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HP Envy 15 (2020) overview: insane efficiency, unbelievable worth

“The HP Envy 15 delivers great performance at a great price.”

Incredibly strong performance

Beautiful and color-accurate AMOLED display

Solid build quality

Excellent keyboard and touchpad

The display supports touch and pen

A little stronger than rivals

No full size SD card slot

Dell has had great success with its XPS 15 – a sleek, professional laptop with surprisingly high performance. HP has never had its own MacBook Pro 16-inch competitor – at least not in terms of performance.

The HP Envy 15 fills this gap and offers a discount compared to Dell and Apple. My test device is priced at HP.com for $ 1,600, as configured, with a 10th generation Intel Core i7-10750H CPU, 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of solid state drive (SSD) storage, 4K AMOLED display, and RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU. A similarly configured XPS 15 will cost you well over $ 2,000 in comparison, and you’ll have to upgrade to the even more expensive XPS 17 if you want to customize the graphics.

There has to be a catch, right? After all, it takes more than just performance per dollar to compete against its high-end competitors. I’ve searched hard for compromises, and while the Envy 15 isn’t perfect, HP hasn’t cut corners with the Envy 15.

design

Compared to the gemstone-cut HP Specter x360 15 with a tiny bezel, the Envy 15 is a pretty conservatively designed laptop. On its own, the Envy 15 is a pretty attractive 15-inch laptop. Its silver color scheme adorns an aluminum housing that is very robust – cannot bend or bend anywhere. The Envy 15 has just enough chiseled parts to make it unique – like the small indentation between the keyboard deck and the palm rest. It adds some pizzazz, but not so much that it outperforms the Specter for its looks alone. Let’s not forget that the Envy 15 is technically a “midrange” laptop, which makes the build quality and size even more impressive.

The Envy isn’t a petite laptop. It’s a bit big and heavy as you’d expect on a 15-inch all-metal machine, 0.73-inch thick (actually not bad for a 15-inch laptop) and 4.75 pounds. The Dell XPS 15 is 0.71 inches thick and 4.5 pounds by comparison.

The Dell XPS 15 also has a slimmer profile, largely thanks to the smaller bezels. The Envy 15’s screen-to-body ratio of 82% is a bit lower, partly due to a fairly large chin. Since the XPS 15 uses a display with an aspect ratio of 16:10, the two laptops are similar in size. It’s just that the XPS 15 intelligently fills the space with a display instead of a bezel.

While the Envy 15 has some of its own design tricks up its sleeve, the focus is more on performance. It includes hidden rear vents that effectively move air without affecting the look of the back of the laptop. The Envy 15 also has a large pair of feet on the floor that set it off the table more than the competition for extra airflow.

Connectivity is a strength of the Envy 15. You get two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support, plus a full-size HDMI 2.0 port (updated from HDMI 1.4 on the previous model) so you can connect three displays to the device without a dock . You also get two USB-A 3.1 ports and a microSD card reader. However, HP made a mistake by not including a full-size reader. The target group for the Envy 15 are those who want to quickly transport data directly from their cameras.

Wireless connectivity is up to date thanks to an Intel Wi-Fi 6 chipset and Bluetooth 5.0.

HP also added a nice bonus in the form of a second SSD slot that allows either a RAID configuration or additional storage. When you add a few two terabytes (2 TB) of SSDs, you suddenly have an unusually large amount of storage space, which is especially useful for the creative types.

display

The Envy 15’s 4K AMOLED 16: 9 display is spectacular, according to my colorimeter – although you can save some money by resorting to a Full HD option. The AMOLED panel is bright at 404 nits (and the anti-glare function makes it appear even brighter), has an incredible contrast at 404,410: 1 (the best IPS displays arrive at around 1500: 1) and its gamma is just right at 2.2 . That makes it a dream machine for productivity and multimedia watchers. Turn on HDR and you’ve got one of the best Netflix experiences out there with black text on a white background. As a writer, I just love this role. These results are on par with the best you’ll find, including the Dell XPS 15 and MacBook Pro 16-inch. Their IPS displays are similarly bright, but cannot come close in terms of contrast.

The Envy 15’s display is also great for developers who HP is targeting with all this performance. The color gamut is very large with 100% of sRGB and 97% of AdobeRGB. The XPS 15 does a little better with exactly 100% of both color spaces in the color gamut. The Envy 15 also has an excellent color accuracy of 0.73 (the human eye can’t see anything below 1.0), again just slightly behind the 0.37 of the XPS 17 and 0.65 of the XPS 15.

Most importantly, for the first time ever, HP has a machine that has both the power and the display to compete with the world’s best creative laptops. There’s no such thing as an HP Specter laptop with 45-watt CPUs, powerful GPUs, and color-calibrated displays. The Envy 15 is the first consumer laptop from HP that puts it all together into a truly competitive package.

