HP Envy 16 First Impressions

Posted on September 1, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Uncategorized with 5 Comments

I’ve been waiting for larger laptops to benefit from the miniaturization advances that Dell first innovated with the XPS 13. And while I’m still waiting, in some ways—there’s only so much you can do with large, 15.6- and 16-inch displays—three of the dozen or so laptops I’m reviewing this summer are 16-inch designs that are, at least in some ways, more svelte than previous-generation 15.6-inch laptops while offering other improvements.

Case in the point, the new HP Envy 16, which replaces the HP Envy 15 I reviewed two years ago. Yes, this is still a beast of a laptop that is technically a bit bigger and heavier (5.1 pounds, vs. 4.75 pounds) than its predecessor.

HP Envy 16 (top) and Envy 15 (bottom)

But that is mostly away explained by the taller 16:10 display on the Envy 16, and I can’t imagine anyone is going to complain about that improvement. I certainly won’t.

HP Envy 16 (top) and Envy 15 (bottom)

So let’s start with the display. I’ve not yet been briefed on this laptop, but there are at least three basic panel choices, each at 400 nits and with low blue light capabilities: WQXGA (2560 x 1600) IPS with a 120 Hz refresh rate and, optionally, multi-touch, and the 4K/UHD+ (3840 x 2400) OLED with a 60 Hz refresh rate and multi-touch that is in the review unit.

Because the differences between 15.6 and 16 inches are minor, what you gain is about a half inch in the vertical. But the Envy 16 also has smaller bezels on the left and right sides, and a much smaller bezel on the bottom. The top bezel looks, to my eyes, to be about the same, but it now houses a 5 MP IR camera with an electronic shutter (toggled, as before, via a keyboard key), a big improvement over the 720p version in the Envy 15. It also offers AI noise reduction and auto frame capabilities.

Aesthetically, the Envy 16 is a minor evolution of the previous design. The basics are all the same, from the keyboard size and placement, the top and bottom speakers, and the hinge, and so on.

But there are two notable changes: the ports are all on the opposite sides of where they were before, for whatever reason, and the bottom of the Envy 16 is now softly curved rather than angular. It’s not a game changer, but the Envy 16 is a bit more attractive.

Internally, everything has changed: where the Envy 15 was powered by 10th-Gen H-series Intel Core i5, i7, and i9 CPUs with 6 or 8 cores, the Envy 16 has of course moved on to Intel’s new 12th-Gen H-series Core i5, i7, and i9 chipsets, which offer up to 14 total cores thanks to their hybrid design. The Core i9-12900H processor in the review unit features 6 performance cores and 8 efficient cores and delivers a top frequency of 5 GHz. Yikes.

The graphics have also been updated past the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060, of course, and the review unit arrived with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU that should help me power through video creation and the occasional game. (The integrated graphics have evolved from Intel UHD to Iris Xe Graphics as well, of course.)

Further improving performance and capacity, the Envy 16 can be outfitted with 16 or 32 GB of fast LPDDR5 RAM and 512 GB to 2 TB of PCIe NVMe TLC M.2 SSD storage.

Expansion remains excellent, with a good mix of classic and modern ports, though most of it is on the right for some reason. On the left, you will find only a single SuperSpeed USB Type-A port (10 Gbps) with a drop jaw, a microSD card reader, and the headphone jack.

But on the right, you’ll find a full complement of ports: a second USB Type-A port (10 Gbps, without the drop jaw), a full-sized HDMI 2.1 port, and two Thunderbolt/USB4 Type-C ports (40 Gbps), plus a barrel port connector for the laptop’s massive 200-watt power supply (which is unchanged from the Envy 15).

The backlit keyboard appears to be just about identical to that of its predecessor, and I really appreciate that HP didn’t muck it up by adding an unnecessary number pad.

It also retained that vertical column of Home, Pg Up, Pg Dn, and End keys that I love so much. And the keyboard has dedicated toggle keys for both the webcam (as noted previously) and the microphone, the preferred configuration.

The touchpad was one of the few issues I had with the Envy 15, so I’ll be paying careful attention to that on the Envy 16. But so far it seems fine, and it is a bit bigger, thanks to the taller deck required by the taller display, but not obnoxiously so, which I also appreciate.

And since I’m on the topic of negatives, the Envy 16 retains the heaping helping of bloatware and crapware that was a minus for its predecessor as well. This is unfortunate.

I’ve only noticed one odd omission: where the Envy 15 provided a fingerprint reader in the keyboard, that area is occupied by a right Ctrl key for some reason, and from what I can tell, there’s no fingerprint reader anywhere else, just Windows Hello facial recognition. (HP’s website says that a fingerprint reader is not available. I will ask about this.)

In the good news department, HP is offering the Envy 16 at very reasonable pricing given what you get here. The product line starts at under $1200 for a configuration with a Core i5-12500H processor, 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of SSD storage, and a 16-inch WQXGA IPS display. The maxed-out review unit configuration—Core i9-12900H, RTX 3060, 32 GB of RAM, 2 TB SSD, and 16-inch 4K/UHD+ OLED display—would set you back over $2500, so that’s pretty much the range.

More soon.