Another feature HP makes something of is the presence of an instant-on OS. It’s another re-skinned version of DeviceVM’s Splashtop, which this time goes by the name of ENVY IOS. Strangely there’s no dedicated button for booting into it, and instead it appears at the beginning of the boot process and times out if you choose not to use it. This timeout it set to 15 seconds by default, but can be reduced to as little as three seconds using the configuration tool in Windows – where you can also turn the feature off altogether. Web browser excluded, however, the Splashtop OS is of arguable benefit and we can see most people turning it off.
That said, considering the battery life of the Envy 15, using the less demanding Envy IOS mightn’t be such a bad idea. In MobileMark’s Productivity test the Envy lasted just two hours and 25 minutes, a figure slashed to just 81 minutes in the DVD playback test. These aren’t terrible results for such a powerful machine, but you won’t be going far without the power supply – which is rather large, so you probably won’t want to carry it around.
HP does have a solution, though, in the form of a slim-fit extended battery that attaches to the bottom of the laptop. Unfortunately this is an optional extra and as yet we haven’t seen anyone, HP UK included, selling it – it’s a $125 extra on HP’s US website. According to HP this can extend battery life to ‘up to seven hours’ when working in conjunction with the normal, removable six-cell battery. This is obviously a very cool feature, though one that will inevitably add bulk and thus make the Envy 15 considerably less portable.
This is another example of how the Envy 15 is a very innovative machine, but its innovation is somewhat haphazard. It’s an impressive feat to make such a powerful laptop so sleek and portable, not to mention attractive, but the amount of heat and noise created when it’s taxed makes one wonder about the wisdom of such a move.
It’s really a lack of attention to detail that undermines it, though. Clearly the touchpad is the main culprit here, but the keyboard is also problematic and we find it difficult to reconcile the mediocre display to the price of this machine. In a sense, the latter problem is a localised one, in the US you get the brighter, Full HD display, but that’ll be little solace to UK buyers.
Given all these issues, we’d sooner recommend something like the Dell Studio XPS 16. These days it also offers a Core i7 processor, but the options for a 1,920 x 1,080 white-LED backlit display or the outstanding RGB-LED backlit option are more in line with our expectations. It might not be as portable as the Envy 15, but it’s probably a good deal more sensible.
There’s no denying the impulsive appeal of the Envy 15: it’s an innovative, attractive and incredibly powerful machine. Unfortunately, though, it seems like a work in progress. Hopefully HP will nail the formula if and when it revisits the concept.