The display is also touch and pen enabled, which is an added bonus. Writing on a clamshell laptop display isn’t easy, but the feature is there when you need it.

I’ll note here that the Envy 15’s HDR support is also better than the 2019 Specter x360 15 with AMOLED (I didn’t get a chance to test the 2020 version). For the best HDR performance in Netflix, turn on HDR in display settings. Unlike the Specter, this doesn’t completely change the overall quality of the display. There’s a small drop in color saturation, but it’s not dramatic, and Netflix HDR looks great with “true” HDR enabled. This is a benefit of HP’s current AMOLED – it supports VESA DisplayHDR and Windows 10 seems to handle it better than before. It’s still not as good as the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme’s Dolby Vision HDR, which in my experience is the best HDR you’ll find on a laptop.

Audio is provided by two upward-facing speakers on either side of the keyboard. The volume wasn’t impressively loud, but very clear and without distortion. There was more bass than you would expect and the mids and highs were pleasant. You could watch Netflix on the Envy 15 and not crave headphones as long as you just listen. It still may not match what Apple achieved with its MacBooks, but the Envy 15’s speakers aren’t bad.

performance

The Envy 15 is HP’s shot over laptops like the XPS 15 and 17 that is also aimed at creative people. Therefore the laptop has to be fast.

The problem is that the Envy 15 uses a slower processor than the XPS 15 and XPS 17 – at least based on the units we tested. The Core i7-10750H has two fewer cores and four fewer threads than the Core i7-10875H in the Dells, which puts the Envy 15 at a disadvantage in many content creation applications.

This disadvantage is most evident in Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R20, where the multi-core performance was only tested 27% behind the XPS 15. The XPS 17 is of course even faster. The Envy 15 naturally handles the processor it has chosen quite well, just like other Core i7-10750H laptops we tested.

However, it comes down to performance in practice. That’s why I switched to the Handbrake video coding application. Limited to the CPU only, I converted a 420MB video to H.265 and the Envy 15 was ready in a little under two and a half minutes. This is comparable to the XPS 15 in just over two minutes and the XPS 17 in just under two minutes. The ROG Strix G15 with the i7-10750H lasted three seconds longer than the Envy 15.

Finally, I ran our Premiere Pro video rendering test which exported a two minute 4K project to ProRes 422. During this process, both the CPU and the GPU can be used together, allowing a graphics card like the RTX 2060 Max-Q to be bent. It took the Envy 15 just five minutes and a second to complete the test in standard mode. Compare that to the XPS 17, which lasted three minutes and 38 seconds – that’s a faster score than recorded in our XPS 17 test, as this test used the latest and much faster version of Premiere Pro. Given the price difference and the fact that the XPS 17 uses a faster processor, this is an impressive feat for the Envy 15.

I also tested the HP Command Center software, which has different performance modes. By default, the company sets the Envy 15 to be relatively quiet and run relatively cool. This is how I did all of the above tests. When you really need to get the best possible performance out of the system, performance mode makes a big difference. Other laptops have similar utilities, but I’ve found HPs to be particularly aggressive. The setting didn’t affect performance on synthetic benchmarks, but it did increase Handbrake and Premiere performance on the XPS 17. Given the price difference, this is an impressive result.

Play

HP doesn’t advertise the Envy 15 as a gaming laptop, but if you have an RTX 2060 Max-Q inside, there’s no reason not to use it. And in our series of gaming reviews, it quickly became clear that the Envy 15 is a good mid-range slot machine.

I ran our tests at 1080p and 4K as 1440p wasn’t an option in this driver set. And that’s probably fine since 1080p is probably where you want to play your games.

Starting with the synthetic 3DMark benchmark, the Envy 15 achieved 5,123 points in the most demanding Time Spy test, which is slightly behind the 5,801 of the XPS 17 with its RTX 2060. As we’ll see, these two machines are pretty evenly matched in terms of performance to run today’s modern titles, with the XPS 17 having a slight edge.

In Civilization VI, the Envy 15 achieved 121 frames per second (fps) at 1080p and medium graphics, compared to the XPS 17 at 143 fps and the XPS 15 with its GTX 1650 Ti at 114 fps. Interestingly, the Envy 15 managed 100 fps in ultra graphics compared to the XPS 17 with 90 fps and the XPS 15 with 64 fps. The Envy 15 also beat the XPS 17 and 15 when gaming in 4K resolution.

In Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the Envy 15 hit the sweet spot at 60 fps at 1080p and high graphics, compared to the XPS 17 at 61 fps and the XPS 15 at 47 fps. Finally, the Envy 15 was able to play Fortnite at 1080p and Epic at 84 fps, while the XPS 17 hit 82 fps. This allows both laptops to maintain a solid 60 fps in Fortnite unless you jump up to 4KB with both dropping to around 30 fps.

