Tag: BeatsAudio

Product Review–HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook (Model: Envy 4-1121TU)


I am reviewing the HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook which is a newer take on the previously-reviewed Envy 4 Sleekbook. But this unit also comes with a touchscreen that takes advantage of the touch-enabled interface that Windows 8 is all about. Of course you have the regular keyboard and touchpad for content creation, especially if you want to create content.

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook at Intercontinental Melbourne On Rialto

– this configuration
Form factor Regular laptop
Processor Intel i3-3217U Ivy Bridge
RAM 4 Gb RAM shared with graphics
Secondary storage 320Gb HDD  with 32Gb SSD cache SDHC card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD4000 integrated graphics
Screen 14” widescreen
LED backlit LCD touchscreen
Audio Subsystem Intel HD audio
Audio Improvements Beats Audio by Dr Dre
Network Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 4.0
Connectivity USB USB 2.0 x 1, USB 3.0 x 2
Video HDMI
Audio 3.5mm stereo output jack, 3.5mm stereo input jack, digital audio via HDMI
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall: 4.8 Graphics:  4.8
Advanced Graphics: 6.2
Insert variants with relative price shifts

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart UltrabookThe HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook is the regular slimline clamshell laptop that satisfys Intel’s “Ultrabook” specifications but uses an aluminium escutcheon around the keyboard and trackpad. This yields a luxurious and cool finish where there is nothing plasticky about using this machine. Even things like rubber feet that aren’t as ready to come off along with a non-slip rubberised finish for the underside show that we are dealing with a well-built computer.

It is small and light enough to stash in to a shoulder bag or “bike bag” for easy transport. It doesn’t matter whether you are doing a lot of travelling or simply visiting your favourite “second-office” cafe or lounge.

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook with Windows 8 Modern UI

This Ultrabook makes use of the Windows 8 Modern (Metro) touch-enabled user interface with the touchscreen

It feels slightly warm to use when you are using it on your knees, this not as ready to overheat for most computing tasks. This is due to the grillework on the top between the hinges and a ventilatilation grille underneath the Envy computer.

User Interface

The Envy 4’s keyboard has that distinct feel that allows accurate touch-typing. Here, the keys are also finished in black rather than the matching grey so as to make them easier to identify.

he trackpad is very accurate but, like trackpads used on other recent-issue HP laptops, it has the enabe-disable function which requires you to dwell on the top left corner. This can cause you to mistakenly disable it if you are dragging an element and you take too long about it.

As for the touchscreen, it does its job with providing the coarse navigation and selection by responding properly and promptly.

Audio and Video

The visual experience with the HP Envy 4 is what I have expected from a recent laptop where it can handle most tasks properly with a proper frame rate out of video playback. I wouldn’t expect this kind of performance for “on-edge” gaming or advanced video editing tasks.

The Beats Audio sound-tuning had done its bit in providing some “body” to the sound even through the integrated speakers which are located above the keyboard. But I would gain best performance out of this laptop for sound when I use headphones or external speakers.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook left-hand-side connections - Ethernet, HDMI, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader

Left-hand-side connections – Ethernet “clothes-peg” connector, HDMI, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader

Like the previously-reviewed Envy 4 Sleekbook, this HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook uses the same “clothespeg” Ethernet socket so as to allow “dongle=free” connectivity to a Gigabit Ethernet segment. As well, there is a good complement of connections for use with current-generation peripherals such as an HDMI video connector and 3 USB sockets.

The 320Gb hard disk is big enough for most secondary-computer needs especially if you 00Gb hardmove data off it when you are finished with the data. But I would also like to see either a 256Gb solid-state disk for faster performance or a 500Gb hard disk for extra capacity available as an option.

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook right-hand-side connections - separate headphone and microphone jacks, USB 2.0 connector and power socket

Right-hand-side connections – separate headphone and microphone jacks, USB 2.0 connector and power socket

I am pleased that this computer still uses the SD card slot as removeable storage, which I consider important for those of us who download images from our digital cameras by removing the memory card out of the camera. This is compared to some Ultrabooks like the Dell XPS 13 which omit this feature, and would earn its keep with those of us who take pictures and coarsely edit them while on the road.

Battery life

The HP Envy 4 is not demanding for battery life when subjected to most regular computing tasks especially if the computer is working with a Wi-Fi network.  But, after I watched a 90-minute video from SBS On-Demand, I found that the battery was at half capacity at the end of the video.

