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HP Envy Touchsmart 15 - Keyboard, Touchpad and Verdict

By Alan Martin

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

User Score:

HP Envy Touchsmart 15 – Keyboard

The beauty of a 15-inch laptop is that we get a full size keyboard to play with: numpad and all. The keys here are all present and accounted for, including a full-sized set of function keys along the top, which is welcome in a world where they’re so often reduced in size for space reasons. As you’d expect, you can build up typing speed quickly.

Three issues prevent it from passing without criticism, however. The first is that the frame is weirdly hollow around the D,F,G segment of the keyboard, which means the case actually bends in when you hit the keys there. This isn’t particularly noticeable anywhere else on the laptop, and we don’t think it raises questions about reliability, it’s just odd in a £1,000 computer.

The second is that the spacebar feels unnecessarily short on a laptop this wide, with more space than we think is right given to the rarely used ‘alt’ keys either side of it. We managed to miss the spacebar a few times as a result.

The third is the worst: we found while typing up this review that the Envy Touchsmart 15 was consistently dropping letters as we typed. If this happened once or twice, we’d assume typos on our part, but we’ve lost count over the course of writing this review up, and we’re not accepting human error. Perhaps this is down to a faulty unit, but the fact that it’s not the same letter each time (or even the same area of the keyboard) suggests a more inherent fault with its keystroke detection.

HP Envy Touchsmart 15 – Touchpad

The touchpad takes a little getting used to as well. It’s a generous size, so gestures are performed consistently, but because it’s offset to the left of the laptop we found we spent a lot of time pressing right-click when we meant to left click, which is as infuriating as it sounds. It also occasionally registers the scrolling motion as a light tap click, too.

We found highlighting text to be difficult to pull off - especially large sections, and when we managed it, there was a good chance the touchpad would slip and we’d end up dragging it into another section of text. Very annoying: it managed the advanced functions of gestures well, but the simple day-to-day stuff doesn’t prove half as easy as you’d hope from the get-go, providing an unnecessary barrier to smooth browsing.

Other things to consider

Despite its bulkier frame, the Envy Touchsmart follows the fashion of Ultrabooks by not including an optical drive, which we find a little disappointing. True, we don’t frequently use a DVD drive nowadays, but if it seriously wants to be considered as a desktop replacement, we’d argue that people occasionally need to access optical media. Either way, if that’s an issue for you, you would need to buy an external drive to carry alongside its already considerable 2.54kg weight.

It also proudly proclaims its Beats Audio credentials on the packaging and on the laptop body itself. We found the sound to be pretty good on the whole, managing deeper bass notes than most laptops can, as well as nice, clear distinct channels. Of course, a laptop’s speakers will never match a good external set, or some decent headphones, but as they go, the Envy’s are good performers.

Should I buy the HP Envy Touchsmart 15?

While the raw specifications and gaming power of the Envy Touchsmart are hard to argue with, we found it lacking in a few crucial ways that would make us cautious about giving it a whole-hearted recommendation.

The screen is merely okay, but the real issue for us is the unreliable keyboard and trackpad that often make it feel that the laptop is fighting against you rather than making life easier. On top of that, while in principle we love the idea of a £1,000 laptop packing 16GB RAM, in practice we’d rather have saved the money there and had HP put in a hybrid SSD to boost boot and response times.

So what are the alternatives? The Dell XPS 14 is more Ultrabook than this is trying to be, but we really liked it when we reviewed it six months ago. We haven't review its bigger brother - the XPS 15 - but it offers similar specifications to this including the dedicated Nvidia graphics card, and we’d be confident that it wouldn’t have the same input issues that we came across here. Plus it has a hybrid SSD/SATA hard disk and optical drive.

For more alternatives, read our best laptop round-up for our top picks.

Verdict

On paper, the specifications are impressive for the price, but the cut corners are obvious in the keyboard, touchpad and screen. A solid laptop then, but we’d hope for more to replace our desktop full time.

Overall Score

7

Scores In Detail

  • Battery Life 7
  • Build Quality 7
  • Design 7
  • Heat & Noise 7
  • Keyboard 6
  • Performance 8
  • Screen Quality 5
  • Touchpad 6
  • Value 7

David Gray

August 2, 2013, 11:41 am

Or the Samsung 7 series Chronos 15".. The most comparable alternative
Better screen and hybrid HD.. check

David Trotter

August 2, 2013, 3:33 pm

Having recently bought this laptop I feel I should comment. I agree that the screen quality, keyboard and touchpad are average. I have had trouble using them but nothing too stressful. My main issue is with using windows 8 at the moment which I find very frustrating to use.