Of course, none of these frame rates above 60 fps are of any use to you, as the Envy 15’s screen is locked with a refresh rate of 60 Hz. It also doesn’t include anti-screen-tearing technology like G-Sync or FreeSync. As with many of these productivity-oriented computers, casual gaming is fine, but a suitable gaming laptop with a higher refresh rate provides a far smoother gaming experience.

Keyboard and touchpad

Apple’s Magic Keyboard on the latest MacBooks is the best laptop keyboard out there. Still, the HP keyboard, which has moved from the Specter to the Envy range, is my second favorite. There’s a lot of traveling and just the right balance between a light touch and a snappy feeling with a confident ground movement. The mechanism is perfect for me so that I can instantly update myself and type for hours without getting tired.

I like the keyboard on the XPS 15 and some other laptops (I’m thinking of the Lenovo ThinkPad range), but I prefer the HP version over any other Windows 10 laptop. I am delighted to see that HP is not reserving the keyboard for the Specter range, and I will find that you can get the same for the HP Envy x360 13, which is well under $ 1,000.

Interestingly, the Envy 15’s touchpad is better than that of the Specter x360 15. It’s not the same widescreen version, which means it’s bigger and takes up a lot more palm-rest space. It’s glass-covered and very convenient to scroll and swipe. It also supports Microsoft’s Precision touchpad drivers and all Windows 10 multi-touch gestures. It’s as good as a touchpad on a Windows 10 laptop.

As mentioned earlier, the display is touch sensitive and as precise as ever. If you want to use HP’s active pen with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, you have this option too. The passwordless login for Windows 10 Hello takes place via a fingerprint scanner, which is located in the keyboard next to the arrow keys – and works quickly and without errors.

Battery life

Pack that much power into a laptop and equip it with a low-power AMOLED display (which can be aided by using a dark color scheme since AMOLED uses the least power when the screen is high in black) and you won’t going to expect a lot of longevity. This also applies to a battery capacity of 83 watt hours.

According to our standard benchmark tests, that’s exactly what we saw. In our most demanding Basemark web benchmark test, the Envy 15 lasted almost exactly three hours. That’s not terrible for such a powerful laptop, but it does mean that if you’re really putting a strain on the CPU and GPU, you’ll likely run out of battery life well before lunch. Interestingly, the XPS 15 with 86 watt hours of battery and the XPS 17 with 97 watt hours did not do better. The XPS 17 lasted six minutes less and the XPS 15 16 minutes longer.

The 4K screen means you need to have the charger close at hand.

In our web browser test, which is the best indicator of productivity, the Envy 15 lasted around 6.75 hours, which is not particularly long. Once again, the XPS 15 and 17 were close together, with the XPS 17 running 19 minutes less and the XPS 15 happening 19 minutes longer. Finally, I looped the laptop through our Full HD Avengers test trailer and it took about eight hours. And you guessed it – the XPS 15 was close again with 30 minutes less. The XPS 17 did it more than an hour longer.

The bottom line is that these powerful, creative laptops with low-power displays probably won’t keep you actually working for an entire day. You’ll want to carry your charger around with you, which is quite a chore given that they’re pretty large power supply chips. But that’s the price you pay for fast laptops with beautiful displays.

Our opinion

The HP Envy 15 is the company’s fastest consumer laptop and the one that best meets the needs of creative professionals with high work demands. Really, it’s not even close yet – if you want similar or greater performance, you’ll have to switch to HP’s commercial line, especially the workstations. And the Envy 15 does its job well – it’s fast, it can be configured with even faster components if you are looking to spend more, and it offers the type of display that fits all creative needs.

The Specter line is great for productivity users and those who value good looks and a smaller case. But it’s the Envy 15 that makes power users happy – for hundreds of dollars less than they spend on competitive laptops.

Are there alternatives?

The Dell XPS 15 and Dell XPS 17 both offer the same or better performance with great displays and are equally good for creative workflows. But you’ll be spending a lot more money, getting a little more class, and a more useful 16:10 display, but not much more.

If you’re not a creative professional and want a 15-inch laptop with more flexibility and panache, the HP Specter x360 15 is a good alternative. You’ll spend similar money and have an option for an equally great AMOLED display, but you won’t get anywhere near the performance.

Don’t forget the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme and the MacBook Pro 16-inch. These, too, can be configured with the same powerful components, and both provide superior displays. However, as with the XPS options, be prepared to spend a lot more money.

How long it will take?

The Envy 15 is well built and should last for years. However, we would like the guarantee to be longer than a year.

Should you buy it?

Absolutely. If you’re looking for a laptop that can handle demanding creative tasks at a cheaper price, the Envy 15 is the one for you.

Editor’s recommendations




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