Lenovo Coupon Code for ThinkPad Ultraportables & UltraBooks

Right now Lenovo is running a promotion on all of their Ultraportable and Ultrabook style laptops.  Confusing “Ultra” terminology aside, let’s just say there’s a sale on the thinnest and lightest ThinkPads that Lenovo offers.  When you use coupon “ULTRADEAL” you get up to $150 off.  Here’s a rundown of the offers using this coupon:

While these aren’t the best prices we’ve ever seen on the ThinkPad models, the pricing is still pretty good and certainly better than the alternative of paying full price without the coupon!  The coupon is good now through 1/9/2013.

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New HP Laptop Coupons for 2013 New Year

HP has issued new coupon codes for the New Year 2013 laptop shoppers out there, the coupons are good through 1/6/2013. The new coupon codes offer savings on the customized ENVY and Pavilion. Here’s a complete rundown of the deals available through December 23, 2012:

So let’s take a look at what the starting prices will be on some of the hottest HP laptops:

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HP ENVY TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100 Review

Overview

The new Windows 8 OS has been out for a couple of months now and one thing users have quickly realized is how much easier it might be to use the new large tile interface with a touchscreen.  The problem is, there really aren’t that many touchscreen equipped laptops on the market, and those that are tend to have an expensive price tag.  One offering that stands out and could fit many people’s budgets, including students, is the HP ENVY TouchSmart 4t Ultrabook that starts at a price of $749.99 on HP.com and can be had for lower after coupons.

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The HP ENVY TouchSmart 4t-1100 under review has the following configuration specs:

  • OS: Windows 8 Pro (64-bit)
  • Screen: 14-inch glossy LED HD TouchSmart display (1366 x 768)
  • Processor: Dual-core Intel Core i5-3317U Processor (1.7GHz, 2.6GHz Turbo frequency, 3MB cache, 17W TDP)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • Memory: 8GB DDR3-1600 RAM (2 DIMM, 16GB max supported)
  • Storage: 500GB 5400rpm HDD plus 32GB mSATA SSD cache
  • Wireless: 802.11a/b/g/n wireless network adapter, Bluetooth v4.0
  • Web Camera: Integrated 720p webcam
  • Keyboard: LED Backlit keyboard
  • Speakers: Beats Audio with stereo speakers plus subwoofer
  • Warranty: 1-year limited hardware warranty
  • Battery: 4-cell (52 WHr) Li-Po integrated battery
  • Weight: 4.77 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 13.38 x 9.28 x 0.78 inches

Build and Design

In terms of design the ENVY 4t-1100 looks very much like other recent Ultrabooks from HP such as the ENVY x2 and ENVY m4.  The ENVY 4t TouchSmart has a brushed metal finish surrounding it with a pleasing soft touch bottom that feels great to the touch plus adds a premium touch you don’t find on many other laptops.

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The ENVY 4t is about as thin as you get, with the thickness being a mere 0.9-inches when the screen is closed.  The weight comes in at 4.77lbs meaning it’s easy enough to carry in a backpack with books and not weigh you down much more than an extra textbook might.  The touch enabled screen is heavier than a standard screen, so you have to understand it’d be hard to achieve the incredible 3lbs of weight the 14” screen ThinkPad X1 Carbon has.

As far as overall strength, the aluminum covering and rubberized underside help to provide a nice amount of protection.  If you push in on the back of the screen there’s very little rippling affect, meaning the lid offers enough protection to the screen to prevent any drops or extreme external pressure from actually cracking the screen.  One very nice engineering feature HP has taken initiative with is moving most of the weight, including the battery, to the front half of the laptop so that when you touch the screen it doesn’t cause the ENVY TouchSmart 4t to tip over.

As far as upgrades and opening up the ENVY 4t goes, that’s not exactly an easy task as it’s not designed to be easily taken apart.  Just to access the RAM slots for a memory upgrade would take removing 13 screws on the bottom.  Therefore it’s best if you just pay up and configure the TouchSmart with all the components you want at the time of purchase.  Saving money and doing upgrades yourself after purchase really isn’t worth the hassle involved – unless of course you love to tinker and view it as recreation and not work!

Ports

The ENVY TouchSmart 4t-1100 comes with all the ports you’ll need for a portable laptop.  On the left side is an Ethernet port, HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports, a 4-in-1 media card reader and also some status lights.  Over on the right side is a microphone jack, headphone jack, USB 2.0 port and the power adapter.  There are no ports located on the front or back sides.

Left side:

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Right side:

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Screen

The screen is of course the main attraction of HP ENVY TouchSmart 4t-1100 due to its touchscreen feature.  The screen has a 1366 x 768 resolution and uses an LED backlit display and glossy surface finish.  The touchscreen was very accurate, more so than I would have expected, touching for input was easy to do and the sensitivity was great.  The new Start screen and tile interface for Windows 8 were designed for touch, and so it’s perfect to use with the new OS interface, easier than the touchpad is if you ask me.  Of course, if you are a touchpad person and want to keep using that then it’s there and there’s no requirement that you have to move entirely to using just the screen to click icons.

