Customer Review

129 of 133 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent computer, speed, looks, easy to use, July 26, 2012
This review is from: HP Envy 4-1030us 14-Inch Ultrabook (Black) (Personal Computers)
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This computer is well designed, fast, and easy to use - an excellent choice for most people for use at home or school. It is an Ultrabook, which means it is Windows-based computer that is thin, reasonably light, and has an Intel chipset inside. The designation is owned by Intel so only Intel-based computers can be called Ultrabooks. The other large maker of chips, AMD, calls it's equivalent "Sleekbooks" and this model computer also comes in an AMD variation for a bit less money (and a bit less performance).

This runs Windows 7 x64, which is an excellent operating system. I know there are major debates about operating systems, but I think we are fortunate to have several excellent ones from which to choose. Windows is my preference in my household and is on our 5 other computers. I won't go further into this because the operating system is largely independent of the computer hardware. If you don't have a strong preference, Windows will work great for you; if you do and you're reading this I need not say more.

The computer is good looking and feels solid. It is black brushed aluminum on the top and around the keyboard and a nice red on the bottom. It is thin (my calipers say a little over three-quarters of an inch), light (mine weighed 3 lbs., 15 ounces), and feels solid, being made largely of metal. The screen is a true 14" from corner to corner, is glossy (not my preference) and opens easily without any latch. Along the edges are ports for networking, storage, headphones, video (HDMI) and power. It shows fingerprints readily.

The computer starts up quickly. On first-use there are questions about timezone and user/computer naming, but after that each startup is less than 20 seconds from the computer being off (not sleep or hibernate, but off). This is because this computer has a small solid state drive that is very fast and which contains much of the operating system and other components needed to start the computer. Combined with a generous 500GB conventional hard drive, this computer has a great mix of speed and capacity and I think HP clearly delivered on its promise in this regard.

The desktop has just a handful of items on it: shortcuts to HP Marketplace, HP Support Assistant, MS Office 2010 trial, HP Myroom, WildTangent Games, and eBay. I simply dragged these to the trash and my desktop was clean. I don't see much that is actually installed on the computer outside of HP's utilities. The exception is Norton Desktop, which is a virus/security program. I deleted this program (type "add or remove" remove at the start menu, hit return, find Norton, then click uninstall) because it is not my preference and I don't want to pay periodic license fees for updates. I then installed Microsoft Security Essentials, which is free and can be found by searching the web. All said it was an easy process to get this running.

The screen is bright and clear. I'm not a fan of glossy screens as they show reflections more than matt screens do, but they do have the advantage of appearing brighter. For text and such, there is a decent viewing range for the screen, but on videos, there is a fairly narrow range for optimal viewing. It is easy to find and doesn't impact its use for a single viewer, but it isn't something ideal for many folks to crowd around to see something. Those viewing it from off-axis will see some reduction in color fidelity and an overall darker picture. As a 14 inch laptop, I think this is fine as it isn't made for group use and a single user will be more than happy with the screen. I ran some 1080p video on the computer (although the screen is 1366 x 768) and it handled it easily and looked great. 14 inches is a good size; 15 inch is too large to carry around and 12 is too small. 13 or 14 inches is the sweet spot, in my opinion.

This comes with Beats Audio, which just means the sound system meets some standard put out by the "Beats Audio" people. This includes slightly better speakers and a "subwoofer" to improve bass response. I think it does sound very good compared to other laptops I've had, although I'm not going to give up my headphones or home stereo. Don't expect great sound, but is more than passable and certainly fine for casual videos and such. On other laptops I'd find watching movie impossible without external speakers, but this is fine and speech is clear. For music you can certainly hear an improvement with bass response, but it isn't very deep and the highs are still a bit tinny, as one typically finds on a laptop. Volume is more than adequate. Overall a plus, just don't expect miracles here.

The trackpad and keyboard are fine. The keyboard is the flat island keys that are considered stylish nowadays. I prefer more sculpted keys, but as I type this review on the laptop, I don't find it slows me down and simply takes some getting-used-to. The trackpad is an integerated unit with the buttons in the lower left and right. This makes for a larger pad to support gestures, such a two-finger scrolling, pinch to zoom, and rotation. The gestures all seem to work well although it is the scrolling that I use the most. It gives up the discrete left/right buttons, so it takes some getting practice to know you are clicking in the right place, but again it just getting-use-to.

My prior computers have included ThinkPads and I tended to use just the trackpoint feature of those (a pointing device built into the keyboard), which meant I didn't need to use the trackpad. Trackpads require moving one's fingers and hands about and taking your hands off the keyboard, which is less than ideal, while the trackpoint kept your hands in place. But if you want a trackpoint, you are limited to Lenovo (such as Lenovo ThinkPad T420 4177RVU 14-Inch LED Notebook - Core i5 i5-2450M 2.5GHz 320GB HDD 4GB DDR3 - Matte Black). The keyboard is backlit; by hitting a key it lights up the numbers and around the islands. It seems a bit brighter than necessary and I'd prefer some way to tone it down, but otherwise it works fine. The button to turn on the backlighting is also illuminated and is bright enough to be a little distracting when the keyboard is not backlit.