Other comments

When I used the HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook in the lounge at the Intercontinental Melbourne on Rialto hotel, the staff were amazed at the touchscreen interface that this computer has. This was a difference for them as they were used to guests who use the lounge as a “second office” using laptops and not touching the screen to work with the computer or the guests touching the screens on tablets and smartphones.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook rear view

Rear view of the Ultrabook

One improvemeit I would like to see for the HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook is the availability of a deluxe version with extra RAM and secondary storage as well as 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi. As I have said before, this would encourage us to think of having more storage when we are on the go for longer times as well as having the computer be future proof for high-speed 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. Similarly, going for 3 USB 3.0 connectors can work well as we move towards more USB 3.0 peripherals like secondary-storage devices.

Other than, there isn’t much to improve on for a secondary travel computer with a large screen.


The HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook earns its place as the logical successor to the Envy 4 Sleekbook. Here, it comes across as another example of a  lightweight secondary travel computer option where you value the  13”-14” screen. This is where you place value on content creation including creating elementary graphical content like PowerPoint slides or going through digital photos you have taken as well as creating written content on the go.

It then ends up alongside the HP Envy 4 Sleekbook, the Acer Aspire S3 and Sony VAIO T Series in my short list of ultraportable computers that I would use or recommend as a secondary portable computer for one who uses a desktop or larger laptop at home or the office.

Product Review – HP Envy 4 Sleekbook (Part No: ENVY4-1001TU)


I am reviewing the HP Envy 4 Sleekbook which is a 14” ultraportable which may not fit Intel’s description of an Ultrabook but which satisfies the same market. This is an ultraportable computer that is expected to serve as a secondary-duty unit with the technical specifications that match this requirement. But it has the 14″ screen that may be considered par for the course when it comes to “laptop-bridge” notebook computers that have a large-capacity hard disk, discrete graphics and an optical disk drive.

The variant I am reviewing is one that would be considered basic with 4Gb RAM and 320Gb on the hard disk but there may be variants in other markets that have 6Gb RAM and 500Gb on the hard disk.

HP Envy 4 Sleekbook ultraportable computer

– this configuration
Processor Intel Sandy Bridge i3-2367 processor
extra cost 6Gb
shared with graphics
Secondary storage 320Gb hard disk
extra cost
500Gb hard disk
SD card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD display
Screen 14” widescreen (1366×768) LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD Audio
Audio Improvements Beats Audio by Dr Dre tuning.
Network Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Connectivity USB 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0
Video HDMI
Audio 3.5mm audio input, 3.5mm audio output, Digital out via HDMI
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 7 Home Premium
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall: 4.7 Graphics: 4.7
Advanced Graphics: 6.1
Not all options available in all markets

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

The Envy 4 Sleekbook is finished in a satin-black metal finish on the lid and escutcheon surrounding the keyboard area. There is a jet-black grille above the keyboard where the power switch is located and this is also where the speakers are located. There is a red rubber finish on the underside and this yields a non-slip quality which can also be less worrying for those of us who deal with polished furniture because of the reduced likelihood for scratching.

You may think that the 14” variant of an Ultrabook is going to be too heavy but this Sleekbook is not too heavy to be tiring to carry. It can go well in a shoulder bag or bike bag without becoming too cumbersome as well as allowing room for other stuff in this bag.

There is a vent grille underneath and this is important because of the tendency for this computer to run a bit warm on the left had side when handling heavy tasks like video. This can be a liability if you intend to have it in operation for a long time while you are in bed or sitting on the sofa. Here, I would recommend that you place the Sleekbook on a tray if you leave it on the bed or on the bedside table or coffee table when you get off your bed or couch.

User Interface

The HP Envy 4 Sleekbook’s keyboard has a soft but hard feel. But this full-size keyboard does give you enough room to  touch-type comfortably without any errors or your hands feeling cramped. You have to use the Fn key to use the function keys like F5 to refresh your browser screen.

The trackpad bas o distinct touch-identifiable primary / secondary button zones so it becomes difficult to know where to click or right-click while you are touch-typing. This could be made better through a differently-textured button area or a “button ridge”.  Another issue that can trouble some users is that if they touch the top left hand corner twice, they can  defeat or enable touchpad. This is an action that is easy to mistake when double-tapping to double-click an option on the display

Audio and Video

The Intel HD graphics subsystem can work well even with video content such as the on-demand TV content that I have viewed from SBS On-Demand. There was no blurring and the graphics had come through smoothly but it wouldn’t be suitable for intense gaming activities.

