by LAPTOP Staff on March 27, 2012
With excellent multimedia performance, slick designs and the best value and selection, HP deserves to hold on to the bronze medal this year.
UPDATE: Check out HP's 2013 Brand Report Card to see how the company fared this year.
HP won more Editors' Choice awards--six in all--than any other brand, which spanned the gamut from its budget-minded Pavilion g4 to its powerful-but-portable Envy 14 (and its Beats Audio) to the small business-minded ProBook 4530s. Of the 16 notebooks we reviewed, 13 earned 4-star ratings. The company's performance scores easily secured a second-place finish, which is a ranking higher than last year.
Take one look at the HP Envy 14 Spectre and you know that HP is serious about design. It features an elegant lid and palm rest made of Gorilla Glass, which resists scratches. Yes, the Envy 15 and Envy 17 borrow heavily from the MacBook Pro, but we love the bright backlit keyboard and dedicated Beats Audio dial. Plus, the Pavilion dv6 series delivers a cool metal finish for a reasonable price.
You'll never have a problem with HP's keyboards, which vary in style on each notebook but always provide solid feedback and good key placement. The company uses clickpads on many notebooks, including the high-end Envy line, but the quality and accuracy of these pads have improved dramatically in the past year. Still, we continue to notice stiffness and jerkiness on such systems as the Folio 13 (pictured).
HP has made some big strides toward improving support, including internal search-engine optimization for Web queries, a helpful Support Assistant that lives on HP notebooks and an increased social-networking presence. However, the company's phone-based support still needs improvement. Fragmenting their support with different phone numbers for different product lines (Envy, Pavilion, Touchsmart) was somewhat confusing. And once we got through to a real person, they were often stumped by our questions.
The multimedia experience on HP's notebooks runs the gamut from very good to downright jaw-dropping. Budget systems such as the HP Pavilion g4 offered clear image quality but with limited viewing angles, while audio was clear. Then there are such laptops as the Envy 15, which boast Radiance Full HD Infinity displays that are ultra-bright with rich colors. HP has also integrated Beats Audio into more of its notebooks, providing plenty of bass and pleasingly accurate sound.
HP continues to offer the widest selection of notebooks at multiple price points, from the $456 Pavilion g4 to the $3,398 EliteBook 8560W. We reviewed 16 laptops from the brand this past year, and continue to appreciate the customization options HP offers for those who purchase a notebook through its website, as well as the company's widespread availability in major outlets such as Best Buy.
On consumer notebooks (such as the Envy and Pavilion series), preloaded utilities include HP SimplePass for password management (Pavilion dv6t), HP CoolSense technology and HP Connection Manager for mobile broadband. On HP's business side (EliteBooks and ProBooks), noteworthy apps include the ProtectTools for passwords and using biometric security. The Sparekey backup utility asks three questions (e.g., "What is your mother's maiden name?") to help recover forgotten passwords, and HP Power Assistant regulates laptop power consumption for IT managers.
LAPTOP readers have lambasted HP's notebooks across the board. During the last year, readers have complained about everything from faulty port connections to defective motherboards. Rescuecom ranked HP in fourth place out of five in its Q2 2011 reilability study. The brand maintains an A+ rating from the BBB.
HP gets a nod for improving on its existing technologies such as its Beats Audio integration and CoolSense technology, although the latter doesn't always work as advertised. The Envy 14 Spectre, shown at CES 2012, will be the first notebook to sport a glass finish on its palm rest and lid as well as an onboard NFC chip. HP also introduced the first ultraportable notebook powered by an AMD Fusion processor and put a proximity sensor on the Envy 15's backlit keyboard.