HP Envy Ultrabook 4-1015dx
CNET Editors' Rating: 3.5 / 5
The good: The HP Envy 4-1015DX has an aggressive price, a sleek design for a budget laptop, strong battery life, and extras like Bluetooth and a backlit keyboard.
The bad: This entry-level configuration has an older, slower Intel Core i3 processor, although HP's site has affordable upgrade options; also, the heavier chassis and lack of DVD drive don't quite make sense.
The bottom line: HP's Envy 4 is an attractive, affordable type of ultrabook with a basic but solid set of features, even if it lacks the speed of more expensive alternatives in our entry-level configuration. Your best bet is to pay more for a faster version, or consider the even more affordable larger-screened AMD Sleekbook 6 instead.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
There was a time, last year or so, when an ultrabook represented a distinct product within a computer line. Now, as is the case with Hewlett-Packard, there are whole lines of ultrabooks. Yes, that makes shopping a little more difficult, but the extra choices can theoretically work out to your advantage.
Finding the sweet spot, though, has never been tougher. Exhibit A is the HP Envy 4, a 14-inch laptop that's part of a line of Intel processor-bearing ultrabooks and AMD processor-bearing "Sleekbooks" in both 14- and 15-inch sizes. These thin laptops represent a different part of the thin-and-light landscape than the stylish and expensive HP Envy 14 Spectre released earlier this year, or the thinner Spectre XT. While AMD versions of the HP Envy 6 cost less than their Intel counterparts (the 15.6-inch Envy Sleekbook 6 is available for as low as $599), the 14-inch Envy 4t only comes with Intel CPUs.
The least expensive of all the 14-inch Envy 4 configurations costs $699, or $679 at some retailers (the HP Envy Ultrabook 4-1015DX I reviewed is a retail configuration available from Best Buy). It comes with a last-gen Intel Core i3 processor, a 500GB hybrid hard drive, and 4GB of RAM in a body that feels like the Editors' Choice Award-winning HP Folio 13 ultrabook I loved last year and the HP dm4 thin laptop combined together, with little bits of Beats Audio design touches.
On a whole, the HP Envy 4 is a larger ultrabook, one of those slightly thicker, bigger, and heavier laptops that you would perhaps expect to have an optical drive, or discrete graphics. It's in a similar category to the Toshiba Satellite U845, but better-designed. And, yes, it's a replacement of sorts for the highly versatile HP Folio 13. But December 2011 was a different time than August 2012.
Having an SD card slot, an Ethernet port, and a long-life battery for a reasonable price was rare for an ultrabook back then. Not anymore. If I were buying the admittedly nicely designed HP Envy 4, I'd pay up for a more full-fledged configuration. Or if I wanted to save money, I'd opt for the more affordable but larger AMD-powered Envy Sleekbook 6, instead. Or perhaps I'd just consider paying up for the HP Envy Spectre XT. That's the problem with having too many choices: suddenly, the ultrabook landscape becomes no different from, or less crowded than, the rest of the midrange consumer laptop universe. And that's not exactly a great thing.
In the $679 entry-level Core i3 configuration I reviewed, the total product feels decent, and certainly ample for most people, but it's not a standout. It'll get the job done, and it has good speakers. Back-to-school shoppers, take note: this could be for you, if you don't mind not having a DVD drive. I only have one question: didn't the Envy brand used to be high-end? Not anymore. It makes me wonder how Envys will co-exist with rest of HP's Pavilion products.
|Price as reviewed||$679|
|Processor||1.5GHz Intel Core i3-2377M|
|Memory||4GB, 1,333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB, 5,400rpm + 32GB SSD cache|
|Graphics||Intel HD 3000|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.4x9.3 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.9 pounds / 4.7 pounds|
Weren't ultrabooks supposed to restore sexiness to the laptop? Don't tell that to this Envy. Hey, I've seen this design before. So have you, if you've been window-shopping for HP laptops over the last year or so. The brushed aluminum and black plastic look of the HP Envy 4 feels like a hybrid of recent Envy designs and laptops like the Pavilion dm4, with more than a touch of the HP Folio 13. It's not a bad look at all -- in fact, it's far better than most laptops -- but it doesn't exactly break the mold.
