Just to confuse everyone, HP is calling the new Envy 4t a Sleekbook, not an Ultrabook. That makes some sense as the 4t doesn’t quite hit all the Ultrabook check boxes. While the Envy 4t does have the requisite ULV CPU, it’s not quite as waif thin as an Ultrabook, measuring .78” in height. The third leg of the Ultrabook stool is a SSD for storage, but here again HP differs from the Ultrabook blueprint by using a platter based hard drive for storage. Whatever you want to call the Envy 4t, it is designed to be a wallet friendly slim notebook that gives you an attractive design, some portability, good sound and offers lots of ports. Read on below to see if HP delivers the goods.
Here are the specifications of the Envy 4t Sleekbook model under review:
- Model: Envy 4t-1000
- Operating System: Windows Seven Home Premium x64
- CPU: Intel 1.4GHz Core i3-2367M
- Memory: 4GB DDR 1600MHz(16GB Max)
- Hard Drive: 500GB Hitachi 5K500 5400RPM Hard Drive
- Screen: 14” Matte HD (1366×768) TN LED LCD
- Graphics: Intel HD3000 Integrated
- Network: Broadcom 4313GN WiFi Card and Realtek Ethernet Card
- Inputs: Backlit Keyboard and Touchpad with Mouse Buttons
- Buttons: Power Button
- Ports: Three USB – Two USB 3.0, One USB 2.0, HDMI, Headphone and Microphone Jacks
- Slots: SD Card Reader
- Battery: Four-Cell
- Dimensions (Six-Cell): Width 13.38”, Depth 9.28” and Height .78”
- Weight: 3.8 Pounds
- Warranty: One Year
- MSRP: $799
Our review unit was configured and purchased directly from HP, it cost $699 plus tax. That was with a $100 coupon, which I would think is there to stay.
Design and Build
The Envy 4t has a clean appealing look. The top lid and keyboard deck are made from a brushed metal, and are colored a deep black. There’s a small single HP logo on the corner of the lid. Because the top cover and palm rest are made from metal, it quickly attracts fingerprints, though they are easily removed with a rag. The bottom of the 4t is covered in a soft touch material for a surer grip and colored red. It stands out and gives the 4t a distinctive look. There is an alternative casing with a silver keyboard deck and black bottom, but that wasn’t in the budget this time. When you open the 4t the clean look continues with a six-row island style keyboard, touch pad and power button. Though it’s not as slender as an Ultrabook, the Envy 4t is still fairly slim at 0.78” thick. The 4t feels dense when you hold in your hand, like there’s not much dead space on the inside. It weighs 3.8 pounds. While that doesn’t push the limits of how light a 14” can be, see the ThinkPad X1 Carbon for an example of that, it’s still on the light side for a 14” notebook. One area the Envy 4t is like an Ultrabook is the upgrades, as in there are none. You can remove a bunch of screws on the bottom, but the bottom is tightly clipped in. You’ll probably have to cross the warranty line if you want to do any upgrades.
As mentioned, the case on the Envy 4 is made from metal. The bottom case feels very rigid. There’s little give on it when pressed, nor does it flex anywhere. You can make the screen ripple by applying some pressure to the top cover, but it doesn’t seem excessive given its price point or market segment. The 4t uses a latchless lid design, which it seems almost all notebook makers are using these days. The screen feels very solid and doesn’t move at all during use. I don’t think there’s much of a chance the lid will suddenly open without notice. Fit and finish on the 4t is excellent. There’s no misaligned parts or unexplained gaps anywhere on the Envy 4t.
Display and Audio
The Envy 4t comes with a 14” LED TN LCD. I’m sad to see HP has not deemed the radiance LCD offered in other 14” Envy units suitable for use in the 4t. The screen has HD resolution (1366×768) and has a glossy finish, which means you’ll get reflections if there’s a light source nearby. What can I say about the display? There’s nothing really special about it. It’ll get the job done, but it’s not going to knock your socks off either. Colors on the display are adequate. The LCD doesn’t offer the deep blacks and white whites offered on other higher end LCDs. Colors are only good if you’re at the correct angle, but the angles are only about average. So, if you change your position too much, colors will shift out of whack. If I had to venture a guess on the brightness, I’d say about 225-250 nits. It doesn’t seem as bright as my ThinkPad X220i, which is rated at 300 nits. Because of the lower brightness and glossy screen, the 4t doesn’t work well outdoors. The glossy makes seem like you’re looking in a mirror when outdoors. It might do OK in the shade with the sun blocked. I remember when HP released the Envy a few years back, they were more expensive than the average notebook, but were known for their good displays. Other notebook owners were indeed envious of HP Envy displays, but if HP wants to stick an inferior LCD like this in an Envy, which I can probably get a on an HP ProBook for less money, it’s going to dilute the cache of the Envy brand.
