HP Envy 15-3000 Review

The HP Envy 15 provides the performance of a desktop replacement in a stylish, reasonably portable package.  It is ideally suited for users who demand more from a notebook, but prioritize portability or display clarity over maximum GPU performance.  The Envy 15 starts at $1,099, with HP’s recommended configuration currently selling for $1,439.  Significant rebates are sometimes available, which can reduce the price even further.  I took advantage of a fortuitous 33% rebate promotional code, dropping the price of my customized unit by just over $600.  With the rebate, I ordered mine for a scant $1,219 (not including extended warranty, tax, or shipping) , with the following specifications:

HP Envy 15t-3000 Specs

HP Envy 15-3000

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-2760QM (2.4 GHz, 6MB L3 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 3.5 GHz
  • OS: Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Screen: 15.6″ Radiance Full HD Infinity LED-backlit Display (1920×1080)
  • Graphics: 1GB Discrete Graphics AMD Radeon HD 7690M [HDMI, DP]
  • Memory: 6GB 1600MHz DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm)
  • Storage: 500GB 7200 rpm Hard Drive
  • Battery: Internal 8-Cell Lithium Ion
  • Optical Drive: SuperMulti DVD+/-R/RW with Double Layer Support
  • Ports: 1 HDMI, 1 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 Gigabit LAN RJ-45, 1 Microphone-in, 2 Headphone-out, 1 DispayPort
  • Slots: 2-in-1 SD-MMC
  • Dimensions: 14.96″ (W) x 9.61″ (D) x 1.11″ (H)
  • Weight: Starting at 5.8 lbs (2.63 kg)
  • Webcam: HP TrueVision HD Webcam
  • Wireless: Intel 802.11a/b/g/n WLAN and Bluetooth with Wireless Display Support
  • Keyboard: Backlit Keyboard with numeric keypad
  • Power: 120W AC Power Adapter

Envy 15t-3000 Reason for Buying

Envy 15 left angle viewMy primary motivation for buying the Envy 15 was my frustration with straining to read the dim display of my aging Lenovo T61p.  I had other reasons, but if my T61p had a display like the Radiance display upgrade of the Envy 15, I would not have been looking for a new notebook.  My familiarity with the pros and cons of IPS display techology led me to search for notebooks with an IPS display option.  I found only a handful.  I tested the waters with a Sony VAIO F-Series 3D, hoping that its heralded 3D screen would be worth the $650 charge for that option.  While it was a beautiful screen in many ways, it didn’t have the clear readability I was looking for, so I quickly returned it.  While I was mulling over my remaining choices, I chanced upon a forum discussion indicating that the then unreleased Envy 15 might include an IPS display option.  Rather than settle for one of the few other available models with IPS displays, I decided to roll the dice on the Envy 15.

It is worth noting that I was not looking for Blu-ray support, nor did I plan to use this notebook for resource-intensive applications, such as games.  If Blu-ray support is important to you, or you plan to use your notebook with the latest games, the Envy 17 may be a better choice for you.  The Envy 15 has significantly reduced GPU performance compared to the Envy 17, probably since its smaller size makes it more difficult to dissipate heat quickly.  In general, notebook gamers must sacrifice performance for portability and price.

Build & Design

HP Envy 15 CaseIt is difficult to find anything to complain about with regard to the Envy 15’s quality of construction and design.  It feels extremely solid, all around.  Opening the notebook requires exactly the right amount of force–enough to keep it closed during transport and to keep the screen in place during use.  It can easily be opened with one hand, due to the weight of the base of the system chassis. When opened, tapping the screen causes it to vibrate back and forth for a few seconds, but there is no play in the hinge, and the display remains in the same position afterward.  Twisting the display or system chassis requires concerted effort.  In fact, the entire notebook is so rigid that one might be concerned of how well it could withstand a sudden impact (such as being dropped onto a hard surface).  However, I don’t think it would be significantly more vulnerable to damage than most notebooks, and the strength of its aluminum chassis undoubtedly affords it better protection to many types of abuse.

Envy 15 engravingI have seen reports of some aesthetic construction defects, such as dents near the USB ports, small scratches, or similar damage.  My unit did not arrive with any cosmetic damage, though I did notice that the top right corner of the touchpad juts out slightly above the palm rest (by about the thickness of two sheets of paper), whereas the other corners are flush with or just below the surrounding palm rest.  I don’t find this small misalignment noticeable during regular use, and I don’t plan to request warranty service to fix such a minor issue.

Screen

In my opinion, the single most worthwhile upgrade on this notebook is the 15.6″ Radiance Full HD Infinity display (1920 x 1080), an option which currently costs an extra $150.  The only reasons I can think of for choosing the default display option (BrightView, 1366×768) is if the buyer has poor eyesight, or intends to use the Envy for frequent gaming where native-resolution FPS is very important.  Either of those reasons might justify going with a lower-resolution LCD display, though with DPI scaling, there is no need to cope with extremely tiny text or menus.

Envy 15-3000 Screen

Skipping the Envy 15 Radiance display upgrade is like buying a $5 bowl of ice cream, but balking at the extra fifty cents required to make it a full-fledged hot fudge sundae.  With caramel and sprinkles.  And whipped cream.  And TWO cherries.

The Radiance display option offers twice the desktop real estate provided by the stock BrightView display, and dramatically improved viewing angles over typical notebook displays.  This produces a clearer picture that is easier on the eyes, excellent for surfing the web, reading email, writing papers, and other typical “productivity” tasks.  It is difficult to adequately describe the benefits of the panel’s IPS design, or to show the difference with pictures.  It’s one of those qualities that becomes obvious in person, particularly when compared side-by-side to a typical notebook display.  Like the Matrix, you have to see it for yourself.