The Envy 4t has a bigger screen than the Folio 13 (14 inches instead of 13.3 inches), and is somewhat thicker and heavier, too. At 3.9 pounds and 0.78 inches thick, the Envy 4 isn't obese for an ultrabook, but it feels bulkier all around, much like the Toshiba Satellite U845.
With a different size class come different expectations. There's no DVD drive on this laptop, but it feels like there could have been -- the Dell Inspiron 14z and Acer Timeline U M5 both managed to include one. The chassis tries to look high-end, with premium-style finishes from the angled top lid to the soft-touch underside, but the whole package feel more budget than that. The aluminum keyboard deck feels like a finish, not solid metal. The keyboard itself flexes, and far more than I'd like. The back lid is brushed aluminum (available in black/red or silver/black finishes, both with black back lids), but the screen itself is surrounded by generic, glossy black plastic.
The backlit keyboard isn't the best I've seen from HP, mainly because it exhibited flex in the middle, causing me to miss keys on more than one occasion. Pressing down harder was the solution, encouraging me to aggressively type out this review. Results improved, but the added column of right-side keys cramping access to Enter, Shift, and Backspace feels unnecessary.
Media control keys assigned to function buttons above the keyboard are function-reversed, meaning they'll work directly without the Fn key. Above that, a single thin power button lurks near the lid hinge on the left.
A multitouch Synaptics clickpad below is slightly recessed from the keyboard deck and amply sized. Two-finger gestures like pinch-to-zoom didn't always register. It was hard to tell whether the problem was the touch-pad hardware's clickzones or Windows 7 itself.
The 1,366x768-pixel glossy 14-inch display feels strictly budget; black levels were weak on my review model, and viewing angles were less than ideal. The resolution's also a step down from what's starting to appear on higher-end laptops, but 1,366x768 is still the mainstream baseline for everyday computing, and will get the job done.
A Beats-branded speaker bar above the keyboard angles upward slightly, affording better projection of sound than the standard ho-hum ultrabook. However, the sound quality of those speakers, while loud, wasn't particularly great. It lacked force and depth, and was distorted at high volumes.
Also, take note: HP has preinstalled a good chunk of trialware and other software on this Envy, creating more than a fair share of pop-up windows.
A 1,280x720 Webcam looked good enough to have effective Web chats on, with decent light sensitivity.
|HP Envy 4-1015dx||Average for category [midsize]|
|Video||HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
The HP Envy 4t has all the basic necessary ports and connections, including a pull-down compact Ethernet port, USB 3.0, and an SD card slot, plus Bluetooth. There's no DVD drive.
Finding the right configuration price and bang-for-the-buck value on the new Envy ultrabook isn't easy. A ton of processor, RAM, and hard-drive configurations abound, including an optional AMD discrete graphics option. HP's site doesn't exactly make shopping easy to figure out. Even more confusingly, having an Intel processor doesn't even technically make the HP Envy 4 an ultrabook; according to HP's site, upgrading the 500GB hard drive with a 32GB solid-state drive (SSD) cache ($50) is what transforms your Envy 4 into an ultrabook, adding Intel Rapid Start technology and faster bootup times. (A 32GB SSD cache is included in this model's hybrid hard drive.)
The version of the Envy I reviewed, the HP Envy 4-1015DX, is an entry-level retail configuration from Best Buy. At $679, it undercuts most other Intel-powered ultrabooks out there, but there's a big caveat: this laptop config has a Core i3 processor that's last-gen versus current-gen (Sandy Bridge, not Ivy Bridge), along with a 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive with 32GB SSD cache, and 4GB of RAM.
The Intel Core i3-2377M processor is similar to the one in the Asus Zenbook UX32A, but a little faster (1.5GHz versus 1.4GHz). And, in that sense, you're getting a better deal: the UX32A costs about $779 for that older processor plus a 320GB hard drive, while the HP Envy 4-1015DX has a 500GB hard drive for $679. It's a bigger laptop, but still easy to carry around.
