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HP Envy 15

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What's hot: Very fast, great gaming performance, 1080p IPS display, metal build.

What's not: Keyboard flex on left side, some complaints about red color accuracy on forums.


Reviewed January 22, 2012 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

The first generation HP Envy 15 was HP's first Envy model and it dates back to the fall of 2009. It was both ahead of its time and woefully inadequate as mobile products go. It was one of the first Intel Core i7 quad core laptops and it had a powerful ATI Radeon GPU that's still capable of playing today's demanding 3D games. As HP's entry into the world of high end, gaming oriented notebooks it was good stuff. But the notebook ran only 2 to 2.5 hours on a charge and lacked an internal optical drive (a pain for gamers and DVD watchers) and had few ports. It was thus one of the least portable 15.6" notebooks on the market. Fast forward to late 2011/early 2012 and the 15" Envy is back and it's ten times better.

HP Envy 15

The new HP Envy 15, like the first gen model, is a serious powerhouse that packs the multimedia and gaming credentials of a capable 17" machine into a portable 15.6" chassis. This time it really is portable, with plenty of ports, a DVD burner and solid 5 to 5.5 hour battery life when running on integrated graphics. The Envy 15 runs Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit on a 2.2GHz quad core Intel Core i7-2670QM CPU with Turbo Boost to 3.1GHz. It has switchable graphics with Intel HD 3000 graphics and the AMD Radeon HD 7690M with 1 gig of DDR5 VRAM. Short of an Alienware, you'd be hard pressed to find another 15" notebook that benchmarks better. The Envy 15 weighs 5.8 lbs. and is 1.1" thick. The form and footprint are reminiscent of older Envy models but HP has abandoned the metallic etched lid for a matte "Nero" black lid and bottom. The keyboard deck is less distinctive and reminds us of the 15" MacBook Pro with which it competes. There are other Envy 15 configurations available including one with a 1366 x 768 display and a Core i5. We take a look at one of the quick ship configs from HP's website that's also available in some stores. Our unit was purchased at a local store and is the HP Envy 15-3040nr sold in the US.

Design and Ergonomics

The Envy is a dense and durable notebook that's entirely clad in aluminum with magnesium alloy in the frame. The Envy 15 might not be as pretty as the glass-glad HP Envy 14 Spectre, but it's got gobs more computing power and is more durable. It's seriously rigid and strong with no play anywhere except the left side of the keyboard deck. The top and bottom are matte black and do show fingerprints that are easily cleaned with a damp cloth laced with a little bit of Soft Soap. The straight metal sides remind us of the MacBook Pro. The keyboard deck likewise looks like the MacBook Pro, though the closed Envy doesn't so much. The keyboard deck is matte light silver with a slightly recessed keyboard area that's lined in red. A large Beats audio rotary analog control wheel lives on the right side and a speaker grille rims the upper deck rather than the sides like a Mac. There are two pairs of speakers on the front edge as well, for a total of six, not counting the bass reflex subwoofer on the bottom. Sound is excellent by 15" laptop standards with plenty of volume, good separation and full sound. The subwoofer isn't going to shake the screws loose in the Envy, but it does have more bass than competing notebooks.

HP Envy 15

The machine has several vents on the bottom, and doesn't get too hot to touch even when gaming. The warmest area is directly below the number row on the underside, and it gets fairly warm when gaming but not as hot as a MacBook Pro or the original Envy (it's much cooler and quieter than the first gen Envy). The 8 cell battery is not described as user replaceable, but it's easy to get to by releasing a bottom latch. The hard drive is also in this area and is easy to replace. To access the rest of the internals including the two RAM slots, you'll remove the battery/hard drive door, and then unscrew 6 Phillips head screws to take off the second back panel. The machine is thus very easy to service and upgrade, especially compared to the Samsung Series 7 Chronos and MacBook Pro.


Deals and Shopping:


HP Envy 15 Video Review


Our Envy 15 3040nr model ships with a 1920 x 1080 IPS "Radiance" LED backlit display with a good but not stand-out 250 nits of brightness. That's not to say the display is dim, far from it-- it's just not a super-bright display that's intended for outdoor viewing. As you'd expect from a gloss IPS display, it has very wide viewing angles, rich blacks and good contrast. Movies look great, even with two folks sitting side by side, and there's no need to angle the display back "just right" to get good colors and contrast. The edge-to-edge style display lacks a distinct bezel and the black edges disappear nicely when watching movies. We heartily recommend the 1080p display over the 1366 x 786 base display (a $150 difference when building to order).