While I obviously have some appreciation for the Radiance screen, it is relevant to note some ways it falls short of perfection.  For one, it does not have an outstanding color gamut.  I have noticed my reds looking rather orange, and greens falling short of primary green, appearing more like Kermit green.  The Radiance display’s brightness is perfectly satisfactory for indoor use, but it is not going to compete with outdoor-readable screens like that on the iPad.  With its glossy surface, it may be tough to use outdoors in daylight.

To demonstrate how the Envy 15 display compares to a regular TN panel display I took some comparison pictures next to my ThinkPad T61p at varying horizontal and vertical viewing angles.  The Envy 15 is on the right and the ThinkPad T61p on the left in the pictures below, the T61p is taller due to its 16:10 aspect ratio, prior to the days of widescreen ubiquity:

Horizontal-Brightest-01
T61p on the left, Envy 15 right at full brightness
Horizontal-Brightest-3
Rotating horizontally to compare viewing
Horizontal-Brightest-04
Rotating horizontally to compare viewing
Vertical-Brightest-5
Comparing vertical viewing angles
Vertical-Brightest-6
Comparing vertical viewing angles
Vertical-Brightest-8
Comparing low vertical viewing angle

Speakers

Envy-Keyboard-Backlit-1The HP Envy 15’s Beats Audio system isn’t just a gimmick, it is the loudest, fullest aural experience I’ve heard from a notebook.  Though even an inexpensive pair of computer speakers will put the Envy 15’s audio to shame, there is something to be said for having the ability to share music or the latest YouTube cat video with friends on the go, without everyone straining to hear.  I can’t comment on the quality of the headphone outputs or microphone input, since I own no high-quality headphones or microphone with which to test them.

Processor and Performance

Since I often use my laptop with it resting on my lap, I had an anatomically motivated interest in selecting a CPU with low thermal output.  I was initially concerned about how to appropriately balance power consumption with performance.  Since my usage habits mean that my CPU is usually idle, my choice was easier than expected.  The reason is that all of the available CPU options for the Envy 15 (even the Intel Core i5) have approximately the same idle power usage, a testament to Intel’s clever processor design.  I learned this from various power consumption benchmarks of the Sandy Bridge processors:

Thus, I was free to decide which CPU features and how much speed I wanted, without worrying about the thermal output.  My preferred reference was Intel’s comparison page for the four available CPU options:

I opted for the second most powerful CPU option available, the Intel Core i7-2760QM, to take advantage of its increased memory bus speed over the Intel Core i7-2670QM.  Call me crazy, but I didn’t feel that the extra 0.1 GHz and 2MB CPU cache offered by the Intel Core i7-2860QM was worth $200 more.  I paired it with 6MB of 1600MHz DDR3 RAM, for a modest $25 increase.  I heard rumors that some buyers received the 1600MHz RAM upgrade for free with their i7-2760QM or i7-2860QM purchase, but a review is no place for rumors, is it?

My thoughts on the performance of the Intel Core i7-2760QM are best summarized in the form of an interpretive dance.  However, since people usually end up injured or nauseous when I dance, I’ll instead refer you to the benchmark results below.  In a nutshell, installing a solid-state drive (SSD) is probably the single biggest performance boosts you can give to this notebook.  With the stock 500GB 7200 RPM HDD, Windows 7 took 47+ seconds to load.  With an 80GB Intel X25-M SSD, boot time dropped to 17 seconds.  I must note that this wasn’t completely an apples to apples comparison.  The stock drive was running HP’s Windows 7 image while the SSD was running a clean Windows 7 installation.  Both disks had the latest Windows updates and used MS Security Essentials (I had uninstalled Symantec AV from the HDD).

It is also worth mentioning the switchable GPU, a neat feature offered by all current Envy models.  It allows the Envy to sip power through the integrated Intel GPU during light usage, but still tackle demanding graphics processing with the discrete Radeon GPU.  In its default configuration, the system will dynamically select which GPU is most appropriate, based on system load and availability of AC power.  I heard somewhere that the dynamic setting might come with a cost to performance.  Thus, I set the switchable GPU feature to “Fixed” in the system BIOS, and manually selected either the Intel or Radeon GPU for each benchmark.

Envy 15t-3000 Benchmarks

I already posted a slew of Envy 15-3000 benchmarks in a previous article, I’ll include the quick hit specs here so you don’t have to click away from the review.

imageWindows Experience Index (Windows 7 64-bit):

  • CPU: 7.5
  • Memory: 7.5
  • Graphics: 6.9
  • Gaming graphics: 6.9
  • Primary disk (SSD): 7.7

PCMark Vantage Score: 15,835 (http://3dmark.com/pcmv/481946)

image

PCMark Vantage Score Comparison:

Laptop PCMark Vantage Score
HP Envy 15-3000 – Intel Core i7-2760QM 2.40GHz, 6GB RAM, AMD Radeon 7690M, Intel X25-M SSD 15,835 PCMarks
HP Envy 17 3D – Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 6850M 1GB, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 9,340 PCMarks
SONY VAIO SA – Intel Core i5-2430M, AMD 6750M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 7,007 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y470 – Intel Core i7-2630qm, Nvidia 550M 1GB, 8GB RAM, Intel SSD 12,160 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM 6,056 PCMarks
Dell Vostro 3450 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30Ghz, 4GB RAM 5,901 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron N411z – Intel Core i3-2330m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM 5,285 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T420 – Intel Core i3-2310m 2.1GHz, 2GB RAM 3,204 PCMarks

To demonstrate how effective the SSD is in improving overall system performance I did benchmarks of the Envy 15t-3000 with varying configurations of dedicated/integrated graphics and HDD/SSD storage, here are the results for that:

