Introduction, Specifications, Configurations, Pricing and Packaging
We've got one of HP's touch-enabled Ultrabooks in the lab today. The Envy TouchSmart 4 is a 14-inch, touch-enabled Ultrabook inspired by Intel that is a bit easier on the wallet than some of the other Ultrabooks we've recently had through our lab.
Is HP's Envy branding all that it is cracked up to be? Or is the Envy TouchSmart 4 not worth our attention? During our testing, you'll want to pay attention to some of ASUS' budget offering as they will be most in line in terms of comparison.
Without further ado, let's dive in and see if the Envy is worth our envy.
Specifications, Configurations and Pricing
Our HP Envy TouchSmart 4 review unit is equipped with a capable Intel i5-3317U processor. This dual-core is of the low-voltage variety, meaning it features a TDP of just 17 watts. TurboBoost 2.0 enables this processor to dynamically clock up single-threaded performance, while remaining cool and power efficient at idle.
Coupled with the 3317U is 4GB of DDR3 RAM. 4GB of RAM follows my general rule-of-thumb of 1GB per thread available. Graphics are provided via Intel's somewhat capable HD4000 integrated graphics processor, which is the de facto Ultrabook graphics processor.
The screen is a rather low-resolution, touch-enabled panel. Cranking out 1366x768, the display comes in at 14 inches, making the low resolution more bearable. It's certainly more touch-friendly than the smaller 1080p Ultrabooks we previously tested.
Storage is provided by a spinning 500GB hard drive, meaning boot times and program loading will be affected versus systems installed with a faster SSD drive. On the converse, however, users have more storage available to them to hold media. Windows 8 64-bit is loaded onto the HDD as Windows 8 provides the best touchscreen compatibilities.
The packaging has seen more than its fair share of shipping journeys to other reviewers and was beat up beyond recognition. For that reason, pictures of the packaging will not be included.
Temperatures, Cooling and Noise
The HP Envy TouchSmart 4 is a bit thicker than some of the other systems we've recently tested. It's about in-line with the thickness of the ASUS S500C and we would expect temperatures and noise production to be in-line with the ASUS unit as a result.
As you can see, on the front of the system, we logged a maximum temperature of 117 degrees Fahrenheit. This high temperature was located above the keyboard and somewhere you are unlikely to touch during normal use. The keyboard itself saw temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a bit higher than I'd like to see. It certainly makes gaming uncomfortable as the temperature was observed in between the WSAD keys.
Moving around to the back side, temperatures were even worse. The maximum observed temperature was 130 degrees Fahrenheit. I would not recommend using this system on your lap under any sort of load as temperatures this high can cause permanent discoloration and damage.
The maximum observed GPU temperature was 80 degrees Celsius, which is the same as the CPU because they are on the same die. In this regard, the HP performed much better than the ASUS S500C, but at the cost of external heat.
The Envy TouchSmart 4 produced a sound level of 40 decibels in our measurement, making it one of the quietest machines we have tested. Our measurement is taken in front of the laptop at roughly head level. For comparison, 30dB is a totally quiet night time in the desert, 40dB is whispering and 60dB is a normal conversation.
Keyboard, TouchPad, Screen and other User Interfaces
Keyboard and TouchPad
The HP Envy TouchSmart 4 comes with HP's standard island-style keyboard. This is good news for most as I find HP's standard keyboard to be quite comfortable and capable. I find myself to be partial to the keyboard equipped on HP systems.
The keyboard is, of course, recessed into the system to prevent the keys from connecting with the screen and causing damage. The recess is a bit larger than other Ultrabooks and allows the keys to be higher than other systems.
Because the keys are higher, they have more travel. This vastly helps the typing experience and I'd be willing to sacrifice some thinness any day for the vastly improved typing experience. However, the keyboard does feature quite a bit of flex, something I found both distracting and annoying. It certainly affected my typing ability and detracted from an otherwise awesome keyboard implementation.
Key travel is smooth, though not quite as stiff as I would like to see. The keys bottom out solidly and aren't too loud. The sound that is present aids the typing experience for those of us who like the click of a keyboard.
The keys have a matte texture on the surface and appear to be perfectly flat. The surfaces of the keys are black, which sets them off from the rest of the silver palm rest. They have a good tactile feel that I could type on for hours.
The Envy TouchSmart 4's keyboard comes with a backlight, a feature that I love on any system. HP's implementation doesn't give any choice as to the brightness and it can be a bit bright when in a really dark room.
The touchpad is made from a single piece of material, with all sections touch sensitive and able to be pushed down for a left click. There is no visible delineation for left or right click, meaning you have to take a guess as to where left click ends and right click begins.
The touchpad area is recessed down into the palm rest of the machine. The touchpad itself is then raised above the recessed area. The touchpad surface has circle grooves and results in an interesting feeling that is hard to describe. I can say that I am not a fan of the touchpad on this system.
