Today the ultrabook’s thin and light profile paired with its high-end performance won’t make much impression, especially when it comes to tech-savvy users. However, HP decided to make a statement with its HP Envy 4 ultraportable notebook. For the most part, those ultraportable techno wonders look the same: skinny, sleek, and an awful lot like Apple’s MacBook line. But the HP’s “brainchild” is different. Let’s see what makes the Envy 4 series so unique.
Look and Feel
The HP Envy 4 ultrabook is notable for its unique design. Though it’s slightly thicker, bigger and heavier than other 14-inch ultraportable machines available on the market, it’s definitely better-designed: wearing a rarely seen red-and-black color scheme, it perfectly distinguishes itself from the common aluminum-gray and black patterns. The Envy 4 features a flat, plateau-like brushed aluminum lid with a chrome HP logo at the bottom right corner. It is simple but solid, and the brushed aluminum really makes the machine’s look premium-quality. The laptop’s chassis is made of red polycarbonate which is soft and slightly rubberized.
Coming in under 4 pounds (3.7 lbs) and measuring 13.4 x 9.3 x 0.8 inches, the Envy 4 is easy to hold, and comfortable to carry. For the sake of comparison, it is lighter than the Acer Aspire TimelineU M5, the Dell Inspiron 14z or the Toshiba Satellite U845.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The Envy 4 comes with a black-matte, backlit keyboard with the island-style keys being well-sized, large and easy-to-read. The overall color scheme perfectly matches the ultrabook’s interior and exterior, making it really attractive to look at. Though there is a slight amount of keyboard flex, and the keys are quite shallow, the overall typing experience (including touch-typing) is pretty comfortable providing enough springy tactile feedback for accurate use.
The Envy 4 ultrabook’s keyboard sports an HP Radiance Backlighting, which gives each key its own LED light. Though the keyboard’s backlight can be turned off, the F5 key (the backlight’s ON and OFF options) and the F12 key (the Wi-Fi’s ON and OFF options) remain lit at all times (which can be quite annoying in dark environments).
The Envy 4 features a large 4 x 2.5-inch Synaptics touchpad with a brushed metal surface which delivers pleasant touching experience while navigating between pages. It is located in the center of the keyboard deck below the keyboard and comes with a horizontal silver line separating the touch area from the click zone. Unfortunately, the trackpad is Envy 4’s weak point. It could be more responsive and accurate than it is in reality. It’s not a clickpad, but rather an old-fashioned two button mouse with the buttons being a little difficult to press. Multi-touch gestures (pinching, zooming, two-finger scrolling etc.) aren’t always very smooth or accurate. However, the overall using experience is satisfactory.
Display and Sound
The Envy 4 features a 14-inch glossy LED-backlit panel which comes in with a resolution of 1,366×768 pixels. Overall, the screen looks good, but not great. In fact, it has a lot of shortfalls. First of all, that glossy bezel which doesn’t do the screen any favors and, actually, results in a lot of reflections. Though, the display is bright, its brightness level is still not enough for direct sunlight, which leads to colors looking dull and washed out. In our tests the Envy 4’s screen brightness measures only 142 lux, which is far below the category average of 229 (the Dell Inspiron 14z measures 171 lux, and the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M5 – 185 lux).
Nevertheless, the ultrabook’s off-axis viewing angles are fairly good, and the LED-backlit display provides crisp and clear images when viewed head-on.
In terms of audio quality, the reviewed unit delivers excellent sound, considering this is an ultraportable machine. The Envy 4’s dual speakers are very loud and can easily fill a room. Moreover, the HP’s Beats Audio enhancement software makes the sound quality even more impressive.
Ports and Connectivity
The HP Envy 4 ultrabook sports an average selection of ports, which includes the following connectivity options: three USB ports (two USB 3.0 ports on the left side, one charging USB 2.0 variety on the right one), Ethernet, HDMI-out, and full size SD card slot for storage, a Kensington lock slot. It also features separate microphone and headphone jacks (which is unusual for Ultrabooks typically having a combo jack). The Envy 4 also comes with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
The Envy 4’s HD webcam captures both videos and stills and is supported by HP’s TrueVision, a technology that improves image quality in low-light environment.
