HP Envy 15 x360 review
A 15in laptop with more flexibility than most, HP’s latest takes the challenge to Lenovo’s Yoga range
The HP Envy range of devices has traditionally been associated with high-end prices and luxury finishes, but recently the company has begun to widen the brand's appeal. Nowadays, an Envy product needn't cost the earth, as its £649 HP Envy 15 x360 ably demonstrates. It even comes with a year's subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal.
HP Envy 15 x360 review: design and features
Despite the reasonable price, though, this new Envy is a good-looking machine. It isn't the slimmest or lightest laptop around – at 24mm thick and 2.4kg without the charger – but the smooth, metallic-coloured plastic it's wrapped in looks smart. Open it up and the keyboard and touchpad are surrounded by an attractive, brushed-aluminium plate, with bevelled edges surrounding the touchpad that glisten and catch the light. It's no MacBook Pro, but neither does it look cheap.
Build quality is impressive: the keyboard base is unyielding, remaining immobile even when subjected to heavy-handed twisting, and the keys are well spaced and feel firm under the fingers. And there's a reason for the x360's bulk. It has a 360-degree hinge that allows the laptop to be used in a variety of positions, just like Lenovo's Yoga convertibles.
We found HP's system worked well: the weighty keyboard base and light lid allow you to push the screen all the way back without the device toppling over, and the 360-degree hinge works a treat. We had no problem contorting the convertible into the different positions: “stand mode” sees the base flipped all the way round with the screen facing front; “tent mode” involves the entire laptop taking on a triangular shape, with the hinge facing up and the screen out; and in tablet mode the screen is folded completely flat against the base of the keyboard. In all of the modes the hinge felt smooth, solid and sturdy.
Another unusual feature is the touchpad, which is broader than average and flanked by two separate touch zones to the left and right. The idea behind this is to make Windows 8's edge-swipes more accessible. Click the left zone and the app switcher pops up, while swiping up and down scrolls you through the available apps. Clicking the right zone does the same thing with the Charms bar.
It's a clever idea; alas it isn't implemented well. Since the side zones are part of the main surface of the touchpad, we found it far too easy to accidentally click or swipe into the additional zones during use. Perhaps they may have worked better if they'd been separated by half an inch on either side.
HP Envy 15 x360 review: performance
There's better news under the hood, with a Core i5-4210U Haswell CPU accompanied by 8GB of DDR3 RAM and a 1TB hard disk. It's a decent setup for a laptop at this price, racking up a respectable Overall score of 0.64 in our suite of Real World Benchmarks. Plus, as expected from a laptop powered by one of Intel's super-efficient Haswell processors, battery life was impressive. The x360 lasted 8hrs 40mins in our light-use battery test, with the screen set to a brightness of 75cd/m². While we've seen Haswell laptops last longer than this, there's still enough juice here to give you a full day of moderate use before you have to plug it into the mains.
High-performance gaming definitely isn't on the cards, however. The integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU struggled with our Crysis benchmark, managing 35fps on Low detail settings, and put out a stuttering performance on any graphical setting higher than Medium.
HP Envy 15 x360 review: screen quality
The x360 is also let down by its 15.5in, 1,366 x 768 LED screen. Even looking at it briefly, we could see it was low quality: images appeared limp and flat, with washed-out colours, and looked rather dim overall. We weren't surprised, then, when the panel delivered below-par results in testing: it achieved a maximum brightness of only 209cd/m², an abysmal contrast ratio of 325:1, and colour accuracy was very poor, with an average Delta E of 9.11. At least the touchscreen layer felt responsive. We found zipping around the Windows 8.1 Start screen and apps a straightforward and fluid experience.
Finally, connectivity is nothing out of the ordinary, with one USB 2 and two USB 3 sockets, an HDMI output, Gigabit Ethernet, an SD slot and Bluetooth 4. Particularly disappointing is that the wireless card is only single-band 802.11n; it's about time manufacturers stopped cost-cutting in this unnecessarily picky way and consigned single-band to the bin.
HP Envy 15 x360 review: verdict
Initially, the HP Envy 15 x360's effective, poseable and competent core hardware had us optimistic about its prospects, but despite good performance and decent ergonomics, the screen is a real sticking point. Ultimately, there are better-balanced budget laptops around for a more reasonable price than the x360 can offer: the Asus X552CL, for example, may lack the hinge and touchscreen of the Envy (and you have to ask yourself if you really need it in a laptop of this size), but it's just as practical, is only slightly less powerful, and boasts a significantly better screen for only £350.
|Warranty||2yr collect and return|
|Dimensions||383 x 256 x 24mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4210U|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,366|
|Resolution screen vertical||768|
|Resolution||1366 x 768|
|Graphics chipset||Intel HD Graphics 4400|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||0|
|Optical disc technology||N/A|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||1|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||no|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||no|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Speaker location||Below wristrest|
|Hardware volume control?||yes|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||8hr 40min|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||35fps|
|3D performance setting||Low|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.64|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 8|