The HP Envy TouchSmart 4, as the name implies, is equipped with a touchscreen. The 14-inch screen pushes out a resolution of 1366x768 and is covered in edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass. This means both glare and fingerprints could be a problem, though a problem that is present on really any touch-enabled system.
Color reproduction on the Envy TouchSmart 4 isn't as good as an IPS display. It appears to make use of a TN panel and color is quickly distorted when adjusting the viewing angle in the vertical direction. It's not as bad in the horizontal direction, though it's still noticeable.
An interesting note: When looking at an off angle, the screen has weird visible lines. They appear to be on the glass and could be the result of manufacturing. It's not clear what put them there, but they are distracting when looking at the screen from an off angle.
View our full testing methodology article.
- Accessory Port Testing
Ports to which an external storage device can be connected to are tested using HD Tune Pro to obtain their maximum, minimum and average read and write speeds. USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and eSATA ports are tested using a Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB SSD that is capable of saturating the theoretical bandwidth available.
The Corsair Neutron GTX is housed inside an Icy Dock external enclosure which features a SATA I/II/III to USB 3.0 and eSATA converter.
- Gaming Tests
3DMark Vantage is ran on the Performance preset to get a feel for how the computer would manage gaming. The CPU, GPU and combined scores are reported. A higher overall score is the best and a high GPU or CPU score shows particular prowess with tasks that use that part of the computer.
3DMark 11 is run on the Performance preset and the Physics, GPU and combined scores are reported. This test is only run if the system supports DirectX 11. A higher overall score is the target, though a high individual result shows prowess in a particular area.
3DMark is the latest benchmark by Futuremark. The Cloud Gate test is ran with all of the default settings and the score, GPU score, and physics score are all recorded in the chart. The Cloud Gate test is intended to be run on home desktops and notebooks.
- System Tests
PCMark 7 is run to get an overall idea of how the system performs as a whole. It tests all aspects of the PC and puts a score on how well it performs overall. In this test, a low scoring area can affect the overall score, so it's important to read the analysis. A higher score is better.
MobileMark 2012 is another test run to get a feeling for the system performance taken as a whole. MobileMark 2012 uses real-world applications as part of the benchmark. We use the Office Productivity suite which includes applications like Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word. The test also reports battery life as all tests are run on battery. Higher is better for both results.
CrystalDiskMark is run to put a number on how well the system hard disk drive / SSD runs. It measures five different metrics, of which higher is better for all. The higher the numbers, the snappier the operating system will feel, especially if the "4K" number is high, as most operating system files are small files.
- Battery Life
PowerMark is used to measure battery life of the system when set to the "Balanced" power plan. This test simulates several different activities, but uses custom built applications.
Accessory Port Layout and Performance
The left side, from back to front, features the Ethernet port, HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports and the SD card reader.
The right side, from back to front, features the power port, one USB 2.0 port, a headphone jack, microphone jack and Kensington lock.
The HP Envy TouchSmart 4 had the lowest performing USB 2.0 implementation as far as read speeds are concerned. It managed just 27.7MB/s. It appears that HP's implementation is always a problem as the HP Folio 13 we reviewed last year is the second slowest system in our chart.
The TouchSmart 4 redeems itself a bit when it comes to USB 2.0 write speed. It manages to beat out the older Folio 13 as well as the GIGABYTE U2442F with an average of 21MB/s.
As far as USB 3.0 performance goes, the TouchSmart 4 is roughly in the middle of the pack. USB 3.0 read speeds are a close spread.
The trend continues with USB 3.0 write speeds. The TouchSmart 4 hangs with the faster machines, but does start to fall behind the majority of the pack.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmarkvantage
3DMark Vantage tests both processor and graphics performance and is a good indication of how systems compare. The results are generally more repeatable and consistent than other forms of benchmarking. Vantage uses DirectX 10 and can handle multi-core CPU's.
The HP Envy TouchSmart 4 actually disappoints some when it comes to gaming performance. For a machine that has been hanging in there with more expensive varieties, it's rather sad to see it start to fall behind.
The Intel processor HP used in the TouchSmart 4 has a slower max graphics frequency which clearly affected the GPU and overall scores. As you can see, the graphics score was less than half that of other Ultrabooks. It was even outperformed by the older Folio 13 that was powered by a Sandy Bridge CPU.
3DMark - Cloud Gate Test
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/3dmark
Cloud Gate is a new test that is designed for Windows notebooks and typical home PCs. Cloud Gate includes two graphics tests and a physics test. Cloud Gate uses a DirectX 11 engine limited to Direct3D feature level 10 making it suitable for testing DirectX 10 compatible hardware. Cloud Gate will only be available in the Windows editions of 3DMark initially.
