HP Envy 4 review: the most stylish Ultrabook yet

The HP Envy 4 is aptly named--this Ultrabook's premium design and subtle pop of color makes it the envy of ultraportables everywhere.

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The trackpad suffers from the same problem: pretty to look at, but not very comfortable to use. The trackpad is large, located in the center of the keyboard deck below the keyboard, and separated from the deck by an indentation and a silver sliver. It has built-in buttons that tip the whole trackpad when you press them, similar to Apple's glass trackpads on its MacBooks.

The trackpad is physically smooth enough, but the cursor seems to stop short of where you want it to go. In other words, cursor movement isn't smooth or accurate, and you'll find yourself frustrated as you drag your finger over the trackpad to get the cursor where you want it. The built-in mouse buttons are also a little difficult to press--in our review model, the left-click side of the trackpad seemed much stiffer than the right-click side. The pad supports multitouch gestures, which are fairly smooth, and has a small box in the upper left corner that you can double-tap to toggle the trackpad on and off.

The Envy 4's ports average for the Ultrabook category: three USB (two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0), plus HDMI-out, ethernet, an SD card slot, and a Kensington lock slot. The Envy 4 also has separate microphone and headphone jacks, unlike other Ultrabooks, which typically have a combined jack.

Screen and Speakers

The Envy 4 has a 14-inch glossy LED-backlit screen with a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. The screen looks good, but not great. It's very bright, though not quite bright enough for direct sunlight. Colors look a little dull, even washed out at brighter screen settings. HD video is good, with virtually no artifacting in most scenes. Off-axis viewing angles are also good. In fact, when the screen is brighter and the colors are washed out, viewing the screen from a few inches to the side actually makes it look better than looking at it straight on.

Audio on the Envy 4 sounds excellent, considering this is an ultraportable notebook. Laptop speakers generally aren't very good, but the Beats Audio enhancement software that HP includes really improves sound quality. The speakers themselves are very loud for an Ultrabook, though not quite loud enough to fill a medium-sized room full of people.

The Bottom Line

The HP Envy 4 is aptly named. It's a solid machine, with good performance scores, excellent speakers and audio enhancement software, and a mediocre screen, keyboard, and trackpad. The only big drawback is the battery life, which is disappointingly under 6 hours, despite HP's tantalizing promise of 9. Luckily, the power block is small enough to carry with you, though plugging in the laptop might cramp the Envy's style. The Envy 4's premium design and attractive use of color certainly makes it the "envy" of other Ultrabooks.

This story, "HP Envy 4 review: the most stylish Ultrabook yet" was originally published by PCWorld.

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