The Envy 4t is a HP beats edition notebook. That means in addition to the two speakers, you get a subwoofer on the 4t. The sound, by notebook standards, is well above average. The placement of the speakers helps quite a bit too. They’re located on the base of the notebook, between the keyboard and LCD. They’re also angled toward the user. This is opposed to other notebooks, where speaker placement is often an afterthought. They end up on the bottom, sides or wherever they fit. Keeping in mind this is still a notebook, but you get some bass, not a ton, but some, and the sound is crisp/clear, even at higher volumes.
CPU, Storage and Performance
Sorry kids, there’s no Ivy Bridge love for you in this review. While HP is in the process of transitioning the Envy 4t to Ivy Bridge, we’ve got the old reliable Sandy Bridge as our review unit, but I don’t think that should be an issue for most users. Specifically, the 4t comes with the ULV Core i3-2367, which means no turbo boost, though other Envy 4t with Core CPUs that have turbo boost are available. It also came with 4GB of DDR3 PC1600 memory, the maximum amount of the memory the Envy allows is 16GB according to HP’s specs, but HP only sells the Envy 4t with 8GB of memory at most. I don’t know how you’d get 16GB in there since the memory is not user replaceable. HP sells the Envy with a pair of 5400RPM platter based hard drives, 320GB or 500GB. There’s no option for a standard SSD on the HP, nor can you upgrade it, which seems an odd choice these days. You can get a mSSD paired with the hard drive. It uses Intel’s Rapid Start technology, which should help resume, boot times and file access. Our review unit did not have this option. It came with the standard 500GB drive. After accounting for Windows and recovery partition, there was about 420GB of usable space on the drive.
Now that we’ve discussed the parts, how does the Envy 4t-1000 perform? I think most people who use this notebook, the i3 will offer plenty of performance for its users. They want a light notebook for portability to use for stuff like Office and Internet where CPU performance isn’t as critical. As you can see from the 4,378 PCMarks score, the i3 performs adequately when compared to similarly equipped notebooks, but underperforms relative to Core i5 configured machines. The 4GB of memory help to things run smoothly. I was able to surf, run a virus scan and watch a HD movie, which didn’t cause any trouble on the Envy. Probably where 4t the lagged the most was the hard drive. The latency on a platter drive obviously can’t compete with that of a SSD. Boot times were slow, around 50 seconds from pushing the start button, compared to around 20 seconds for a SSD equipped machine. Opening applications did not seem to have a sense of purpose that you would get on a machine with a SSD. If you’re someone who likes zippy performance, you should probably consider getting the mSSD or quite frankly, another machine where SSDs are an option.
Our review unit has the Intel HD 3000 GPU, though as the 4t transitions to Ivy Bridge, it should get upgraded to the HD 4000. The HD 3000 managed a 1,320 score in 3DMark Vantage (see below). While that won’t compete with a dedicated graphics card, it should allow for older games to play and some newer games at low settings. The HD 4000 offers a considerable bump in performance. If you’re set on the 4t and want to do some gaming, the HD 4000 is worth waiting to get.
Now to the benchmarks, first up is PCMark Vantage, a popular benchmark used to gauge overall system performance, it takes into account processor, memory and storage performance.
