By Alexandra Burlacu | Aug 30, 2012 01:13 PM EDT
Microsoft is gearing up to release its next-generation operating system, Windows 8, and PC vendors have already started to announce products designed to take full advantage of the touch interface on the new OS. HP has joined the bandwagon and unveiled Envy x2, a laptop/tablet hybrid similar in concept to the Asus Transformer.
The Envy x2, meaning "times 2" for its dual tablet and laptop functions, also marks HP's re-entry into the consumer tablet market after the resounding failure of its TouchPad device. The "hybrid PC," i.e. a tablet with a keyboard dock, is one of the first devices to come with Windows 8 out of the box.
At first glance, the Envy x2 looks like a netbook with an 11.6-inch display and a keyboard base. Once the screen is detached from the base, however, the device turns into a tablet.
"When I want it to, it can also be a great tablet," said David Conrad, HP's Director of Product Management.
The best thing about a hybrid product is that it offers the best of two worlds - in this case Windows 8, doubling as a tablet and PC operating system. The display has a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution, and the entire device measures 8.5 millimeters in thickness. It weighs 3.1 pounds with the keyboard attached and 1.5 pounds with the top half only.
The HP Envy x2 runs on Clover Trail, Intel's low-power Atom processor. The device comes with 64GB of solid-state drive storage, and the configuration is not customizable. According to Conrad, the Envy x2 hybrid will become available during the latter part of the holiday season, and will compete with devices announced by Asus, Acer, Lenovo, and Samsung. The commercial release of Windows 8 is scheduled for Oct. 26.
The hybrid device is perfectly capable of operating independently as a tablet, but HP views it as a laptop first, added Conrad. Meanwhile, the device's dock packs an SD card slot, USB ports, as well as an HDMI port. The Envy x2 also comes with two batteries, one in the base and the other in the tablet, offering more than eight hours in laptop mode. Other features include NFC (Near-Field Communication) support, a high-definition camera on the front, and an 8-megapixel camera on the back. An optional stylus is also available.
In addition to the Envy x2, HP also announced touch-screen tablets with Windows 8, including the Spectre XT Touchsmart ultrabook, HP's first laptop with a Thunderbolt port. The ultrabook sports a 15.6-inch, high-definition touchscreen, and comes with a choice of Intel's third-generation Core processors. Other features include USB 3.0, Ethernet, and HDMI ports.
The ultrabook will become available in December in the U.S., with prices starting at $1,399. No word has been given yet on worldwide availability.
Meanwhile, HP's Envy Touchsmart Ultrabook 4 features a 14-inch touchscreen and a choice of Intel's latest Core processors, as well as an optional AMD graphics card to boost graphics capabilities. HP has not yet provided details on pricing and availability for this product.