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HP Envy 4 Ultrabook review

A portable and affordable Ultrabook from HP with occasional usability issues

Our Verdict

For

  • Sexy design
  • Sounds great
  • Very affordable
  • Light and portable
  • Bright screen

Against

  • Awful touchpad buttons
  • Average battery life
  • Rattling keyboard
  • No USB 3.0
  • Integrated graphics

Like its big brother, the HP Envy 6, the 14-inch HP Envy 4 is an affordable Ultrabook with good looks and sound, priced at £650 in the UK and $800 in the US.

However, we noticed a couple of niggles during usage that we haven't encountered on other recent Ultrabooks such as the Acer Aspire S3 or Dell XPS 13. The question with the HP Envy 4 is whether its excellent media credentials and great price are enough to ignore a couple of minor flaws.

HP's earlier Ultrabook effort, the HP Envy Spectre, was nudging at the limits of Intel's strict guidelines on Ultrabook dimensions with a 20mm chassis. But the HP Envy 4 is a much more portable option, weighing only 1.8kg (3.86lbs) and measuring a backpack-friendly 340 x 235 x 18mm (13.38 x 9.28 x 0.78 inches) - it's not a machine you'll have trouble carrying around all day.

HP Envy 4 Ultrabook review

The 214 minute battery life is a middling score and, to be honest, could have been better. To be fair to HP though, we ran the battery down with a high-performance stress test. If you keep your usage conservative you should be able to squeeze more than five hours of use from this Ultrabook.

The smaller size does mean a slight decrease in power, however, and the Intel Core i3 processor inside the HP Envy 4 won't touch the HP Envy 6's Core i5 muscle.

HP Envy 4 Ultrabook review

You can upgrade the processor inside the HP Envy 4 if you wish, but this is a matter of personal preference and bank balance - part of the appeal of the HP Envy 4 is value. And, even with the Core i3 processor, we found it coped remarkably well with all our software requirements.

Outwardly the HP Envy 4 has the all-black cool of the HP Envy series. The bright red Beats Audio logo is evident on the HP Envy 4's speaker grill and, like the HP Envy 6, it has the same brushed metallic finish and rubberised red coating on the underside and around the edge.

Specifications

The Intel Core i3-2367M processor is clocked at 1.4GHz, which is hardly blinding - although we did find the 6GB DDR3 RAM added a bit of cavalry to the HP Envy 4's performance.

Even so, with the rollout of Ivy Bridge-toting devices gathering momentum, we're a little concerned how the HP Envy 4 will hold up against other laptops two years from now.

HP Envy 4 Ultrabook review

It scored a respectable 4,928 in our Cinebench 10 benchmarking tests and coped well with multitasking, but if you need serious grunt work from your Ultrabook, there are better choices out there.

Don't expect to be loading up detailed graphics editors or rocking 2012's biggest gaming titles, either. The HP Envy 4 is only equipped with the Intel HD Graphics 3000 integrated GPU. It'll keep up with movies and web streaming, but anything much more complicated is likely to strain it too far.

You won't find any kind of optical drive on the HP Envy 4, but it does include the requisite ports and connections. If you want to use a second monitor, then you'll need to use HDMI (there's no VGA), and the three USB ports can be used for adding extra peripherals.

HP Envy 4 Ultrabook review

Somewhat disappointingly, these are all USB 2.0 ports, rather than USB 3.0, which can read/write at 10 times the speed and is, like Ivy Bridge, becoming a standard feature.

This omission is again a way of keeping down the cost of the HP Envy 4 and making it affordable, a lesson no doubt learned from the £1,100/$1,400 HP Envy Spectre. Rounding out the connectivity is an Ethernet port and SD card slot for expanding on the 500GB of storage.

HP Envy 4 Ultrabook review

As we've already mentioned, media is where the HP Envy 4 really shines. The 14-inch screen, although only boasting a standard 1,366 x 768 pixel resolution, is bright and detailed.

The bezel around the screen measures 1.4cm and isn't thick enough to prove distracting when watching a movie or looking at pictures. The bezel also houses the HD webcam and provides a bit of extra space for the now-familiar Beats Audio branding.

HP Envy 4 review

Unsurprisingly with a Beats Audio-licensed product, the sound is above average. You can use the Beats Audio control panel to adjust bass, treble and focus and get the sound that you want from the HP Envy 4's grill speaker, located above the keyboard. What would have been nice is if the circular Beats logo on the grill acted as a launch hotkey for the control panel. Unfortunately, though, it's just there to look pretty.

Volume and depth are surprisingly good, but the HP Envy 4 lacks the added subwoofer on the underside of the chassis that HP has built into the more expensive HP Envy models. Even so, movies and albums both sounded excellent on this Ultrabook, and we'd recommend it to audiophiles with big music collections or Spotify subscriptions.

HP Envy 4 review

Tech Specs

Product TypeUltrabook
HDMIYes
WebcamYes
Product FamilyEnvy 4-1100
Operating System Architecture64-bit
Operating SystemWindows 8
Brand NameHP
Processor Speed1.70 GHz
Weight (Approximate)1.80 kg
Chipset ManufacturerIntel
Chipset ModelHM77 Express
Number of Total Memory Slots2
Ethernet TechnologyEthernet
Total Number of USB Ports3
Height19.8 mm
Width340 mm
Depth235.8 mm
Product Series4-1100
ManufacturerHewlett-Packard
Product Model4-1103ea
Product NameENVY 4-1103ea Sleekbook
Pointing Device TypeImagePad
Product LineEnvy
Manufacturer Part NumberC1X26EA#ABU
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.hp.com/uk
Marketing InformationIn a class by itself

Elevate your expectations. Every ENVY laptop is crafted to surpass them with the finest features and powerful technology that deliver a premium entertainment and computing experience.

Package Contents
  • ENVY 4-1103ea Sleekbook
  • Standard Battery
  • AC Adapter