This computer, like many coming out now, does not have an integrated CD/DVD drive. Most software and media are delivered over the internet, so this isn't usually a problem, but it isn't great if you have media already on DVDs/CD. My copy of MS Office was on a DVD so I had to use my network to install the software. On my desktop computer I shared the DVD drive, which I then accessed over the network from this HP laptop, then clicked "setup". I then installed the software as usual. Easy to do if you have a network and know what you are doing, but I think it isn't something most would be able to do. Your alternative is to borrow/buy an external DVD or ask someone to do this for you. It is a fine tradeoff as I don't expect to need an optical drive again for many months (I use it maybe three time a year) and it doesn't make sense to carry that around when it is used so rarely.

The ports on this device are fine. Two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 will let me hook up external storage, Skype headphones, and other peripherals. USB 3.0 is 10 times faster than USB 2.0, although in practice other hardware limits the speed. My USB 3.0 external disk drive, for example, will transfer large files about 3 or 4 times faster than my USB 2.0 drive, limited by the speed of the external drive. USB 3.0 has been around for a few years and there are many affordable peripherals for it, most all of which come with their own cable. A 1000 GB external (1 TB) USB 3.0 drive can be had for under $100 on Amazon.Western Digital My Passport 1 TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive - WDBBEP0010BBK-NESN (Black), Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1 TB USB 3.0 Ultra-Portable External Hard Drive in Black STAA1000101 USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with USB 2.0, which is more than adequate for things like mice and transfer of smaller files.

Other ports are standard, HDMI for hooking up to a TV/monitor, headphones, and wired network. As far as wireless features go, it has Bluetooth, which can be used for mice, keyboards, and audio, as well as a wireless network card that supports the latest standards. I don't feel I'm lacking anything in the port department. If this were my work computer, I'd miss having a VGA connector as many presentation systems still rely on that for connectivity, but that would be out of place on this consumer laptop.

The laptop is plenty fast. The processor is an i5, which is the mainstream chip from Intel. Lower is the i3 and higher is the i7. The GHZ rating (1.7) means less nowadays with multiple cores and speed boosting technology, so I won't try to compare based on that. All I can say it that it does what it needs to do without any perceivable lag. It runs HD video, multiple programs up at once, streaming video, and more without making me wait. Speed is less and less important in many cases as that technology has outpaced the needs of most of us. I am happy with the performance.
I am writing this with the computer on my lap, which covers up some of the main vent on the bottom. As a result it is getting a little warm and the fan has just come on. HP advertises "coolsense" technology to keep laptop cool, but I suppose there are limits to this. It isn't hot, but certainly not cool, so this might be a little oversell.

The webcam is perhaps the only disappointment. It is fine, but not HD quality as far as I can tell (although HP calls it a TrueVision HD webcam) . The lowlight performance makes the picture grainy. In office lighting it is fine, but not great. I can't find the spec on this; taking a picture with the included "youcam" software results in a picture that is 640 x 480. I also tried Skyping myself and my image from my desktop (shown on the Envy) was much better than that taken by the Envy and shown on my desktop. My desktop has a Logitech Pro 9000 PC Internet Camera Webcam with 8.0-Megapixel Video Resolution and Carl Zeiss Lens Optics. So this is a bit of a letdown, but I don't use this often so it works for me. I will continue to look for setting for this since HP calls it HD and, and if I find them, I'll update this review. In any case, it should work great out of the box, and it doesn't.

As computers get thin, like this one, we give up some things, like the optical drive. We also typically give up the ability to easily upgrade the computer. There is no door for the hard drive, battery, or memory. Upgrading/replacing is therefore more involved than in the past, so consider getting what you need rather than planning on upgrading. A hard drive of 500GB on a laptop is typically more than enough for consumer use and 4 GB is also decent, although I'd consider a 6 or 8. As for the battery, I'll see what happens several years down the road when I need to deal with that. As far as battery life goes, I haven't had it long enough to assess. I've only had it out for three or four hours at a time and it reports to be about half-empty, so the 7 hour manufacturer estimate is not unreasonable.

