Hewlett-Packard executives may have squirmed at news of a Samsung hybrid tablet Aug. 29, or felt validated. Both companies have decided that what users want is the option not to have to choose between a tablet and a laptop. Each has created a hybrid-a device that can stand alone as a Windows 8ârunning tablet or connect to a keyboard that isn't a dock but a way to transform the tablet into a proper laptop.
Much will be written about which device makes this transition more seamless and results in a truer laptop experience. For now, we'll just say that HP's Envy x2 features a "magnetic latch," while Samsung's Slate Series 5 and Series 7 feature what it calls a "mechanical latch."
"Featuring a sleek aluminum finish and an innovative hinge with magnets that smoothly guide the tablet into place," HP said in an Aug. 30 statement, "the HV Envy x2 weighs 3.1 pounds. When separated, the tablet portion weighs just 1.5 pounds." Together, they somewhat resemble the Apple MacBook Air.
The Envy x2 also features an 11.6-inch high-definition touch display; an extra-bright 400-nit In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel for a good viewing experience, even outdoors; an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera; and an HD webcam up front.
There's near-field communication (NFC) technology on board; a solid-state drive for quick start-up times; Beats Audio for what HP actually calls the "best-sounding, richest audio experience available on a PC"; and software like HP Connected Photo for syncing photos across devices and Connected Music for streaming, downloading and playing music.
HP Touchsmart Ultrabooks
While the hybrid tablet may steal some headlines, HP rounded out its announcement with two Ultrabook introductions that are noteworthy.
As metallic and gleaming as a suburban chef's kitchen is the Envy Touchsmart Ultrabook 4. It features a 14-inch multi-touch HD display, weighs 4.77 pounds and measures 23mm thin.
The keyboard is backlit, the battery is said to last eight hours, and there's an optional AMD graphics card with 2GB of graphics memory. It's also packed with HP software, including CoolSense, which helps diffuse heat, and apps for saving, sharing and backing up photos and other data.
More high-end is the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook. Here, Microsoft Windows 8 is paired with a 15.6-inch Radiance Full HD display with edge-to-edge glass, a sunken chiclet-style keyboard, a glass touch-pad and tilted speakers with Beats Audio.
The Spectre XT weighs 4.77 pounds, is 17.9mm thin and is HP's first notebook to feature Intel's Thunderbolt technology, which makes incredibly quick work of transferring even very large files. In Feb. 2011, Intel debuted the technology in Apple's MacBook Pro.
Also included are HP USB Boost ports, which can charge devices even when the Ultrabook is powered down, the latest Intel Core processors, an mSATA solid-state drive with Intel Rapid Start, USB 3.0 and High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) ports, and other Intel goodies, like its Anti-Theft, Smart Response and SmartConnect technologies.
A full version of Adobe PhotoShop Elements 10 and Premiere Elements 10, for photo and video editing, are on board, along with HP software, including SmartFriend Complete Service, which can answer questions about things like setting up and backing up; CoolSense; Connected Music, for transferring music across devices; and device- and data-protection apps, including two years of Norton Internet Security.
HP has yet to arrive at a price for the Envy x2 hybrid and the Envy Touchsmart Ultrabook 4, both of which will arrive in the United States in time for holiday sales. The SpectreXT will arrive in December with a starting price of $1,399.99.