Review: HP Envy 15

Screen

While it was initially touted as having a 15.6” LCD panel with Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels), the version of the Envy 15 we tested, unfortunately, was limited to a resolution of 1366 x 768. That’s about the minimum.

Not surprisingly – but to our never-ending despair –, we noted that the panel is a glossy one. HP has chosen not to mount the panel flush with the bezel (as on the MacBook Pro). It’s less attractive, but it seems it also limits reflections, which is a good thing in this case.

The LCD panel uses TN technology, as do nearly all laptops on the market. The result is narrow viewing angles, with colors that quickly darken when seen from below and lighten viewed from above. The response time is fairly good, and will be amply sufficient for office, photo, and video applications.

The black level is poor, at 0.47 cd/m² for a bridgtness of 93.4 cd/m². The resulting contrast ratio is abysmal, at only 199:1. For a high-end model, that’s very disappointing. The maximum brightness is 143 cd/m², which is barely enough for outdoor use with a glossy display like this one. An light sensor adapts the panel backlighting to suit the ambient light.

The default color adjustment was very poor. We noted an average color difference (DeltaE) of 9.7, with the classic colorimetric shift towards blue.

"Artistically and technically superior. The HP Envy 15 Notebook PC combines Quad Core performance, a subtly engineered design, and a superior user experience for substance over flash discerning users will recognize." That’s how HP describes its new Envy 15, clearly positioned in the luxury category. This HP model bears more than a passing resemblance to the Apple MacBook Pro.

Build quality and design


Taking your first look at the HP Envy 15, you can’t help comparing it to the 15-inch MacBook Pro. It has the same stripped-down look as the Apple machine, with very handsome bronze and silver metallic effects. HP has finally moved back towards more restrained looks, and we congratulate them. Design wise, the chassis isn’t made up of a single block of aluminum, as with the MacBook. The material used here is magnesium, which makes it possible to build a light but strong chassis. Only the display lid is aluminum, which strengthens the impression of quality this machine gives off. Build quality and finish are excellent.


The keyboard is wide and complete, with spaced, Chiclet-style keys. It’s very comfortable to use, with a nice feel and moderate typing noise. But the lack of backlighting is a big drawback for use in low-light conditions, especially given the arrangement of the multimedia keys. They’re set to the left of the keyboard, which may look good, but it’s not at all convenient to use. Your fingers naturally reach for certain important keys (Ctrl, Shift, Tab, etc.) at the far left of the keyboard, and the lack of a clear separation from the function keys is very disorienting.

The touchpad is truly excellent. It’s very wide (3.94" x 2.44"), comfortable to use, precise and is very easy to slide your fingers across it. It has a matte surface and is multi-point and clickable over more than half its surface area. It would be nice to find this level of touchpad quality on other laptops.


The webcam is fairly good overall. It lacks definition and sharpness, and overexposed areas burn out. But the fluidity is excellent. And one very good point is that it’s night-vision enabled – it automatically switches to infrared mode when the ambient light decreases. Obviously you lose the colors since it shoots in black and white, but you can be seen in total darkness!

Unfortunately the Envy 15’s ventilation is noisy. There’s a continuous fan noise, and the fan ramps up to turbine mode during processor-intensive tasks and heavy file copying. The heat dissipates poorly, as you can feel if you place your hand under the machine.

Connectivity is very limited and the ports are all arranged along the right-hand edge of the machine, except for the power connector, which is on the left, and the 2-in-1 memory-card reader on the front. There are three USB 2.0 ports, including one eSATA combo, HDMI, Ethernet, the anti-theft connector, and one headphone/mic combo. So all the essentials are there – except that this model has no internal optical drive!

Only the battery is accessible from under the computer. There’s also a connector for docking a second long-life, extra-flat battery that the notebook sits on top of. Unfortunately we didn’t receive one of these batteries to test.

Power supply and cooling vent

Touchpad: wide and comfortable



Brushed Aluminum lid

Speaker, eSATA/USB combo, 2 USB, HDMI, RJ45


Processor power

Windows 7 Index: 5.9. Detail: Processor 7.0 - RAM 7.1 - Graphics 6.8 - Game Graphics 6.8 - Main hard disk 5.9.

The Intel Core i7 720QM quad-core processor used in the HP Envy 15 outperforms all the other CPUs used in the machines we've tested. Compared to our Core 2 Duo T9400-equipped Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 reference computer, the Envy 15 reached a score of 136 to the Xi3650's 100 (excluding 3D). That’s an excellent score, and the processing speed will make a difference in everything you do with this very responsive machine.


The Core i7’s automatic Turbo Mode accounts at least in part for the great performance. This feature lets the processor adapt its frequency (up to 2.8 GHz) to the application you’re running. For certain applications (like video encoding), the Core i7 720QM uses all four of its cores (multiplied by two thanks to Hyper-Threading), while for other tasks, including the majority of games, it will use only two cores, but at a higher frequency. It's a clever technique, and a very effective one in practice. Performance can sometimes more than double compared to a dual-core model.


Playing Full HD 1080p (Blu-ray equivalent) video is no problem at all for a machine like this. It could easily be handled by the processor alone, though it’s preferable to leave the task to the GPU. Using the graphics processor, CPU usage drops from approximately 17% to under 1%, and power use drops from 68 to 55 W. While idle, the machine consumes 46 W with the display brightness at 94 cd/m² and WiFi disabled.
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  • christop
    Looks Like A nice laptop...
  • socrates047
    wonder how the gaming will improve if it had a 260M
  • alterecho
    ^mobility 4850 is equivalent of gtx 280m so i don't have to tell
    about a 4860. but i recall envy as having a mobility 4830.
  • dannydbros
    the final version of the envy15 has an amazing 1920X1080 screen!!! this was not mentioned here... another item thats unique is that it has room for 16GB of RAM!!!!! the version I'm buying has dual 160GB SSD harddrives for a total of 320 ssd in raid 0.
  • dannydbros
    just looking at the specs of the envy13 on hp's site. -The 13 inch module has the option of a 1600x900 screen and 5gb of ram. ;)
  • Anonymous
    I HAVE BEEN USING ENVY 15 FOR THE PAST 2 WEEKS FOR ARCHITECTURE AND ITS JUST TOO MUCH.
  • Anonymous
    I found my Envy hard to use due to the heat it generates in summer. I find hard to call it a laptop since your lap can't stand the heat generated by it...!! Sometimes I wonder if it's a laptop for business use or just a gaming tool...!!