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.
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
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 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.