HP Envy 15 (2012) Review

The HP Envy 15 finally provides Windows users with a product that can go toe-to-toe with what Apple offers.
The HP Envy 15 finally provides Windows users with a product that can go toe-to-toe with what Apple offers.
The HP Envy 15 finally provides Windows users with a product that can go toe-to-toe with what Apple offers.

Highs

  • Excellent all-round performance
  • Above average battery life
  • Beautiful 1080p display
  • Class-leading audio quality
  • Competitively priced

Lows

  • Derivative design
  • 1080p display strains the GPU

DT Editors' Rating

Home > Product Reviews > Laptop Reviews > HP Envy 15 (2012) Review

Loud is cool

Fan noise persistently leaks from the HP Envy 15 no matter what you’re doing, even if you’re doing nothing at all. The fan never kicked off entirely during our time with it, and in most situations we were able to detect the noise of the fan if we tried. Fortunately the fan isn’t harsh and doesn’t whine, so you’ll simply come to ignore it after a few minutes.

The upside to the somewhat loud fan is cool operation. During low to moderate use the laptop’s chassis warmed only slightly in the usual spots, such as near the exhaust fan. Extended lap use is definitely an option. You’ll only become uncomfortably warm if you perform tasks that engage the discrete GPU. Doing that is a great way to keep warm in winter.

Portable enough

Heft is the first thing you’ll notice when picking up the Envy 15. The heavy use of metal that contributes to its luxurious feel and solid chassis comes at the price of weight. You’ll be packing 5.79 pounds extra when you travel with this laptop, which is just a tad heavier than your average 15-incher, but a far cry from the lightest in this category. The thickness of 1.1 inches isn’t class leading, either. This laptop is portable enough for occasional use, but would probably become a pain for someone who travels with their laptop on a daily basis.

hp-envy-15-2012-review-side-lid-up

Battery life is up to the task when you do decide to travel, however. Inside the chassis is an impressive 8-cell battery. This is much larger than average for a laptop of any size. As a result of the extra juice, this large and powerful laptop offers solid endurance. In our tests, it lasted two hours and one minute in Battery Eater Standard and six hours twenty one minutes in the Battery Eater Reader’s Test. These results are well above average for a powerful 15-inch laptop, though still behind the class-leading endurance of the MacBook Pro 15.

Enviously quick

As stated earlier, the HP Envy 15 comes with an Intel Core i5-2430M processor and 6GB of RAM. All of that is rather mundane. More interesting is the Radeon HD 7690M discrete GPU. This is a new part just released by AMD, and it represents the most significant upgrade offered by this new model. It’ll be interesting to see how it performs compared to previously reviewed laptops including the HP Envy 14, which used the Radeon HD 6630.

First, let’s deal with the Core i5-2430M. We’ve seen this processor before, and it behaved as expected. SiSoft Sandra’s Processor Arithmetic benchmark returned a combined score of 38.26, literally right behind the Sony Vaio SE 15.5-inch, which scored 38.27. In 7-Zip the Envy 15 scored 7,806 MIPS, which is the second-highest score yet returned by a dual-core laptop.

hp-envy-15-2012-review-side-lid-openPCMark 7 also had good things to say. It provided a score of 2,418, which is the highest score we’ve ever recorded from any laptop.

What about gaming? In 3DMark 11 the new Radeon proved itself by reaching a score of 1,272. For comparison, the Radeon HD 6630-powered Envy 14 and Sony Vaio S 15.5-inch only scored 954 and 997, respectively. 3DMark 06 returned a score of 8,953, which is again much better than laptops using older mid-range Radeon parts. In fact, both of these scores are new records among laptops we’ve reviewed.

Unfortunately, these great results are sapped by the 1080p display. The high pixel count puts great demand on the GPU, and though it can play most any game available at low or medium detail settings, real-world performance in the latest titles is a little disappointing at the native resolution. The Sony Vaio S 15.5-inch also suffered from this issue. Once you reduce a game’s resolution, however, the Envy 15 has no problem playing anything on the market today.

Conclusion

The evolution of the HP Envy line has been interesting to watch. It’s obvious that the engineers responsible for this laptop are learning as they go, improving the laptop with each version. With this new Envy 15 we see not only hardware improvements, but also a cleaner designer, a better keyboard and excellent audio. Battery life is impressive, as well. This laptop is far too large and heavy to be an ultraportable, but it has battery life on par with them.

Another important trait of this laptop, which is shared with the older Envy 14, is the lack of obvious faults. Nothing about the Envy 15 is jaw-dropping, but at the same time, there’s nothing wrong. All of the usual laptop pitfalls, like poor touchpad quality, small batteries and bad displays, are avoided entirely. The result is a good all-round laptop that is pleasing to use on a daily basis. No matter your interest — music, gaming, or productivity — this laptop can handle your needs.

This is the laptop that finally provides Windows users with a product that can go toe-to-toe with what Apple offers. In the areas of audio quality, display quality, and graphics performance the MacBook Pro is behind the Envy 15 – sometimes by a substantial margin. Yet Apple insists that you part ways with $1,799, while our review unit is only $1,249. And that is, by the way, with the 1080p display. The highest resolution available on the MacBook Pro 15 is 1680 x 1050, and choosing that option will raise the total price to $1,899. Only the issues of battery life (which is good, but not up to Apple’s high standards) and touchpad quality keep the HP Envy 15 from defeating the MacBook Pro 15 in every category.

Anyone looking for a luxurious and powerful laptop needs to check out the Envy 15. This is a laptop that trounces the PC competition and manages to be competitive with Apple’s offerings while costing hundreds less.

Highs:

  • Excellent all-round performance
  • Above average battery life
  • Beautiful 1080p display
  • Class-leading audio quality
  • Competitively priced

Lows:

  • Derivative design
  • 1080p display strains the GPU

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