with the Envy name. It’s possible I might change my mind after I see it in person.
HP also unveiled two touchscreen Ultrabooks, which is starting to look like the official form-factor of IFA 2012. With insanely long, uninspired names, the world’s number one maker of PCs hopes you’ll snatch up an HP Sprectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook or an HP Envy ToushSmart Ultrabook 4. The Spectre has a crazy big 15″ mult-itouch IPS display and is a metal design. On a nice move for an Ultrabook, Spectre also has USB 3, Intel’s new Thunderbolt port, and an actual Ethernet jack all stuffed into another all-metal chassis starting at $1400. The Spectre is a much cooler looking device than the Envy hybrid.
As for the Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 (try saying that ten times fast), you get 14″ of screen, without any news as to if it is IPS. No real news on pricing or release, and the Envy TouchSmart doesn’t exactly have an inspired design. In fact, I’d go so far to say as the keyboard looks like a throwback to the old HP DV line — the one that had an insanely high failure rate. That’s not a good association for anyone who remembers (never mind that it was Nvidia’s fault, not HP’s).
Notice the total lack of even one form factor on the Envy TouchSmart; this is a true, honest to goodness tablet. With every other maker pushing hybrids, true tablets, and touchable ultrabooks, it feels like HP is missing the boat. That’s a feeling that’s par for the course with HP.