Ctrl+Alt+Delete: HP’s IMAX laptop continues a worrying trend of pointless features
OPINION: The HP Envy x360 15 is officially the first laptop to launch with a certified IMAX-enhanced display. While that might sound like a fantastic leap in computing, I fear that it marks a troublesome trend of manufacturers putting focus in all the wrong places.
Every year companies seem to make massive strides in the laptop industry, with chipsets producing even more power and features like Thunderbolt 4 keeping devices future-proofed for years to come. But those improvements haven’t stopped some manufacturers from adding in what can only be considered pointless features, only there to garner attention and up the asking price.
That brings me to the newly announced HP Envy x360 15. At first glance, this looks like any other laptop from the Envy range; it sports a decent port selection, can be configured with an AMD Ryzen 7000 Series processor and has the option of an Nvidia RTX 3050 GPU. But then you get to the display, which boasts IMAX’s expanded aspect ratio, remastered HDR content and theatrical sound.
For the uninitiated, IMAX is a movie standard where equipment such as high-resolution cameras and 70mm film are generally used. IMAX is also associated with very large screens in the cinema, with aspect ratios sitting at 1.43:1 or 1.90:1. The larger screen size arguably allows for a more immersive cinema experience.
So it’s a little confusing to see this technology included on a 15.6-inch laptop with a 16:10 aspect ratio. I can only assume that users will be treated to some elegant black bars while watching IMAX content, and that’s before I get to the fact that a lot of IMAX content isn’t readily available to stream.
HP did mention that select Marvel Studios and Pixar titles on Disney+ will start to introduce larger IMAX aspect ratios and enhanced features soon, but it’s still not clear how the Envy x360 15 will be able to produce this aspect ratio on its much smaller screen.
Factor in that the HP laptop is limited to just a 1080p screen resolution, and it hardly looks like a great laptop for watching movies. Without testing the laptop, it very much looks like HP is just using the IMAX branding as clout rather than offering up any useful features.
HP is not the only company to add in recognisable branding to garner more attention for its laptop range. Many companies offer up devices that boast a Dolby Atmos certification, with the name synonymous for surround sound experiences. While laptops with Dolby Atmos-approved do offer some level of spatial audio for a more immersive effect, it’s nowhere near the head-wrapping performance you’ll get from a proper speaker setup. As a result, I can’t help but think the Dolby Atmos branding is a little misleading.
While you could argue that improved sound quality is always a good thing, I’d like to believe that users interested in this feature would invest in a quality sound system suited for a TV or large monitor, which will objectively provide a more immersive experience than a small laptop ever could.
I will be the first to say that you have to make mistakes to make progress and it’s still worthwhile testing out what features will be best suited to certain devices. A great example of a brand partnership done right can be found with Leica and Xiaomi, who both teamed up to produce a fantastic smartphone camera. I would argue that combining camera smarts with a flagship smartphone makes a lot more sense than what we’re seeing from HP, but there is evidence to prove that these team-ups can produce valuable products.
But in the case of the HP Envy x360 15, I don’t see what the positive outcomes could be. Granted, the $850 asking price is not out of this world and there is a chance that more streaming services will start to offer more IMAX content, but I don’t see anyone choosing to watch the next big Marvel movie on a 15-inch display over a cinema or even TV screen. There’s a chance that I will be eating my words when every laptop under the sun starts to feature the same technology, but as it stands right now, I’d take a 4K OLED display over IMAX on my laptop any day, and I recommend you do the same.
Ctrl+Alt+Delete is our weekly computing-focussed opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.