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The screen on the ENVY TouchSmart 4t is not an IPS screen like that found on the ENVY x2, these means that as the screen angle moves colors will shift.  The best viewing angle is straight on and perpendicular to your eyes.

Speakers and Audio

The ENVY 4 has Beats Audio software for improved audio output and uses two 2W stereo speakers located right above the keyboard.  There is a third 2W speaker located inside the bottom half of the chassis that acts as a subwoofer. Still, the third speaker that HP refers to as a Subwoofer really only provides a little bit of bass due to its location and small size.   Nonetheless, the listening experience is above average for an Ultrabook, the audio is clear and loud with no annoying tininess.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the ENVY TouchSmart 4t-1100 is chiclet style in design and has the option to be upgraded with backlighting for a mere $20, a bargain and wide upgrade if you ask me.  The keyboard backlight can be really helpful in dimly lit rooms as it helps you to find the black keys.  It also adds a bit of a design flare and looks cool.  For an Ultrabook the key travel is pretty decent and offers good tactile feedback.  The overall typing experience is enjoyable.  There are no areas of flex or mushiness on the keyboard, basically because everything is packed in so tightly there’s no room for empty space underneath the keyboard!

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The touchpad is oversized with a good amount of surface for scrolling, the mouse buttons are integrated into the touchpad itself to provide this extra surface.  You can also click anywhere on the touchpad to register a left click.  There are multiple gestures such as pinch to zoom, two finger scrolling and finger rotation to rotate an object on the screen (say a photo within Photoshop).  These gestures are all supported by Synaptics drives so you can enable and disable them as you please.

Performance

While the Envy TouchSmart 4t isn’t designed to be a powerhouse, it is still quite a capable little laptop.  It comes with an Intel Core i5 3rd generation “Ivy Bridge” processor that clocks in at 1.7GHz and is dual core.  Note, the processor is undervolted to save on battery life, but that’s typical with an Ultrabook style of laptop.  The Core i5-3317U is the fastest processor available in this model laptop.   It’s going to be more than adequate for everyday tasks such as web browsing, business productivity software, streaming video / processing video, using photoshop – in other words, everything outside of maybe CAD design or intense 3D gaming.  The included hard drive is an ample 500GB in size but spins at a fairly slow 5400RPM.  However, the good news is that HP included a 32GB mSATA SSD cache to help speed things along.  The mSATA SSD is used to load commonly used programs and to improve bootup times, basically it helps to give SSD like speeds without the expense of having a true SSD.  For those concerned with benchmarks, when running PCMark 7, a benchmark that tests the overall performance of a system, the score came out to 4,180.

Heat and Fan Noise

HP has gone out of their way to make sure the ENVY 4t stays cool when in use.  The included HP CoolSense software uses internal sensors to adjust fan speed based on usage and orientation of the laptop itself.  Temperatures on both the keyboard area and bottom of laptop never got above warm to the touch, even after intense usage, so this laptop will be safe and comfortable to use in the lap.  The fan of course has to run to keep the laptop cool, but when idling it was hard to even hear the fans.  Under more intense usage the fan could be heard and had a little bit of whine to it, the fan is on the back of the notebook near the hinge so the noise is directed away from you which helps.

Battery Life

Battery life is of course an important feature to anyone on the go such as business users or students.  The ENVY TouchSmart 4t has a 4-cell battery, it’s sealed inside the bottom so unfortunately it’s not upgradeable or replaceable.  The good news is that in our tests battery life came to around 6 hours when doing basic things like web surfing or just letting the laptop idle as you read a web page.  The computer was set to power saver settings in Windows 8, screen brightness was at half and wireless was of course on to be able to surf the web!  Under more demanding usage with video playback looping, screen at full brightness and wireless on the battery life was much less at 3 hours 40 minutes.  Obviously battery life various based on usage, but knowing that you’ll likely get at least 4 hours of battery life and up to 6 is pretty decent for a laptop of this size, especially considering the fact a touchscreen requires more power than a standard screen.

Conclusion

With a limited selection of touchscreen enabled laptops on the market the HP ENVY TouchSmart 4t really stands out as being a solid offering that won’t break the budget and doesn’t force too many compromises.  While there are other touchscreen laptops that have started filtering out, none really hit the price point of the Envy TouchSmart 4t.   The touchscreen feature is really great for navigating the large icons in Windows 8, much easier than using the touchpad.  We do wish the screen offered a higher resolution 1600 x 900 option, and a matte finish to reduce glare would be a nice option too.   Other nice features include the speedy Intel Core i5 3rd generation processor, spacious hard drive options with a fast SSD cache addition to speed it up, premium brush metal finish and soft touch bottom, and very thin design of 0.9”.  For a price of around $700, or less if you look for sales or coupons, the Envy TouchSmart 4t can be an attractive option for a Windows 8 machine that won’t break the bank.