On HP's Web site, upgrading to a current-gen Intel Core i3 processor over last year's version only costs $25; you can upgrade all the way to a third-gen Intel Core i5-2467M processor plus AMD Radeon 7670M graphics for an extra $150, which isn't such a bad proposition. I'd certainly take that option. RAM can be upgraded up to 16GB, but there are no SSD-only drive upgrades, only the 500GB + 32GB SSD hybrid drive option.
You can see on our comparison charts that the last-gen Core i3 processor in the HP Envy 4-1015DX is slower than the average current-gen Core i5 processor by a significant margin; it's actually pretty close to the performance of the HP Envy Sleekbook 6's AMD A6 processor. That AMD Sleekbook 6 (admittedly, a larger laptop with a 15.6-inch screen) only costs $599, which raises the question: why not get that instead? If I were comparing the to entry-level 14-inch HP Envy 4-1015DX, that's exactly what I'd do. HP does offer current versions of the Core i3 processor and faster Core i5 configurations of the HP Envy 4t, and while I haven't tried out those models, they're probably worth the upgrade if you're serious about making the Intel version your laptop of choice. The model I tested didn't feel as zippy as other ultrabooks I've recently reviewed. A cold bootup took about 30 seconds. Most everyday programs, including Web browsing and office apps, ran at a speed most users would find perfectly suitable. HP CoolSense automatic fans tended to kick in frequently, but the technology can be switched off in system settings.
Graphics do take a hit on this Core i3 configuration, because this laptop has Intel HD 3000 graphics as opposed to this year's improved HD 4000 integrated graphics. Street Fighter IV only ran at 15.9 frames per second at 1,366x768-pixel resolution. That means, except for some basic casual titles, this Envy laptop is not ready to play most games. You could upgrade to HD 4000 graphics or even discrete AMD graphics in other configurations.
The integrated battery in the HP Envy 4-1015DX lasted 5 hours and 58 minutes in our video playback test, and 6 hours for a budget ultrabook is pretty good indeed. The Asus Zenbook UX32A only lasted 5 hours and 15 minutes on the same test, although that's a smaller 13-inch ultrabook. You can at least rest easy that this particular HP Envy ultrabook's got enough juice to match more expensive models.
HP includes a one-year parts-and-labor warranty. Warranty upgrades are confusing, with discounts that don't show up until you've added a specific plan and laptop to your shopping cart on HP's Web site. HP's service and support tools are perfectly navigable, and product manuals and software and driver downloads were easy to find. The 24-7 toll-free number can be tricky to spot, however. It's 800-474-6836.
The HP Envy 4 is a curious ultrabook: it feels too big to be perfectly portable, but it's still nicely designed considering its lower-priced configurations. At $679, the Envy 4-1015DX is a hard deal to beat for what you get, even if that means an older Intel Core i3 processor. Still, upgrading to a faster CPU is a likely bet for most people. However, even at its current price and configuration, the HP Envy 4-1015DX is a decent ultrabook-territory value.
|Raw kWh number||24.27|
|Annual power consumption cost||$2.75|
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.
HP Envy 4-1015DX
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.5GHz Intel Core i3-2377M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm
Acer Aspire Timeline U M5-481TG-6814
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE / 128MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm
Vizio Thin and Light CT14-A2
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 256GB Toshiba SSD
HP Envy Sleekbook 6
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.4GHz AMD A6-4455MM APU; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 7500G; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm
Asus Zenbook UX32A
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.4GHz Intel Core i3-2367M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB(Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 320GB Hitachi 5,400rpm
Toshiba Satellite U845-S406
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm
Sony Vaio T13112FXS
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm
Average User Rating: 3.5 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 0
4 Star: 0
3 Star: 0
2 Star: 0
1 Star: 0
Rating: / 5
on December 31, 1969
out of users found this review helpful