The world of the ultrabook is becoming increasingly varied, with every laptop manufacturer offering its own take on what a good super-portable machine should be like.
HP’s Envy 4 Ultrabook is an affordable, slim and stylish machine that hopefully won’t wipe out all your savings. But to keep the price low, HP has sacrificed processing power. My review model came with an Intel Core i3 processor from last year’s range of Sandy Bridge chips, rather than the newer Ivy Bridge variety.
The Envy 4 is available now to buy. With an atttractive price tag of only £650, is it worth the cut corners?
Design and build quality
While there are some razor-thin ultrabooks on the market that threaten to slice atoms clean in half, none of them are made by HP. Its Envy 14 Spectre ultrabook measures 20mm thick, which is rather more portly than super-sleek models like the Asus Zenbook UX31 or Apple’s MacBook Air.
You won’t struggle to slide it into a thin sleeve though, and with a width of 340mm and a depth of 236mm, it’s easily carried in your backpack.
HP has stripped off the sleek Gorilla Glass top of the Spectre and replaced it with a brushed metal lid. The minimal look is pretty stylish, although it doesn’t have the stand-out design that made the Spectre special. If you’re really into mad patterns and bright swirls, the Envy 4 won’t be for you, but if you prefer a more subtle design, perhaps for office work, it might be up your street.
To give it an ‘edge’, HP has made the entire bottom and sides of the Envy 4 bright red. It’s not immediately noticeable but it’s a pleasing effect that’s on the right side of garish.
The brushed metal top feels rather sturdy, as does the rubberised base, but the screen itself feels a little flexible. It therefore seems much more protected against the elements when it’s all closed up — which is fine, given that it will be shut while travelling, when it will be at its most vulnerable.
Around the edges you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 socket, HDMI and Ethernet outs, an SD card slot and headphone and microphone jacks.
The Envy 4 is carrying the Beats name so you’d be right to expect some good audio from its speakers. While I’ve heard worse from other machines, the speakers really aren’t up to anything more than playing back YouTube clips or the odd TV show. If you want an immersive sound experience, you’ll need to grab a good pair of headphones.
Keyboard and trackpad
Under the lid is more of that black brushed metal seen on the lid. You’ll find it liberally applied all over the wrist rest and around the keyboard. Like the lid, it feels particularly sturdy and satisfyingly free of flex when you press down on it. Annoyingly though, it’s a total fingerprint magnet so make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before sitting down to work. It wouldn’t hurt to have a pack of wet wipes on standby either.
The keyboard looks like the standard-issue tray you’d find on most HP laptops, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s very simple in terms of looks but it’s comfortable to type on for long periods and doesn’t split the right shift key in half like some ultrabooks.
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