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HP Red Tag Sale After Holidays Sale Starts, $100 Off Coupon

imageHP has kicked off their annual after holidays Red Tag sale in which they’re offering up to 50% off not so exciting things such as ink, but there are also some good deals on laptops.  Shipping is also free during this annual sale.  When you use coupon code REDTAGPC you get $100 off any customized laptop that’s over $799.  Here are some example deals on popular laptops that includes:

The ENVY 4t-1100 with touchscreen display for $649.99 is an especially good deal as there are very few touch screen enabled laptops on the market and most that are retail for $1,000 or more.  The ENVY dv6t-7200 and dv7t-7200 can be nice options for desktop replacement performance machines if that’s what you prefer.  Their starting prices are good right now, they haven’t gone lower than this price point in a very long time.  The Red Tag sale lasts through 1/5/2013 on HP.com.

Link: HP Direct Red Tag Sale

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Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 Shows up for Sale, Starting at $649

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 10.1” tablet that was supposed to be available in October, but then got pushed back due to undisclosed circumstances from Lenovo, is now back on Lenovo.com and can be ordered with delivery sometime in January.  Unfortunately, this completely misses the holiday season if you were hoping to put it under the tree of course, but at least it can be left as that excuse for a gadget you buy when you’re disappointed by the lack of that stellar gift you were hoping for!

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The ThinkPad Tablet 2 of course sports Windows 8, and that’s the fully fledged Windows 8 Pro, not the half baked Windows RT that the Microsoft Surface comes with.  You get full access to the Windows app store and can run any Windows program you’ve used on regular Windows PC machines.   There’s an optional digitizer pen in addition to the touchscreen input the device offers, the upgrade cost is $30.  No indication as to what pen technology is being used, it’s likely either Wacom or N-Trig and we hope it’s Wacom given the superiority of that input technology.  Other features include a mini HDMI port, full USB port, front and rear view 720p camera.

For those that insist on a keyboard there’s an optional ThinkPad Bluetooth keyboard dock.  And if you’re an Enterprise type who values security, this is a ThinkPad after all, and so there’s optional built-in TPM security.

Product Link: Lenovo ThinkPad 2 $649

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New HP Laptop Coupons for 2012 Holiday Season

HP has issued new coupon codes for the Holiday 2012 laptop shoppers out there, the coupons are good through 12/23/2012. The new coupon codes offer savings on the customized ENVY and Pavilion.  Here’s a complete rundown of the deals available through December 23, 2012:

  • Save $220 instantly + FREE shipping using coupon code NB7845 for the purchase of a customized HP ENVY dv7t Quad Edition.   Coupon expires on 12/23/2012.
  • Save $200 instantly + FREE shipping using coupon code NB8372 for the purchase of a customized HP ENVY dv6t Quad Edition.   Coupon expires after 1,000 uses or on 12/23/2012, whichever occurs first.
  • Save $100 instantly + FREE shipping using coupon code NB7453 for the purchase of a customized HP laptop greater than $599.  Offer limited to the first 1000 coupons redeemed, excludes HP ENVY x2 laptop.  Expires 12/23/2012.

So let’s take a look at what the starting prices will be on some of the hottest HP laptops:

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon with TouchScreen Goes on Sale for $1,499

For the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, the Ultrabook that almost had it all, there was only one thing missing, and that would be a screen with touchscreen capability for Windows 8.  That hole is now patched and Lenovo is selling the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch for $1,499 via Lenovo.com.  The markup of $150 over the regular X1 Carbon gets you a 1600 x 900 resolution touchscreen display that offers 10-point touch capability, so yes, you can use all ten fingers at once and place both of your paws on the screen.  Aside from the increased price cost, the other cost involved here is the fact the touchscreen adds some thickness and weight to the system.  The thickness increases from 18mm to 20.8mm and the weight goes from 3.4lbs to 3.5lbs.  Unless you have calipers out to measure the thickness or accurate kitchen scales you probably won’t notice the difference using just your own perception.

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Other than the aforementioned differences, you still get the same high quality Ultrabook with the X1 Carbon.  That means it’s still cloaked in an all carbon fiber case, has an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor, the same quality ThinkPad keyboard and giant sized glass touchpad for those times you don’t want to touch the screen to interact with it.  To see more on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon read our full review.

Product Link: ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook (Lenovo.com)

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20% Off Lenovo ThinkPad X230, $595 After Coupon

It’s not often that you can get the ThinkPad X230 for under $600, but right now that is the case, after you use 20% off coupon code BIGSAVINGS the price drops to $595 for the starting configuration with the following rather enticing specs:

  • Intel Core i5-3210M 2.50GHz
  • 4GB RAM
  • 320GB HD spinning at 7200RPM
  • 12.5” display with 1366 x 768 resolution (non IPS)
  • Windows 7
  • 6-cell battery
  • 4-in-1 card reader
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Built-in GOBI 3000 Wireless

The fact you get an Intel Core i5 processor in a top quality business notebook at under $600 is a great deal, one recommended upgrade would be to get the IPS screen, that costs $50 extra but is well worth it.  While other models of the more expensive X230 configurations come with Windows 8, I would say that Windows 7 is actually an advantage for Windows users who don’t want to have to learn a new OS that isn’t entirely business oriented.  You also get a built-in camera, backlit keyboard and built-in WWAN in the form of the Sierra Wireless MC8355 – Gobi 3000 that works with both AT&T or Verizon for anywhere Internet access.