Laptop PCMark Vantage Score
HP Envy 15-3000 – AMD Radeon 7690M,Intel X25-M SSD 15,835 PCMarks
HP Envy 15-3000 – Intel HD3000Intel X25-M SSD 15,405 PCMarks
HP Envy 15-3000 – AMD Radeon 7690M,Toshiba 7200RPM HDD 9,736 PCMarks
HP Envy 15-3000 – Intel HD3000, Toshiba 7200RPM HDD 9,534 PCMarks
HP Envy 17 3D – Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 6850M 1GB, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 9,340 PCMarks
SONY VAIO SA – Intel Core i5-2430M, AMD 6750M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 7,007 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y470 – Intel Core i7-2630qm, Nvidia 550M 1GB, 8GB RAM, Intel SSD 12,160 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM 6,056 PCMarks
Dell Vostro 3450 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30Ghz, 4GB RAM 5,901 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron N411z – Intel Core i3-2330m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM 5,285 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T420 – Intel Core i3-2310m 2.1GHz, 2GB RAM 3,204 PCMarks

 

Heat and Noise

At idle, the Envy 15 remains only modestly above room temperature, if the integrated Intel GPU is active. It becomes a mildly warm to the touch at the bottom of the chassis, the keyboard and palm rest remain nearly at room temperature.  It is certainly cool enough for reasonably comfortable use on top of one’s lap.  That said, if you’re male and striving for maximum fertility, you still might consider using a lap desk.  If the discrete Radeon GPU is active, the system idle temperature is a bit higher.  Not so much as to make it uncomfortable on one’s lap, but enough to be noticeable.

Under any load, the system’s internal cooling fan automatically kicks in.  It is audible (though quiet) at its lowest setting, and becomes significantly louder as the system speeds it up to compensate for higher loads.  At its highest speed, it is loud enough to become intrusive to anyone nearby, in a quiet room.  I don’t have a decibel meter to measure the actual noise level, but I would characterize it somewhere between a whisper and a loud whisper.  I hope that helps.

From my experience with my old Lenovo T61p, I was expecting the Envy 15 to really heat up as it was pushed.  I was quite surprised that it didn’t.  It did get warmer, but not by much.  Even while running HyperPI and FurMark simultaneously (to stress the CPU and GPU to their limits) the system remained comfortably warm at the bottom, with the keyboard and palm rest remaining slightly above ambient temperature.  The Radeon GPU idles at about 52 degrees C and got up to about 77 degrees C before the fan brought it down to a steady 67 degrees C.

It is noteworthy that using an SSD instead of an HDD has the added benefit of keeping the system cooler, since 7200 RPM hard drives can get a bit warm during sustained disk I/O.  Thus, you might expect slightly higher temperatures when using a standard HDD.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Envy 15 keyboard unlitAs a formerly loyal Thinkpad user, I was fairly hesitant to migrate to a chiclet style keyboard, let alone to anything but a Thinkpad keyboard.  They are just a pleasure to use.  I’m glad to say that the Envy 15 keyboard is pleasant enough for me, despite its different feel and key layout.  Though this new layout has given me some challenges, adapting to it hasn’t been too difficult.  The delete, insert, home, end, page up, and page down keys follow the top and right edges, whereas Thinkpad keyboards position them in a small rectangle at the top right.  Additionally, the left Ctrl key is at the bottom left corner, with the function key to its right.  This is flipped from the Thinkpad’s keyboard layout, with the function key on the left of the Ctrl key.

Pressing down firmly anywhere on the keyboard causes it to flex, particularly near the “S” key.  Keystrokes made near the “S” key have a different sound than ones on the right side of the keyboard.  The right side of the keyboard sounds more “solid”, probably because it is better supported.  That said, the sound difference is not distracting, typing feels consistent across the entire keyboard,  and it does not flex significantly under regular use.

Envy 15 keyboard backlitThe Envy 15’s Radiance keyboard backlighting is well implemented.  When I recently tried a Sony VAIO F-series notebook, I found myself distracted by its keyboard backlighting.  From even a mildly slouched position, the VAIO’s backlight LED lights were clearly visible.  In the dark, this significantly interfered with the overall effectiveness of the VAIO’s backlighting.  On the Envy 15, this is not the case at all.  One would have to crouch almost down to the plane of the keyboard in order to see any of the backlight LEDs directly, and even then, only three of them become visible at any angle: the down arrow, backslash, and tab keys.  Little light spills out from the keyboard backlighting, other than through the key symbols they are intended to illuminate.

I have seen many user complaints about the Envy 15’s multitouch capable touchpad, and some praise from users with special settings or drivers.  Initially, I found the touchpad to be unreliable and frustrating to use.  It seemed to get things wrong pretty often.  It would miss some taps and register some when none were intended.  Multitouch gestures were frequently misinterpreted or would take a noticeable amount of time to register and initiate, and often had to be repeated.  I found that the touchpad’s reliability seemed to improve significantly when I installed the latest drivers for it from HP’s web site, rather than the older version from HP’s Windows image.  I am currently using Synaptics driver version 15.3.26.2, dated 10/3/2011.  It’s possible the improvement I noticed was imagined, and I simply got better at using the touchpad.

Envy 15-3000 TouchPadI’m still getting used to the touchpad, and it’s still not perfect.  If I allow a finger to linger on the pad, occasionally Windows seems to flip out by rapidly cycling through open windows (browser history?) until I move away from the touchpad.  This quirk has been difficult for me to reproduce, but I’ve found that it occurs multiple times each day.  Two-finger scrolling works well, but not flawlessly.  Occasionally, the touchpad seems to stop responding altogether for a short time (no, I’m not turning it off accidentally), and sometimes it stops registering taps and clicks while motion still works.  These issues occur rarely, and the touchpad is nearly always functional and responsive, so I’m satisfied with it.  Hopefully these minor creases will be ironed out in the near future.  I can always investigate third-party drivers or alternatives if the glitches ever become a hassle.

