This 15.6-inch AMD-powered notebook is 8/10ths of an inch thin, weighs less than five pounds and gets almost eight hours of battery life. That's mighty impressive ... but read our review to find out what we don't like.
It's impossible to discuss HP's Sleekbook family of thin-and-light laptops without mentioning the obvious comparison to ultrabooks. Without getting too caught up in marketing details, the term "ultrabook" applies to a specific category of thin-yet-powerful notebooks that follow a very specific set of technical guidelines from Intel regarding components, physical dimensions, battery life, as well as startup and system resume times. The HP Sleekbooks might clearly have some design similarities to ultrabooks, but they are not ultrabooks.
Build and Design
The HP ENVY Sleekbook 6z (also called the Sleekbook 6z-1000) is one thin and light notebook; it's about two-thirds the height and weight of a normal 15.6-inch notebook at just 0.78 inches and 4.75 lbs. Despite that, it's still a 15.6-inch notebook and therefore its portability is limited. This notebook is more about form than function.
The brushed aluminum exterior looks classy and I especially like the velvety-feeling of the red soft-touch paint finish on the bottom. I like how the thin speaker grille is placed just below the lid. One last aspect I like about the design is the minimal amount of glossy plastic; there is only some around the screen bezel.
The build quality is solid; the chassis has a minimal amount of flex which is commendable given the thinness. Even the lid barely flexes and no ripples appear on the back when pressed in on.
Something the Sleekbook 6z lacks is upgradeability; there are no user-accessible service panels anywhere on this laptop. The chassis of the notebook would have to be completely disassembled in order to gain access to the hard drive and RAM. The battery is also not user-changeable (which might not be a big deal given the long battery life, as we'll see later).
The reality is most consumers never upgrade or service their notebooks, but this might be something a serious PC user cares about.
Ports and Features
One thing the Sleekbook 6z isn't light on is ports; it packs three USB ports (two of which are USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ports), HDMI, a media card reader, and Ethernet. All the ports are located on either the left side or right side of the notebook since the front and back edges are too thin for ports. Despite the thin profile the only feature this laptop lacks that might be an issue for some users is an internal optical drive.
Left: Ethernet, HDMI, 2x USB 3.0, media card reader, status lights
Right: Kensington lock slot, headphone and microphone ports, USB 2.0 (powered), AC power jack
Screen and Speakers
The screen is unfortunately mediocre as are most 15.6-inch screens with a 1366x768 resolution. It's bright enough but simply lifeless; colors are washed out and contrast is not deep enough (black levels look more gray). The viewing angles leave a lot to be desired as well; it's especially narrow vertically. A higher resolution option would be greatly appreciated as there's not enough room with a 1366x768 resolution to use two windows side-by-side.
The two Beats-branded speakers above the keyboard are small but placed right and project sound upwards towards the user; this is much better than being situated beneath the palm rest like most ultrabooks. There is little bass to speak of although there is a third small speaker sealed inside and located in the bottom of the laptop. The sound isn't as rich as a multimedia notebook like the HP ENVY 17, but the speakers on the Sleekbook 6z are a step up from typical budget notebook speakers.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is frankly one of the worst I've used in terms of feel. The tactile feedback is abysmal; the key travel is almost nonexistent and feels cheap. This is one of the few notebooks I've reviewed where I opted to hook up an external keyboard to write the review rather than use the notebook's built-in one. I noticed the space bar had issues registering on the right side -- and surprisingly I noticed this with another HP notebook I bought recently for personal use. The Sleekbook 6z's keyboard inspires no confidence. It is available with a backlit keyboard so hopefully that's a vast improvement over this.
I can't complain about the touchpad on the other hand; it is a clickpad, meaning the entire surface acts like a button -- just press down. To my surprise I had no accuracy problems and the clickpad takes just the right amount of effort to press, which hasn't been my past experience with clickpads. It also has a great textured surface and makes relatively quiet clicks.
Our HP ENVY Sleekbook 6z-1000 has the following configuration:
At the time of this writing, this configuration of the Sleekbook 6z is available in two ways at two prices. You can custom configure the notebook on the HP website for $644.99 or you can purchase a preconfigured version with the same specs (called the HP ENVY Sleekbook 6-1010us) at $599.
If you go with the $650 price point this notebook is not a standout value though the thin and light design has some allure. A standard size 15.6-inch notebook with an Intel Core i3 processor is significantly faster (though most folks won't need all that power) and offers better storage options; the Sleekbook 6z tops out at just 500GB.
Performance and Benchmarks
Performance isn't the Sleekbook 6z's strong suite by a long shot; its lower-end A6 AMD Dual-Core processor is just adequate for general everyday usage and watching HD video (YouTube 720p runs smoothly). It's actually a 'Fusion' processor where the graphics card is integrated into the processor. The included AMD Radeon graphics on this A6 version are rather slow however; they're faster than integrated Intel graphics but not sufficient for playing the latest 3D games. Their function is to aid video processing and help with graphics-accelerated applications like Photoshop.
Note the Sleekbook 6z is available with a more powerful A10 quad-core version of the same processor which should double the available processing power; it comes with slightly faster graphics to boot. It's debatable whether the current $100 upgrade price is worth it however; that's pushing the value envelope and as I noted, as configured with the dual-core our review unit is fine for everyday tasks.
The Sleekbook 6z is limited to 7mm thin hard drives and they are relatively slow. In theory you could just put a 7mm SSD inside and significantly improve system performance. However, as noted earlier, this notebook is not upgradeable without significant disassembly (it's not designed with user accessibility in mind).
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark 7 is a newer benchmark and measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark11 measures overall gaming performance in DirectX 11 games (higher scores mean better performance):
CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:
Heat and Noise
The Sleekbook 6z has one long MacBook-style vent situated under the display hinge. Air only seems to come out the right side. The fan is always on and makes a slight whine at all speeds, which is audible and noticeable. It's not loud but the sound carries. I'm not thrilled with that aspect but the setup certainly keeps the notebook cool. Even after an intensive benchmarking session, the chassis remains at room temperature top and bottom. The days of overly hot AMD processors are apparently over.
I measured an even seven hours, 30 minutes on the Sleekbook 6z's standard battery. This is an excellent time for a 15.6-inch notebook and adds a lot of value to this model; it also kind of negates the fact that the battery cannot be removed. The battery life was measured during our standard battery rundown test (Windows 7 Balanced power profile, 70% screen brightness, wireless active and refreshing a web page every 60 seconds).
Battery life test results (higher scores mean better battery life):
The HP ENVY Sleekbook 6z is ultimately hard to recommend for a few reasons. The first of which is the abysmal keyboard: it has a poor, cheap feel and is not encouraging to use. Adding to the productivity problem is the low 1366x768 screen resolution; it suffices for basic tasks, but power users will be wishing for more space.
On the upside the Sleekbook 6z has a great-looking design, decent speakers, a good selection of ports, and an excellent 7.5-hour battery life. Its low weight and thinness do little to hide the fact that it's a 15.6-inch notebook though, so the portability is still limited.
At $599 the price is a little rich, but if you make the mistake of configuring it yourself and pay $650, the Sleekbook 6z isn't a great value by any means. For that price I am more inclined to go with one of HP's 15.6-inch Pavilion notebooks; they offer a better keyboard and better screen options plus user upgradeability. The only downside is a little extra weight and thickness.