HP Envy 6 review

20 Sep 2012

Not without issues, but the cheaper price and Radeon-powered gaming performance make this a reasonable Ultrabook alternative

Price when reviewed: 
498(£499 inc VAT)
4

Intel’s thrown plenty of money at its Ultrabook brand and, while they’ve gained plenty of column inches, these super-thin laptops have remained resolutely high-end machines. HP’s latest laptop, the Envy 6, aims to bring Ultrabook luxury to the budget end of the market – and it does so by opting for one of AMD’s Trinity chips.

HP calls its AMD-powered Ultrabook rival a “Sleekbook” and, at first glance, there’s little difference between this £499 inc VAT machine and many of the Ultrabooks we’ve seen. The brushed-metal finish and red detailing lends the Envy a sense of style that’s up there with many more expensive Intel-powered rivals. Its 15.6in display means that it isn’t as svelte as many of its Ultrabook rivals, but it isn’t far off: at 20mm thick and just over 2kg in weight, this is as impressively honed as any £499 laptop we’ve seen.

HP Envy 6

Behind the scenes, it’s AMD’s Trinity platform that takes centre stage. AMD prefers to describe its processors as accelerated processing units, or APUs, and HP has used the A6-4455M – the lesser of two low-power APUs – in the Envy 6. The dual-core CPU architecture runs at 2.1GHz, and uses AMD’s Turbo Core to dynamically overclock to 2.6GHz. That sounds impressive, but the HP’s modest benchmark score of 0.37 is way behind the Intel-powered Ultrabooks – by comparison, Asus’ Zenbook UX31E scored 0.62.

As ever, though, it’s the graphics performance that buoys the AMD APU’s appeal. A Radeon HD 7500G core has been crammed into the A6-4455M, and the GPU contains 256 stream processors with stock and Turbo clocks of 327MHz and 424MHz.

HP Envy 6

We couldn’t get Crysis to run on the AMD chip, but the Radeon core proved its worth in Just Cause 2 and DiRT 3 when compared to the Intel HD Graphics 4000 core found in most Ultrabooks. In Just Cause 2 and DiRT 3’s Low quality tests the HP averaged 30fps; the Intel core scored 10fps and 17fps in the same benchmarks. It isn’t enough power to allow for high-end games but, crucially, the Radeon core here will play plenty of titles, albeit with reduced quality settings.

Processing power may not be the HP’s forte, but battery life is highly impressive for a 15.6in machine. In our light-use test the HP lasted for 7hrs 27mins before it ran out of juice, which isn’t far off the stamina we’ve seen from many Intel Ultrabooks.

Details

Price ex VAT £415
Price inc VAT £498
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 5
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 374 x 253 x 20mm (WDH)
Weight 2.100kg
Travelling weight 2.4kg

Processor and memory

Processor AMD A6-4455M
RAM capacity 6.00GB
Memory type DDR3

Screen and video

Screen size 15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset AMD Radeon HD 7500G
HDMI outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 465GB
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 1
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 7hr 27min
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.37
Responsiveness score 0.51
Media score 0.39
Multitasking score 0.20

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7