HP Envy 15-as001na full 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
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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.
Also see: Best Black Friday Laptop Deals
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 people.
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 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”.