HP Envy 4 Sleekbook Left Hand Side connections - Ethernet, HDMI, USB 3.0 x 2, SD card slot

Left-hand-side connections – Ethernet, HDMI, 2 x USB 3.0, SD card slot

Like a lot of recent HP laptops, the Envy 4 Sleekbook is a “Beats Edition” unit which means that its audio subsystem has been “worked” by Dr. Dre’s “Beats Audio” team. This yielded a “full sound” through headphones or speakers whether with the on-demand video-drama content or some music I played through this laptop. Infact this has allowed the bass content to “come through” when I played a few music tracks through the integrated speakers, giving them what a classic 3” cone speaker used in most portable audio equipment would yield.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

HP Envy 4 Sleekbook Right hand side connections - Audio In, Audio Out, USB 2.0, Power

Right-hand-side connections – Audio In, Audio Out, USB 2.0, Power

The Ethernet connection is a special socket that expands to take the common RJ45 plug but closes up to preserve the Envy 4 Sleekbook’s compact looks. As well, there are two USB 3.0 connectors here which become very relevant with this computer so you can offload data quickly to a USB 3.0-equipped external hard disk. This is augmented by a USB 2.0 connector on the right so you can plug in a wired external mouse or other device that uses this connection. There is only the HDMI vide connection for external video displays so you would have to use a USB DisplayLink VGA adaptor or the HDFury HDMI-VGA adaptor if you were to use the Sleekbook with an economy data projector.

The Sleekbook’s 32Gb hard disk has just about all of the space used as the main drive with a smaller partition used for the system-recovery data. At least this gives you a better idea of how much space you have used. Like other similar ultraportables, this computer doesn’t come with an optical drive, but this combination would suit its use as a secondary computer rather than as a main computer.

Battery life

HP Envy 4 Sleekbook Lid vidw

Lid view

This computer is not demanding on the battery life through regular day-to-day operation but can go through the battery a bit more quickly with multimedia tasks like video-on-demand. I infact noticed that there was nearly half the capacity after watching the 1-hour video-on-demand content via the Wi-Fi network.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

I would like to see the HP Envy 4 Sleekbook have an improved trackpad design that allows you to identify the primary and secondary buttons by touch. This could be achieved through a differently-textured surface or distinct ridges and grooves for the button zone.  Similarly, a secondary button could be used to turn the trackpad on on off without the need to mistake a double-tap action in a particular zone.

This ultraportable could benefit from a DisplayPort connection so as to exploit this newer technology and benefit from video adaptors that work to this standard. As well, it could work with a dual-band 802.11a/g/n wireless chipset so it can benefit from the unexploited 5GHz wireless-network band.

HP Envy 4 Sleekbook at Rendezvous Grand Hotel Melbourne

This notebook even looks the part in that hotel lounge

HP could do better with this model by offering a deluxe variant that has better options like the Intel i5 chipset, 6Gb RAM and either a solid-state drive or 500Gb hard disk across all markets. This can yield the possibility of retailers being able to use that model as a deal-maker.


I would position the HP Envy 4 Sleekbook as a computer for those who want a larger screen and that bit extra for a secondary portable computer for travelling. This is even if you are simply visiting that Wi-Fi-equipped cafe or hotel lounge as an “office away from the office”.

Product Review–HP Envy 15 3000 Series Beats Edition laptop computer (Model 15-3012tx)


Previously I reviewed the first of the HP Envy laptop computers which was a 15” “thin-and-light” that abounded in luxury. It was launched around the time that Windows-based computers started to match up or overtake the Apple Macintosh computers in the way they performed and looked. This one was styled in a bronze finish with a perforated filligree pattern across the top of the lid and on the keyboard.

Now I am reviewing one of the latest iterations of this top-shelf range, known as the HP Envy 15 “3000 Series”. This unit, like the rest of the current high-end HP lineup has the dark-black lid with a glowing HP logo. But, when you open it up, it appears to look like the Apple MacBook Pro lineup in many ways with the aluminium keyboard surround and the black keyboard and display escutcheon. It is an example of a trend that is besetting the 15” multimedia laptop class as manufacturers try to cut in to the MacBook Pro’s market dominated by the creative industries.

