HP Envy 15 TouchSmart 15-j000 ‘Haswell’ Notebook Review

Hassan Mujtaba
Posted Sep 9, 2013
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Introduction

Earlier this year, i got to review HP’s Envy 4 notebook which featured a third generation Ivy Bridge notebook. Today, i will be testing out HP’s latest HP Envy 15 notebook which is powered by Intel’s fourth generation of Haswell processor.

We reviewed Haswell back when it launched and the main improvements we saw with the desktop Core series was its power efficient design and the new HD graphics core which delivers much improved performance  over the last generation integrated graphics processors. HP’s new Envy 15 lineup is also featuring their new Touch Smart technology which offers a fully integrated touch experience that goes well with the Windows 8 Metro design on Windows tablets but how does it performs on a notebook PC? Well that along with dozen other set of features and performance of the HP Envy 15 we are going to find out in this review.

Packaging and Accessories

The HP Envy 15 TouchSmart shipped inside a plain and large cardboard box with an HP and Beatsaudio logo embedded on it. Sides of the box had a specification sheet which details information regarding the hardware featured inside the notebook. Inside the box packaging the HP Envy 16 notebook was held by foam and bubble wraps to protect it from any kind of structural damage while carrying or traveling.

There wasn’t anything except the AC charging adapter inside the package and a few installation, warranty manuals. This is pretty much the standard packaging of any laptop commercially available but it would be a nice gesture if PC makers start offering some additional accessories with their notebooks and ultrabooks such as let’s say a USB stick? Now that might come in handy!

Design

The design scheme used by HP is quite elegant with an metallic silver coating on the top and keyboard sections. The front also has a large HP logo engraved in its center. From the sides, the notebook almost seems as if its less than 1-inch and that it is, the actual dimensions of the notebook are – 14.94 x 9.87 x 1.18 in. The screen is 15.6″ surrounded by thick black bezels with a glossy display and curved edges that provides a smoother feel.

The back is made up of plastic and is colored matte black. While holding, the HP Envy 15 does give a really good impression with the black and silver color scheme. A large portion of the backside is dedicated to the air cooling vents, some are even located at the left side to blow heat out of the internal body. While the design of HP’s Envy 15 looks good, it is however a bit heavy weighing in at over 2.5 Kilograms which is heavier than most of the note-books i have used recently.

 

HP Envy 15 Specifications

As i mentioned earlier, the HP Envy 15 is powered by Intel’s latest fourth generation ‘Haswell’ micro-architecture featuring the new 22nm 3D Tri-gate process technology which reduces the overall power consumption of the processor while maintaining better IPC performance.

The Haswell processor used in the notebook is codenamed Core i7-4700MQ which is Intel’s top mobile processor featuring a quad core multi-threaded design running at 2.4 GHz at stock and 3.4 GHz at turbo frequency. Intel’s Core i7-4700MQ features 6 MB of L3 cache and a 47W TDP. Instruction set extensions supported by the Core i7-4700MQ include SSE 4.1/4.2, AVX 2.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mainboard of the HP Envy 15 notebook is powered by the HM87 chipset, the CPU is shipped within a PGA package. The HP Envy 15 comes with 8 GB DDR3 SDRAM (4GB x 2) memory clocked at frequency of 1600 MHz operating in Dual Channel mode.

The graphics side is powered by Intel’s HD 4600 graphics die which is a GT2 class integrated graphics processors offering 20 Execution Units, 2 ROPs and 4 TMUs. The small die has 1400 million transistors integrated on it in an 177mmdie size. The core clock for the GPU is maintained at 400 MHz at base and 1.15 GHz at its max dynamic clock speed. Although not comparable to the Iris and Iris Pro chips offered on the low power Haswell chips, the GT2 iGPU still offers a nice punch with performance just on par with AMD’s Trinity and Richland on-board GPUs.