Overall a top-notch laptop with some excellent design decisions. This is a great default choice where to start looking and then one could assess if to go down to save some money or up to get more performance, although I don't see any need for more performance than this for most folks. The bigger question is if to save a few dollars with the AMD version or another Ultrabook with an i3. I think most would be happy with this HP Envy 14 inch Ultrabook.
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 26, 2012 9:26:32 AM PDT
ej76az says:
Could you expand a little on the quality, or lack thereof, of the screen? Tech website reviews complain about it, but maybe they're obsessed with gaming and super-high-quality screens.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 26, 2012 11:38:32 AM PDT
The screen is fine. It isn't the best screen, but by no means is it a bad screen. The issues I see as more negative are: 1) It is glossy, so reflections are seen in from windows and other light sources. 2) It is lower resolution than many. Some 12 inch computers are 1200 x 800, so this 14 inch being 1366x768 is not all that impressive. Certainly compared to Apple's retina displays, they aren't stunning, but this is an $850 computer, not a $1,200 one and the screen is definitely fine. 3) My review talked about the off-axis viewing, and it is senstive to that. As I said there, it is fine if it is just me, but I wouldn't want to be looking at video with more than 1 or 2 others.

I don't know what else to say. No one is going to say "Wow" when seeing the screen, but I don't think anyone woud notice it as being bad either, except if they were viewing it from above you. I hope this helps.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 29, 2012 10:54:25 AM PDT
Potter_Silva says:
I agree with everything you said and thank you for the detailed and helpful review. I really like my laptop but I am returning mine because I need to put so much pressure to keep the right click down when I need to use the scroll bar to go up and down. After a few days of use, I felt the effects on my wrist. I compared the right/left click button with the Sony Vaio and Lenovo laptop I have at home. If you look at the HP design the touch pad and the right/left click buttons is one big plate and for the Sony Vaio and Lenovo the touch pad is a separate plate from the right/left click buttons. I think it's a design issue. Can you please tell me your thoughts on this? Thanks again!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2012 5:10:57 AM PDT
I think I said in my review that I agree that separate buttons were better for what you described, actions such as holding and scrolling. I think what this configuration is about is using gestures instead of buttons and dragging. For example, instead of holding the left button and one finger for moving a scroll bar, you use two fingers and the whole pad to scroll up and down. Most of the time that works well and is easier than having to go to the scroll bar. Sometimes you still need a scroll bar and that isn't a great experience, but that sacrifice is made so that the gestures are better.

I think it is a matter of deciding if you like the older system (buttons an dragging) or the new system (gestures, tapping the trackpad, etc.)

I can't say if this implimentation is better than others; I agree the button is a bit hard to click, but on this computer I am using getures more and I only find the issue is with when I need to right-click to get quick menu menu, which I don't think there is a gesture for.

Sony makes great computers and that is an excellent choice if you can afford them.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 1, 2012 11:56:50 AM PDT
Potter_Silva says:
Thank you so much. I missed the "trackpad gesture". So I read all about this technology and now I am enjoying using it in my new computer. Will no longer return. Thanks again.

Posted on Aug 21, 2012 2:02:07 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 12, 2012 3:16:42 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 21, 2012 4:37:44 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 21, 2012 4:48:01 PM PDT
I just looked again at the web cam. If you go to the YouCam software you can change the resolution and it appears the camera is capable of 1280x720 resolution. However when I set it to that, the pictures aren't much better. Perhaps there is something in the optics or other limitation limiting the performance, especially in lower light conditions. Technically it might be HD but it doesn't look that way.

About deleting: The only thing I deleted was the trial version of Norton. I never liked the program, although my experience is from a long time ago. In any case, you have to pay for it eventually (6 months I think), so you might as well get something free. I prefer Microsoft Security Essentials because I figure they know the most about their operating system, but I understand Avast and AVG are also highly rated.

I also deleted Microsoft Office because that is a trial version, but I had the full version that I installed instead.

I deleted the stuff on the desktop after ensuring it didn't exist in the list of installed programs.

Of those installed, you could delete a bunch of HP utilities, but I haven't because they are supposed to be useful. After having it for a while I find I don't use power manager, security assistant, or the support assistant. But I don't see that these are running.

Lastly, you might delete the youcam software (but there isn't otherwise software that used the webcam asside from skyping) and the HP games from wild tangent. The games is definitely something you could do without as they are just trial versions, although often the trial versions are enough to keep my little ones entertained.

Overall I didn't see this as having a lot of "bloatware".

Good luck!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 22, 2012 12:06:06 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 12, 2012 3:17:00 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2012 1:40:55 PM PDT
Hi Crash,

I posted an image about the webcam on the product page showing what my cam looks like.

About the noise: My laptop makes no noise. Maybe a slight squeek from the hinges if I move it while open, but no noise if closed and I don't hear any harddrive noise either. That said, hard drives can be variable. If you think it is the drive, try to see if the access light is also blinking at the same time.

Sorry not to be able to be more helpful.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2012 7:10:22 PM PDT
silver131 says:
FYI to right-click for the quick menu, you just need to have two fingers on the track pad and push until the click.

Cheers
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