HP Envy 15 (2012)

It's easy to be charmed by the design, audio and features of the Envy 15. Sadly, its selling feature, the optional high-resolution display, has the glaring fault of displaying red as orange.


7.5
CNET Rating
9.0
User Rating

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About The Author

CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


Starting life as a MacBook Pro competitor, the Envy is even more so in its latest incarnation. This doesn't mean that it doesn't have its own identity; red trims, a beautiful screen, a volume jog dial and HP's continued relationship with Beats Audio bring it uniqueness. The semi-matte laptop lid will also ensure that no one ever confuses it with a MacBook.

The Envy 15 tends to fall into the prosumer category, which is aimed a little more at content creators than the average laptop is. None of this is emphasised more than in the IPS (although HP locally would only commit to "IPS-equivalent") "Radiance" screen, using an LGD0323 panel. At 1920x1080, its colours are richer and its viewing angles wider than the vast majority of the pantheon of laptops.

Unfortunately, it also has a rather vexing flaw: it displays pure red as orange, something rather problematic for those working on colour-sensitive projects. This is a widely reported issue, and one that appears to be a design fault with the display rather than the occasional faulty panel.

Both screens are displaying R:255 G:0 B:0, the purest red colour possible. Only one of them gets it right.
(Credit: CBSi)

With this display and a 1TB hard drive, the Envy will cost you AU$1999. You can choose to purchase the Envy 15 without the Radiance display, however, for AU$1699, dropping the resolution to 1366x768 and hard-drive capacity to 750GB, although speed increases from 5400RPM to 7200RPM.

At the bottom left of the display are two flickering, red, extremely annoying lights. These are used to sense whether a user is sitting nearby, and, if not, will dim the keyboard backlight. It's a great idea, but the red lights are so annoying that you'll end up turning the feature off through HP's Proximity Sensor program.

Both models come with the Radeon HD 7690M, a reasonably powered mobile graphics chip. When the system is under light load, it uses Intel's HD Graphics to save on battery, and it seems that AMD has done a lot of work here on its switchable graphics. Gone are the vexatious graphics-switching prompts, and the system successfully switched to the AMD card for our gaming tests without fuss.

The Beats Audio system is rather impressive, offering a significant volume increase, a superior sound stage and a richer tonal tapestry. In a complete about-face, we found that we actually had to ramp the bass up using the included EQ software — Beats Audio is usually far too bass heavy. Similarly, we had to bring the top end down slightly to dull the harsh trebles. Playing with EQ can be problematic, and an exercise in trade-offs; while we got our desired tone, we had to keep playing to avoid clipping and distortion.

HP bundles Microsoft Office Starter Edition, Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements. Each of these provides a significant subset of its parent programs completely for free, and is honestly one of the best bundle solutions we've seen — and it will surely help curb casual piracy.

The aforementioned jog dial, found at the top right, can be spun to adjust volume, or the button can be pressed to load the Beats Audio control panel. The backlit keyboard is very much appreciated, although the response is mushier than we'd like, especially for a premium laptop.

The touch pad could be better, if only it were a little lower friction. Function is fine, but as a click pad (that is, the buttons are integrated into the touch pad, rather than being separate), the whole thing can get a little confused if you're someone who leaves one finger resting on the left click button while you navigate with another. As has become common on HP laptops, double tapping the icon at the top left of the touch pad will disable it.

Expandability is bang on for a laptop of this stature, with two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, dual headphone jacks, a microphone jack, an SD card reader, gigabit Ethernet, HDMI and DisplayPort out and a DVD drive (although, given the screen, we would have thought that Blu-ray would be a more appropriate pairing). Wireless networking is achieved by Bluetooth and 802.11n, with the latter capable of connecting to 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies.

Application performance

Choose a benchmark: Handbrake | iTunes | Photoshop | Multimedia

Handbrake encoding (in seconds)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)


The Envy 15 moves along at a cracking pace, with no real surprises considering the hardware involved. The Aspire's SSD is really only felt in Photoshop, although it must be said that SSDs also reduce time spent loading apps, as well as booting up and shutting down Windows.

Gaming performance

Choose a benchmark: Metro 2033 | Batman: Arkham Asylum

Metro 2033 (in FPS)

  • Max FPS
  • Average FPS
  • Min FPS

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


We've ordered them by highest average frame rate here, but, as you can see, the competing Asus and Acer laptops have a lot more grunt in them as far as maximum frame rates are concerned. Both the N55 and the Aspire Ethos feature an Nvidia GeForce GT 555M, outpacing the AMD Radeon HD 7690M found in the Envy 15.