Link to X230 Deal on Lenovo.com (don’t forget to use coupon BIGSAVINGS at checkout!)

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Google Nexus 7 Review

Overview

Until recently the tablet market has been dominated by high end Apple iPads, but $500 is still a lot of money for a tablet. On the other end of the tablet market are more cost conscious tablets that have the trade-offs needed to hit the price point. What’s a tablet buyer to do? Google is coming to the rescue with the Nexus 7. It’s Google’s attempt to shake up the tablet market with a low cost high quality tablet. The Nexus 7 gives users a nVidia quad core processor, a great IPS screen, a very portable 7” form factor, long battery life and Jelly Bean, the latest version of Android that runs buttery smooth on the Nexus 7. You get all this for the low-low price of $200. They’re practically giving it away, but is it too good to be true? What follows is an examination of the Nexus 7 from a tablet newbie’s perspective, this would be me, that will hopefully give readers some insight into whether the Nexus 7 makes a good fit for them and maybe a chuckle or two.

Nexus 7

Hardware

Here are the Nexus 7 specifications:

  • Model: Nexus 7
  • CPU: nVidia Tegra 3 Quad Core
  • Memory: 1GB
  • Storage: 16GB or 32GB
  • LCD: 7” 1280×800 IPS(400 Nits)
  • Network: WiFi, Bluetooth and HSPA+(AT&T) on Select 32GB Models
  • Camera: 1.2MP Front Facing
  • Dimensions: 7.8(H), 4.7”(W), .4”(D)
  • Weight: 12 Oz
  • OS: Android Jelly Bean
  • MSRP: 16GB $200, 32GB $250 and 32GB with HSPA+ $299

Why a Tablet and Buying

I’m sure this isn’t the first tablet review you’ve read. Most reviews tend to focus on the hardware, design, usage, etc, which we certainly will too, but since this is my personal tablet, I thought spending some time on why and how I bought might be useful for readers or at least interesting anyway. I contemplated getting a tablet ever since Apple released the original iPad in 2010. I had an iPhone at the time and liked iOS, but I already owned a very good 12” ThinkPad X200 ultraportable notebook that offered me better performance and more functionality. Sure, the iPad would convenient for surfing and media consumption, but $500 entry price seemed a bit steep. Plus, the 10” form factor seemed too close to my ThinkPad in size to be able differentiate itself enough from a notebook to warrant spending the money.

What turned the tide you ask? A number of factors came into play. Lately when bringing my laptop somewhere I’ve found myself doing light tasks like surfing, typing out an email/forum post or watching videos. While my phone is great for music, the screen is too small for extended Internet usage. My laptop, even at 12”, isn’t as easy to whip out to check scores, watch a movie trailer or send a text as a tablet. Even reading a book before bed or playing a game seemed like it would be easier on a tablet. I found myself wanting another device between my phone and laptop that provided a better viewing experience, but was more portable. A 7” tablet seemed to be the perfect solution to my problem, not too big or too small. The other main factor was cost. If I’m going to have a third mobile device, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it. My interest was piqued when the $200 Nexus was released this summer, but 8GB was a bit too small, but I decided to look in earnest for a tablet.

Once I decided to get a tablet, I had to decide which one to get. The Microsoft Surface certainly seemed interesting. Given that it’s got an optional keyboard, it would alleviate a tablet’s biggest perceived weakness for dedicated notebook users like myself, lack of a keyboard. Like the iPad, it’s expensive asking price, $600 for a Surface with keyboard, is too costly to offer value. When I started seriously looking at tablets this summer, the iPad Mini marketing juggernaut was in full force. I decided to wait for the release of the Mini in hopes that Apple would get closer to the Nexus in price. Had they done so, say $250, I might have gone that way as I have some software from when I had the iPhone that I could have used on the Mini, but it wasn’t meant to be. Around the time of the Mini’s release, Google upped the base Nexus to 16GB at the same $200 price they had been asking for the 8GB version. The Nexus seemed the best blend of specs and cost, which pushed me over the edge to get one.

I had planned to buy the Nexus directly from Google, but there was a kink in the system. Google charges buyers $14 for two day shipping. After poking around I found there was no way out of paying the extra charge even though I was perfectly content to wait a few extra days and save the $14. At this point I decided to look for other options. I Googled the Nexus 7, I know ironic isn’t it, and found they were selling them at at Wal-mart for the same price. I paid with Paypal and picked it up the next day. I did not open it right away as I had to go to work after picking it up. I wish I had as when I opened I found the seal on the Nexus had been broken, which meant someone wasn’t happy with it and returned it, which Wal-mart neglected to mention. I did email Wal-mart and they called me to offer a new one, but the tablet didn’t seem any worse for the wear and I’m one of the few Americans who doesn’t live within 30 minutes of a Wal-mart. It didn’t seem worth it to spend the $6 in gas to get a new one.

