Taiwanese ODMs and lower-tier manufacturers have long tried to ape Apple's design ethic in the hope of generating some publicity. Larger entities, such as HP, have been known to take some inspiration as well, but they generally shy away from more overt imitation for fear of being made to look a little silly. With its Envy range, however, HP has been more brazen.
There are two models, the 15.6in Envy 15 and the 13in Envy 13, which square off against Apple's respective models of similar sizes. Today we're looking at the Envy 15 which, aside from looking very nice, packs a serious punch. Inside its sleek shell hides not only a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, but also an ATI Mobility Radeon 4830 that should be more than handy for gaming. This instantly gives the HP an edge in performance, though it does underline that the Envy 15 is a subtly different proposition to Apple's own.
Before we get too bogged down in such technicalities, however, how does the Envy 15 compare as a piece of design? Well the likeness is obvious, but the HP still has plenty to differentiate itself. Most obviously, while it is constructed using aluminium, neither Envy machine has a unibody chassis.
Even without this manufacturing innovation, though, the Envy 15 is not lacking for assured build quality or eye-catching design. While the base is regular silver aluminium, the lid, keyboard and palm rest regions have an autumnal brown shade. This is further enhanced on the lid and palm rest by laser etched patterns, whose variety of different shaped dots form interesting optical illusions. It's a neat trick and certainly gives the HP something unique to call its own.
A more substantive difference is the lack of an integrated optical drive. This helps retain a slim and light form-factor; the Envy 15 measures just 26.5mm thick and weighs a paltry 2.35kg, but it might be a deal breaker for some. However, you do get a neat external drive in the box that also integrates two extra USB ports, so all is not lost.
Overall, from a purely aesthetic point of view, the Envy 15 treads the fine line between imitation and originality rather well. While the inspiration is there for all to see, HP has added enough of its own flare to give the Envy 15 a sense of exclusivity - an idea extended to the minimalist packaging.