So, a while back, and by a while back I mean over a year ago, I got my hands on this HP Envy 15 2 in 1, a convertible laptop/tablet device from HP. When I got my hands on the device it wasn’t working, it was just stuck in this boot cycle that indicated that the power button was stuck, and the indentation in the middle of the button certainly helped further inform that initial diagnosis.
Now, at least a year later, I’ve taken the time to break this laptop down and test my theory of the power button being stuck in a position that was causing this boot cycle, and after a few hours of tearing it down and putting it back together, here we are today. If you’d like to see that process, I have a video on it here (insert video of the tear down and getting Windows 10 on it).
Now that I’ve had it in a working state for a couple of weeks, and with some opportunities that are coming down the road potentially, I figured it was time to do a review of the laptop and see just how well it holds up to it’s 2 in 1 moniker.
I think the first place to start is to get some of the specs out of the way. This is indeed a 2 in 1 device, with a detachable keyboard and mouse pad that connects to the main laptop via Bluetooth. It has its own power and can be turned on or off depending on your use case. They keyboard layout is good in my opinion, with the main drawback being that the up and down arrow keys are taking up the space a normal key would, with left and right being normal size. That compromise, however, leaves for an almost full Enter and Backspace key, which makes the typing experience feel natural to a normal keyboard. The mouse pad sits to the right of the keyboard, not below like most laptops are, and feels strange to use off to the right. There is a part of me that wishes that it was a full number pad, there’s enough space for it to be one, because I find that between the lackluster performance of the trackpad itself and the touchscreen nature of the device, I don’t want to use it often and subsequently don’t. I use a wireless mouse when I’m sitting down with this before I use the trackpad, it’s that awkward and bad in my opinion. As for the keyboard, itself, it uses chiclet style keys that feel surprisingly nice to type on. There’s a tactile feedback that I wasn’t expecting to have on this kind of detachable keyboard, but one that is certainly welcome. It could also just be that I type heavy and so I’m bottoming out the keys, but I doubt that to be the case because when I slowly press them down, there’s a noticeable tactile response. While they function, keys are small, the main part of the keyboard that is going to get most of the use is where they nailed it. As a final piece of praise for the keyboard and mouse pad, it also acts as a cover to the screen when held in by it’s magnets, and even holds to the front of the computer well due to it’s magnetic connection. I can fold under half of the protective mat to give the keyboard a little bit of elevation to make the typing experience that much more comfortable.
Inside the laptop, we have a Broadwell Hyper-Threaded Intel Core M 5Y70 CPU running at a base clock speed of 1.1 GHz that boosts up to 2.6 GHz. For what the average person is going to use this 4.5 W TDP CPU for the dual core with hyper threading do a good job. Combine that along with the respectable boost clock, this laptop get’s productivity work done. Working with the touch interface on Windows 10 is snap, the boot and application load times are fast (thought the internal 500GB Hybrid Hard Drive with 16GB of flash storage help with that) and watching Netflix, YouTube, or multitasking with 10 or so Chrome tabs opened and Office to type this very review up leave this laptop with plenty of performance to spare. I could enjoy the respectable performance not that long ago, with Skype up and running and playing a D&D session with my friends on Roll20.net. There was no stuttering in the conversation, there was no lag in the game play, and the experience of being able to put this off to the side and just play was a great one, especially since the cigar, scotch and weather all cooperated too.
To help keep things running smoothly there are 8 GB of RAM, which might seem a tad low, but since most of what this has been used for since I’ve been using it is productivity and web browsing, even with Chrome tabs galore open, I’m finding that I’m not running into any issues where I’m running out of space and having to go to the page file. Again, the hybrid hard drive with it’s 16 GB of flash storage would be a boost to that performance anyways.
The main area where this laptop excels is its display. It’s a 1920 x 1080 15.6-inch display that is really nice. I don’t have details on it’s color accuracy or anything like that, but I do know it’s a WLED-IPS display with touch capabilities and I like watching movies on it. Watching the newly digitally released Doctor Strange on it was wonderful, with the blacks being nice and rich, and the brightness able to keep every detail in clear sight even during the brightness of the day time. It’s drawback is that it has this glossy finish, but the tradeoff of just how nice this display is makes it a worthwhile trade off in my book.
Connectivity wise we have an 802.11ac Wireless NIC for network connectivity as well as Bluetooth. Physical connections on the two sides of the laptop are as follows:
- 2 USB 3.0 Ports
- 1 HDMI Port
- 1 headphone/microphone combo jack
- An SD Card Reader
- Power adapter
While there isn’t a ton of connectivity, the two USB 3 ports give just enough to allow for a USB hub if needed, but I find that I only need to connect one, maybe two devices at a time anyways, and the fact that it has an SD card reader built in eliminates what would have been a need for more ports.
On the left side of the laptop we also have volume rocker buttons, which I find a convenient thing to have if I’m using it in a tablet mode, and they don’t easily go up or down in volume if bumped, which is further value added to the fact that they’re there in the first place. The top right is where we find our power button.
Continuing with the physical tour of the device we come to the next major selling point of the laptop, the 4 front facing speakers by BeatsAudio. With front facing speakers on the left and right of the computer, with two speakers on each side, the audio experience of this laptop is mixed. While watching movies, it does a decent job at giving me the dialogue, but as soon as any real action sequence gets started or when listening to bass heavy music, they show their weakness. I find it ironic that the bass is where I would feel these to be lacking based on the name on the device, but the fact that they could get the speakers to sound as nice as they do in the first place is a win to me. They can also have issues in the highs, peaking at times during scenes that got too loud, or music being too loud, but I don’t know if that’s a limitation of the speakers themselves or since this was sitting, unused for about a year before I found it again and started to use it again. It could be a little bit of both, but it’s hard to tell.
Overall, I must say that I’m pleased with the laptop. And I’ll be clear in that I think of this as a laptop first, tablet second. It does the tablet part well, but for me, I’m going to use this as a laptop first and foremost. The one thing that could be improved upon, and likely has been since this device’s release, is that the hinge on the back of the device, the one that let’s you use it as a laptop, isn’t comfortable when sitting on the couch. I have to kind of cock it to one side on my leg and let the weight counter balance on the other leg in order to be able to use it. That part does suck, flat out. The hinge itself is well done, though, requiring two handed use to get the hinge to the angle in which I want it, but also staying and not having any issues with moving on me when I don’t want it to. Again, the media consumption experience on this is a nice one, and it does a good job at letting me take care of some of my more basic work needs, such as writing this review or web based work. The 3-cell 50WHr battery keeps this thing going with a full movie running and then a couple more hours to spare, and charges quickly as well. 5.42-pound weight of the device is heavy enough to feel like this can take a little bit of punishment going in and out of my car in my backpack, but it also light enough to be comfortable to use on my lap. The heat on this isn’t an issue, at least not in my use, as it’s all isolated to the top of the device, away from the users lap in most use cases. Overall, I would have to say that this was certainly a solid entry point for a 15 inch 2 in 1 device from HP, and one that I would have to suggest picking up if you find yourself in need of a similar device and can find one in good shape used for about $300-$400.
You can find me on Twitter @geekindad
If you’re interested in the iFixit Tool Kit I was using, you can find one here