PCMark Vantage Benchmark Results – Higher scores indicate better performance
|Laptop||PCMark Vantage Score|
|HP ENVY 4t-1000 – Intel Core i3-2367M 1.4GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB 5400RPM HD, Intel HD 3000||4,378 PCMarks|
|Dell XPS 13 (Intel Core i5-2476M 1.60GHz, Intel HD 3000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)||9,826 PCMarks|
|HP Folio 13 (Intel Core i5-2467M 1.60GHz, Intel HD3000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)||9,026 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X230 – Intel Core i5-3320M 2.60GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD||7,603 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X220 – Intel Core i5-2410M 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD||5,764 PCMarks|
|SONY VAIO SA – Intel Core i5-2430M, AMD 6750M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD||7,007 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|
Clearly the Envy 4t is not going to win any performance awards, especially when compared to notebooks with the latest Intel Ivy Bridge processor.
Next up is 3DMark, a benchmark program that measured the graphics performance of a system. Given this unit has Intel HD 3000 graphics, the expectations aren’t high:
3DMark Vantage – Measures 3D graphics performance, higher scores are better
|HP ENVY 4t-1000 – Intel Core i3-2367M 1.4GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB 5400RPM HD, Intel HD 3000||1,320|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X230 – Intel Core i5-3320M 2.60GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD||3,165|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X220 – Intel Core i5-2410M 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD||1,611|
|Dell XPS 15 (Intel Core i7-2670QM, Nvidia GT 525M 1GB RAM, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD)||4,211|
|HP Envy 17-3000, Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD||6,970|
|Dell XPS 17 (Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, Nvidia 550m, 6GB RAM, HD 7200RPM)||4,747|
|HP Pavilion dv6t Select Edition – Intel Core i5-2410m, Intel HD 3000 Graphics, 6GB RAM||1,845|
Again, the results for 3D performance don’t impress with the Core i3 configuration we have, but unless you’re looking to run games it’s not going to have much effect on your overall experience.
Finally, a quick look at the Windows Experience Index shows it’s really the graphics that are the weak spot here, but the processor score 5.2 isn’t exactly great either:
Bottom line, it may indeed be worth upgrading to the Core i5 given the not so amazing performance of the Core i3.
Keyboard and Touch Pad
The Envy 4t uses a six row chiclet or island style keyboard. The keyboard has a backlight for use in places where the lighting is dim. It has only one light level. It’s either on or off. The F5 key for controlling the brightness is always on, even if the backlight is turned off, which is a little irksome at times. The WiFi key is always on too. The keyboard on the 4t is very firm, which is a step in the right direction. Pressing one key does not cause the next to move. I’m used to ThinkPad keyboards, so the spacing for me is a little off, but that would correct itself over time. The flaw in the keyboard is the key depth. There’s not enough space between the top of the key and the bottom of the keyboard. It feels like as soon as you hit a key, Bam, you hit the bottom. For me this made it more difficult to get into a rhythm when typing on it like you can on a keyboard with better depth.
The touch pad on the Envy 4t is a Synaptics brand. It’s a click pad, meaning anywhere you press on the touchpad registers as a left click, except the lower right corner, which serves as a right click. The problem with click pads is you can’t feel where the touch pad ends and the mouse button begins. At least HP has marked it with a line, so a quick glance can put you on the right track. The touch pad is large, measuring three inches top to bottom and four inches across. The touch pad is very smooth. It takes little effort to move your finger from side to side. The touch pad works well. There’s no lag between what you do with your finger and what happens on screen. The button mechanism on the click pad is a little stiff for my tastes, requiring more force to engage the button, but I’m probably in the minority on this one. The touch pad gestures that now come on every notebook work well on the Envy 4t. Two finger scrolling is smooth and fluid, and pinch to zoom is almost intuitive. It’s not quite up to Apple standards, but it’s not far off and the best I’ve seen on any PC to date.
The Envy comes with one battery choice, a four-cell lithium-ion battery. The battery is housed inside the case and it cannot be swapped or upgraded by the end user. It must be sent off for replacement. HP’s official battery life estimate is that you can get 8.7 hours of use, but as usual, that’s wildly optimistic. To test the battery life, I set the screen to half brightness and the battery management software within Windows to Power Saver since the Envy had no battery optimization software. Doing just normal type stuff like surfing, working on the review and listening to some music, I was able to get four hours and eighteen minutes of battery life before the Envy went to sleep. That’s certainly respectable for a notebook with a 14” LCD and four-cell battery, but there are other 14” systems that offer larger/swappable batteries for those who need extended time away from the outlet. The AC adapter was slightly larger than my ThinkPad adapter, but the cord was some 32” longer, making it somewhat gangly and unruly when attempting to disentangle it. Plus it’s a three pronged adapter, which may make finding an outlet more difficult.
