Today HP unveiled the all-new ENVY 15 and ENVY 17 notebooks. The ENVY design has always been contentious, and even HP admitted to borrowing more than a little from Apple's MacBook Pro. The new design eases off a bit, adding a pop of red trim and a capacitive touch volume dial - read on to hear our thoughts.
Looking at the all-new ENVY laptops, it's clear that HP didn't stray too-far from the MacBook look; having said that, however, these new notebooks have strong design hints in their own right, with the gleaming black, silver and red reminiscent of an art deco sculpture. Regardless of where you come down on who originally inspired the last vestiges of HP's Voodoo acquisition, you can't deny that they're lookers.
The new design uses the red accents judiciously, with an attractive strip showcasing the inset keyboard, as well as touches on the power button and Beats Audio (of course, Beats Audio is still tied deeply into the ENVY identity) capacitive button.
Speaking of audio, one of the first things we noticed when looking at the new ENVY is a jog dial built into the side of the machine. This dial actually sticks out from the plane of the notebook's edge eeeeever so slightly. It's just enough for you to be able to spin the dial without it actually detracting from the elegant designs. While it may bring to mind Toshibas (et al.) of old, which actually used a potentiometer dial to regulate audio levels, this is strictly a software solution - it won't work outside of Windows (or presumably Linux).
On top of the volume dial is a capactive button that, when tapped, launches the Beats Audio control panel plug-in. We'd like to see HP let repurpose this button to toggle the mute status in future ENVY iterations; chances are you'll use that a heck of a lot more than you would the Beats Audio control panel levels.
The keyboard looks much the same as it did in previous generations, but the backlighting setup is new; in an attempt to minimize light bleed, most keys on the keyboad have individual LEDs responsible for their illumination. This prevents light from spilling from in between all of the keys. The trackpad isn't too much changed, and, like most HP notebooks, can be completely disabled with a quick double-tap in the upper-left corner.
One thing the new ENVY notebooks do not lack is port selection - with the possible exception of Intel's Light Peak interconnect, there's almost nothing missing from these notebooks. The left side of the notebooks offer the slot-loading optical disc drive, two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, a microphone jack and dual headphone jacks. The right side lets users access another USB port (though just USB 2.0 this time), an SD card slot, Kensington Lock slot, HDMI out, DisplayPort out, Gigabit Ethernet, and the A/C power jack.
Old ENVY fans will rejoice to hear that the 3D screen isn't the only change HP made to the display - the company has managed to bring the Radiance panels back from the dead as well. These LED-backlit screens offer superior brightness and contrast ratings to traditional LCDs and many consumers mourned the day HP stopped making them an option on the ENVY lineup.
Speaking of 3D, however, it works, and it works well, or at least as well as you'd expect it might. A pair of active shutter glasses gets tossed in the box of every 3D ENVY notebook, and they're nice, too, like the ones we got with the new HP TouchSmart 620 3D desktop. As part of the AMD graphics that power the 3D effects, HP has leveraged that company's Eyefinity graphics technology to enable multiple screen support - up to three external displays can be hooked up to the new ENVY computers, with the notebook panel itself acting as a fourth.
ENVY 15 Specifications:
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