It's impossible to approach HP's new Envy 13 and Envy 15 notebooks without reference to Apple's MacBook Pro range. HP has obviously looked closely at the lauded design of Apple portables with - someone has to say it - envious eyes, and decided it can profit from copying some of Apple's ideas.
Where most laptops are still built mostly in plastic, the HP Envy uses an all-metal construction to good effect. The HP Envy is based around several magnesium sub-assemblies, where the MacBook Pro has an aluminium monocoque ‘unibody' chassis. Other Apple-like touches include an expansive button-less multitouch trackpad, dual graphics cards, and an overall attention to detail rarely found on Windows-based laptops.
There are two HP Envy models to choose from, based around either a 13.1in or 15.6in screen. Regrettably, HP's emulation of Apple styling has extended to the high-gloss and frankly annoying shiny glass screen, even while Apple has relented and started offering a matt option again on its Pro 15in and 17in models. But this panel is at least very bright and shows a good colour gamut.
The larger HP Envy model includes the latest mobile quad-core processor from Intel, actually a cut-down version of the Core i7 chip seen in enthusiast-level desktop PCs. The Envy 13, meanwhile, sticks to a more tried-and-tested Intel Core 2 Duo processor, in this case a 1.86GHz SL9400 with 6MB of Level 2 cache.
Bizarrely, where the HP Envy 15 with its state-of-the-art quad-core processor is priced at £1199, the diminutive HP Envy 13 costs £300 more, at £1499. Your money buys less RAM (only 3GB included for this 64-bit OS system), a smaller hard drive, and slower graphics card. But you do get an additional strap-on battery included in the box.
This clips onto and entirely covers the HP Envy 13's base, and is very neatly styled to blend naturally into the overall design. It also adds almost two-thirds of a kilo to the weight, making an all-up total of 2.36kg; but with this extra pack it does allow the Envy to run for a long, long time. It now claim the crown for longest unplugged runtime we've ever seen in the PCA lab.
Using just the internal (but still removeable) 40Wh battery pack, we saw the HP Envy 13 survive for just over five hours in the MobileMark 2007 Productivity test. Once we'd clipped on the extra battery, we saw it run for a little over 13 hours in the same test. It's not quite the 16.25 hours claimed by HP but still good for a real day's unplugged computing.
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