A lot of action has been going on in mobile computing world these days. Everything is getting thinner, lighter and ultimately more portable. Major focus is on smartphones and tablets these days but notebooks are also progressing with same pace. In early 2012, Intel launched their “Ultrabook” initiative. They defined a few requirements including thickness, weight, performance etc. that a notebook has to meet to bear the ultrabook tag. Simple speaking, Intel introduced the ultraportable Apple MacBook Air to the Windows users but obviously the ultrabooks were a lot more flexible in terms of specifications, size and price. And since there is a large number of companies producing Windows based notebooks so when all of them launched ultrabooks, consumers got endless options.
Today, one can get an ultrabook for as low as $550-600. Today, we’ve got such an ultrabook with us; HP Envy Ultrabook 4. The “Envy” series of lineup is actually a love child of HP and VoodooPC merger. Initially in only consisted of high-performance notebooks but recently it started getting some budget models too and starting at $650, the Envy 4 is such a model. The exciting thing about this ultrabook is that it shares the same chassis design and thickness as the more expensive ultrabooks for HP like Spectre XT. However, there is a catch, the materials used on Envy 4 are not as good as the ones used on the Spectre XT.
The Envy 4 has a 14-inch TN display with a resolution of 1366 x 768, Beats audio, a four cell non-removable battery and a good number of expansion slots. We’ve the 1035tx variant of the Envy 4. Let’s have a quick look at its specifications before dive into a detailed examination of the available options and how much sense they make.
|HP Envy 4-1035tx Specifications|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-3317U (Quad Core with HT, 1.7 GHz, 3MB L3 Cache)|
|Memory||2x 4GB DDR3 1600MHz (User replaceable)|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon HD 7670M (2GB DDR3 dedicated memory)|
|Display||14-inch 1366×768 LED-backlit TN panel|
|Storage||500GB 5400RPM 2.5-inch HDD with 32GB SLC mSATA SSD for Intel SmartCache|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet LAN,
Intel 802.11 b/g/n with Smart Connect Technology,
|Audio||Beats Audio with dual speakers|
|Battery/Power||4-cell Lithium-ion 52Wh battery/65W AC power adaptor|
|External Ports||1x SD card reader
2x SuperSpeed USB 3.0
1x USB 2.0
1x Ethernet LAN
1x Headphone-out (Stereo)
|Dimensions||34 x 23.58 x 1.98 cm|
|Extras||HP TrueVision HD camera|
As tested: $950
The Envy 4 comes in two color options; midnight black and natural silver. The midnight black option has totally black chassis apart from the bottom part which is in reddish maroon color. On the other hand, the natural silver is also fully black apart from the silver keyboard panel. Surprisingly, the silver color option is $25 more than the black one but the later one looks much better and gives the ultrabook a premium look. HP also provides the option of equipping up the Envy 4 with a backlit keyboard which costs an extra $20.
In terms of processor and graphics options, HP is offering 6 different combinations. The Sandy Bridge based Core i3-2377M with Intel HD graphics being the cheapest one and the Ivy Bridge based Core i5-3317U along with AMD Radeon HD 7670M (with 2GB memory) being the most expensive. It makes use of AMD Enduro technology to dynamically switching the graphics processor between Intel’s IGP option and the dedicated HD 7670M. You can configure the programs you want to use the dedicated graphics card for in AMD’s control panel and as soon as you launch that program the dedicated GPU will come into action. This makes this moderately priced ultrabook a good option for occasional gaming and it also helps in improving the battery file in sizeable amounts when any graphics intensive task is not being done.
The memory variations include options from 4GB up to 8GB of DDR3 memory. The Envy 4 has two memory slots; getting two sticks of 4GB is a full $50 cheaper than a single stick of 8GB. For storage options, the Envy 4 does not come with much choice. Only combination available is a 2.5-inch 500GB 5400RPM drive with an mSATA 32GB SSD. The solid state drive comes pre-configured as a cache drive using Intel Smart Cache Technology.
As for connectivity options, the Envy 4 has an Ethernet port, HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader, microphone and headphone jack. This is a good collection of ports for an ultrabook of this class. It also comes with WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and HP’s TrueVision HD Webcam.