Heat & Noise
You’d think notebook engineers would have figured out by now people use laptops in their laps and putting the vent(s) on the bottom of the laptops recessed upward only a few mm above the feet, is not a good prescription for getting a quiet notebook. The good news is the Envy runs very cool whether you’re running a light load or pushing it harder. It never goes much above warm. The hottest part is around the vent on the bottom of the Envy, particularly if you’re using it in your lap. Unfortunately to get the quiet operation, the fan is on noticeably more often than not. At least it doesn’t have a grind or whine to it, so it’s not particularly annoying. When doing ho-hum tasks like typing documents or web surfing, the fan likes to cycle on/off every few minutes. It runs at about half speed. When giving it a more strenuous workout, the fan is on constantly, at a higher more audible RPM. It’s not unusual for the fan to be running on a notebook running at a high CPU utilization rate, but the cycling on/off of the fan is a bit irritating. If you’re listening to music or there’s conversation in the room, it’s easily forgotten. If, however, you’re alone in the room to get some to some peace and quiet, you can’t miss it. Hopefully HP will release a BIOS update to quell the noise as other manufacturers have done, but for now it’s a somewhat noisy little bugger.
Ports and Networking
The Envy 4t does a nice job of giving its users most of the ports they’re likely to want. Perhaps Thunderbolt would have been a nice addition, but Thunderbolt is so new and there’s not many devices that can harness its potential. The few that are there tend to be steeply priced. The left side of the Envy has an Ethernet port, HDMI, two USB ports and a card reader. The Ethernet port has a flap on it that you have to open to put the jack in there. It sits flush with the notebook otherwise and helps maintain its sleekness. I though it a clever trick.
The right side of the 4t has a lock connector, headphone and microphone jacks, a rare sight these days, another USB port and the power connector.
Our Envy 4t came with a Broadcom WiFi wireless N WiFi card. It worked without any trouble at home and work. You can upgrade the 4t with Bluetooth and WiDi, though our review unit did not have that card. All 4t come with an Ethernet port.
Software and Support
The Envy 4t-1000 comes with Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional, which shouldn’t be news to anyone. We took the step of doing a minimized image recovery to reduce bloatware, here’s a YouTube video on how that’s done with the Envy 4t. By taking this step you seriously reduce the amount of preloaded software, there will only remain a few mildly annoying HP apps. Norton will be removed if you do an HP minimized recovery, which is huge given the annoyance of that software.
The Envy comes with a one year depot(mail-in) warranty that’s standard on most consumer notebooks. HP will let buyers upgrade the warranty, including House(on-site) and accidental coverage. The length of the warranty is limited to four years of service, but the pricing is fairly expensive. For example, extending the warranty to three years including accidental, but not on-site, cost close to $300. That’s nearing 50% of the cost of the notebook. I think most users except perhaps the particularly clumsy, would probably be better off forgoing the extended coverage.
The Envy 4t seems like a good compromise between cost and features. It’s not as uber thin or light as an Ultrabook, but the Ultrabooks you are going to find in the $700 price range like the Toshiba Portege Z or Acer Aspire S3 don’t offer a design that’s as appealing as the Envy, nor do they feel as robust. What the Envy 4t does give you is an attractive look with the brushed metal and red bottom. At $700, it won’t break the bank. It sounds good, offers plenty of ports and performance for most users. If that sounds like what you’re looking to get, then the Envy may merit consideration. It’s downsides would be the sub par screen and noisy fan. If those are likely to bother you, you should probably take a pass on the 4t. Of course if you are willing to spend a little more money, you can get something better, but if you can spend more money, you’re probably not looking at the Envy 4t anyway.
- Attractive Design
- Respectable Durability
- Backlit Keyboard
- Light for a 14” Notebook
- Good Sound
- Lots of Ports
- Cycling/Noisy Fan
- Backlight always on for WiFi and Keyboard Light Keys
- No Upgrades, including the Battery
- Using a Fair LCD in an Envy Notebook