How has your summer been? Ours has been so lovely. We’ve been to zoos, aquariums, cinemas, forests, beaches, parks and more. We’ve visited relatives, camped in a tent and glamped in a yurt. And we’ve travelled hundreds of miles.
There have been smiles, laughs and tears, and on the way we took the “HP Are We Nearly There Yet Challenge”, which involved combining the powers of the versatile and sturdy HP Pavilion x360 PC (RRP £329) with the sleek HP ENVY 4500 wireless printer (RRP £49) to see if, together, they could help combat the scourge of I.C.C.I. (In-Car Child Irritation).
Now, we broke the rules a bit because *gasp* we didn’t take the car for all of it. Instead, we did this challenge over a weekend with some parts in a rented car and then some parts on a train.
Why? Well, I’m a rule breaker, but also, we established a few days before our planned trip that Miss J still get sick if she reads / uses a tablet whilst in her car seat, so a lot of the challenges were out, but on the train she’s fine, so we saved the challenges for another day. Hurrah.
HP Are We Nearly There Yet Challenge
Challenge 1: set everything up
The night before our trip, we got to know our new bits of kit.
The HP Pavilion x360 laptop
First things first, we charged up the HP Pavilion x360 laptop which had already been through the start up process before it reached us.
You’ll notice it’s no ordinary laptop – it’s actually a bit of a tablet-laptop hybrid with an 11.5 inch touch screen, full keyboard and a hinge that lets you fold all the way back, so it can function as a laptop or tablet seamlessly, and can even be propped in tent mode without the need for any additional stands or casing.
My first impressions were that it’s small and light for a laptop (1.4 kg and the 30.8 x 21.5 x 2.19 cm), although heavier than a pure tablet, and comes in a very nice black and red colour (there’s also a natural silver option).
Above all, it’s a really flexible device. You might use it in notebook mode to catch up on emails or use social networking, in stand mode with the keyboard face down to watch a film, in tent mode to play games, and in tablet mode when out and about, taking photos at the park, for example.
It also includes BeatsAudio™ and dual speakers which are optimized for use in any mode, so the sound is better and louder than you’d get from most netbooks / tablets. It also boasts mobile entertainment HP TrueVision HD Webcam (front-facing) with integrated dual array digital microphone so it can be used with apps like Skype.
The camera quality is really quite good in decent day light, but is a little poor in low light where you get image noise (the little dots you can see when zooming in on a photo). Low light also seems to be what causes a bit of choppiness in the video quality, which is a niggle I had with the HP Slate 21, but it’s fine if you play near a window and perfectly adequate for the kids’ everyday photos and camera-based games.
The screen quality is reasonable clear and crisp, although it’s reflective and has fairly tight viewing angles, so it’s not ideal for use in the car in bright light or if the kids are in separate car seats as they won’t both be able to see it comfortably.
The HP Pavilion Convertible PC operates on Windows 8.1 64, has 4 GB Memory, 500 GB Storage, so you could use it as a work productivity device. It also has an accelerometer, a gyroscope, an ambient light sensor and an eCompass – all features to rival Apple’s iPad, plus since it’s also a laptop, it boasts a multi-format media card reader and Video Intel HD Graphics.
If assessing this as a work device, I’d probably grade the HP Pavilion x360 Convertible PC as a reasonably priced, competent entry-level device. It’s not lightning fast, but it does its job and has plenty of physical connections (USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, an SD card reader, an HDMI port, and an Ethernet port) so could be comfortable in an office.
The keyboard has good space between the keys which makes it easy for small hands, however it is quite soft to the touch (no click) and my average touch typing speed (c 100wpm) leads to quite a few missed key strokes. The touchpad is suitably sensitive and supports all of the conventional multi-tasking gestures.
It comes into its own, however, as a family device, because you don’t need the fastest processor in the world to keep kids happy and with so many different modes, there’s plenty to keep them interested.
There are a few small downsides to combining a laptop and tablet – the screen gets little fingers all over it, so when you switch back to laptop mode it’s covered in fingerprints. The keyboard also makes it heavier than a standalone tablet, which might mean it starts to feel heavy for little hands. It also gets a bit warm and the battery life is only average at 3.5-5 hours.
HP Envy 4500 e-AiO Printer
Next, I set up the printer, which involved installing the ink cartridges, entering my wifi password on screen and then registering the printer online at which point it appeared as an available printer on the laptop. All very straightforward.
Measuring 44 x 61 x 39 cm, it’s a really quite small and lightweight (5kg) printer in shiny black. As the name suggests, it’s a 3-in 1 device that prints, scans and copies using just two ink cartridges – one black and one tri-colour. Just 2 cartridges seems like a handy convenience but could possibly be wasteful if you have to print a large quantity in one colour as you would then have to replace the cartridge despite the other colours still being full.
It’s quieter than our previous HP printer and prints at up to 21 pages per minute in black and up to 17 pages per minute in colour, which seems fast.
It’s never fun interacting with a tiny monochrome panel with limited buttons when you’re used to a speedy personal computer and full keyboard, but the HP Envy 4500 All-In-One has a clear 50mm mono non-touch LCD screen with easy to navigate, reliable buttons at the side, so it wasn’t too tedious to set up.
