HP Envy 15 2020: First impressions with HP's new multimedia laptop
HP announced its refreshed line of Envy laptops earlier this year, which included the Envy x360 13 and Envy x360 15 that we recently reviewed. While those two devices have AMD Ryzen 4000 and Intel Ice Lake-U series processors respectively, the Envy 15 is the only device in HP's current Envy lineup to use 45 W processors. Admittedly, the Comet Lake-H series is not as powerful as its AMD counterpart, but it still packs a punch. This year's model is actually the first traditional laptop to bear the Envy 15 name in a few years. The Kaby Lake powered Envy 15 as133cl is the last model we reviewed, a device that HP released over three years ago.
A lot has changed with the Envy series since then, and we decided to get our hands on one to see whether it can live up to HP's claims of the device being comparable to the MacBook Pro 16. We have already covered why this is slightly disingenuous, but the new Envy 15 is a compelling purchase, nonetheless.
We have only had the Envy 15 for about a week now, but that is enough time to form some initial impressions of the device. We purchased the entry-level model in the UK, which comes with an Intel Core i7-10750H processor, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q GPU, 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD. The device also has a 400 nit 1080p touchscreen display. This model is the Envy 15-ep0011na, for reference. HP also sells SKUs with an RTX 2060 GPU, a 600 nit AMOLED panel and a Core i9-10885H processor. However, we did not choose an RTX 2060 option as HP rates these for significantly shorter runtimes than the GTX 1660 Ti model.
Case & I/O - Well appointed, but no USB Power Delivery
The Envy 15 shines in terms of design. The machine looks and feels well-built, and the display lid can be opened easily with one hand. The entire chassis is made from aluminium and it resists fingerprints better than devices like recent generations of the XPS 15 or the ThinkPad X1 Extreme. Oddly, our machine has a slight processing error on its bottom panel. It is a minor blemish, but it is one that we have not seen on any recent laptop.
The device is a touch heavy at 2.14 kg, but current conditions mean that the device is yet to leave the house. It is still light enough to use on a lap without any difficulty, though. HP appears to have included the same keyboard as it has on the new Envy x360 13 and Envy x360 15. There is no number pad on the Envy 15 as there is on the Envy x360 15 though, and HP has replaced the right ctrl button with a fingerprint scanner. The latter has worked well so far, as has the keyboard. The same is true of the trackpad, while the inclusion of microphone mute and camera shutter buttons are nice touches.
HP has included a good selection of I/O too, with two USB Type-A ports, two Type-C ports, an HDMI 2.0a, a headphone jack and a microSD card reader. Sadly, the device's two Thunderbolt 3 ports do not support USB Power Delivery. HP does include a 200 W charger in the box, but it is rather hefty. If you want to dock your Envy 15 and want to minimise the volume of devices you have plugged in, then the "HP Thunderbolt Dock G2 with Combo Cable" works. It is pricey, but it worked without any issues despite it not being an officially compatible device.
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Performance & Battery Life - No throttling and excellent battery life, but loud fans and coil whine
When plugged in, our unit exhibits no CPU or GPU throttling. The machine can comfortably hold the Core i7-10750H at an all-core boost of 4.5 GHz without getting hotter than 75 °C. Additionally, the CPU can consume over 62 W, according to HWiNFO64. Similarly, the GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q stays at under 70 °C when gaming, even after increasing the core and memory clocks by 175 MHz and 650 MHz. The GPU fares slightly better than the one in the Surface Book 3 15, which is to say that it handles most triple-A titles at 1080p or 1440p with ease on high graphics settings.
The Envy 15 does run loud when plugged in though, even if the CPU is at below 50 °C. HP Command Center does allow you to switch between four fan curves, of which three can be set to "Auto" or a choice between three manual modes. However, the "Default" curve occasionally forces the device to run more quietly than the "Quiet" mode does. HP sets the fans to "always-on" by default, but this can be changed in the BIOS.
With that said, we have rarely heard the fans spin up when the machine is running on battery. Unfortunately, our unit suffers from noticeable coil whine. It cannot be heard over the fans, but we can hear it from a few feet away. Your mileage with this one will vary, but it appears to originate from below the keyboard.
The Envy 15 makes great use of its 83 Wh battery too. Our machine generally gets 8-10 hours of battery life in our daily workflow of using a text editor, replying to emails, having endless Edge Chromium tabs open and streaming music to a pair of Bluetooth headphones. We generally have the display set to about 60-70% brightness and 40% volume, for reference.
First Impressions - A cheaper alternative to the XPS 15 and ThinkPad X1 Extreme
The chin of its display is a little chunky and it is 16:9, but the panel is bright and consumes hardly any power. We have a few other gripes with the machine too, but the Envy 15-ep0011na offers a good balance between performance, battery life and portability with few compromises.
We cannot speak for the more expensive models though as these are rated for sub-7 hours of battery life by HP. However, all SKUs are competitively priced. Overall, we have been surprisingly impressed by the Envy 15 so far.
Own & HP UK