HP Envy 15-3000 Series laptop

– this configuration
Processor Intel i7-2670QM
RAM 8Gb shared with graphics
Secondary Storage 750Gb hard disk
1Tb hard disk – extra cost
slot-load DVD burner, SD card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD graphics +
AMD Radeon HD 7670M
1Gb display memory (AMD graphics mode)
Screen 15” widescreen (1366×768)
15” widescreen (1920 x 1080) – extra cost
LED-backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD audio
Audio Improvement BeatsAudio by Dr Dre 3 speakers per channel + 2 bass drivers
Network Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 3.0
Connectors USB 3 x USB 2.0
eSATA 1 x eSATA combined with USB
Video HDMI, DisplayPort
Audio 1 x 3.5mm audio input, 2 x 3.5mm audio output
Digital output via HDMI or DisplayPort
Operating System on supplied unit Microsoft Windows 7
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall Graphics
Advanced Graphics
Insert other variants with price shift, bold or highlight this configuration

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build quality

The HP Envy 15 3000 laptop has aesthetics that reflect a recent-issue Apple Macbook Pro, especially when you open it up. This is with the screen having a black escutcheon and the keyboard surround being made of natural anodised aluminium and the keyboard being a black illuminated kind. This aluminium surround, which also feels cool to the touch rather than sweaty, also reminds me of its use on a large range of classy hi-fi equipment especially most of the B&O equipment since the 1970s..

Of course, the back of the lid is finished in a satin black finished with a small HP logo that reflects when the computer is off and glows like the Apple logo when it is on, like the HP Pavilion DV7-6013TX that I previously reviewed. This styling is much more discreet than the distinct Apple logo that the MacBook Pro uses, but this could be augmented further with an “Envy” logo which identifies it as being part of the high-end Envy range. It also reinforces the fact that the computer feels very well-built and durable.

I have noticed no overheating from this laptop compared to the previous Envy model. This is probably due to the use of a larger more-standard shell that is typical for a 15” standard laptop than the previous effort of creating a 15” “thin-and-light” notebook which is a breeding ground for this problem. But there is still a constant fan noise that occurs when the computer is in full use.

User interface

HP Envy 15-3000 Series keyboard detail

This keyboard reminds you of the MacBook Pro

The black illuminated keyboard has a rough-textured feel that reminds you of using a “rubberised” keyboard. Unlike most other laptops of this size, this unit doesn’t have a numeric keypad but you can still type very quickly and accurately on it. The illuminated effect is augmented by a “waterfall” effect which happens whenever the keyboard lights up and this can be triggered by a proximity sensor that “wakes” the Envy up when a user comes near.

The trackpad is a recessed smooth aluminium area with marked off area for selection buttons which can be deliberately pressed down. This is in a similar manner to what happens for the MacBook Pro’s trackpad although you deliberately press down anywhere on that trackpad to “click” your selection and is exploiting the single-button mouse that is part of the MacOS’s operation.

The keyboard and trackpard are augmented with an aluminium on-off button above the keyboard and a thumbwheel that provides ready access to the sound volume control. This is infact a much more desirable function because you can quickly turn the sound up or down as you require in the manner that most of us have liked where we use a knob or thumbwheel to adjust the sound. But it can be temperamental and choose not to adjust the sound level when you need to adjust it.

Audio and Video

The HP Envy 15 3000 Series is another of the HP range that has had its sound tuned by Dr. Dre’s Beats Audio. This sound tuning and multi-speaker setup has paid off in improving the sound quality of the integrated speakers.  You benefit from a sound experience that has a sense of presence across the frequency range, in a similar way to how the larger portable radios and cassette recorders which use the orthodox 3”-4” cone speaker in their larger housings sound. You will not really expect the full beefy bass sound out of this laptop unless you have it hooked up to speakers that put out the full range. This is still because the small speakers are all packed inside the main chassis with the keyboard, battery, computer circuitry and secondary storage. Here, HP could spread the speakers around such as mounting some of them next to the screen for example.

Once I connected a set of B&O Form 2 headphones to this laptop, the sound had that full punch and the equalisation circuitry was effective. This can be of benefit if the Envy 15 was used alongside a speaker system that doesn’t provide full control or with a pair of good headphones. The BeatsAudio Control Panel effectively bypassed the bass response and equalisation for the headphones and another device I was using as an external amplifier in order to yield a “flat” sound but the “punchiness” was there while the BeatsAudio functionality was engaged.