The packing on the Nexus 7 was fairly minimal. When you open the box, the Nexus 7 is wrapped in plastic. The USB cord and power adapter reside underneath. There’s also a warranty card in there, but nothing else. The manual is installed on the Nexus 7 itself.

Design and Hardware

It’s flat and covered in glass. Doesn’t that pretty much describe every tablet? Despite its modest sticker price, there’s nothing that feels bargain basement about the Nexus 7. It starts with the rear of the Nexus 7. It’s covered in a black dimpled rubber coating that gives the Nexus 7 a sure grip and feels luxurious. As I mentioned the surface is covered in glass, black being the only color choice at the moment, and at the top of the screen resides the 1.2MP camera, which takes a fairly decent picture and should allow for some skyping. There’s about a half an inch bezel on the sides on the Nexus 7, and about an inch on top and bottom that make the Nexus very easy to hold without blocking the screen. The Nexus 7 uses a 16:10 aspect ratio screen and is a little over 4” wide. It fits perfectly in the palm of your hand, which is helpful when typing one-handed. I would think the Mini at over an inch wider will not be so convenient. The more narrow screen also allows the Nexus to easily slide into my front pants pocket, whether wearing jeans or dress pants. It’s just 12 ounces in weight, which makes it far more portable than any notebook I’ve seen or used. It’s much more convenient to take to work than my notebook. The volume and power buttons are located on the sides on the Nexus 7. They’re black like the rest of the Nexus 7. It makes them difficult to find in in the dark. Perhaps making them a different color or perhaps glow in the dark would help with the usability. A button on the front would have been more helpful, but perhaps Google didn’t want to hear from Apple’s lawyers. All Nexus 7 models have WLAN and Bluetooth, both of which worked well. If you have an AT&T data plan and are willing to spend $50 more, you get the Nexus with WWAN. It doesn’t look like other carriers are an option at the moment.

Nexus 7 Back

To get to the $200 price point, some sacrifices had to be made. You don’t get a rear facing camera, which isn’t a critical to me, but could be a deal breaker for some. There’s no SD card slot on the Nexus, which would allow for storage expansion. I suspect by the time all the apps, music and videos are loaded to the Nexus, some buyers will find the 16GB offered on the base model a bit limiting. I saw the 32GB model on sale for only $30 more a week after I purchased mine of course. I kind of wished I had waited. There’s no video out for hooking up to the TV. The only ports on the Nexus are the headphone, and USB port for charging and uploading.

Ports

Screen and Audio

The Nexus 7 comes with a 7” 1280×800 IPS LCD. The pixel density is 216 PPI. Having used higher pixel density laptops, I was concerned getting a screen with such a high pixel density would make it harder to use for extended periods, but my distress was unfounded. When using the Nexus 7 I find that I hold it closer to my face than I would a notebook, which makes it easier on the eyes. Even when holding the Nexus 7 at arm’s length I found it to be very readable, but prefer it a little closer. The screen on the Nexus 7 is covered in Gorilla Glass, which is both good and bad. The Gorilla Glass protects the screen very well, but comes at the cost of fingerprints and reflectivity. The screen is a fingerprint magnet, though they are easily cleaned off. The reflectivity of the screen is probably the bigger annoyance. If there’s a light source nearby, expect to see your face. Being that it is an IPS screen and looks good at any angle, I could usually tilt it to minimize the glare. The screen is rated at 400 nits and that makes it very usable outdoors except in direct sunlight. Again, outdoors you get glare because of the glass, but I could usually find a spot where it looked good.

Screen comparison next to ThinkPad X220 with IPS screen

The screen on the Nexus 7 is fantastic, but given that it’s an IPS screen, that’s not newsworthy. I don’t have an iPad or Kindle laying around to compare it to, but it holds up well sitting next to my IPS equipped ThinkPad X220i. Contrast is high on the screen. Colors are rich and pop off the screen, which means photos and movies look dynamite. The wide viewing angles mean the Nexus looks great at any angle and it helps offset the glare produced by the glass. Because of the high pixel density of the screen, when reading text it appears crisp and clear.

Given that the Nexus is so small one would expect a subpar audio experience from it. While it’ll never blow you away with the sound quality, it will certainly suffice for video, games or listening to some music. You’ll of course do better with some headphones, which Google does not provide with the Nexus 7.

Performance, Storage and Android

The Nexus 7 has the nVidia Tegra 3 quad core ARM CPU, which is fairly impressive since most 7” tablets I’ve seen use a dual core CPU and even a lot of 10” tablets still use dual core CPUs. The Nexus 7 also comes with 1GB of internal system memory. In addition to the memory, the Nexus 7 comes in 16GB and 32GB flavors for storage. I opted for the 16GB option to keep the price down. There’s a little over 13GB of space left on the Nexus 7 after accounting for Android. It dropped to 10GB after dumping my Mp3s on there. If are going to install a lot of apps, you should probably get the 32GB. Performance on the Nexus 7 is top-notch. Boot time is about 15 seconds, which is faster than my notebook. In doing my homework for the review, I saw users complain about the earlier versions of Android being slow, but the Nexus 7 always seemed very fast to me, whether flicking through menus, opening apps or doing more demanding tasks like watching video.

