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While most manufactures are chasing the ultrabook market at the moment, HP has provided us with a good old fashioned notebook powerhouse here: 15.6-inches, 2.56kg, a quad-core i7 CPU and a massive 16GB RAM all for exactly £1,000.
With these kind of dimensions and specifications, we’re fully expecting a desktop replacement here: portable, but mostly intended as the main computer for day to day use. So does it do everything required to ditch the desktop?
Version tested: HP Envy Touchsmart 15-j004ea
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The HP Envy Touchsmart 15 certainly feels well built. In stark contrast to the thin, light, fragile feel of some ultrabooks, this is a substantial two and a half kilograms of weight distributed across 15 inches of solid metal frame. Even so, the whole thing is 1.17 inches thick, so it’s far from grotesquely large.
At a glance, the machine resembles the Macbook Pro of old, with an silver metallic coating on the top and keyboard areas, and a thick black bezel around the screen. The underside is a matte black plastic, breaking with the Apple homage (along with the large HP logo where you’d expect the apple to be). The effect is also broken by the off-centre touchpad - more of which on later - and the sloped underside of the laptop, backing up the curves elsewhere.
In terms of connectivity, the Envy Touchsmart comes with a generous three USB ports, an HDMI port, a card reader, headphone jack and Ethernet port, positioned on the left and right sides of the keyboard.
As we’ve seen with a few touch enabled laptops of late, the additional input is something of a mixed blessing. While it makes navigating Windows 8’s chunky buttons a pleasure, the offset in terms of screen quality is unwelcome. In this case, the screen has a certain grainy, meshy feel to it making the icons appear less sharp than you would expect on a 1,920 x 1,080 display.
On top of this, the screen is distractingly reflective, meaning that even at the top brightness setting, your reflection is usually clear to see. The knock on effect to viewing angles is predictable: suffice it to say, this is a laptop you’ll want to be facing dead on, unless you want to use it to spy on your neighbours’ reflections.
The colours feel a little washed out, and a fair bit cooler than on recent laptop, too - a fact verified by the measured 6820K colour temperature. Contrast is disappointing, too, measuring just 222:1, while the peak brightness of 240nits is decent but nothing special. The result is rather grey-looking blacks in dark scenes, and an image that lacks the verve and depth we'd expect on a laptop at this price.
On the plus side, the resolution is very good for this size, and the 15.6 inches of space means that the touch interaction works far better than on some smaller Ultrabooks where we’ve been struggling for accuracy against the smaller screen real estate. It's just a shame the actual quality is below-par.
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