Closer Look at the Ultrabook:
The HP Envy 4 is a well-designed ultrabook with a very classy outlook. Most panels of the chassis have brushed aluminum finish which gives it a premium look. The top part has a vertical streak pattern on it with HP logo in a corner. It is actually made of metal and it looks very good but as soon as you touch it, it feels kind of weak which suggests that HP has used a very thin film of already weak material to cut the cost. Furthermore, it has high tendency of catching finger marks and smudges. And such marks completely ruin the beauty of the notebook.
The bottom part is also made up of metal but with a rubberized plastic finish and it extends to sides of the ultrabook. This part feels really solid and surprisingly the rubber finish is also very durable. We tried to scratch it lightly but cleaning it with a damp cloth removed all the marks. The bottom not only looks good but it also serves as a very good grip point. The ultrabook does not slide or slip around if you put it on your lap or carry it. Furthermore, there are four rubber feet on each corner which provide extra grip and protect the back when the laptop is placed on a desk. The bottom part also has two arrays of grill which are used for ventilation and speakers.
The top edge of the notebook has an angular design with two hinges and company’s complete name is embossed on it. This little design feature add a lot of aesthetic appeal.
Opening the ultrabook reveals the 14-inch LED backlit TN display, a full size keyboard and a trackpad. The display has a resolution of 1366 x 768 and it used HD BrightView technology. It simply means that it’s a glossy display resulting in better color intensity and contrast ratios. However, the display has surprisingly low brightness (even at the highest possible setting). The notebooks are supposed to be used on the go and sometimes even in outdoor condition and for such condition high brightness is what makes a load of difference. The color accuracy is also sub-par but it isn’t that important for most consumers. In terms of viewing angles, the display, once again, starts showing its bad side. The vertical viewing angles are really bad; the image starts changing colors as soon as the display is tilted. However, the horizontal viewing angles are much better. Overall, the display is fine for casual users but HP could have gone for a better display without disturbing the price much as the similarly priced Samsung Series 5 notebooks have much better displays. There is a web cam on the top of the display. It has a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720. The quality isn’t outstanding but it’s good enough for video chat.
The keyboard is a full size one with Chiclet keys. All the keys are well-spaced and have decent travel distance. All the important keys like Enter, Backspace and Shift are of optimal size which make up for a good typing experience. It also has a full array of function keys but they are reverse configured to access frequently used options like brightness, volume and other media tasks. Actual function key can be accessed by pressing the desired key in combination with the “fn” key. Personally; I quite like this approach but those who want the actual function keys, all the time, can change this setting from BIOS. It also has arrow keys but the top and down keys are very small which might be an issue to some. The keyboard on our review unit doesn’t have backlit keys but users can get the Envy 4 with a backlit keyboard for an extra $20. Overall, the keyboard is very good and fun to type on. Furthermore, unlike the top part of the ultrabook, there is no flex to the keyboard itself of the metal panel around it.
Keyboard is accompanied by a decent sized touch pad. It is plastic surface with concentric pattern and is very smooth which offers precise control. It can be deactivated with a double tap on the left top corner and an orange LED lights up near the pad indicating that it’s deactivated. Lower part of the pad is defined as two mouse button. They are well-defined but sometime cursor accidently moves around when you are actually trying to press the button. It is not a major issue; it just takes a little getting used to.
Right side of the laptop has the charging port, a USB 2.0 port, headphone jack, microphone jack and Kensington lock. On the opposite side, there is an Ethernet jack, a full-sized HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, SD card reader, a power LED and a hard drive activity LED.
HP hasn’t really designed the Envy 4 as a user upgradable notebook but the upgrading process is pretty easy since the back part can take off but simple removing 12 screws. With the bottom removed, even an average consumer with little hardware knowledge can replace the hard drive, mSATA SSD, battery and memory modules. This kind of ease of accessibility is very rare in modern ultrabooks.