There's been some discussion on forums about reds looking orange, but our LG manufactured display doesn't have this problem. I'm picky about color and have art training, so serious color aberrations stand out. Check out our comparison photo below, with the Envy sitting in front of a color calibrated 30" Apple Cinema Display (the older Apple display with a matte display and a wide color gamut). Notebook displays lack the wide gamut (color range) and potential color accuracy of a high quality external monitor, but as notebook display panels go, ours is pretty decent in terms of color representation (your Envy may vary). Reds are too warm (too much yellow in the mix) but still look red, and I find it acceptable as notebook panels go. In fact, I find it very pleasing for all manner of things and colors are good enough to edit photos for the web.

HP Envy 15

Above: showing red with the HP Envy 15 in front of a 30" Apple Cinema Display.

Keyboard and Trackpad

Here's the less than good news. The keyboard has flex on the left side, and though it's not a deal breaker, it is a minor annoyance. The keys have good travel and excellent backlighting with an LED under each key. There's a keyboard backlight on/off button on the top row, and there's no need to hit the Fn key to use it. To change backlight brightness (3 levels), you have to hit the keyboard backlight button and the arrow keys (we wish there were dedicated backlight up and down keys since there are two unassigned Fn keys). The white backlighting goes from gentle to very bright and it turns on and off in a cascading manner (one row at a time). There are two red glowing sensors on the left middle bezel area, and these are proximity sensors that detect if you're in front of the machine and turn on backlighting when you come back from a coffee break and sit in front of the laptop. I don't find these sensor lights overly bright or annoying, but if you do, you can turn the sensor off.

The keyboard has a standard 15" layout with page up/down, end, home and delete keys on the far right edge. The keys have good travel by notebook standards, but they lack the cool edge ringed backlighting of the Samsung Chronos Series 7 and the Samsung's number pad.

By HP standards, the large, buttonless Synaptics trackpad is pretty good, but that doesn't say much. HP's trackpads have largely been a train wreck for the past few years, but we're happy to report that the Envy's is well behaved with no cursor jumping or out of control inertia scrolling. The surface is slightly rough, and I prefer a smoother surface like the Samsung Series 7 Chronos or MacBook Pro, but that's a matter of personal preference. The trackpad has automatic palm rejection and you can turn off the trackpad by double tapping in the upper left hand corner if necessary (an indicator light lets you know the trackpad is disabled).

We love that you don't have to hit the Fn button to use the top row quick access controls for display brightness, keyboard backlight on and off and media playback. But there are two unused keys that HP could have assigned to keyboard backlight brightness and Beats on/off. You can bring up the Beats audio control panel by pressing down on the dedicated Beats analog rotary control, and you can turn Beats on and off by pressing Fn and the "b" button. The Beats controller isn't just a gimmick: it's a really easy way to control audio volume, and the volume change is gradual rather than jarring. The wheel works well even inside games, unlike the usual volume up/down Fn key combo that's often erratic or ignored on other notebooks.

Performance and Horsepower

For those of you who don't much like reading, here's the short story: this is a wicked fast laptop. It plays demanding current 3D titles at medium or high settings well. It can edit 1080p video, and it can do CAD and Adobe Photoshop CS 5 like nobody's business. We aren't going to outline performance of every program on the planet because it can handle them all well. It's a fast machine, at least the Intel Core i7 version. The Core i5 is no slouch either, but if you're into really demanding tasks like video editing and engineering apps, get the Core i7 that bows to nothing.

Fast, metal clad laptops with dedicated GPUs tend to run hot, but the Envy 15 manages to keep its cool. When doing business and web tasks with integrated graphics, the CPU cores averaged 35 degrees Centigrade. When gaming, the cores went up to a very safe 57 degrees Centigrade (100C is the allowable max temp and thermal management may start to throttle in the 80's, though ours never got hot enough to reach the throttle point).

Our machine ships with a 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-2670QM with Turbo Boost to 3.1GHz. It has 6 megs of level 2 cache, 4 cores and 8 threads. The computer has 8 gigs of DDR3 1333MHz RAM in 2 DIMM slots and the max is 16 gigs (many consumer notebooks top out at 8 gigs). Our model has a fast 7200 RPM 750 gig hard drive, and HP offers several drive options including an SSD if you build to order. The Envy 15 has switchable graphics with Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics and AMD Radeon HD 7690M dedicated graphics with 1 gig DDR5 VRAM. The Envy has an internal slot-loading 8x dual layer DVD burner, but sadly there's currently no Blu-ray option. We wish there was a Blu-ray option given the 1080p display, Intel WiDi and HDMI port.