The HP Envy 4 general specifications look as follows:
|GPU||Intel HD Graphics 3000 (for Intel Core i3 configurations) with up to 1,696MB total graphics memory
Intel HD Graphics 4000 (for Intel Core i5 configurations) with up to 3,060MB total graphics memory
|Operating System||Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit|
|Main Memory||4 GB RAM|
|Screen||14-inch HD BrightView LED-backlit display|
|Backlight/ Resolution||1,366 x 768|
|I/O port||2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, Ethernet port, HDMI-out, SD card slot, a Kensington lock slot, microphone/headphone jacks|
|Battery||4-cell 52WHr lithium-ion polymer battery (up to 9 hours)|
|Dimesions and weight||3.7 lbs, 13.38″L x 9.28″W x 0.78″H|
As seen from the above, the HP Envy 4 at best price is available in two configurations. The entry-level model comes equipped with Intel Core i3-2377M chips clocked at 1.5GHz, 3MB Cache, 4 GB SDRAM, 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive, Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU and Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit). The reviewed model of the Envy 4 family comes upgraded with the following specifications: the latest generation (Ivy Bridge) 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317M processor (with Turbo Boost Technology up to 2.60GHz) with 4GB of RAM, 500GB HDD paired with 32GB SSD, and integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. So, it is safe to say that with such specs, the Envy 4 has enough power to provide seamless experience for everyday computing needs. To show even more evidence, let’s look at the results of benchmarks.
3,840 points scored by the HP Envy 4 on the PCMark07 benchmark test (measures overall performance) give it about 1,000-points flying start over other ultrabooks including Dell Inspiron 14z and the Acer Aspire M5, both of which have the same CPU (this result is also much higher than the ultraportable category average). However, other testing results are not so impressive. For example, on the File Transfer Test, it takes Envy 4 about 2 minutes and 42 seconds to copy 5GB of mixed media files. This 31.3MBps transfer rate is on par with some other ultraportable families like the Dell Inspiron 14z and the Acer Aspire Timeline.
When it comes to the benchmark, that entails matching names to their addresses, the HP’s laptop under review completes the task with 20,000 names in 5 minutes and 51 seconds – almost twice less than the category average, though on par with the mentioned Inspiron 14z series and Timeline Ultra M5. The Envy 4’s 32GB SSD cache allows the machine to boot into the 64-bit Windows 7 in 31 seconds, which is faster than the category’s average boot time of 42 seconds. The above Acer Timeline Ultra M5 is slower with its 36 seconds, while the Dell Inspiron 14z takes just 25 seconds. Ina n effort to stick to the Intel’s ultrabook requirements, the reviewed Envy 4 model wakes from sleep in 1 to 2 seconds.
Like many of the Ivy Bridge-based machines, the HP Envy 4 series ultrabook relies on the integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics built into the processor. Among other laptops that have this configuration, it is solidly in the middle of the pack. On the other hand, that means that it doesn’t have a discrete graphics processor. Therefore, the Envy 4 ultrabook can handle only moderate, non-intense gaming. Its integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU scores just 562 points on the 3DMark11 benchmark, which falls much below the category average of 812. While the HP’s score is on a par with the Dell Inspiron 14z (with the same GPU), the multimedia Acer Timeline Ultra M5 (with a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE graphics card) scores an incredible amount of 1,499 points.
Fortunately, those fans looking for more gaming muscle can upgrade the Envy 4 with more advanced AMD Radeon HD 7670M graphics for some extra money. In term of battery life, the manufacturer claims it can last up to nine hours. In reality, those numbers are not so impressive. During the standard battery rundown test, which entails continuous Web surfing with Wi-Fi enabled, the Envy 4 lasts 6 hours and 20 minutes. During tests including video playback, the laptop lasts about 6 hours, which is pretty good indeed for such an economically priced ultrabook. By comparison, the Asus Zenbook UX32A only lasted 5 hours and 15 minutes on the same test.
Software and Warranty
HP ships its Envy 4 ultrabooks with a solid suite of utilities and software preinstalled. HP CoolSense Technology automatically keeps your PC cool and comfortable on the go; HP Connection Manager provides full control over the user’s wireless connections, including 3G and 4G mobile broadband, Wi-Fi, Ethernet and Bluetooth through a single user interface; and HP Support Assistant enables the users to discover, maintain, and troubleshoot issues with their notebooks.
Microsoft Office Starter 2010, Skype, Adobe Reader X, Evernote, Blio eBooks and CyberLink YouCam also make an appearance here. In terms of warranty, the HP Envy 4 comes with a one-year limited hardware warranty, which also includes battery care.
Obviously, the HP Envy 4 is one of the most affordable ultrabooks on the market. In USA one can find the best price for the entry-level model (1.5-GHz Intel Core i3-2377M CPU, 4 GB SDRAM, 500GB HD, Intel HD Graphics 3000) starting at $580 which is more than reasonable. The upgraded version will go for sale for $200 more: for that money one can get Ivy Bridge 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317M CPU, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD +32GB SSD, integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000.
All things considered, we have a reasonably good laptop featuring quite strong performance, excellent sound quality and outstanding fashionable design. Though, its screen, trakpad and some other features require further development and rework, its price is really tempting and will suite even the most thrifty consumers.