HP Envy 15 First Impressions

Posted on August 5, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 20 Comments

As you may recall, I recently reviewed the HP Envy x360 13 and loved it: This AMD Ryzen 4000-series convertible is one of the best portable PCs I’ve ever used, a near-perfect combination of performance, longevity, versatility, affordability, and quality. Part of the appeal of that machine is related to where it sits in HP’s product lineup: The firm doesn’t put it this way, but the Envy family sits at what I call the sweet spot, bringing the best of HP’s premium—and more expensive—EliteBook and Spectre products to more affordable price points and thus to more people.

On that note, the HP Envy 15 isn’t a larger version of the Envy x360 13, not exactly. It’s not a convertible PC, for starters, it’s a more traditional laptop. But as an Envy, the Envy 15 exhibits many of the same qualities as the smaller Envy x360 13—specifically, the performance, longevity, affordability, and quality I noted above—but turns things up a notch. Where the Envy x360 is ideal for productivity scenarios, the Envy 15 appears to be an ideal solution for creative scenarios. This PC is for power users.

It starts on the inside with gaming-class components like 10th-generation Intel Core H-series processors—6-core Core i7 and 8-core Core i9 parts, depending on model—and up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 graphics, 32 GB of RAM, and 2 TB of PCIe-based SSD storage.

It extends from there to the display, a massive 15.6-inch panel that is available in Full HD (1920 x 1080) and 4K/UHD OLED (3840 x 2160) options, each of which is touch- and pen-capable, and the latter of which provides HP color calibration, 100 percent DCI-P3 wide color gamut support for accurate and consistent color reproduction, and VESA Display HDR True Black capabilities.

And then it inhabits all that I love about Envy, from the minimalist design—in this case, in a standard gray aluminum form factor—with subtle touches throughout. As a non-gaming PC (that can be used for gaming), the Envy 15 lacks a numeric keypad, which I very much prefer, providing instead the same basic layout—and typing experience—found on the Envy x360 13, but floating in a larger keyboard deck with large stereo speakers on either design.

This minimalist design can’t help but evoke the Apple MacBook Pro 16, which looks similar but costs many, many hundreds of dollars more and lacks many of the niceties one gets with the HP.

For example, instead of four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports as on the Apple, the Envy provides 2 full-sized USB-A ports, 2 Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, HDMI for video out, and a microSD card reader. Overall, you can connect up to three external displays to this PC if required.

And there are more subtle advantages like the physical webcam shutter, microphone mute switch, Windows Hello facial recognition (in addition to the fingerprint reader), and its superior display, processor options, and graphics.

Connectivity is modern, with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5, plus HP’s Network Booster for customizing network prioritization.

The HP Envy 15 is, of course, large and heavy compared to most traditional laptops, but it’s not bad for a 15-inch unit: It weighs about 4.6 pounds and is about .73 inches thick as its tallest point. There’s some serious thermal management going on inside the enclosure, and while I have heard a bit of fan noise during installs and the like, it’s been mostly quiet so far.

Battery life is allegedly amazing: HP rates the Full HD version at an incredible 18+ hours of battery life; I’ll test that, of course, but I’m reviewing the 4K/UHD version and the longevity will take a hit; HP says I can expect to see somewhere between 8 and 11 hours in video playback. But HP also outfits the Envy 15 with fast-charging capabilities, so you can get a 50 percent charge in 45 minutes. The power supply is enormous and has a barrel plug connector.

HP also outfits the Envy 15 with a wide range of software—too wide, one might argue—and some looks interesting. In addition to the Network Booster I mention above, there’s a Performance Control app for optimizing performance between default, performance, cool, and quiet modes; a Display Control for different color spaces, and even an AirDrop-like solution called HP QuickDrop that works with both Android and iOS.

So let’s get to the price. How much would you expect to pay for a potential MacBook Pro 16 killer?

Well, the HP Envy 15 starts at just $1150. For that cost, you’ll get a Core i7-1075H processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti graphics, 16 GB of RAM, 256 GB SSD, and a Full HD display. Not too shabby, right? But you can upgrade to a model with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q graphics and a 512 GB SSD for a total cost of $1400. Or to my review unit—NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q graphics, 4K/UHD OLED, and 512GB SSD + 32GB Intel Optane—for $1499. A top-shelf model with NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q graphics, 4K/UHD OLED, 32 GB of RAM, and 1 TB of SSD will set you back $1899. As a reminder, the MacBook Pro 16 starts at $2399.

Folks, this one looks impressive. So impressive that I’m considering doing a longer-term review in the form of a “Living with” series of articles. More soon.

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