Windows Experience Index:

Processor: 7.4
Memory: 7.8
Graphics (Aero): 6.9
Graphics (Gaming): 6.9
HDD: 5.9

PCMark 7: 2590

3DMark 11: 1354 (graphics 1188, physics 6464)

3DMark Vantage: 6216 (5103 GPU, 17,894 CPU)

PCMark Vantage:

HP Envy 15

PCMark Vantage (using dedicated graphics): 9247
Memories: 5848
TV and Movies: 7436
Gaming: 7668
Music: 7263
Communications: 10,630
Productivity: 7076
HDD: 4620


3DMark 06 (1280 x 800 resolution): 10,355

Samsung Series 7 Chronos

PCMark Vantage (assigned to run on dedicated graphics): 7469
Memories: 3953
TV and Movies: 2603
Gaming: 8175
Music: 8052
Communications: 8628
Productivity: 7117
HDD: 6201


3DMark 06 (1280 x 800 resolution): 9847

The HP Envy 15 vs. the Competition

If you're a Mac person, by all means get the 15" MacBook Pro. I use one as my main work machine because I enjoy Mac OS X. It's significantly more expensive and there's no 1080p option, but if you want to run Mac OS X, it's your machine. If you really want to run Windows and Windows apps, we'd recommend the HP Envy 15 unless money is no object. The MacBook Pro is a visual feast with beautiful lines, excellent build and similar internals. But it lacks a 1080p IPS display option, though the high res matte option is attractive to graphic artists and has excellent and accurate colors after calibration. But the HP Envy was designed for Windows and honestly gets better performance under Windows.

If you're considering the capable Samsung Series 7 Chronos with a Core i7, dedicated graphics and a 1600 x 900 matte display, the decision is a little harder since they're priced similarly. The Samsung has a better keyboard and trackpad, and business/school performance is similar to the Envy, but the Envy does better with games and has a higher resolution IPS display. Be sure to check out our Samsung Series 7 Chronos vs. HP Envy 15 comparison smackdown with video too.

The Dell XPS 15z is another strong competitor for the 15" super-powerful laptop of your dreams. It too has a great 1080p display option, plenty of power but the keyboard is just OK and the Nvidia 525M graphics aren't as powerful, despite the unusually beefy 2 gigs of VRAM. The Dell came out in May of 2011, and the graphics card is showing its age. We find the 15z aesthetically challenged vs. the Envy, Chronos and MacBook Pro, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Wireless and Networking

The Envy has a gigabit Ethernet jack and Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n with Intel WiDi wireless display that worked well in our tests with a Netgear Push2TV HD PTV2000 connected to our Sony AV receiver that's connected to an HD TV via HDMI. WiDi was lacking in its first year but now handles 1080p content and DRM including Blu-ray and really works as a wireless replacement for HDMI cables. Range and throughput were good in our Wi-Fi tests.

The computer has Intel Bluetooth 3.0 + HS as well with support for Bluetooth stereo speakers and headsets, phone tethering and keyboards/mice.



HP Envy 15


HP Envy 15


HP Envy 15


HP Envy 15


HP Envy 15


HP Envy 15

Graphics, Gaming and Adobe Photoshop

The HP Envy 15 has AMD Radeon HD 7690M dedicated graphics with 1 gig of DDR5 VRAM. The 7000 series GPU is new, but it's not a significant jump forward from the 6000 series, and the 7690M has much in common with the Radeon 6770M. This is a solid higher end GPU for 15" and even 17" gaming and multimedia notebooks. For gaming, the Envy 15 is a winner. We tested a variety of popular and current demanding 3D titles like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3 and the older but demanding FEAR 2. All tests were run at 1920 x 1080 resolution to the internal panel. The Envy handled COD 3 and FEAR 2 well on high settings, and Skyrim and Battlefield 3 did fine at medium settings. In our gaming demo video below, you can see some of these games in action, along with the settings we used in each game.

We didn't overclock or alter power settings to play these games, but we had the charger plugged in and used the manual graphics card switching option in BIOS to ensure the games were using AMD dedicated graphics. If you're a gamer looking for a portable 15" laptop, the Envy 15 should be on your short list. It outperformed the Samsung Series 7 Chronos (a very capable machine) for gaming with a 10 fps gain in some games while playing at higher resolution (we tested the Chronos playing games at its native 1600 x 900 resolution).

