HP Envy x360 15 review: Connectivity
The other up-to-date extra is the HP Envy x360’s USB-C port. This small, reversible redesign of USB is set to one day replace the chunky cables we’ve been using for 20 years. Right now USB-C ports are not essential for most people, but you may sorely need one in 2-3 years.
Other basic connections are covered too. There are two USB 3.0 ports, a full-size SD card slot and full-size HDMI. The non-folding HP Envy 15 gets you an extra USB, but you do get enough connections to make this the brains of a desktop PC.
HP Envy x360 15 review: Keyboard and trackpad
We’ve been using the Envy x360 alongside the Envy 15, and the two also have slightly different keyboard characteristics. While they have the same full-size layout, with a NUM pad bolted onto the side, the x360 has slightly greater key resistance, but softer feedback in general. Neither keyboard is perfect, but by losing the crisp feel of the Envy 15, it’s harder to see what sort of feel HP was aiming for here.
It’s a little indistinct, which may disappoint if you’re coming from a laptop with a good keyboard. There is a backlight, though, adding a touch of flair to what is otherwise a so-so typing surface.
The HP Envy x360’s trackpad is large and wide. There’s lots of space, but once again it isn’t quite up to what you get in the cheaper Envy 15.
For the best trackpad feel you want a frosted glass top, which gives a super-smooth feel and the right level of resistance but no tackiness. The Envy x360 uses something else, though. While the resistance is fine, there’s the telltale tackiness of a plastic trackpad surface.
There’s also far greater variance in the depth of the pad’s movement from end to end and the button placement isn’t quite as smart. In the HP Envy 15, the right button is kept to a very small corner in the bottom-right. Here it spreads out far enough to cause some accidental presses until you train your fingers to respect its layout.
The HP Envy x360 has a fair trackpad, but it’s disappointing to see HP sneakily use a superior one in its cheaper machine. And all in service of that hinge. Also see: Best gaming laptops 2016.
HP Envy x360 15 review: Display
It’s the hinge too that puts a particular focus on the screen, as viewing angles are more important, and a touch layer can have an impact on image quality. Once again, the HP Envy x360 puts in a fair, but not particularly enviable, performance.
The display is 15.6 inches across and has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, for density of 141ppi. This is low density for any tablet-style purpose, as you do notice pixellation rather clearly as soon as you get any closer than arm’s reach.
Of course, the sheer space of those extra 2.3 inches of display is a key appeal.
Display quality is middling. Colour coverage of sRGB is just 55.8 per cent, resulting is fairly clear undersaturation. The Envy 15 has similar (just slightly better) colour performance, but the undersaturation is a little less evident because display contrast is higher.
The Envy x360’s native contrast of 762:1 is still reasonably good, though.
Despite having an IPS LCD screen, viewing angles are slightly disappointing. There’s none of the contrast shift you’d see in a cheap TN-based hybrid display, but brightness drops off severely at an angle.
This is made worse by poor max brightness of 234cd/m. Despite the lifestyle flourishes, the Envy x360 is not ready to be used outdoors. We tried using the x360 outside on a sunny day, and while you can make out text on the white background of a word processing app, anything lower-contrast is very difficult to make out.
It’s less of a disappointment than the recently reviewed Asus UX360CA, though, whose touchscreen design makes the entire screen appear grey rather than black. The HP Envy x360 looks fine indoors, it just doesn’t fare too well when challenged. Also see: Windows 10 review.
HP Envy x360 15 review: Performance
Typical of a larger convertible laptop, the HP Envy x360 uses a low-voltage Intel Core-series CPU rather than one of Intel’s more powerful quad-core models. Our test unit has an Intel Core i7-6560U CPU, a dual-core, four-thread chipset with a standard clock speed of 2.2GHz and a Turbo of 3.2GHz.
This is a very solid all-purpose chipset for those with low-end and mid-level performance demands. While not a desktop-grade CPU, it’ll handle any kind of productivity task with relative ease.
It’s also one of the few areas where the Envy x360 trumps the simpler Envy 15, scoring 7280 in Geekbench 3 and 3053 in PC Mark 8. In each case that’s around 200 points better than the Envy 15.
The most interesting part of the Intel Core i7-6560U for many of you will be that it uses Intel HD 540 Iris graphics rather than the bog-standard HD 520. While still not a match for a dedicated GPU, it does result in an extra handful of frames per second in our gaming tests, potentially enough to turn around a game from painful to playable.
Our 720p Low settings Alien Isolation test, for example, runs at 44.5fps on the Envy x360, and just 31fps on the Envy 15, which uses an Intel HD 520 GPU. Thief at Low settings runs at 27.3fps: not ideal but playable for the patient among you.
Neither game runs well when we increase the resolution to 1080p and max-out the visuals, Alien Isolation slowing to 18.7fps and Thief to a dismal 6.9fps, but if you like to play the occasional game, an Iris upgrade is well worth having.
The HP Envy x360 doesn’t get too hot or loud under strain, but it doesn’t have the cleanest fan noise either. You’ll probably only notice it when the laptop comes out of sleep, when it briefly revs its CPU fan, but in a quiet room it can be a little distracting.
Rather different to most convertibles, the x360 has both a 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive. This gets you zippy Windows 10 responsiveness and loads of storage to play with.
The SSD is not particularly fast with read speeds of up to 512MB/s and writes at 185MB/s. Given the modest SSD performance, it’s slightly surprising that HP has used a faster 7200rpm 1TB rather than a bog-standard 5400rpm one. It reads/writes at 146/135MB/s, but the performance increase is going to be fairly meaningless if you’re largely going to be storing media on the HDD.
HP Envy x360 15 review: Sound quality
One other element that seems to have some extra effort put in is the speaker, a stereo array that fires out of the funky-looking grille above the keyboard.
It’s a Bang & Olufsen speaker array that has a satisfyingly chunky tone, and good top volume. However, it is slightly prone to mid-range distortion when maxed-out and, presumably thanks to the workings of the hinge, the drivers do not sound as though they are well-spaced along the x360’s width.
They are loud and fat, but also somewhat narrow-sounding speakers.
HP Envy x360 15 review: Battery life
Finally, let’s tackle battery life. The Envy x360 has a 55.7Wh battery that HP says will last for up to 10 hours, although in our experience it is less long-lasting.
Playing a 720p video back at 120cd/m, which is low-strain in terms of display brightness and CPU demand, it lasts seven hours 20 minutes. You should also expect lower stamina with more mixed use that comes with general day-to-day work.
Its decent longevity, and better than you’d see from a more powerful quad-core laptop, but still much worse than the HP Envy 15, which lasts for over nine hours of video playback.
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HP Envy x360 15-aq005na: Specs
- 15.6in (1920 x 1080) 141dpi IPS LCD glossy 2.2 GHz, up to 3.2 GHz Turbo Intel Core i7-6550U, two cores four threads Intel HD 540 GPU 8GB RAM DDR4-2133 128GB SSD 1TB HDD 7200rpm No Ethernet 802.11b/g/n/ac 2x2 Bluetooth 4.2 2 USB 3.0 port 1 USB-C Gen 1 port HDMI SDXC card slot stereo Bang & Olufsen speakers 0.9MP Webcam with Windows Hello single mic 3.5mm headset jack UK tiled keyboard 55.6 Wh lithium-ion battery non-removable 380 x 250 x 18 mm 2.17 kg
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