This is another of the laptops that implement a dual-graphics setup with AMD Radeon HD 7670M as the performance option. Like the other AMD-based dual-graphics laptops that I have reviewed, the AMD software allows you to choose which graphics mode the computer will run in when you run particular software. This will make it easer to prefer higher-performance operation for the programs that need it like the games or graphics-editing tools, yet use the integrated graphics with the power-saving benefits for regular office applications.

HP Envy 15-3000 Series laptop left-hand-side connections

Left hand side - slot-load DVD burner, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, audio input, 2 audio outputs

Thankfully the screen isn’t finished with that glossy reflective plastic and it makes for an easy-to-read display. It will also be of benefit if you choose to dim the display to conserve battery power on this laptop.

Connectivity and Expansion

The HP Envy 15 3000 Series is equipped with a slot-load DVD burner but a machine of its price could benefit from an optical drive that could handle Blu-Ray discs. This feature could be positioned on at least the more-expensive high-end offering that is equipped with the higher-capacity hard disk and Full-HD (1920×1080) screen.

An important fact about the Envy 15 3000 Series is that it is the first laptop that I have reviewed to be equipped with a Mini DIsplayPort connector. More so, this connector is provided in lieu of a VGA socket and if you had to use this laptop with that economy data projector or a cheaper external monitor, you would need to use a DisplayPort-VGA adaptor module or a DisplayLink-enabled USB-VGA module. Otherwise, it has the expected connections for a 15” premium multimedia laptop.

HP Envy 15-3000 Series laptop right-hand-side connections

Right-hand-side connectors - SD card slot, locking slot, USB 2.0 port, Mini DisplayPort socket, HDMI output, volume control, Ethernet socket

For network connectivity, the Envy 15 has the 802.11g/n wireless and Gigabit Ethernet. But this could benefit from 802.11a/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi networking so as to work with higher-performance networks that use the 5GHz band.

Battery life

I had noticed that the HP Envy 15 3000 Series yielded 18% of battery power remaining after running the computer on effectively several hours of mixed activities ranging from  data transfer like PDF downloads and system  updates as well as playing  multimedia content from the Internet and DVD . But this computer was able to continuously play a DVD feature for 4 hours, 19 minutes with Wi-Fi engaged, bit it was assessed with the use of the integrated graphics rather than the AMD graphics chipset. Of course most users may want to make use of the discrete graphics only while the computer is on AC power.

This performance is very much on a par with the recent bunch of 15” laptops that I have tested for this site.

Experience with other people

I showed this computer to a visiting friend whom I knew owns one of the newer Apple MacBook Pro computers and he said that it was a “spitting image” of that computer. He noticed that the keyboard area made him think of that Apple computer that he owns rather than any other computer.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

One improvement that I would like to see for the HP Envy 15 3000 Series would be that the premium model come with an optical drive that can at least play Blu-Ray discs rather than just a DVD burner. This would complement the 1920×1080 display that it offers and make it also an up-to-date multimedia laptop.

As well,  HP could make sure that the volume thumbwheel works properly with the Windows main volume control. This could be through mapping the thumbwheel directly with the operating system’s class drivers and function list rather than writing software to achieve that goal. What I see is that a lot of the problems with advanced functionality is that manufacturers tend to “reinvent the wheel” when it comes to providing the necessary software link to the functionality rather than taking advantage of the operating system’s software support and extending that with modules that hook to the OS’s application-programming interface.

The computer could also benefit from a line-in socket so it can work easily with hi-fi systems, tape / MD decks and the like for capturing audio from these sources to the hard disk. This could be available through a USB external sound module that HP could sell as an “official accessory” for the Envy computer lineup. On the other hand, HP could implement high-quality discrete sound-card circuitry like Creative Labs circuitry to raise the bar above everyone else when it comes to sound reproduction. This can also help HP tackle the PC-based DJ market and snap at Apple’s heels more effectively.

Another accessory idea that I would like to see for HP BeatsAudio computers would be a speaker set that implements this sound tuning so that the BeatsAudio advantage can be taken further for a punchy bass line.


HP Envy 15-3000 Series laptop lid viewI would recommend this computer for two main user classes. The first one would be a person who wants a graphics and multimedia workhorse in the standard 15” laptop form factor while staying with the Windows platform. This is more so if you want to demonstrate that the Windows platform is as good at these tasks as the Apple Macintosh platform.

