January 29, 2023
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HP Envy 15 review

Look at the websites of big laptop-makers and you’ll find bold images of laptops designed to look like the future of the form. They’re impossibly slim, made of the same expensive materials as a top-end phone and cost a packet. Also see: Best laptops 2016

The HP Envy 15 is a laptop for those who don’t want to buy into the new order of ever-slimmer, ever-lighter, fancier machines. It’s a practical, reasonably powerful laptop that’s just right for those looking to retire their desktop PC, but want to do so with a degree of style.

It’s a very solid laptop, although it is a mainstream machine that slightly prioritises battery life over raw power.

HP Envy 15 review: UK price

At £799 the HP Envy 15 is a bit too expensive to consider a machine you might just stroll into PC World to buy on a whim. But it does offer specs in excess of what you’d get in an ultra-thin laptop at the price: an Intel Core i7 CPU, both SSD and HDD storage and 8GB RAM.

If you’d rather spend less, there’s a £699 version that has an Intel Core i5 instead. As this is the only downgrade, it may well represent better value for many of you.

HP Envy 15

HP Envy 15 review: Design

The HP Envy 15 shows laptops don’t have to be either a) big and guileless or b) very slim and light. It’s a now-unfashionable 15.6-inch screen laptop, but slimmer, lighter and more attractive than the dreaded style-free Dell work laptop many of you may have memories of using.

It doesn’t try to be perilously light, but does have a sleek all-aluminium frame, making the HP Envy 15 simply much nicer to look at and touch than some.

It’s nothing like the aluminium HP Spectre 13, though. The Envy 15’s look is more conventional, it just has that premium edge often missing from 15.6-inch machines. 13-inch models earmark much of the industry’s design effort. Saying that, the chromed hinge does inject a touch of flashiness.

We have been using the HP Envy 15 out and about on occasion it’ll fit in a rucksack and at 1.93kg won’t kill your shoulders in 10 minutes — but this feels like a laptop that is only going to leave the home or office on special occasions. We’d recommend a 13-inch laptop if you want something to carry around all day.

That it is significantly thinner than a full-on performance or gaming laptop makes the HP Envy 15 much better-suited to being carted around the house, though. This year marks a bit of a modernisation for the Envy series too: this laptop has finally dropped its optical drive.

Sure, some might moan, but it has no place in a laptop that’s trying to shed some dowdy bulk from the traditional 15-inch laptop frame. See all laptop reviews.

HP Envy 15

HP Envy 15 review: Connectivity

The other little modern tweak is the USB-C connector, on the right side. We’re starting to see these added to most mid-range and higher laptops, as a standard slowly becoming common among mobile devices.

As you’d hope of a slightly larger laptop, the HP Envy 15 has all the ‘standard’ connections too. You get three USB 3.0 ports, a full-size SD card reader and a full-size HDMI port. The one missing port is an Ethernet socket, but you could get hold of a USB-C or USB Ethernet adapter if you need one.

Earlier I described the Envy 15 as quite a traditional laptop, but it is modern in some very important ways. Also see: Best budget laptops 2016.

HP Envy 15 review: Screen

The screen is another. It’s a 1080p display, which does make the pixels much more apparent than a 13-inch screen if you look for them, but it’s IPS LCD display rather than a TN one. TN screens look quite bad from an angle, and larger laptops have held onto that tech longer than smaller ones because affordable IPS LCD panels of this size just aren’t quite as plentiful.

It’s a glossy, non-touch screen, with a character closer to the display of a tablet than an older 15-inch laptop. This is a good thing, by the way.

The HP Envy 15’s panel is decent rather than stellar, though. Its colours are a little undersaturated, covering just 57.5 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut. This may not seem great for a laptop costing £799, but it’s worth remembering that for that price you also get a top-end CPU. One of the trendier-design models with this processor might cost as much as £1200.

In person this means colours don’t pop quite much as some, with deep reds in particular lacking the impact they have on a laptop that hits just about the whole of sRGB, like the rival 15-inch MacBook Pro. Aside from lacking a tonal richness, the screen does look quite natural, though. And with good contrast of 1017:1 it does not lack impact.