Having had years of positive experience with Synaptics touchpads on Thinkpad notebooks, a poor touchpad  on the Envy could have been a deal breaker for me.  I’m very glad it isn’t.

Input and Output Ports

The Envy 15 comes with a refreshingly modern and complete set of ports.  It lacks a VGA monitor out port, but makes up for it with an HDMI port and a DisplayPort on the right side.  Also on the right are an SD-MMC card reader, an RJ-45 Gigabit LAN port, a USB 2.0 port, and a Kensington lock slot.

Envy 15 right

On the left side is the slot-loading DVD+/-R/RW drive, two USB 3.0 ports (one chargable), two stereo headphone outputs, and one microphone input.

Envy 15 Left

Wireless

The Envy 15 comes with Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 AGN Wifi and Broadcom 20702 Bluetooth 4.0.  I haven’t tried the Bluetooth functionality, but I’ve been very pleased with the Intel Ultimate-N Wifi.  I have frequently (accidentally) disabled the wifi adapter due to the position wireless on/off switch, since it is located exactly where the “Delete” key exists on Thinkpad keyboards.  When this happens, or when I boot the system or wake it from sleep, it connects or reconnects to my wireless network very quickly, often before I’m even ready to use it.  I am accustomed to waiting for my wireless adapter to connect, so the fast connection time is a nice perk.  It’s also worth noting that I can see several wireless networks that were previously too far away for my T61p to detect, and I’m getting better signal strength to my own.  I haven’t noticed any wireless networking problems.

Battery Life

The HP Envy 15 comes with an internal 8-cell Li-Ion battery, which is located behind the removable back panel, along with the hard drive.  However, HP’s warranty specifies that the battery is not user replaceable, even though it is obviously easy to remove.  To add insult to injury, the battery (and/or HP’s power management software) doesn’t seem to allow one to set charge thresholds for it.  Thus, for anyone who uses AC power most of the time (like myself), it is not feasible to prolong the lifespan of the battery by keeping it only partly charged.  According to this source, Li-Ion batteries lose about 20% of their capacity every year, when kept fully charged at room temperature.  They only lose about 4% per year when kept 40% charged at the same temperature.  My own experience supports this, as my T61p’s 4-year old Li-Ion battery has been used daily for four years, and is still going strong with 80% of its original capacity.

Battery life of course depends on your usage patterns and system settings.  To give an idea of what battery life might be under different conditions I did a couple of different battery rundown tests:

Conditions Battery Life Achieved
Screen brightness set to 50%, wireless on, Intel integrated GPU set as active, Intel Graphics Settings configured to “Maximize Battery Life”, FireFox browser open on a web page that refreshed every two minutes 5 hours 15 minutes
Screen brightness set to 50%, wireless on, Intel integrated GPU set as active, Intel Graphics Settings configured to “Maximize Battery Life”, DVD movie playing the entire time 3 hours 54 minutes
Screen brightness set to 50%, wireless on,  AMD Radeon GPU set as active, “ATI Powerplay Settings” to “Maximize Battery Life”, FireFox browser open on a web page that refreshed every two minutes 2 hours 53 minutes

Obviously there’s a huge battery life advantage to using the Intel GPU, even when the AMD graphics are set to maximize battery life there’s a much larger power draw and battery life drops a whopping 45%!

I just finished the second battery life test for the Envy 15, using the Radeon GPU.  I used the same settings and conditions as the previous test, except I changed the “ATI Powerplay Settings” to “Maximize Battery Life”, instead of Performance.  I also set BatteryMon to sample at 30 second intervals, and it stopped logging again at 90 minutes into the test, so I’m guessing it’s an unmentioned limitation of the trial version.  I’ve attached the results.

They were interesting, since this time the battery only lasted 2 hours 53 minutes until Windows hibernated at 7%.  This represents a 45% decrease in battery life (or a 45% increase in power consumption?), with the Radeon GPU active and in its battery-optimized state.

The Envy 15’s 120W AC adapter has over 11 feet of cord length, with the power brick  measuring 5.75″ x 2.875″ x 1″.  It’s large, but reasonably thin and portable.  It’s nowhere near as large as the 200W brick that came with the Sony VAIO F-series 3D I tried.

OS and Software

I ordered my Envy 15 with the cheapest OS and disk option available, since I planned to use my own copy of Windows 7 Ultimate with an Intel X25-M SSD I’d previously purchased.  Right away, I burned the recovery discs (five single-layer DVD’s), then copied the 6GB C:\SWSetup folder to another two DVD’s.  That folder contains all of the drivers and software installed on the system by HP’s stock image.  Having these driver installers available for a fresh Windows installation will save a lot of time, especially since some important drivers (such as the graphics drivers) are not yet not even officially available  online, yet.

Warranty and Customer Support

I paid for the 3-year House Call w/ Accidental Damage Protection warranty, for $157.   Some spilled water accidentally killed the IPS display in my old Lenovo R51, and I couldn’t stand the same to happen to the only affordable desktop replacement notebook I found with an IPS display!  Who knows how long HP will continue to offer the Radiance display on the Envy 15.  Supply problems seem to be a recurring issue with IPS display panels.

I haven’t yet had any experience with HP’s customer support, so I can’t comment on it.  I hear they offer relatively good support.  Lenovo never failed to impress me with their warranty support, I’m hoping HP will do the same.