The second user class are those people who are moving from the Apple Macintosh platform to the Windows platform and want a computer that maintains a similar look and build quality to their previous MacBook Pro unit  It can also mean that HP is doing its best to position the Envy computer range in the “Super Cool” fridge on personal-computing’s “Cool Wall”. It may also be interesting to see whether this computer will appear on the coffee bars at the Wi-Fi-equipped trendy inner-urban cafes.

This is another Envy to definitely Envy!

Product Review–HP Pavilion DM4 Series Beats Edition notebook computer (dm4-3015tx)


I am reviewing the HP Pavilion DM4 Series Beats Edition notebook computer which is a 14” notebook that is intended as a bridge between the ultraportable notebook class of portable computer and the common 15” laptop that most people would work with. This is a consumer-class laptop that has been optimised with the full functionality like dual graphics, “tuned” sound reproduction and high RAM / hard-disk capacity while sing a smaller screen to permit portability.

HP Pavilion dm4 BeatsAudio Edition Series laptop

– this configuration
Processor Intel Core i5-2430M
Secondary Storage 500Gb hard disk
640Gb hard disk
DVD burner, SD card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD integrated graphics
+ AMD Radeon 7470M
1Gb display memory
Screen Screen size and format (1366×768) LED-backlit LCD
Network Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 3.0
Connectors USB 3 x USB 2.0
Audio 3.5mm input-output jack
Operating System on supplied unit Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium
Windows Experience Index Overall 5.6 Graphics 5.6
Advanced Graphics 6.4

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build quality

The HP Pavilion dm4 BeatsAudio Edition is finished in an all-black finish with red lettering throughout. The keyboard surround is a rubberised finish while the lid and the rest of the base are finished in a satin-black metallic finish. The display and its surround are, on the other hand, finished in a reflective finish.

It doesn’t feel “tacky” in any way to use and there is a sense of good build quality with this laptop, in a similar way to most consumer laptops that are on the market nowadays.

User interface

The keyboard on the HP Pavilion dm4 BeatsAudio Edition notebook has a lot of issues that can affect its useability. For example, the keys are finished in that cheap slippery plastic and are labelled with dull red lettering which can be annoying for most users. This is due to the emphasis on the “BeatsAudio” design and could be improved with illuminated keys. It still works well for touch-typing but the home keys need to be made easier to locate by touch. It is also worth noting that the B key is marked in the form of the “BeatsAudio” logo as another way of highlighting the marketing theme in this computer.

HP dm4 BeatsAudio Edition laptop - keyboard detail on B key

Even the B key is styled like the BeatsAudio logo

The trackpad works as expected and is distinctly identifiable, with distinctly-identifiable selection buttons. This goes against the trend with some laptops where the trackpad is simply an unmarked area with two buttons or a “Macbook-style” large square area with zones for primary and secondary selection.

This is augmented by a one-touch key for opening the Web browser and you have to use the Fn key and the function keys  to operate other functions like on most laptops.

Audio and Video

The audio subsystem has been tuned by BeatsAudio, which has been founded by Dr. Dre, one of the US’s major rappers, in a similar vein to how Leo Fender, the name behind the iconic Stratocaster electric guitars founded BBE as an audio-reproduction tuning technology.  This has led to improved bass response and presence in music playback with older and newer pop-music recordings even through the integrated speakers. Here, the sound appears to “come forward” and the notebook’s speakers sound on a par with a midsized portable radio. This isn’t just true for music playback. Speech and sound effects in movies and similar audiovisual work comes forward with the clarity and this can also help when the HP Pavilion dm4 is used as a speakerphone with IP telephony software like Skype.

HP Pavilion dm4 BeatsAudio Edition left hand side - connections

Left hand side connections - VGA video, Ethernet, HDMI video, USB 2.0 x 2

The graphics subsystem is a dual-mode type with Intel Sandy-Bridge integrated graphics and an AMD Radeon discrete graphics chipset. The graphics operating mode is set according to the application you run on the computer rather than a manually-selected “all-or-nothing” setup. This is so you can have the advanced games and graphics-editing packages engage the “overdrive” offered by the discrete graphics when they are used whereas the computer works in economy mode with integrated graphics when you are working with other applications that don’t depend on the graphics performance like office applications.

