Sleek and lightweight design; Excellent Beats Audio; Runs cool; Strong overall performance with fast boot time; Smooth and reliable touchpad
Lid can catch on back of chassis when opening; Fingerprints show up quickly on lid; Relatively dim screen
The HP Envy 4-1030us is a light and stylish 14-inch Ultrabook with impressive Beats Audio, but it's held back by a single design flaw.
The HP Envy 4-1030us joins a suddenly crowded field of Ultrabooks priced around or under $800. All of these machines offer slim designs, more than five hours of battery life, plus an SSD cache paired with a larger hard drive to deliver fast resume and boot times. How does this 14-inch Ultrabook stand out? HP's aluminum alloy design certainly turns heads, and the Envy 4 boasts Beats Audio for adding a little oomph to your music and movies. Is this $799 Ultrabook the best bet for the money? Let's find out.
Weighing just 3.7 pounds, the Envy 4 is lighter than the Acer Aspire TimelineU M5-481TG-6814, (4.4 pounds), the Dell Inspiron 14z (4.2 pounds), as well as the Toshiba Satellite U845 (3.9 pounds). To be fair, though, the Acer and the Dell both have optical drives. The Envy 4 measures 13.4 x 9.3 x 0.8 inches, which is a little smaller than the Toshiba Satellite U845 (13.5 x 9.1 x 0.8 inches) and only a hair thicker. The Envy 4 fit comfortably in our messenger bag and its light weight made it great for travel.
This issue left us concerned about the build quality of the system, so we visited two area Best Buys to try other machines. The Envy 4s at these locations exhibited the same design flaw, but not nearly to the same degree. We could feel and hear the lid creak slightly as we opened it.
Like other Envy laptops, the Envy 4 features an HP Radiance Backlit Keyboard, which means each key is given its own LED light, allowing the layout to be uniformly lit.
HP claims its Imagepad boasts an HD image sensor for "highly precise multitouch gesture control." The Imagepad lived up to the hype, as we performed multitouch gestures such as pinch-zoom, three-finger flick, and two-finger scrolling with ease and accuracy.
Nevertheless, the LED-backlit display provided crisp and clear images when viewed head-on. During the trailer for Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby," we could easily make out individual flower details and the beautiful city lights of New York. None of the colors really "popped," however. Horizontal viewing angles were fairly good, but the glossy surface resulted in a lot of reflections.
Beats Audio provided excellent audio quality on the HP Envy 4-1030us. The dual speakers and subwoofer easily filled our testing room. In Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now," the background piano was clear, each cymbal crash was crisp and clean and the vocals sounded great. Switching to Kanye West's "Mercy," the song sounded good, but even when we maxed out the bass settings in the Beats Audio Control Panel, we still wanted more. It just wasn't as thumping as the Beats Audio in the Envy 17 or 15; both of those machines also have a lot more room in the chassis to produce extra power.
The Envy 4 takes advantage of HP CoolSense technology, which uses a combination of hardware configuration, design materials, and software to regulate the notebook's temperature. After 15 minutes of playing a Hulu video at full screen, the Envy's touchpad was a comfortable 74 degrees, the bottom was 86 degrees, and the heat between the G and H keys was 81 degrees. We consider anything over 95 degrees to be too hot.
Ports and Webcam
The Envy 4's HD webcam captures both videos and stills and is supported by HP's TrueVision, a technology that improves image quality in low-light situations.
The Envy 4 is powered by a 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317M (Ivy Bridge) processor with 4GB of RAM, enough power to provide a seamless experience under everyday conditions. On the PCMark07 benchmark test, the Envy 4 scored 3,836, which is about 1,000 points higher than the thin-and-light average, as well as the Dell Inspiron 14z (2,984) and the Acer Aspire M5-481TG (2,824), both of which have the same CPU.
The three notebooks were more evenly matched on Geekbench, with the Envy 4 scoring 5,783, the 14z at 5,971 and the Acer at 5,897. The Toshiba Satellite U845, which has a second-generation Intel Core i3 processor, scored 1,707 on PCMark07 and 3,713 on Geekbench.
Using its 32GB SSD cache, it took 31 seconds for the Envy 4 to boot into the 64-bit version of Windows 7, easily beating the average boot time of 42 seconds. That's also better than the Acer M5-481TG (36 seconds), but the 14z took just 25 seconds. The Envy 4 also awoke from sleep in 1 to 2 seconds, in line with most Ultrabooks.
On the File Transfer test, the Envy 4 duplicated 4.97GB of mixed media files in 2 minutes and 42 seconds, a transfer rate of 31.3MBps. This was on a par with both the Dell Inspiron 14z (2:51) and the Acer Aspire Timeline (2:50), but almost half the thin-and-light average of 58 MBps.
When we ran the OpenOffice Spreadsheet test, which involves matching 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses, the Envy 4 completed the task in 5 minutes and 51 seconds, about two minutes less than the category average, and on a par with the 14z (5:48) and the Acer M5-481TG (6:11). The Toshiba U845 took nearly twice as long (10:36).
With the screen set to its native resolution and effects on autodetect, the Envy 4 averaged 38 fps in the game "World of Warcraft," which is certainly playable. Not surprisingly, the Acer M5-481TG crushed this result with an average of 132 fps. Turning up the effects on the Envy 4 to their max dropped the frame rate to a mere 19 fps, an unplayable rate. The Dell fared a little better, at just 23 fps, while the Acer cruised along at 68 fps.
Those looking for more gaming muscle can buy the Envy 4 with AMD Radeon HD 7670M graphics, a $50 option.
During the LAPTOP Battery test, which involves continuous Web surfing via Wi-Fi, the Envy 4 lasted 6 hours and 18 minutes, about half an hour shy of the category average of 6:48. Still, that's pretty good compared with its direct competition: The Acer Aspire TimelineU M5-481TG lasted 6:27, the Dell 14z ran out of power after 5 hours and 35 minutes, and the Toshiba U845 endured for 6:28.
Software and Warranty
While the Envy 4 does not have a Proximity Sensor that controls the keyboard backlight, as on the Envy 14 Spectre, a function row key let us easily turn the backlighting on and off. Also included is Microsoft Office Starter 2010, Skype, Adobe Reader X, Evernote, Blio eBooks and CyberLink YouCam.
The HP Envy 4 includes a one-year limited hardware warranty, which also includes battery care. However, unlike the Envy 15 and 17, Envy 4 owners do not get a dedicated customer support line. See how HP fared in our Best and Worst Brands report.
The HP Envy 4-1030us we reviewed comes with a 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317M processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and a 32GB SSD cache. It costs $829 on HP.com, but you can find this unit for $799 on Amazon.com and elsewhere. The starting $699 configuration features a slower 2nd-generation Core i3 processor and no SSD. Adding a backlit keyboard to this config costs $20. For $50 more than our review configuration, you can step up to AMD Radeon HD 7670M graphics, but it's paired with an older 2nd-gen Core i5 CPU.
|CPU||1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317U|
|Operating System||MS Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|RAM Upgradable to||16GB|
|Hard Drive Size||32GB SSD + 500GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||5,400rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive + SSD|
|Optical Drive Speed||n/a|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Touchpad Size||4 x 2.5 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Microphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Ethernet|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB|
|Card Slots||SD memory reader|
|Size||13.38 x 9.28 x 0.78 inches|