Here again, the TouchSmart 4 suffers because of its graphics processor. Its overall score is just about half that of the similarly priced ASUS S500C. Individual scores show that it is definitely the GPU score that affects the system's score.
Version and / or Patch Used: 220.127.116.11
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com/benchmarks/
PCMark 7 is a great utility for testing a PC's all-around capabilities. It tests all aspects of the computer, from graphics performance to hard disk performance and attempts to put a score on it, which is not an easy task.
You'll notice that our results have been cleared out due to us updating the test to the latest version. The Envy TouchSmart 4 redeems itself slightly when it comes to overall system ranking. It vastly outperforms the ASUS S500C, though it can't touch the more expensive Acer systems that use faster SSD's.
Mobile Mark 2012
Version and / or Patch Used: 18.104.22.168
Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com
Product Homepage: http://bapco.com
MobileMark 2012 is a premier benchmarking tool produced by BAPCo. It has several different scenarios built-in and allows you to choose which to run. It runs the test on battery life so that it produces both a score for the performance aspect and a run time for battery life.
For our testing, we chose the Office Productivity line of testing. The "Performance Qualification Rating" and battery life (in minutes) is reported below in the charts.
MobileMark shows the same as seen above. It's quite a bit more capable as an overall machine than the S500C, but can't compete with the SSD-wielding Acer systems we recently reviewed.
Impressively, the HP also outperforms the ASUS in terms of battery life. In fact, the both HP systems in our chart perform the best, with the Envy TouchSmart 4 coming in just behind the older Folio 13. It manages to run for 304 minutes, or 5 hours and 4 minutes.
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage: http://www.crystalmark.info
Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html
Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark
CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.
Due to utilizing a spinning hard drive, the HP Envy TouchSmart 4 falls behind other systems that make use of an SSD. It does manage to beat out the S500C, one of its main competitors.
The same trend is seen with write speeds, though the S500C narrows the gap and actually pulls ahead in sequential write speed.
Battery Life Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/powermark/
Download here: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/powermark/
PowerMark is a benchmark produced by Futuremark that simulates different usage scenarios in order to determine battery life. It loops these different scenarios infinitely until the battery hits 15% and then gives us an estimated battery life time. For our testing, we use all four different scenarios. These are video playback, gaming, web browsing and word processing.
The test is ran once with the computer's Power Options set to Balanced. You'll notice our graph has been cleared. PowerMark was updated to the latest version for testing, so we removed the test results created with a past version.
Futuremark's PowerMark shows that the TouchSmart 4 has impressive battery life, though it is bested by the more expensive Aspire S7. Keep in mind that the S7 featured an extended battery, which aided battery life.
Still, a battery life of 3 hours and 21 minutes in PowerMark is impressive.
Let's get down to the nuts and bolts. We've seen the hard numbers and the subjective feelings towards this computer, so just where does it stack up? Taking the price into consideration, it does pretty well. The system is currently available directly from HP for $749.99 at the time of writing and can be customized with an upgraded processor and 8GB of RAM.
I'm not a huge fan of the styling that HP employed for the Envy TouchSmart 4; I feel the Folio 13 is a much better look. However, it does feel to be a quality system being clad in aluminum and all. The keyboard is one of the best I've used on a notebook system, though I find myself quite partial to HP keyboards, as I stated before. There is, of course, some left to be desired from the keyboard, such as less flex and a slightly dimmer backlight.
Battery life is also impressive, providing some of the longest battery life we've seen from any of the notebooks we've tested. This extra battery life comes at the cost of a slightly thicker system and slightly increased weight, but that will always exist as a tradeoff.
One major issue with the Envy TouchSmart 4 is that of its gaming performance. It falls quite far behind other Ultrabooks we've tested and I can't advise you to purchase this system if you're planning on doing any sort of gaming at all.
For a college student who doesn't game, the TouchSmart 4 could be the perfect mix of performance, portability and battery life. While an SSD would be preferred, the 500GB hard drive could come in handy for students who need to take lots of data with them, and it doesn't cost a fortune to buy. Worth noting is the inclusion of Beats audio. HP assures me that they've done more than just stick a Beats logo onto the chassis. According to HP, they've reworked the audio system with the help of Beats to achieve the best sound performance possible. It appears to have worked as the sound is loud and high-quality.
I still dislike 1366x768 screens, but on a 14-inch machine, it's not quite as bad. It's still one of the worst resolutions in existence in my opinion, but I can at least deal with it on a machine of this size.
I do have a few concerns regarding quality. I've purchased my fair share of HP systems. As of late, I've had several systems come from the factory with defects; either scratches or a malfunctioning part. This makes it quite a bit harder to recommend. However, HP's online store has a great return policy, which helps to mitigate this concern.
In the end, the Envy TouchSmart 4 would be a good choice for a college student, if they don't plan on gaming.