The late 2011 - early 2012 HP Envy 15 has an advantage over the Chronos and other notebooks with AMD switchable graphics because it has a BIOS setting that allows you to select manual graphics card switching. With this option turned on, the notebook will run Intel graphics when unplugged from power and AMD dedicated graphics when plugged in, though you can change whenever you like by right-clicking on the desktop and choosing "Switchable Graphics" and selecting the card of choice. The drawback is that you'll have to close running apps when making the switch. With standard AMD switchable graphics, you'll either rely on AMD's software to detect DirectX programs and switch for you (no need to close running programs) or assign apps using the AMD control panel to the card you desire. The problem lies in the program selection function: it seems to ignore dedicated graphics assigned to Open GL apps like Adobe CS 5 and OpenGL games (granted, modern OpenGL games aren't that common). For those who wish to use dedicated graphics for better performance in OpenGL apps, the HP Envy 15 is thus a good choice since you can use manual switching option to ensure your programs use dedicated graphics.

Battery Life

The HP Envy 15 has an 8 cell battery that's not modular. That means you can't slide a latch and pop out the battery. You can open the battery door via a latch, but the battery is secured via screws and connects using a Molex connector. So you can't easily swap in a spare while on the road, but if you're a bit capable, you can replace it when it gets old and tired 3 years from now. The Envy runs 5 to 6 hours on a charge using Intel integrated graphics, which is impressive given the 1080p display and Core i7 CPU. The Samsung Series 7 Chronos lasts 30 minutes longer on a charge, but both are clearly capable of outlet independence when running at 50% brightness with WiFi on and integrated graphics running. We managed 5 hours of Netflix streaming video on integrated graphics with brightness set at 50%. The original Envy 15 only lasted 2.25 hours in comparison. When using dedicated graphics, the notebook lasts about 3.5 hours.

The 120W power brick is larger than average, and we'll ding HP for this. While competing laptops like the Chronos come with a more portable 90W adapter, we're not sure why HP went with a 120W brick, especially since there's no external battery slice option (the original HP Envy 15 -1000 series battery slice is not compatible with the new Envy).


We really like the HP Envy 15-3040nr: it's a high performance yet portable laptop that's clad in metal and has all the creature comforts you'd expect from a higher end laptop. We like the dual HDMI and DisplayPort with the ability to drive multiple monitors, strong dedicated graphics, backlit keyboard and a full HD 1080p IPS display. Though I purchased the Envy for review purposes, I've decided to keep it as my main Windows machine. It's a fast and capable gamer and Photoshop machine that can run for 5 hours on AC power-- sweet. And I like the aluminum casing, sturdy build and easily accessible internals too.


Price: $1,299 for the HP Envy 15-3040nr model with Intel Core i7 and 1080p IPS display. Lower and higher priced models with difference specs are available.



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Display: 15.6", 1920 x 1080 IPS gloss display (HP Radiance full HD Infinity LED backlit). There's a 1366 x 768 version available for less money. Switchable Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics and AMD Radeon 7690M dedicated graphics with 1 gig DDR5 VRAM. DisplayPort and HDMI port.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable 8 cell battery and 120W charger. Battery isn't swapable.

Performance: 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-2670QM quad core processor (other CPU options available for build to order). 8 gigs DDR3 1333MHz RAM in two DIMM slots, 16 gigs max. 750 gig 7200 RPM hard drive (other hard drives and SSD options available for build to order models).

Size: 14.96 x 9.6 x 1.11 inches. Weight: 5.79 pounds.

Camera: 1.3MP 720p HP TrueVision webcam with mic.

Audio: 5.1 Beats audio with 6 speakers and a subwoofer. Mic jack and two 3.5mm stereo headphone jacks. Has Beats audio software and analog rotary controller.

Networking: Gigabit Ethernet. Integrated Intel Advanced-N 6230 WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0 + HS. 2 x 2 antenna.

Software: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit. Microsoft Office 2010 Starter Edition, Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements, Cyberlink YouCam, PowerDVD and Power2Go and Norton Internet Security 2012 trial. HP software: CoolSense fan management app, HP power plans, HP Wireless Audio Manager, HP Movie Store, HP Recovery Manager and HP Support Assistant.

Expansion and Ports: 1 SD/MMC slot, HDMI, DisplayPort, two USB 3.0 ports (one sleep and charge), one USB 2.0 port, one 3.5mm mic jack, two headphone jacks and RJ45 Ethernet jack.



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