Conclusion

Above all other things, I was looking for a laptop with a very readable high-resolution display, a good keyboard, and a good touchpad.  The Envy 15 successfully delivers these (with its Radiance display upgrade), along with excellent performance all around.  Photography buffs and artists might want to steer clear of the Envy 15, due to the Radiance display’s low color gamut.  Gamers might want to consider the Envy 17 for its mobile gaming performance.  Movie buffs might want to seek a system with an internal Blu-ray drive option.  Anyone else who is seeking a stylish, powerful, and portable desktop replacement, you will likely be very pleased with the Envy 15.  Treat your Envy 15 to an SSD for significant performance gains.  And one last time, do not to skip the Radiance display upgrade unless you know exactly why you don’t want it.

Pros:

  • Excellent performance for the price (after rebates)
  • 15.6″ Radiance Full HD Infinity display option
  • Switchable integrated/discrete GPU provides power savings
  • Loud sound system, for a notebook
  • Good cooling
  • Good ergonomics
  • Well built, attractive design

Cons:

  • No Blu-ray drive option
  • Minor cosmetic build defects reported
  • Loud cooling fan when using demanding applications
  • Warranty specifies that the (easily-removed) internal battery is not end-user replaceable
  • Power manager does not offer customizable charging thresholds
Related Envy 15-3000 Articles

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51 Responses to HP Envy 15-3000 Review

  1. Andrew January 3, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Impressive review Ryan, great that you’re for the most part happy. There isn’t such thing as a perfect laptop, just one that comes close to hitting most of your needs, looks like the Envy 15 accomplished that for you!

  2. Roman January 3, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Thank you for that review despite of being more user impression not the real technical review as notebookcheck.net makes.

    I noted your cons of that laptop and it seems that only 2 things are important for me personally – fan noise and orange/red issue of the screen.

  3. heathersil January 3, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    Ryan, I’m interested in your thoughts on the red orange issue, as I am currently deciding whether or not to return this laptop because of that issue. To my eyes, it is not very noticeable when there are only small amounts of red on the screen, but when there is a lot of red on the screen it is very noticeable. For instance, the Netflix loading screen looks a bright orange instead of red; a picture of a large red rose looks bright orange; and a large American flag looks to have orange stripes. Was your experience similar, and did you find it offputting?

    Unfortunately, there really aren’t a lot of true competitors to this laptop. A MacBook Pro with similar specs cost about $1000 more; the Samsung series 7 Chronos has a screen with poor viewing angles even for a TN panel and poor contrast, regardless of its color accuracy; and the Envy 17-3000, although I hear it has a lovely screen that can display reds nicely (albeit with poorer viewing angles and contrast compared with the 15 because it is not an IPS), does not have a significantly more powerful GPU than the envy 15.** I don’t think I would want to jump up to a 17 inch laptop without a significant increase in GPU power.

    Anyway, thank you for the review. Any further thoughts on the screen would be appreciated.

    **According to what owners of the envy 17 have said in the notebookreview.com forums, the 7690m XT in the Envy 17 is only a bit more powerful than a 6770m, whereas the 7690m in the envy 15 is a bit more powerful than a 6750m, so there isn’t a huge difference in GPU power between the envy 15 and 17.

  4. Mr.Mischief January 3, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Thanks for taking the time to review this, looks AWESOME!

  5. Antoni January 3, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    Great review! I was really impressed with your attention to detail!

    I got exactly the same config as you but it had a dent in it, so I returned it and my replacement is coming in this week.

    I was wondering if you could give a bit more detail about changing out the HD for an SSD (as I bought one intending to do this). Do you think I should install a personal copy of Windows 7 Pro on the SSD after physically installing the SSD or copy what is on the stock HD over using software like Acronis and then putting in the SSD?

    I like your method of a clean install to get rid of all the bloat, and i have an extra windows 7 iso, but as you said, I am worried about the drivers.

    Any tips on that?

    Thanks and great job on the review!

    • Ryan January 3, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

      Antoni, I would recommend retaining HP’s Windows image, or at least burn the recovery disks so you can recreate it later, if necessary. From what I saw, HP’s image didn’t seem too bad, though. It probably wouldn’t be too hard to just remove the bloatware manually, so using the recovery disks to build the SSD or copying the HP image over to it directly might be good options.

      If you opt to install a fresh copy of Windows, then just find a way to make the installers in the C:\SWSetup folder on the stock HDD available to you after the SSD is installed. You could use something like the Apricorn HDD-to-USB device (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812161002) to pre-partition the SSD copy the whole directory to a partition other than the one on which you’ll install Windows. You could also just copy the drivers directory to a USB thumbdrive, or burn it to DVD, like I did, and copy it to the SSD after installing Windows on it. I don’t think it’s important to have it ready prior to the Windows 7 installation, since there are no special RAID or other drivers that must be installed in advance, as far as I know.

  6. Ryan January 3, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    Thanks Andrew and Roman, it was my first attempt at a laptop review. I agree, it was definitely not as thorough, detailed, or impartial as a notebookcheck.net review–I love their work. I don’t have the equipment to get a lot of the data that they collect, though, so I had to stick with a mostly qualitative evaluation.

    heathersil, the red/orange issue doesn’t bug me at all. While I can fully appreciate a beautiful screen with vibrant, accurate colors, I once tried Dell’s ultra-wide gamut RGB LED screen, and found it to be beautiful but a distraction, since many things (particularly web sites and photos) became very oversaturated. If I were using the Envy for tasks that required color accuracy, such as photo retouching, illustration, film post-production, 3D modelling or animation, then the Envy Radiance display’s color gamut would probably be a deal breaker. But for web surfing or watching movies on the go, it wouldn’t bother me, I’m not picky about color quality on my laptop. That’s what I have a nice television for! I actually spent hours yesterday going through NASA’s APOD web site, because all of the images looked so beautiful on this screen. My main requirement is readability, and in that, this screen satisfies me in ways few others can. That sounds naughty.