Maximum brightness of 281cd/m is fair, but you really want to see 300-plus if you’re after a laptop to use outdoors regularly, particularly with a glossy-finish display like this. Saying that, we tried using it in direct sunlight in a cafe, and it’s still very usable at top brightness.

The HP Envy 15’s screen can lean back a good way, but despite the chrome finish it’s a fairly traditional hinge. This is no hybrid.

If you like the idea of the HP Envy 15’s size and style but want a bit more of a ‘current’ flavour, the HP Envy x360 is very similar in most respects but has a hinge that flips all the way around. To suit this style the x360 also has a touchscreen.

Where the x360 is part of the newish convertible laptop crowd, the Envy 15 is clearly out to cater for the apparently dwindling audience of people simply after a “good laptop that doesn’t cost £1000”.

HP Envy 15

HP Envy 15 review: Keyboard and trackpad

As with the design and connections, the keyboard and trackpad just add a little ‘current’ flavour to otherwise traditional hardware. All the space provided by a 15.6-inch frame lets the keyboard pack in a numerical pad and no keys are cut down to an irritating extent.

Press down hard on the centre of the keyboard surround and you can make it flex a tiny bit, but the keyboard feels solid and is comfortable to type on for hours at a time. Actual key feedback is on the light side, but is nevertheless crisp and reasonably well-defined.

One of the rather neat bonus features of the HP Envy is a keyboard backlight, something still often missed out at the price. It’s a simple on/off blueish light, but is a godsend if you’re going to have to do some typing in the dark. For whatever reason. Also see: Best gaming laptops 2016.

It’s the HP Envy 15’s trackpad that has the modern twist, with an ultra-elongated design intended simply to give your fingers more room to play with. It’s a lovely, smooth surface with a satisfyingly deep clicky action to it. It requires a slightly harder press than some, but we were used to the feel within a few hours.

There are more smarts to the pad than you can initially tell too. One issue that can ruin trackpads of laptops with NUM pads is that due to the way the trackpad is shifted to the left of the frame it can be far too easy to accidentally press the right mouse button when you mean to use the left.

Not so here: only a tiny part of the pad is used to fire the right button, taking up around a fifth of the pad’s width. Unlike most Windows laptop trackpads, you get the sense HP has actually played around with the design to find what works best out in the real work, under real fingers.

Its feel isn’t quite a match for a MacBook Pro pad, but it’s not that far off, and is also larger.

This kind of thoughtfulness and attention to detail is seen in all the HP Envy 15’s best bits. It may not be that exciting, but it actually thinks about the real state of laptop use as much as the HP Spectre 13. Also see: Windows 10 review.

HP Envy 15 review: Specs and Performance

This is clear in the specs too. First, it has a very sensible combo of a 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive. This gets you real SSD snappiness as well as the capacity of slower HDD storage.

It’s a bit of a pity the SSD isn’t faster, though. At 185MB/s write and 510MB/s read, it is only a little over a third the speed of the fastest SSDs around. The hard drive is a slow 5400rpm model too.

The CPU choice is telling too. A lot of the larger laptops we review these days have high-power HQ-series processors, but the HP Envy 15 uses U-series chipsets like those of the more portable models. The U designates a lower-voltage processor, intended for slim laptops that need to offer decent battery life.

The HP Envy 15 we’re reviewing uses an Intel Core i7-6500U, a dual-core CPU with standard clock speed of 2.5GHz and a 3.1GHz Turbo. That is paired with 8GB RAM.

This is a reasonably powerful system, but only among lighter, slimmer laptops. If you want as much power as you can get for the money, the HP Envy 15 is the wrong laptop for you. For those who can put up with a lot more chunkiness and weight, Asus offers a quad-core GPU and dedicated GPU for this sort of price in the GL552.

Again, we come back to the idea that the Envy 15 is made from the ground up for the average buyer, not someone who spends evenings transcoding videos. For the basics, and even low-level image and video editing, this laptop will feel very fast.