For storage, the HP Envy 15 TouchSmart offers a 1 TB (5400 RPM) hard disk drive. The use of an HDD solution is a huge letdown and a major reason for the sluggish performance of the HP Envy 15 which i will go into details later in this article. I do want to mention that if HP had gone for a SSD or even an Hybrid solution than it would have been a better choice. With the technical details all sorted out, let’s head over to learn about the display quality.

HP Envy 15 TouchSmart 15-j000

Processor Intel Core i7-4700MQ Quad Core (2.4/3.4 GHz)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4600 GT2
Memory 8 GB DDR3 (Dual Channel) @ 1600 MHz
Hard Drive 1 TB 5400 RPM HDD
Network Interface Gigabit Ethernet LAN 802.11 b/g/n WLAN and Bluetooth
Battery 6-Cell (47WHr) Li-ion
Ports 4 USB 3.0, 1 HDMI, 1 RJ45, 1 Headphone out
Expansion Slots Mutli-Format Digital media card reader
Display 15.6-inch diagonal HD BrightView LED-backlit (1366×768)
Keyboard Standard Keyboard (Non-Backlit)
Dimensions 14.94 x 9.87 x 1.18 in
Weight 5.62 lb
Webcam/Audio HP TrueVision HD Webcam, Beats Audio 4 Speakers
Price $899.99

 

HP Envy 15 Display and Sound

The HP Envy 15 comes with a 15.6″ TouchScreen LED display that supports a maximum resolution of 1366×768 which is a let down considering a higher resolution of 1600×900 or 1920×1080 can easily be accommodated in a notebook of this price. The higher resolution can be used to view media such as videos and pictures if not gaming from the HD 4600 graphics processor. Other than which, the color contrast of 222:1 along side the 6820K colour temperature is disappointing. The larger 15.6″ screen does however provide enough space to easily maneuver in touchscreen.

There’s a webcam etched in the top-middle section of the bezel over the LED display which features TrueVision HD technology and a maximum resolution of 1280×720. The only downside of the display is its glossy finish which makes working or viewing pictures and videos in lit rooms difficult. Aside from that, the worse part is that its an absolute fingerprint magnet due to its touch nature.

Audio on the HP Envy 15 is delivered by Beatsaudio with two internal speakers including a sub-woofer delivering high quality audio output. The Beats Audio delivered amazing sound playback while playing games and watching movies and is truly a great addition to the HP Envy 15 Notebook which compared to other notebooks offer higher quality sound output.

HP Envy 15 Maneuverability

The HP Envy 15 TouchSmart offers a full-length keyboard that only a few other notebooks do. This means that aside the alphabetical keys, you are also getting a full numeric keypad and function keys at your disposal. The keyboard deck comes with the same metallic silver finish as the front cover and the keys are smooth to type on. There’s enough spacing on the keyboard to easily navigate through them and a backlit solution provides ease of use under darker lightning conditions. However, the keyboard sometimes didin’t address keystrokes which may become a hassle during usage. The function keys come with a set of features:

  • F1 – Opens help Menu
  • F2 – Decreaes Brightness
  • F3 – Increases Brightness
  • F4 – Switch between Displays
  • F6 – Previous Track
  • F7 – Play/Pause
  • F8 – Next Track
  • F9 – Volume Down
  • F10 – Volume Up
  • F11 – Mute
  • F12 – Toggle WiFi On/Off (White = ON/ Orange = OFF)

Right on top of the keyboard is the speaker panel which we detailed above powered by Beatsaudio, on the upper left-hand corner we have the power switch while a beatsaudio logo can be found on the right hand side. Right below the keyboard on the right side, we can find a touch sensor which can be used to login the notebook if enabled and an Intel Core i7 sticker next to it.

Touchscreen is a main aspect of the HP Envy 15 notebook with upto 10 touch points that can be used for various commands and gestures integrated with Windows 8. Scrolling and browsing through the Metro interface in W8 was a seamless experience in which i encountered no lag. Touch system ran perfect without any hassle and its a nice feature added to notebooks but i found myself quickly moving away from the touchscreen back to the track-pad and keyboard since its a more easier way to do stuff aside from the numerous issues they have. The Touch-Screen also offers a touch keyboard display similar to the android interface that can be used to type through the touch screen. Again the normal keyboard is way easier to use than the on-board touch keyboard.