  7. Abdelbar January 3, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    Hi
    This really was very helpful but if you could please upload a video of the envy 15 at youtube to see how it works because i want to buy one but i did not see an uploaded one at youtube either unboxing or just a quick review.
    Thanks fir the detailed review though.

  8. Vivek January 3, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    I would have liked to see specific numbers for the temperatures instead of vague statements like “It becomes a mildly warm to the touch at the bottom of the chassis”. A picture of the notebook with the temperatures on different areas would have been very nice. You only need an ordinary thermometer to do this.

    • Ryan January 4, 2012 at 12:02 am #

      Hi Vivek, I don’t have the equipment (or time) to do this properly, so I was constrained to providing a qualitative review. Specifically, I would need a thermometer capable of accurately measuring surface and ambient temperature. I would also need to calibrate the thermometer, to confirm its accuracy and precision. Regular store-bought thermometers are not intended for making reliable, accurate measurements of surfaces, and I don’t have access to a suitable alternative.

  9. Jason January 3, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    Thanks for the review. I just wanted to know if the horizontal line on the touchpad that indicates where the left and right click buttons are is raised or is it flush with the rest of the touchpad. I noticed it was raised on the later DV6 model with the updated Intel processor. I prefer it not to be raised as it tends to get in the way when scrolling vertically using two fingers. Thanks.

    • Ryan January 4, 2012 at 12:08 am #

      Hi Jason, yes it is slightly raised. I would guess it is about the height of a sheet of paper. I know what you mean about it getting in the way during vertical scrolling, but I’m hoping I’ll get used to it. This is my first notebook with a buttonless touchpad.

  10. PCHome January 3, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Ryan,

    Thank you very much for a wonderful well-done review. I have just received my ENVY 15 today with the highest speed processor, 8GB of RAM and the FHD display. Two things now, first, I am a little uncomfortable with the orange/red issue and in addition, I got annoyed by the small fonts since I wear eye glasses and I had strain focusing on the test (I had the same problem before with MacBook Pro Hi-Res display and got the regular one). So, I am thinking of ordering one now with the regular display. Will the resolution be still OK or would it be awful? Second thing is the fan is not so noisy but it is running 24/7, is that fine? Please, advise ASAP.

    Thanks

    • Ryan January 4, 2012 at 12:16 am #

      Hi PCHome, are you familiar with Windows’ DPI Scaling functionality? If not, go into the display properties menu and play with it a bit. It’s a fantastic feature for notebooks with high-res screens, and works really well in Windows 7. The regular BrightView display option is 1366×768. You can easily simulate what this is like by changing the resolution on your own system to match or approximate that resolution. Open Windows’ Display Properties menu to do that.

      If your fan is running all the time and you’d rather it not, you can disable the “Always On” setting in the system BIOS. To access the system BIOS, turn the notebook off, then turn it on and start pressing the Esc key repeatedly. This should take you to a menu where you can press F10 to access the BIOS menu, instead of loading the OS.

    • PCHome January 4, 2012 at 12:58 am #

      Ryan,

      I tried the 1366×768 on my current FHD and it gives me something AWFUL that I do not believe it will be like this on the actual machine if I order it with the regular display. I am not not technologically expert but I believe you cannot just try this lower resolution on an FHD display. Tell me what you think. Try it yourself on your FHD and I am sure you will not believe that this is how it will look on the actual regular display.

      I know the DPI scaling option you are talking about but for some reason, I still feel there is something not just right.

      The fan is going on all the time even when I disabled this option and also made the graphics fixed.

    • Ryan January 4, 2012 at 2:07 am #

      Hi PCHome, the BrightView display will look much sharper at its native resolution than the FHD display would at the same resolution. I only meant to suggest a method to approximate what the 1366×768 resolution would look like, in terms of desktop space, icon, menu, and text size.

      Regarding the cooling fan, I find that it comes on pretty often in my Envy, but it doesn’t bother me. Strong cooling is a necessary thing when squeezing the performance of a desktop PC into a 15 inch notebook. You could try changing the Intel GPU cooling setting from “Active” to “Passive”. That setting is located in the Windows Power Options menu, under the advanced settings. This would throttle your GPU instead of increasing the fan speed. You could use a third party app (such as RivaTuner or RightMark CPU Clock Utility) to similarly throttle your CPU. Another option would be to find a program that lets you control the cooling fans yourself, but turning them down or off would increase the operating temperature, perhaps disastrously. A last option would be to consider undervolting or underclocking the notebook, but depending on how you try to do this, it could void your warranty and kill your notebook. It’s not something I would advise anyone to attempt unless they were already familiar with doing it. I’m not even sure if it’s possible, since I don’t think the Envy’s BIOS has any advanced voltage or clock speed controls, and I’m not familiar with currently available tools or applications that can do this.

  11. Samuel January 3, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

    Stellar Review! I especially like the level of detail you gave to the red(orange) color screen issue. It’ll help with the informed decision. It looks like a really nice build.
    I’ve got one in my shopping cart ready to check out. However, what I’m particularly interested in is if i can replace the optical slot drive with an additional hard drive. I’ve done this before on other HP builds, but never on an ENVY. Did you run across anyone that had attempted this (successful or not) in your research?

    Thanks!

    • Ryan January 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

      Thanks, Samuel! I saw a few forum posts from people wondering the same thing, but I didn’t see notice any claims to have accomplished it. I opened up mine to see how easy it might be. Half of the back panel unlocks simply by moving a switch, allowing it to be slid off, providing easy access to the hard disk and battery. The other half has six screws keeping it in place. Once they are removed, it also slides off easily. This allows access to the memory and other internals. It looked like one would have to remove quite a number of screws, possibly including the covered battery screws, in order to gain access to the optical drive bay.