The sleek look is lovely, although highly static, as you can see from the pic which shows that in a matter of hours, the printer has attracted quite a lot of fluff from our new rug.
The 100–sheet input tray sits at the front of the machine, meaning the printer can be placed flush to the wall, and can handle up to a 30-sheet output and various paper sizes and types.
The scanner is hidden beneath the top lid and is of a decent quality. You can use the printer’s controls to start the scan, which allows you to choose the image size, resolution and colour or black & white, and send directly to any enabled computer, phone or tablet on the network. A preview check allows you to adjust the brightness, contrast and rotation of the document or image if necessary.
To save energy, if you leave the printer unused for more than 2 minutes, it goes to sleep and after 30 minutes it shuts down. This means if you use the very cool email function to send home something to print, it will be queued up and waiting when you get home.
We printed out a series of challenges as directed by HP and packed everything in my bag for the journeys ahead.
These challenges were done in the car…
Challenge 2: follow the map
With the aid of Google Maps, we gave the kids a printed map of the route we were taking and the challenge was for them to draw five things on it that they saw along the way – at the actual point in the journey they saw them.
This was a bit too hard for Miss J (2) and JD (6) who aren’t quite master map readers yet, but I helped them to scribble as they went and they seemed to enjoy themselves, although there was a squabble for attention and lots of neck twisting from me in an attempt to help them from the front seat.
The printer quality was good though and even the smaller street labels were fully legible.
Challenge 3: bingo
Another printed challenge, and possibly their favourite on the trip, this one involved giving the kids a go at an in-car classic – Road Trip Bingo. The kids simply sat with the printouts and circled things off when they spotted them.
This was great for whenever they started squabbling as I could remind them of their bingo sheets and they’d instantly stop and start searching out the window for the next item. Highly recommended.
And then we moved on to the train challenges…
Challenge 3: paper plane making
We found an app pre-installed on the HP Pavilion x360 that included a series of swipe through guides to folding paper aeroplanes.
We decided to skip this one while on the actual train as there was a real risk they’d start throwing them while we were travelling, but we gave them a go at home and it was great fun. The one we’re working on in the pic flew several metres – a record for us!
Challenge 4: air hockey
This air hockey app is suitable for ages 12+ but JD, 6 really liked it. Miss J had a go too although obviously had very limited understanding of what she was supposed to do.
For this one, JD folded the HP Pavilion x360 right back to act as a tablet on his lap. He and Miss J even had a go at multiplayer mode and it’s interesting to note that this laptop can cope with contact at up to 10 points on the screen at once. That’s a definite plus over the iPad which often frustrates Miss J by failing to respond to her taps when she lets her thumb stray onto the corner of the screen.
Challenge 6: colouring-in
For the colouring in challenge, we used the Printables option built right into the ENVY 4500 printer – you just choose them from the little menu screen.
We also found more free printables over at Snapfish, grabbing some Rio 2 colouring sheets and various other colouring in sheets including animals, princesses and dinosaurs. This wasn’t just enough for the journey, it kept us busy all week.
Challenge 7: video fun
Back on the HP Pavilion x360, we folded it back into tablet mode and opened the Cyberlink YouCam app.
The kids love technology, especially when they can be creative, so they had great fun playing with the effects, putting their faces up on the big screens on Broadway, trying on funny masks, turning themselves into animals and then saving photos inside the app to print when they get home.
Even I enjoyed this one and because you can all crowd into the webcams view at once, it was a fun family activity to do on the train. Much giggling ensued.
Challenge 8: animal magic
Animal Magic is a simple little app on the HP Pavilion x360, suitable for ages 3+. You press play to listen to an animal noise and then use up to three available hints to help you guess which animal the sound belongs to.
As we were on the train, we used the headphones for this and shared an earpiece each. Using tablet mode again, they were quite good about taking this in turns and passing it back and forth, although it didn’t keep their interest for the whole 89 levels.
Challenge 9: Turbo Mazes
Another printable this time, we challenged the kids to try to get out of three mazes themed to the film Turbo.
Miss J mainly scribbled on her Turbo Mazes, but JD made short work of them, and we spaced them out so that he had one to do at different intervals through the trip.
Challenge 10: Asphalt 8 Airbourne
JD really liked this one as it takes concentration and fast reflexes, which is the kind of game he enjoys.
In laptop mode, you can control the car with the arrow keys, but in stand or tent mode, you can drive by touching the wheel icon at the bottom, and in tablet mode apparently you can drive by tilting the screen to make use of the Pavilion x360’s gyrometer although we couldn’t get that to work.
The only issue, squabble wise here, is that it’s not easy to get kids to share, and the tablet was always seen as more appealing than a pen and paper game, so that did cause a little bickering. Probably the only bickering on the trip.
So that was it – challenges complete!
Now, to assess the overall successfulness of the challenge, HP asked us to keep a rough tally over the course of the two train rides and 2 long car trips, keeping count of how the kids behaved and compare that with an estimate of how they’d usually be.
Now it has to be said, our kids are pretty well behaved when we travel because it’s exciting, and they only tend to squabble once they get tired or hungry, but even so, I reckon we saw an improvement.
The moral of the story? If you want to have an easy ride, take plenty to do.
We were sent the laptop and printer in order to complete this challenge. The pics were taken at home before/after the journeys because I’m not THAT good at multitasking.