HP Envy 15

Both Envy machines share a similar keyboard to the Pavilion dm3, which is good news since it's very good. However, we're still unsure about the MacBook-style clickable multi-touch touchpad: a) because, so far at least, Windows 7's multi-touch implementation doesn't appear to match Apple's; and b) the touchpad itself doesn't feel as responsive or useable as those on the MacBooks. We'd wait for a final unit, though, to make a proper judgement.

While the Envy 13 seems more like a MacBook Air killer, the Envy 15 is definitely aimed at prospective MacBook Pro owners. Arguably it's a more interesting piece of design than the 13 thanks to its laser etched patterns, which gives it a cool tactile texture. Its 15.6in display isn't quite the marvel that the 13.1in one is, but it still offers a decent 300 nit brightness level. Curiously, HP has also decided to furnish the 15 with a "Nightvision Webcam with IR LED for illumination", which we weren't able to try out.

What really makes the Envy 15 interesting, though, is the hardware it uses. HP will be offering an as yet unannounced mobile Core i7 quad-core processor as an option, while graphics will be powered by an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4830 with 1GB of video memory. There's also enough space for two hard drives, both of which can be SSDs if you so desire. All of which means this should be one seriously powerful machine; the kind of laptop you could happily crunch through HD video encoding tasks with.

For such a powerful machine it's an incredibly light one, too - just 2.35kg. There's a big 'but' here, though, since like its smaller sibling there's no integrated optical drive, just an external one that'll come in the box. One can forgive this with a smaller machine, but less so with a 15.6in chassis - we can see arguments about this rolling on for a while.

At least the connectivity on this machine is improved, though not by much. Gigabit Ethernet is now integrated and there's a third USB port that doubles as an eSATA port, but the rest remains the same, with two more USB ports, an HDMI port, an audio jack and a 2-in-1 memory card reader.

Ultimately, there's still plenty to debate about these two machines. As pieces of design they are a definite success, even if they borrow more than a little inspiration from Apple. HP has also brought things to the table, like the removable batteries and battery slices, which Apple doesn't offer and that really enhances their practicality. But the lack of optical drives, particularly in the Envy 15, is bound to polarise opinion given the cost of these machines. That said, if the aim of these products can be summed up by the name (and it surely can), HP can probably call them mission accomplished.


A closer look at the laser-etched pattern.

We're still to be convinced by the touchpad.

That lasered pattern is also on the lid.

This is the battery slice for the Envy 15.

And this is how it looks when it's attached.

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