HP’s Envy 15 comes with an off-centered touchpad which is made from the same metallic silver material as the base. The touchpad is big enough to easily register various gestures such as scrolling up and down and a few for navigating in Windows 8 such as bringing up the side bar by flipping two fingers from the right side and zooming in or out which is quiet normal to see on current iteration of notebooks.

Due to its off-centered nature, the touchpad may become difficult for users who have previously been using a centered touchpad. This was slight bit of an issue for me but had it solved by constant usage within a day. But a similar issue as the keyboard still exists in the touchpad which is the inability to register and recognize gesture and normal commands. High lightning and Right/Left clicks is also a major letdown as its too difficult with the non-addressing issue.

HP Envy 15 Input and Output

The HP Envy 15 comes with a variety of input and output connectivity ports. On the left hand side, we can find a HDMI-out connector to display into an external monitor or screen, two USB 3.0 ports, an SD Card reader features support for SD and MMC standards, HDD/Power LEDs and an Kensington Security Slot right next to the exhaust port.

On the right hand, we have an easy-to-connect Gigabit Ethernet LAN port, 3.5mm Audio jack, power socket and two super speed USB 3.0 ports. The internal side has 802.11b/g/n WiFi integrated with support of Intel’s WiDI, Bluetooth.

HP Envy 15 System and Graphics Performance

Before getting into the benchmarks, i would like to mention that this is my first Haswell notebook which i have received for testing. We have already tested the performance of the HD 4600 iGPU in our review here so i won’t be going into the gaming benchmarks since you can already see them in my previous review which is using the same onboard GT2 graphics but i will detail overall synthetic graphics benchmarks such as 3DMark which would give an insight on performance of the other components too. As for the processor, i would be benching it out as much as possible since i would like to know what kind of performance Intel’s Haswell chips are offering on the notebook level.

I also mentioned the HDD being the culprit behind the lacksluster overall system performance. The reason being that 5400 RPM drives are cheaper but slower in terms of access time which results in slow boots in Windows 8. It took around 20-22 seconds just to boot into the login screen whereas an SSD solution would had hardly taken 5-6 seconds. HP could have added a 500 GB HDD alongside a 120 GB SSD solution which would have been a much better deal.

HP Envy 15 Battery Life

The HP Envy 15 is fitted with a removable six-cell Lithium Ion battery which is meant to last for upto nine hours under constant usage. While browsing the web, we got an average time of 5 hours and 20 mins out of the battery and around 3 hours 55 mins while watching a high-quality video. We didn’t use any power saving application while testing when HP ships their laptop with HP Sense, which is a handy tool that automatically adjusts brightness and backlit to reduce power consumption.

Overall the battery was moderate since the notebook of this size could have easily featured a better battery system for longer usage.

Conclusion

The HP Envy Touchsmart was a totally new experience for me since this is the first time i used a touchscreen notebook. It felt better than using a tablet and the touch sensors were responsive and smooth and felt really good with Windows 8.

The performance of the HP Envy 15 was another positive aspect, powered by a mutli-threaded Core i7 processor based on Intel’s latest Haswell architecture which is both fast and performance efficient running at 47 Watts. The memory was more than enough for a system that is meant to handle office and home workloads and the GPU packs enough punch to play some new games at the available resolution. From design perspective, the larger screen turned out well for the touch experience while the body and build itself looked fantastic.

But all is not great with HP Envy 15 with the single largest downside being its sluggish and downright absurd boot and load times. The 1 TB drive at 5400 RPM sure does deliver lots of storage capacity but its slow and an 480 GB SSD solution would had been a better choice. Second, the keyboard and trackpad are require a rather good amount of time to get used to and the addressing issue still exists on the trackpad so you are better off just using a mouse.

I wouldn’t advise the HP Envy 15 to users who want to have faster access to apps on the go but those looking for higher performance for office and home workloads and require large amounts of storage, this notebook is built for them.

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