The Nexus 7 comes with the latest version of Andriod – Jelly Bean. One nice perk to getting a Google made tablet, actually it’s made by Asus, is you’ll always get the updates right away. There’s no need to wait for carriers to optimize the device for their network, which sometimes doesn’t happen. I’ve already had a couple in the month I’ve had the device. I have limited experience using Android with that being my original Galaxy phone. I liked the phone and Android, but the battery life was terrible. Thankfully, it was put through the washing machine fairly early on so I could sell it and buy something else. One clever feature of Android is if you’ve got a bunch of links grouped closely on a page, Chrome will pop up a magnified version of the links that makes them easier to press. One displeasing attribute is that the screen does not rotate by default. You have to turn that on, which took me a while to figure out. I’m sort of a generalist. Most of the things I do are non-techy so any of the mobile operating systems will do, be it Andriod, iOS, Windows 8 Mobile, etc.

When you buy a tablet, you’re not just getting a tablet, but a whole platform to buy content. Apple has iTunes, Android has Google Play and Windows has their Marketplace. I purchased a few books and games, and one movie relatively painlessly once giving them my credit card. The depth and breadth of the offerings is quite staggering. One or the other might have an exclusive on a particular item, which might sway a fan, but I would think there’s enough content there to last someone a long, long time. Price may be a factor. With the Marketplace on my Windows Mobile phone, I did notice a few items seemed higher priced than on iTunes, but on balance, there’s a ton of choices and most buyers should be able to find something they like.

Battery Life

The Nexus 7 uses a lithium-ion battery. It is rated at 300 hours of standby time, nine and a half hours of regular usage, and nine hours of HD video playback. To test the battery on the Nexus 7 I charged it fully, set the screen to half and started using it with WiFi on. I was doing typical tablet usage like surfing, watching videos, reading books and playing games, which is mostly what I plan to do with my tablet. Using those setting I’m getting a solid nine hours of battery lifeon the Nexus 7. That’s probably four times the amount I actually need. My only complaint about the battery life on the Nexus 7 is the power button. When I put the Nexus 7 into my pocket, which the Nexus 7 was made to do, the power button has a light touch. It likes to turn itself on while in my pocket. I suppose I could put it in some sort of case, but that would make it harder to put in my pocket.

Charger

Final Thoughts

Call me a skeptic about tablets when they were first released a few years ago, but the Nexus 7 has changed my mind for the better about tablets. Google has done an amazing job of packing in the goodies at a really, really good price. For $200 you get a very well made tablet. With the quad core CPU and latest version Android, Jelly Bean, performance on the Nexus 7 never leaves you wanting for more. The screen is downright gorgeous. Videos and pictures look great. Text is sharp and easy to read. With its smaller form factor, the Nexus easily slides into your pocket or purse and with nine hours of battery life, you should be good to go all day. If you’re a hardcore tablet user the lack of better storage options and rear facing might give you pause, but if you’re a tablet newbie like myself and want an option that’s easy on the wallet to dip your toe in the tablet waters, then the Google Nexus 7 makes an excellent choice and terrific stocking stuffer too.

Pros

  • Excellent Build Quality
  • Beautiful Screen
  • Imminently Portable
  • Zippy Performance
  • Lot of Features at a Low Price = Ton of Value
  • Long Battery Life

Cons

  • No Rear Facing Camera
  • No Way to Increase Storage
  • Powers Itself on Too Easily
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HP ENVY dv7 with AMD Processor Review

The ENVY dv7 is HP’s most recent 17-inch screen laptop release, there are two versions available, the ENVY dv7z that comes equipped with an AMD processor or the ENVY dv7t that comes with an Intel processor and optional Nvidia graphics.  While being very similar to the smaller 15.6” screen dv6t-7200 version of the ENVY, the 17” dv7t sets itself apart with support for dual hard drives and a standard 900p (1600 x 900) resolution display instead of the 768p available in the ENVY dv6.  Another nice touch for the dv7 is the fact it comes with Beats audio branded speakers and a subwoofer. Starting at $649.99 for the AMD version on HP’s website, the ENVY dv7t can be either a budget friendly AMD configuration for mainstream users or a souped-up Intel Core i7 Quad Core and Nvidia 650M graphics gaming machine.