It scores 7052 in Geekbench 3, and 2851 in PC Mark 8.

Its gaming abilities are fairly limited, though. There’s no separate GPU, and just the basic Intel HD 520 integrated graphics rather than one of Intel’s punchier Iris chipsets.

Alien Isolation is playable if you turn the resolution down to 720p and tone down the graphics, with an average 31.5fps, but Thief is a bit of a struggle at any graphics settings. It manages an average 25.6fps, below the 30fps average we’re aiming for.

You will be able to play games from slightly older generations, though. Dead Space and Skyrim will run well at medium settings thanks to Intel’s HD CPU improvements.

HP Envy 15 review: Battery

Among some of its 15.6-inch laptop peers the HP Envy 15 is a bit of a weakling, but its battery life is an effective comeback.

Playing a video file on loop at 120cd/m brightness, the battery lasts 9 hours 25 minutes. This is an excellent result, matching HP’s own claims.

We also tried using the Envy 15 outside at max brightness to see how it copes in a more natural context. An hour of work took 13 per cent off the battery, suggesting you can expect a solid seven and a half hours of use between charges. Again, it’s a good result considering brightness was maxed-out.

One of the chunkier, more performance-oriented alternatives might only last 3-5 hours under the same conditions, and the Envy 15 significantly outlasts the Envy x360 too. Another side-benefit of using a U-series CPU instead of an HQ one is that the Envy 15 seems to stay cool with fairly little effort. While a fan runs constantly during use, the laptop remains fairly quiet when performing gaming benchmarks.

Its speaker array is passable too. The sound comes from the criss-cross grille on the keyboard surround, and it both louder and fuller-sounding than most other Bang & Olufsen-branded laptop speakers. It’s a shame, though, that HP puts more effort into making the Envy x360 speakers sound that bit better. They deliver better bass.

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HP Envy 15-as001na: Specs

  • 15.6in (1920 x 1080) 141dpi IPS LCD glossy
    2.5 GHz, up to 3.1 GHz Turbo Intel Core i7-6500U, two cores four threads
    Intel HD 520 GPU
    8GB RAM DDR4-2133
    128GB SSD
    1TB HDD 5400rpm
    No Ethernet
    802.11b/g/n/ac 2×2
    Bluetooth 4.2
    3 USB 3.0 port
    1 USB-C Gen 1 port
    micro HDMI
    SDXC card slot
    stereo Band & Olufsen speakers
    0.9MP Webcam
    single mic
    3.5mm headset jack
    UK tiled keyboard
    52Wh lithium-ion battery non-removable
    380 x 255 x 17.9 mm
    1.93 kg
  • 15.6in (1920 x 1080) 141dpi IPS LCD glossy
    2.5 GHz, up to 3.1 GHz Turbo Intel Core i7-6500U, two cores four threads
    Intel HD 520 GPU
    8GB RAM DDR4-2133
    128GB SSD
    1TB HDD 5400rpm
    No Ethernet
    802.11b/g/n/ac 2×2
    Bluetooth 4.2
    3 USB 3.0 port
    1 USB-C Gen 1 port
    micro HDMI
    SDXC card slot
    stereo Band & Olufsen speakers
    0.9MP Webcam
    single mic
    3.5mm headset jack
    UK tiled keyboard
    52Wh lithium-ion battery non-removable
    380 x 255 x 17.9 mm
    1.93 kg

OUR VERDICT

The HP Envy 15 doesn’t seem like a desperately interesting laptop at first glance. It’s too big to be cool, not quite cheap enough to be a stone-cold bargain. However, the longer you use it, the more you realise quite what a sound fit it is for people who want a larger laptop, but one not ugly, chunky or liable to last 90 minutes between charges. Sound performance, a smart trackpad, a respectable display and sensible price make the HP Envy 15 one of the best laptops for those who don’t really need a super-performance PC but still want the desktop-replacer feel you get with a 15.6-inch laptop.