HP Envy 15 (ae030TX) review
A stylish look, but it needs more grunt.
- Solidly built, good performance
- Poor battery life
There is potential for high performance in this laptop with its interesting processor, but there's also enough niggles to make us cautious before making a recommendation. Given the high power demands of the CPU, this is still more of a desktop replacement, a static desk design which makes the separate optical drive an satisfactory solution over a regular integrated unit. And professional users may be turned off by the glossiness of the screen, its low resolution, or both. Ultimately it's a brave attempt to catch up with the MacBook Pro range, but like the 13in HP Envy, the Apple original pips it in many ways. Mobile gamers, meanwhile, will appreciate the good graphics performance.
Price$ 2,799.00 (AUD)
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HP has used its "Envy" line across a variety of devices to denote a luxury design and feeling. This seems to be a predominant model amongst laptop makers of late. The idea is that consumers will pay a little more for a laptop that not only performs well, but also offers a touch of style, while avoiding some of those razor-thin margins that occupy the bargain basement side of the laptop market.
It was the style at the time
It's not too difficult to discern where HP's grabbed its style notes for the Envy 15. It's wrapped in silver aluminium with a matching coloured keyboard, prominent Bang & Olufsen speaker bar at the top of the laptop base and a rounded hinge that wraps around the back of the laptop when closed. There's only so many ways you can design an aluminium laptop, and at least HP's designers have tweaked around the edges with rounded corners everywhere and a nicely embossed HP logo on the back of the display.
The Envy 15 incorporates a full number pad into its keyboard. In order to have the touchpad sitting underneath the space bar, it's offset to the left somewhat. It's very much a personal taste matter as to whether that's a problem for you or not. We're not fans of it, but we can say at least the touchpad itself, which is ever so slightly recessed into the body of the laptop has good response. That's also true of the keyboard itself, although the nature of plastic keys hitting down on an aluminium frame means that the Envy 15 can be a touch noisy if you're a touch typist of at least moderate speed.
Nice to look at — but not from an angle
The Envy 15 as tested came with a 15.6-inch WLED 1366x768 pixel touchscreen display. The touchscreen aspects worked well if you need them, but the same isn't entirely true of the display itself. It's slightly disappointing to see a less than full HD display on a laptop at this price point, especially as it noticeably washes out if you're at any kind of angle to it, losing significant colour clarity. It's still legible for text at the sides, but you wouldn't want to watch video this way.
Connections down the left hand side run to an expanding Ethernet port, HDMI, three USB 3.0 ports, SD card reader and headphone audio, while the right hand side offers up an extra USB 3.0 port.
Internally, the model we tested came with an Intel Core i7 5500U 2.4GHz CPU, 8GB of RAM and Windows 10 Home 64-bit pre-installed. Graphics are handled by a 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M, while storage is handled by a single 2 TB 5400 rpm SATA drive.
Predictably for a mechanical drive, performance isn't notably nippy. In CrystalDisk's sequential read/write test, the HP Envy's 5400RPM drive managed a workable, but not exceptional, 106.1MBps read and 105.1MBps write speed. The one slight saving grace here is that it's relatively quiet in operation, even if you're hitting it with a lot of data requests.
The GeForce GTX 950M that handles the HP Envy 15's graphical duties isn't massively high end, but it should be capable of games duties at moderate resolutions. That conclusion is backed up by its 3DMark scores, where the HP Envy 15 managed 2583 in Fire Strike, but only 1364 in Fire Strike Extreme and 714 in Fire Strike Ultra. Stepping games back a generation or two, it managed a much more palatable 4621 in Sky Diver and 5381 in Cloud Gate.
The Envy 15 isn't a particularly small laptop, but that form factor has enabled HP to stack it with internal batteries. During our battery rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness, and loop a Full HD MP4 file, the HP Envy 15 managed a highly respectable five hours and fifty six minutes of playback time. Given we were deliberately punishing the Envy 15's battery prowess, it's easy to conclude that this is a laptop that could handle all-day performance with battery optimisations in place.
What's The Verdict?
It's a little hard to exactly discern who the Envy 15 is best suited for at its asking price, which starts locally at $1899. That kind of pricing would give you a lot of options to pick from, many of which pack in better screens, or better processors, or SSD drives as standard, including options from HP itself.
It's not that the Envy 15 is necessarily lacking, because those systems often omit other areas to manage their own price points. It's just that the combined choices that HP's made in this case aren't all that compelling at this kind of price. HP's producing a number of good looking laptops right now and while the Envy 15 looks the part, it's not quite as solid a performer as we might otherwise like.
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