I managed to buy the 8gb version for around £735 inc vat which makes it a much better deal. So look out for the HP offers and discount codes when you buy.

It doesn't say on the website but I can confirm that the laptop has a spare mSATA port where I've managed to install a 60GB SSD drive. In theory I should be able to install windows onto this but there is no installation CD with the latop. All efforts so far have failed so any help is welcome!

I haven't spent too much time testing it for games or work as I am waiting to re-install windows. Battery life prediction is around 4-5 hours as reported.

MnemonicCarrier

August 3, 2013, 5:40 pm

Thanks. I was thinking about buying this laptop to replace my 17-inch Samsung Series 7 Chronos, but am not sure I will now (because the battery life on my Chronos is around 7 hours).

In regards to your problem with Windows 8 - I felt the same. I installed Ubuntu 13.04 (dual-boot configuration) and haven't looked back. I only boot in to Windows 8 now if I need to perform BIOS upgrades etc. (so rarely).

Mark Herridge

August 11, 2013, 10:24 pm

Is there an option to make a backup of the OS in the HP Recovery Manager? If so you should be able to make one to an external drive, fit a mSATA and recover the image to that, I have had the same problem before, and this is what I did, hope it helps

Itamar

August 26, 2013, 11:10 pm

I've got this computer and I'm a havey user that searched for a laptop that could run my game and programs in the highest performers . This computer has it all!
He's not havey and very beautiful and makes you feel great as a user.
In my opinion the screen is very large And I couldn't afford to buy smaller laptop with the same performers so I took this one and its great.
I'm attempt to hold this computer for the next ten years and I think this one can acually make it.

Viktor

September 25, 2013, 7:21 pm

Guys btw this model has and optional SSD and Hybrid HDD which you can install at the same time for a very fast loading. I assume you picked up basic model for $799... smh

iKuyri

November 6, 2013, 3:54 am

Yup, the screen is extremely bad. It acts just like a mirror with most lighting. I have to say that the keyboard functions great, no dropped keys with the exception of me being new to this keyboard. The touchpad is a little jumpy but the multitouch for it is incredible!

melvin

November 19, 2013, 12:27 pm

jus tgot a question booting up and shutting off do you tend to notice it takes a while to shut off or even restart

Andrew

November 22, 2013, 8:45 pm

I'm going to buy this laptop (HP envy 15-j022el). Do you really mean there is room for a SSD?? Because I can't find this information anywhere else. Thanks

Mohamed

December 9, 2013, 5:59 am

are you shore about this ?
because i'm going to buy this laptop and replace the exist HDD with SSD
if you are sure could you please give me a link to any reference
thanks

Piter Sam

December 29, 2013, 10:01 am

Please do not buy HP ENVY 15 laptops. These is some issue with these laptops. These laptop doesn't work after BIOS updates. The BIOS update happens as the part of regular windows update process. The moment laptop is restarted, the BIOS updates happens and after that the laptop doesn't start. Many users have logged this problem on HP Support forums.

Vikas Anand

February 5, 2014, 9:07 pm

worst experience to be HP consumer.
my name is Dr.vikas anand .

my product detail is;

Date Of Lookup 2013-10-23

Country IN

Product Number A9T81B

Serial Number CN37P2P8GV

I brought HP Enevy M6 1214 tx notebook and there was offer of printer if i will give extra money of 1600 indian rupees. and i sent demand draft to HP redemption cell. and they did not provide my offer instead they sent brocken printer in care pack in my home .i gave that to HP service center and untill now they didn't provide my offer.It is now becoming 8 months and i think it will also become more than 1 year.i contact them and they have have always new excuse and internal process. I want to share this bad experience to all of you because it is not about offer and my money , it is about my valuable time that i thout they will provide my product at time.i am a professional and all knows that printer is printer is part of work .and i have worst experience with HP with compare to sony, apple ,etc

thanhks for reading

Dr. Vikas Anand

leo janjgava

February 16, 2014, 9:55 am

i agree, but not about the noise since i playedd skyrim and it did have "some" noise but the beats audio system covered it even though it was on 75 %

leo janjgava

February 16, 2014, 9:59 am

oh yeah and i got to tell u this laptop is great except for its slight keyboard flex and the performance? hmh! gotta tell u mine is i7 and i play any game on its highest performance, bu i truly reccomend not to since u dont know when will the highest graphic demanding moments in gaming will occur. btw great job hp

na'dfk

November 15, 2014, 3:47 pm

what processor did this have? and was it 8gb? thx

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