Battery life

Battery life (time)

  • Heavy battery test
  • Light battery test

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


The Envy does well on battery, managing to dramatically outpace the N55 and even the bigger Aspire. If you want long battery life, the Envy 15 should be in your shortlist.

Conclusion

It's easy to be charmed by the design, audio and features of the Envy 15. Sadly, its selling feature, the optional high-resolution display, has the glaring fault of displaying red as orange. We can't confirm at this stage whether the lower-end Brightview display suffers from the same issue, but we'd imagine that this is a panel-design fault rather than a product-wide fault. For now, lovers of high-quality displays will have to look elsewhere.

See more on how we test PCs here.



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RomaM posted a comment   

"It's easy to be charmed by the design" - yea, coz every time I look at it, I think of apple.. and I trust apple

ijaouww
5
Rating
 

ijaouww posted a review   

good

trebor83
9
Rating
 

"If you don't care about HD screens don't look anywhere else."

trebor83 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:The laptop. All of it. Haven't found anything i don't love.

The Bad:RRP higher then the competition.

Let me start by saying that I got the low-res screen version and can confirm that it does not have the same red/orange problem as its HD cousin. So if, like me, you actually can't see the difference its worth adding a couple of points to the above score.

There is no getting away from the fact that, when open, it does quite strongly resemble a Macbook Pro, but for my part that is actually a positive. Firstly, because it feels/looks like the computer was actually DESIGNED by someone (even if it was someone at Apple, I don't care it looks fabulous) rather then just being a a wrapping whacked together around a bunch of components like most laptops on the market today. And second, because I share the computer with my girlfriend and she had been looking for a Windows running laptop that looked like a Macbook for a couple of years, so I could more easily make the arguement for paying the extra money for this system.

Since I raise it, and to get my only real negative point out of the way early, the RRP for the system or the price when buying directly from HP is a significant chunk higher then much of the competition, similarly speced Apples are of course still a good deal more expensive, and, while the US HP site allows you to "upgrade" (if you read Craig's review you understand the " ") the screen for $150, in Australia you pay an extra $300 for it accompanied by a harddrive DOWNGRADE (sure its bigger but frankly the speed reduction from 7200rpm to 5400rpm makes for a net negative). This is simply ridiculous, especially given the current exchange rates, and just goes to show how badly screwed we get in Australia.

On the laptop itself, I can honestly say there is nothing about it that I don't love. Admittedly I am comparing it to the 5 year old entry level Acer Aspire it is replacing so its quite probably that any computer I got I would have found similarly awe inspiring. The keyboard is terrific. The sound is almost shockingly loud and clear for a laptop. The touchpad may not be Apple grade brilliant, but show me the Windows laptop that is, but it is the best I have used. Coming from a notebook that would be dead in 45 minutes away from a socket I can only describe the battery life as astounding. The data processing rates installing programs or copying CD's in iTunes are outstanding. It stays wonderfully cool except when gaming, but even then it doesn't get any more then warm. And on that, I am yet to find a program to throw at it that it doesn't totally dominate, although I haven't got any more recent games to really test it out. Seriously I could jabber on all day, but I think you get the picture and I'll probably have to start reusing superlatives.

One thing that I would like to take exception with from Craig's review is regarding the "two flickering, red, extremely annoying lights". I've had the computer for about a month now and I have never once found them annoying and to be honest until I read this part of the review I had forgotten they were even there. I also have to challenge the descriction of them as "flickering" as since reading the review I have been paying a bit of attention to them and have never once seen them flicker or even dim. Now obviously "annoying" is a subjective thing so I can't say that he is "wrong" to describe them as such, but I just felt like he made a bigger deal of them then my experience suggested they warranted.

In summary, the best laptop or even computer I have ever used, bar none. If you don't care about the HD screen in my, significantly biased, opinion you would be foolish to look anywhere else. And if you do take the $300 saving on the cheaper system and buy yourself a good external monitor for those times when you need it.




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User Reviews / Comments  HP Envy 15 (2012)

  • RomaM

    RomaM

    ""It's easy to be charmed by the design" - yea, coz every time I look at it, I think of apple.. and I trust apple"

  • trebor83

    trebor83

    Rating9

    "Let me start by saying that I got the low-res screen version and can confirm that it does not have the same red/orange problem as its HD cousin. So if, like me, you actually can't see the differenc..."

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