Hewlett Packard has been making strides with their ENVY line of laptops; and for good reason, they’re mostly versatile, light weight and reasonably priced.
The HP ENVY 15, starting from $900 on their US Store site, is the first of their laptops to harbour Intel’s new low-power consuming 4th generation Haswell processor, considering that fact I was expecting it to be a lot lighter than it is, to compete with Apple’s critically acclaimed Macbook Air. Measuring in at 14.94 x 9.87 x 1.18 inches and 5.6 pounds, I can tell right away that in terms of mobility it does not come anywhere near the Macbook Air, but it has an entourage of connectivity options, lots of storage space and some serious processing power, needless to say, it excites me.
The TouchSmart ENVY 15 has a sleek wedge-shaped design that is thickest at the hinge; the cover has a brushed-aluminium finish with a chrome HP insignia embossed in the centre. The right side panel profile houses the headphone jack, two USB 3.0 ports, a power port and an Ethernet port that expands while connected. The flip side of the profile reveals an HDMI port, two more USB 3.0 ports and a multi-format card reader; connectivity and large volume data transfers will not be an issue for the TouchSmart ENVY 15.
Upon opening the dock the first thing that caught my eye was the small red Beats logo embedded on the top right and the power button to the top left. There is a set of quad Beats Audio speakers that rests in the grill between the two and above the keyboard, while two Beats subwoofers are housed in the black underside. The keyboard and the numeric pad soft keys are embedded in an island style rectangular depression on the dock, which makes typing extremely fluid and hassle free. The single piece track pad seems like another page taken from Apple’s playbook, though touch response is a lot better than most Windows laptops. There is a finger scanner to the right of the track pad for additional security.
The TouchSmart’s 15-inch BrightView LED touch-screen display boasts a crisp 1920 x 1080 resolution. Watching high definition videos is great fun and colour reproduction is vibrant. I do wish that the hinge would open up a little wider than it currently does, since there have been a few times that I have had to rest the tip of the laptop on my stomach as opposed to on my legs in order to see correctly or compensate for glare. This is not a problem while the laptop rests on a desk since they are sufficiently higher than your thighs.
The screen is bright, displays vivid colours and has a great touch response, but visual playback does tend to get choppy if you play very demanding games with intricate details that ask too much from the GPU.
Performance & Usability
There are various configurations available for the TouchSmart ENVY 15, the one we got for review includes a quad core 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor with 8GB RAM and a 1TB 5400RPM hard drive. The 5400RPM hard drive being the weak link, I knew it would not break any benchmark records, but I went ahead and ran the PC Mark 7 test anyway (score=3422) .
The TouchSmart 15 is a desktop replacement laptop that is more than well equipped for it to have ten tabs open simultaneously while streaming videos and editing documents. It can tackle audio and visual media production swiftly on multi-track platforms and the multi-format card reader goes a long way in decreasing your dependency on transferring cables and hardware drivers.
Apart from the speakers and Subwoofers, Beats Audio technology is also present and can be controlled from the Beats Audio control panel, through which you can control volume as well as playback and recording features such as the graphic equalizer, echo, reverb and noise cancellation functions. While these work great with the laptop speakers, on decent headphones one can clearly tell that the audio is coloured by enhanced filters - which would not bother most people - but being an audiophile, I prefer clean sound.
Like most new laptops, this one comes without an optical drive – a move now commonly practiced by most laptop manufacturers to shed weight, so those who regularly burn CDs and DVDs will be looking to purchase an external optical drive alongside this laptop.
HPs ENVY line generally features top-tier laptops which are considered to be fast, light and reliable. The TS 15 is a bit of an exception: fast and reliable, but not very light. Its size and features all point towards the desktop replacement category, but those generally include an optical drive, especially if they weigh 2.6kgs.
I have only good things to say about the 4th generation Haswell processor: it’s compact, nifty and low-power consuming, considering that fact, the TouchSmart ENVY 15 should have lasted more than a meagre 3 hours and 40 minutes on our battery drain test, which involved streaming videos and playing games online.
The TouchSmart 15 can handle multimedia production, streaming videos and playing games with ease and finesse. The design team has done a good job, even if they have ‘borrowed’ a few of Apple’s ideas. The only drawback is the lack of a backlit keyboard, but that too can be included for an additional $30 if you build your computer online.
PROs - Fast, safe, build and value for money
CONs - Battery life, graphics