The Pulse: HP’s ENVY 15 and ENVY 17

by Reads (27,773)

HP has been through some rough waters lately, with questions surrounding its commitment in the area of smartphones and rumors swirling about related to its PC business. While all of this is great fodder for the industry pundits and competition, one thing can be said about HP with great conviction: The company knows how to wrap innovation around computer systems.

Last month, HP unveiled its ENVY 15 and ENVY 17 notebooks, extending a brand that some say borrows heavily from the design of the Apple MacBook Pro. These latest systems may walk the MacBook walk, but they also include a lot of HP-exclusive design elements, including a gleaming black, silver and red chassis that calls to mind some classic art deco sculpturing.

As noted in a First Look posted on NotebookReview last month, The ENVY 15 and ENVY 17 notebooks lack little when it comes to available features, ranging from a slot-loading optical disc drive and two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports to an SD card slot, HDMI port and Gigabit Ethernet.

These features and the new design specs of the ENVY 15 and 17 have not been overlooked by the people who post comments and criticisms on NotebookReview’s Discussion Forums, with remarks ranging from the very positive to the not so flattering. The following is a quick sampling of the chatter traffic, presented as our first entry in The Pulse, a recurring feature that profiles the comments from some of the busiest threads in our Discussion Forums.

A Bead on Batteries
Both systems look pretty good overall, says Forum member MidnightSun, a highly active contributor who has been involved in NBR’s Forums since Nov. 2008. “I feel like they’re sort of in-between the new Elitebooks and Pavilion lineup from an aesthetics point of view. The red trim is quite subtle unlike some other laptops (latest Dell Latitudes, every other MSI gaming laptop, etc.

On the other hand, I wish they could’ve lost the optical drive on the Envy 15 as they did on the last generation and added more ports, a larger battery, second internal HDD bay, or even more cooling. There’s so much potential for all that wasted space, and I think the first Envy 15 really recognized and addressed that quite well.”

Battery capabilities was also on the mind of Mitlov, another prolific NBR Forum member, who says, “HP historically has put good GPUs in the Envy models. Good battery life is more of a question, considering how shockingly short the currently Envy 17’s battery life is. But, then again, the Vaio SE (without the sheet battery) isn’t setting any records either.

“I think the Envy 15 with the upgraded screen is going to really give models like the Vaio SE and the Samsung Series 7 a run for their money. Besides,  the more competition the better in my book.

Newbie member amb980 wasn’t too enthralled by the look and feel of the new Envy notebooks, and came down hard on the design aspects of the systems.  “Suppose I’ll reserve final judgment until I see these in person, but based on the photos, I’m pretty disappointed by the design. The early Envy 13/14/15/17 had a bit of a unique look, whereas these are just out-and-out MacBook Pro photocopies– even the metal colors and touchpad finish have been changed to match, along with a cheap Pavilion-like black screen cover.

“They’re not the sleekest machines by any means, but at least the earlier models used curves and tapered surfaces to reduce visual impact,” amb9800 continues.  “The flat edges on these, combined with the speaker grille, makes them look like a cross between a MacBook Pro and a Compaq closeout special from a few years ago…I think HP’s dropped the ball on this by trying to clone MBPs of the past.”

NBR Forum member Baloney, who is also a computer consultant, is more pragmatic in criticisms, questioning each system’s true weight and battery capacity.  “Remember how the Envy 14’s 5-hour battery life wasn’t QUITE 5 hours for most people?  Something around 3-4 hours?  I think this computer is a little too good to be true at that price. I mean, who would buy a MacBook Pro if this is available?

“Unless you NEED OS X, I don’t see any advantage the MBP (MacBook Pro) has over this except the unibody and trackpad – that is, as long as it has better graphics than the old 14 did. The 6630M was pathetic. If the new Envy 15 has, say, a 6850M there would be very little reason for buying a MacBook Pro.“

Aspernatio, another relative newcomer to the NBR Forums, seems to sit squarely on the fence when it comes to the debate between the new Envy systems and the Apple MacBookPro.  “Frankly, in terms of looks I think (Envy is) absolutely fantastic. My only real worries are the possibility of the top being made of plastic, the touch pad being terrible, the GPU being under powered for my needs, and the battery life not being too great.

“In terms of comparison to the MBP, I would probably go for the MBP were it not for the cost. But, I’ll probably be ordering the Envy on December 7th regardless, as it should hopefully not fall short in too many of those categories.

For more comments, quips and questions, please go to the HP’s New ENVY 15 and ENVY 17 First Look: Good Design and 3D discussion thread on the NotebookReview Forum, where you’ll find expert observation on a range of topics related to both consumer and business computing. Also, watch for future postings of The Pulse where we have our finger on the talk and tempo from the Forum communities across the TechnologyGuide sites.

More active threads on the NotebookReview Forum:

NOW AVAILABLE – Updated ENVY 15, ENVY 17 / ENVY 17 3D

Dell XPS 14z Review: One Sleek 14-inch Laptop

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