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The ENVY dv7 under review comes with the following specs:

  • Processor: AMD A6-4400M
  • Graphics:
  • Memory: 8GB RAM
  • Display: 17.3” 1920 x 1080 resolution, matte finish
  • OS: Windows 8 64-bit
  • Storage: 640GB HD
  • Battery: 6-cell Li-Ion, 62Whr
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Ports: Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, USB 2.0, Three USB 3.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks, SDHC media card reader
  • Optical Drive: Blu-Ray player / DVD burner
  • Dimensions: 16.38” x 10.79” x 1.28” (W x D x H)
  • Weight: 6.94lbs

Build and Design

The ENVY dv7t comes in at a fairly lightweight 6.9lbs for a 17.3” laptop, but is of course relatively bulky and large when you put it next to a standard 15.6” form factor mainstream laptop, such as the smaller ENVY dv6t-7200.   The lid has a brushed metal skin and the palm rest area is made from this same brush metal.  The keyboard back plate, screen bezel and display hinges use a glossy plastic that contrasts with the brush metal finishes. For a consumer-class laptop, the ENVY dv7 is well built with very few flex points thanks to the aluminum chassis underneath the surface.  The only two notable areas of flex found were on the keyboard if you really pushed down hard and at the corners of the display if you add twisting force on each side.

HP ENVY dv7 underneath

Under the laptop, there’s one large panel that covers the dual hard drive bays and the two memory slots, by simply removing one screw you get quick access to common upgradeable parts such as the two hard drive bays, memory (RAM) and PCIe slot where the wireless card is installed.

HP ENVY dv7 underside opened

If you’re concerned about letting the world know what model laptop you have a small printing on the top right of the screen takes care of that.  Another nice design touch is the HP logo that lights up on the lid when the computer is on.

ENVY dv7 lettering

Keyboard and Touchpad

While the ENVY dv7 keyboard back plate is glossy, the keys themselves have a matte finish. Like most keyboards now it is has an island-style (chiclet) key layout. The keys are flat and decently sized, each alphanumeric key measures 17.5mm by 19mm.  There’s also a dedicated number pad that should please the accountant types, this is a feature not seen on the smaller ENVY dv6 and something to keep in mind as an added benefit to upsizing. Key travel is a bit shallow, but the overall typing experience is good.  This review model did not come with a backlight for the keyboard, but there is an option to upgrade to one for an extra $25 if you configure via HP.com.   The only real complaint I can find about is the fact that the alphanumeric keys are shifted towards the left side of the laptop and not centered to the display due to the fact a numberpad is squeezed in.  This seem awkward for some people who are used to laptops without number pads.

HP Pavilion dv7t-7000 Quad Edition keyboard

The touchpad has a large surface that measures 4.125” x 2.125x, HP is following the trend of giving the end user a generous amount of space to manipulate the cursor on screen. While this is not a clickpad and the whole surface is not clickable, the cursor movement is accurate and the smooth surface is comfortable to use.  The touchpad comes with several gesture features, such as two-finger scrolling and zooming in and out with two fingers (pinch out and pinch in, respectively).  A nice feature of the touchpad is that it’s recessed into the palm rest and is easily found in dark conditions, unfortunately if you spring for the keyboard backlight option there is no lighting under the touchpad.

Display

The ENVY dv7t comes with a standard 1600 x 900 resolution display and uses a common TN panel, you can however upgrade to a higher resolution 1920 x 1080 display which is the type configured on this review unit. The standard 1600 x 900 res display has a glossy finish that’s great for movie watching due to its bright colors while this higher end $150 upgraded Full HD 1920 x 1080 display has a matte finish that is better for long hours of work.  As far as display quality goes for the 1920 x 1080 screen, the viewing angles are above average and colors are good.  However, it is not an IPS screen nor is the color quality or viewing angles as good as what you see on the smaller 15.6” dv6t-7200 Full HD screen option.   Tilting the display back to its maximum only slightly darken images on the screen, but having said that the display does not tilt back all that far.  Here’s a look at how colors hold up on the screen from various viewing angles:

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HP ENVY dv7 1920 x 1080 Full HD screen

 

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HP ENVY dv7 1920 x 1080 Full HD screen tilted back

 

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HP ENVY dv7 Full HD screen tilted forward

HP ENVY dv7 screen side view

HP ENVY dv7 screen side view

Audio

Beats Audio SubwooferThe HP dv7 comes with Beats-branded speakers that are commonly found across the ENVY lineup.  These ENVY dv7 speakers offer better than average audio quality for a laptop.  There are four speakers on top and a subwoofer on the bottom.   The speakers on top are located at the bottom of the screen and top of the keyboard.   Although the Beats brand is not respected by audiophiles as much as brands like Shenheiser or Audio Technica, the speakers are still better than what you find in many competing laptops.  They deliver a clear and loud sound and the Subwoofer adds a nice deep tone to the listening experience.

Input and Output Ports

The number of ports on the EnVY dv7 should be enough to satisfy most user needs.  It features all the commonly-used ports, though none of the more specialized ports such as eSATA, but fast transfers can be done fairly easily with the USB 3.0 ports . On the left side, where most of the ports are located, we have two of the aforementioned USB 3.0 ports, the headphone and microphone jacks, HDMI, and VGA and Ethernet ports.

ENVY dv7 left side ports

On the right there are indicator lights (power, HDD activity, and charging light), a USB 2.0 port, USB 3.0 port, the Blu-Ray drive, and the power connector.