      From an Envy 15 disassembly document (see: http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/globalcitizenship/environment/productdata/Countries/_MultiCountry/disassembly_notebo_20111116213653.pdf ), the SATA DVD drive seems to be model number GS30N. You might be able to find specs for that drive, to determine if there is appropriate clearance and/or an adapter for installing a second hard drive. Needless to say (except for readers who might not be familiar with this), modifying your Envy this way would likely void your warranty.

    • Andrew January 4, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

      Ryan kindly took some pictures of the internals of the Envy 15, here’s a link to that http://www.laptopreviews.com/a-look-inside-the-hp-envy-15-3000-2012-01

  12. PCHome January 4, 2012 at 2:32 am #

    Ryan,

    Thanks again for your advice. I tried adjusting the DPI to 150%. It helps with Windows fonts/menus but not with the text while browsing and I have to enlarge it manually every time I open a page. Anyway, I have placed a new order with 2.4 processor and regular display and 8GB VS my current one 2.5 processor and Full HD. I also felt that the 0.1 difference in the processor does not worth the money paid. Do you think the new one would still be OK for me? I know it is something subjective but I just do not want to feel that having the regular display is something ODD :) I am also hoping that it may not have the orange/red issue. Do you think this could be a possibility?

    • Ryan January 4, 2012 at 2:40 am #

      I haven’t seen the BrightView display, but I hope it works well for your needs! Please let us know how it is compared to the Radiance display, when you receive it.

  13. shazam26 January 4, 2012 at 3:24 am #

    Hey Ryan,

    After reading multiple issues over @notebookreview forum ( like

    . Reds being orange
    . dented USB inputs
    . Big one for me, keyboard, every 12 or so keystrokes not registering

    I just ordered the ThinkPad T520. Just curious, you having owned a thinkpad, why did you choose this over T-series?
    Reason I ask is because HP 15 was my 1st choice but ThinkPad quality and Keyboard won me over but after your review I am in dilemma.

    FYI, forum users are saying that this driver (http://code.google.com/p/two-finger-scroll/) improves the HP trackpad experience. So, hope this helps.

    thanks for your help in advance.

    • Ryan January 4, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

      Hi shazam26, thanks for the driver suggestion! I chose the Envy 15 over a Lenovo notebook primarily due to the IPS display option available with the Envy (the Radiance FHD Infinity display). I think Lenovo is a fantastic brand with excellent build quality, ergonomics, and customer support. However, they haven’t offered a single model with a high-resolution IPS display since the old 15″ T60 Flexview.

  14. Andrew January 4, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    Since HP does not allow control over the battery’s charging threshold, what can users do to prolong the life of the battery (aside from using the laptop less often)? Are people who are constantly connected to AC just doomed to having their battery die relatively quickly?

    • Ryan January 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

      Hi Andrew, I tried posting a reply which included some links, but it failed to post twice. You can find some tips for battery care on Microsoft’s web site, if you search Google for “Microsoft battery care”. In short, they recommend using the battery regularly, keeping it relatively cool, and not leaving it completely full or empty for extended periods.

      I wish Windows would allow users to set custom charge thresholds via the Power Options menu, but I’m sure there’s a technical reason they don’t. It might require special hardware or drivers to do correctly.

  15. Visi January 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    I just want to point out that while yes, it seems some people do have the red/orange issue with the 15.6″ Radiance Full HD Infinity display (1920 x 1080) I however do not. My red looks red and my orange looks orange. I noticed a lot of people on the forum are just assuming that this is the way the colors are suppose to be displayed, but it isn’t. It is a mistake. And if you do have that problem I suggest you exchange it for a new one. And for those who are still deciding whether to purchase this laptop or not, don’t let the red/orange issue be the only factor preventing this purchase. The screen and colors are beautiful. And if yours is not, exchange it. I just want to let people know that this problem is definitely not something all of these laptops have. There is hope :)

    • PCHome January 4, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

      You have posted this in the notebookreviews forum as well and again please, please send some pictures as evidence before you prematurely say that because your eyes are definitely tricking you. It is a major defect!

    • itech4life January 4, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

      @Visi
      Thanks for your information. It’s exactly what I was hoping for: hoping to receive a laptop without any defects. I have not received mine yet. But I do need the screen and color to be working, since my work is related to photography and video production. How long have you had your Envy?

    • Ryan January 4, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

      Hi Visi, it’s possible that HP has sourced their Radiance display panels from multiple manufacturers. Would you be so generous as to post your Monitor description and LCD panel ID, so we can see if your Envy has the same LCD panel as ours?

      The Monitor description is the name of the entry listed under the “Monitors” item in Device Manager. Mine is simply “Generic PnP Monitor”. The LCD panel ID is easy to find in the “Details” tab under the monitor’s properties menu. It is stored in the “Hardware Ids” value. Mine says “MONITOR\LGD0323″, indicating that the panel ID is “LGD0323″. Any other information you can post about your monitor or associated drivers would be interesting, too.

      Also, did you calibrate your display, or are you using it with the default settings?

  16. itech4life January 6, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Hi Ryan,

    I received my Envy 15 with IPS a day ago. I think mine has a good screen as well. So far, I can see red and violet without any custom calibration. Like yours, my hardware ids is LGD0323. I did however reinstalled my windows 7 as clean installation and don’t know if that helps.

    • itech4life January 6, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

      Oh thanks for much for great review, Ryan!

    • Ryan January 6, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

      Thanks, and thank you for your screen ID & impression!

