HP Envy 4
14 in 1,366x768 display, 1.8kg, 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5-3317U, 6.00GB RAM, 500GB disk, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
HP’s Envy 4 is a compact Ultrabook with a 14in screen. It retains the same black brushed metal and red rubberised plastic styling, as the rest of the Envy range, giving it a luxurious look and feel.
Open the lid and the monochrome colour scheme continues underneath, with black keyboard tray and metal-effect touchpad. Silver edging around the touchpad cheapens the look a little, but it’s otherwise very easy on the eye. There's no backlight for the keyboard, but the full size Chiclet-style keys are comfortable to type on thanks to sensible spacing and springy actions that bounce back quickly. HP has re-assigned the function keys to proprietary shortcuts, but they can be disabled through the BIOS so you can use Windows shortcuts more easily.
The touchpad was accurate and responsive too, recognising multi-touch gestures and comfortably navigating the Windows desktop. A double-tap to the top left corner disables it, in case you prefer using a mouse.
The 14in chassis is well matched with a 1,366x768 display, even if it’s a fairly standard TN panel. HP has prioritised colour vibrancy rather than reflection reduction by using a glossy screen finish – it certainly makes images look bright and colourful, but in a bright room or direct sunlight it can be difficult to see what’s on-screen. There’s a reasonable amount of tilt, but poor viewing angles leave little room to manoeuvre. Brightness was only average, making it difficult to spot details in some of our darker test photos.
Sound quality was slightly more impressive. Beats Audio might appeal to a certain demographic, although it’s barely any different to applying an equalizer pre-set in the audio driver, but HP has also paid more attention to its speakers than other Ultrabook manufacturers. A small low frequency speaker produces better bass than the competition, although it’s still lacking compared to a desktop speaker system or pair of headphones.