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There’s an SDHC card reader on the front left side

front side

And finally, the back side is void of any ports, it’s just the hinge area

ENVY dv7 back side

Heat and Noise

One issue often mentioned with HP laptops in the past was that the cooling system wasn’t exactly great at keeping the laptop cool. However, HP has improved their design quite a bit in the past couple of years.  When the laptop is idling the processor temperature hovers at around 45 degrees C (113 degrees F). While running benchmarks the processor went up to 55C (131 degrees F).  While that sounds hot, it’s actually pretty typical and less than what I’ve seen in other notebooks.  The key for usage comfort is how hot the surface and bottom of the laptop get, under normal usage the keyboard area and bottom of the laptop had temperatures of around 74 – 76F which poses no problems in terms of comfort for using.  When gaming and benchmarking the surface temperatures did go up as high as 92, but again that’s not a huge deal as it stays under the 98F that a typical human has for body temperature and anything under that won’t provide any discomfort when touching.

Of course, to keep the laptop cool HP has to provide a fan and cooling system, and that can generate noise.  Most of the time, noise is no issue whatsoever. In a quiet room, a user will probably hear the low hum of the fan while typing away on the keyboard, though any laptop made with a fan will have this quiet background noise. The keys have a pleasant, subdued clicky noise to them when the user presses down on them, and the laptop body itself makes no noises while being handled.

Battery Life

Dimming the screen to half brightness, and using Power Saver mode, the 6-cell battery in the HP ENVY dv7t-7000 is able to run for six hours and fifteen minuteswhile browsing the internet and using Office applications. Over six hours for a 17” laptop is excellent, I don’t think most people will be carrying this laptop far anyway and so anything over 4 hours would have been satisfactory.  If you are planning on traveling with this laptop and being away from a power outlet for stretches longer than six hours, there is a 9-cell battery upgrade option that should give you a 33% boost in battery life.

Performance

The ENVY dv7 model we have for review came equipped with an AMD A6-4400M processor and AMD 7520G graphics.  Both are mid range components in the AMD lineup, certainly you can get better performance in a dv7 by configuring a quad core Intel Core i7 or choosing an AMD machine with a faster A10 family processor.  However, for those on a budget and not wanting to spend $1,000 on a laptop, you should be able to get a model configured with these components in the $700 –  $800 range and still get very good performance for all your typical computing tasks.  For example, browsing the web with multiple tabs open, word processing, watching streaming movies, burning disks and encoding video will all run smoothly and you can multi-task while doing them.  You can also do some light gaming if you reduce the resolution and play a game on low to mid detail graphics.

To get an idea of overall system performance we ran PCMark 7 and the newer PCMark 11.  The score the ENVY dv7 with its AMD A6 was able to generate in PCMark 11 came to 1,758 (http://www.3dmark.com/pcm7/483005/):

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The PCMark7 score was similar at 1,735 (http://www.3dmark.com/pcm7/483062):

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Those scores aren’t particularly high, if you compare them to systems with more advanced processors and graphics cards they will pale, but for the sake of comparison here’s how the review unit’s PCMark 7 score compared to some other laptops:

Laptop PCMark 7 Score
HP ENVY dv7t (AMD A6-4400M, AMD 6520G, 8GB RAM, 640GB 5400RPM HDD) 1,735 PCMarks
Sony VAIO SA (Intel Core i5-2430M 2.50GHz, AMD Radeon 6630M, 4GB RAM) 2,022 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad W520 – Intel Core i7 2720QM, 4GB RAM, Nvidia Quadro 2000, Intel 320 SSD 4,299 PCMarks
HP Envy 17 3D – Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 6850M 1GB, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 2,592 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad U400 – Intel Core i5-2430M, AMD Radeon 6470M, 6GB RAM, 5400RPM HD 2,287 PCMarks
Dell XPS 15z – Intel Core i7-2620M, Nvidia GT 525M, 8GB RAM, SSD 3,604 PCMarks

The overall performance of the ENVY dv7 could easily be boosted with the addition of an SSD instead of the slow stock 5400RPM stock hard drive.  Since there’s an extra drive bay available, you could even put in an SSD with the main OS on it and then just use the large capacity hard drive for storing large files, then you get the best of both worlds, performance and capacity.

Conclusion

The HP ENVY dv7 is a nice choice for a desktop replacement style 17” laptop, it offers flexible configurations for varying budgets and can either be a budget friendly $600 machine or configured as a gaming rig with a price tag over $1,000. Either way you get the same good build quality that should ensure this laptop lasts a few years.  The internal metal frame makes the body of the laptop feel stiff and unlikely to break anytime soon, or ever with good care. The display hinges are relatively firm; if the user shakes the laptop then it’ll move, but under normal use everything stays in place. The keyboard feels good to type on despite the flat keys, and they are relatively quiet when pressed, the trackpad is smooth, slick, and responsive.  Also impressive is the audio quality, there aren’t many laptops on the market with a dedicated subwoofer for those deeper sounds and voices to really shine. And of course, with the latest processing and graphics technology available the ENVY dv7 is no slouch in the performance department. It’s not really a portable system per se, but this laptop will make for an excellent home laptop as a desktop replacement.

 

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