  17. Palm January 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    Hey i m a highschool student and i would like to ask if this awesome notebook suite me . I am going to buy this for surfing web , playing some games.
    so here s my question . do u think i should choose i7 2760 over 2670 its cost 150 extra and i am not sure about this . so im waiting for ur advice !

    • Andrew January 9, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

      Save you’re $150 and spend it on an upgrade to SSD in my opinion, you’ll get a much bigger performance boost by doing that. It’s a great laptop for your needs, most definitely.

    • Ryan January 10, 2012 at 5:32 am #

      Agreed, Andrew nailed it. Go for the SSD, if it’s a choice between one and the other. The performance gains from the CPU upgrades drop off sharply after the i7-2670QM.

  18. Palm January 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    do u think i should go for ssd with hp ? its got 160 solid state drive cost more 160 buck what do u think

  19. jay January 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    Great review….
    i current;y have the original envy 15, happy with its performance thus far except the obvious heating and uber poor battery life.

    I want to upgrade to either the new envy 15 or 17.
    I use the envy as a DAW (digital audio workstation) and will need large capacity storage, i like the fact the envy 17 can configure with 2x1tb + 128gb ssd drives.

    my question is and forgive me if i missed it, when you installed the ssd for your review did you add it or replace it with the factory sata drive??

    thanks in advance

    • Ryan January 10, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

      I replaced the factory drive with the SSD. I took some shots of the internals of the Envy 15, which show the drive’s location. They can be found here: http://www.laptopreviews.com/a-look-inside-the-hp-envy-15-3000-2012-01

      Also on that page is also a link to an official disassembly guide for the Envy 15, which is further useful in examining the layout and internals of the notebook.

      I’m not sure if it would be an easy matter to put a second drive into the Envy 15. There’s no question it would have to replace the optical drive, and that doesn’t seem trivial to remove or replace. Even if it is doable, I’m not aware of an official or robust adapter/bay solution for keeping a second hard drive firmly in the optical drive’s former location.

  20. shazam26 January 12, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    Hey Ryan,

    Now that you had this lappy for a while, what is your final verdict on this. Would you recommend this to someone doing work related stuff. I just got my T-520 and I am not that impressed by it. I’m thinking of returning T-520 and get the HP Envy.

    thanks.

    • Ryan January 12, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      Hi shazam26, I’m really pleased with my Envy. It offers great build quality with excellent performance, good ergonomics, and an outstanding display, for a notebook. I’d recommend it to anyone who is in the market for a portable desktop replacement, who doesn’t need a Blu-ray drive.

      PS-When I ordered and tried a Sony VAIO F-series 3D in November, my roommate was underwhelmed with the display quality When he saw my Envy 15, he noticed the difference immediately, and was soon ready to buy one for himself.

  21. shazam26 January 12, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    Hey Ryan,

    Now that you had this lappy for a while, what is your final verdict on this. Would you recommend this to someone doing work related stuff. I just got my T-520 and I am not that impressed by it. I’m thinking of returning T-520 and get the HP Envy.

    +Shazam

  22. Dal January 18, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    i found pictures of a HP envy 15 displaying pure red :http://www.mobiletechreview.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Number=42010

    scroll down a bit in there and you can see the picture of red on the hp compared to apple cinema display it does look a little orangey- if that makes sense but not enough that it would prevent me from buying it.

  23. Jade January 22, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    Bought this machine last week and must say I’m a bit dissapointed about it. It gets hotter than I expected, but ok, I can live with that, but what bothers me more is that battery life isn’t great at all. My old laptop battery does a far better job. And more, the touchpad is sometimes unresponsive. This is really very annoying. Contacted HP support, but still no answer. Not so enthousiast about HP for the moment…

    • Ryan January 23, 2012 at 1:58 am #

      Hi Jade, I found that the touchpad drivers that came on the system were pretty terrible. Updating to the latest ones (I’m currently using Synaptics driver version 15.3.26.2) made it much nicer to use, though still not perfect. This version of the drivers can be found here: ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/softpaq/sp55001-55500/sp55260.exe

      Do you know of any desktop replacement notebooks with significantly better battery life? I suppose it’s relevant to remember that there is no battery upgrade or slice option available for the Envy 15, so ones with those options would probably suit highly mobile users much better.

    • Frederik January 28, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

      I was also initially disappointed by the battery life but I was able to dramatically increase it by changing the switchable graphics from “dynamic” to “fixed” in the BIOS. After changing this the Catalyst control panel gives you the option of always using the Intel graphics when running on battery power. By contrast, in dynamic mode the driver will often select the power-hungry Radeon graphics even for mundane tasks such as rendering web pages.

  24. Frederik January 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    Thank you so much for pointing out the Synaptics driver issue. I really like my Envy 15 otherwise but I’ve been extremely frustrated by the touchpad. After updating to the Synaptics driver you mentioned this problem seems to have been completely fixed. I really can’t understand why HP didn’t ship my machine with the newest driver, considering that it is actually from November. I also don’t understand why the HP Support Assistant won’t update the driver.

  25. Jade January 29, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Updated touchpad drivers but unfortunately, doesn’t seem to make a big difference… And still waiting for HP support, didn’t hear anything yet.

    • Frederik January 30, 2012 at 12:20 am #

      Have you disabled the restricted pointing and tapping zones in the Synaptics SmartSense settings?

  26. Chis January 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    Please, if you are planning to do more reviews, put HWINFO32 temps of CPU and GPU when stressed (wPrime+Furmark). I highly doubt that this machine can withstand without throttling that CPU&GPU power. I’m almost sure this thig heat’s up to 90C for CPU and 80ish for GPU… well i just have to wait for neotbookcheck review then…

  27. Lucas March 29, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    Ryan is it possible to have a ssd and a hdd at the same time for the envy 15?

    Thanks a lot

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