The only letdown with this is that the laptop uses a very glossy screen which can be annoying to use in bright lighting conditions. This is especially if you dim the display in order to gain more battery runtime.

Connectivity and Expansion

The HP dm4 Series has the typical list of connection options expected for a mainstream consumer laptop. This is in the form of 3 USB 2.0 sockets, a Gigabit Ethernet socket as well as VGA and HDMI video-output sockets and a jack for use with headphones or a microphone. It has Bluetooth and 802.11g/n Wi-Fi as its wireless connectivity options.

HP Pavilion dm4 BeatsAudio Edition laptop - right-hand side

Right-hand side connections - DVD burner, headphone / microphone jack, USB 2.0 port, power socket

But there are a few connectivity options that I would like to see for this laptop in this day and age. For example, I would like to have one of the USB sockets be a USB 3.0 type or a USB / eSATA combo socket in order to allow one to benefit from high-speed connectivity to direct-connected external storage devices i.e. external hard disks. It could also benefit from either dual-band 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity or one of the newer multi-stream 802.11n Wi-Fi network setups for increased reliability and wireless network throughput. But the connectivity set may appeal to most typical household users.

Battery life

I ran the HP Pavilion dm4 BeatsAudio Edition through the DVD run-down test with a feature-movie DVD and it was able to play on for 4 hours 14 minutes. This is using the integrated graphics but having Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on. There may be a slight reduction in the runtime if Windows Media Player was to use the discrete graphics. Similarly, I was able to engage in mixed activities involving word-processing, Web browsing and, in some cases, YouTube video viewing with this laptop running on battery power.

Other facts about this laptop

HP Pavilion dm4 BeatsAudio Edition laptop

Rear view with the BeatsAudio logo

This laptop also has a “Quick-Web” shell that allows you to head to the Web when you switch it on. This starts by default when you cold-boot it from “Hibernate” mode but you can head to Windows using the “Stand-by” option on this shell.

Limitations And Points Of Improvements

The main limitation that I have noticed with the HP Pavilion dm4 Series BeatsAudio Edition is the way the keyboard is designed. It could be improved through a rubber-feel keyboard with brighter labelling or illuminated keys and the latter option could add “cool factor” to this computer.

For connectivity, this laptop could benefit from a USB 3.0 or eSATA socket for use with external storage devices and / or dual-band 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi networking so it can benefit from advanced Wi-Fi networks.


The HP Pavilion dm4 Series BeatsAudio Edition notebook exists as a bridge between the 13” ultraportable computers which don’t often have functionality like 500Gb hard disks, dual-mode “overdrive” graphics or extra connectivity and the larger more popular 15” laptops that have the full function set. Here, this could work well for students in senior-secondary or tertiary studies; or simply as a large-screen alternative to computers like the Toshiba Satellite L730 ultraportable.


HP Pavilion dm4 BeatsAudio Edition laptop at a Wi-Fi hotspot

It still is suitable for those Wi-Fi-equipped cafes and bars

This also includes users like hotspot surfers or long-distance travellers who are after a portable computer with the ability to be taken from place to place easily such as from cafe to cafe yet have a larger screen and hte functions of the full-size 15″ laptop.

Product Review–HP Pavillion DV7-6000 Series 17” multimedia laptop computer (DV7-6013TX)


I am reviewing the Hewlett-Packard Pavillion DV7-6000 Series of 17” desktop-replacement multimedia laptop computers. The actual model that I am reviewing is the DV7-6013TX which is the top-end model of the series. The only differences between this and the other models in the series are the processor type, the hard-disk capacity and the optical-drive type.

One factor I am considering in this review is how these computers stand against the Dell XPS L702X, a similarly-equipped desktop replacement laptop which I recently reviewed. Both of these computers are driven by Intel second-generation “Sandy Bridge” chipsets which have integrated CPU/GPU processors.

HP Pavillion dv7-6013TX laptop

– this configuration
Processor Intel Core i7-2820QM Sandy Bridge Less-expensive models:
Sandy Bridge processors –
Intel Core i7-2630qm (base model) or Intel Core i7-2720QM (step-up)
RAM 8Gb RAM shared with graphics in integrated mode
Secondary Storage 2 Tb hard disk
1 Tb hard disk – cheaper models
Blu-Ray Disc RW drive, Blu-Ray Disc ROM / DVD burner – least expensive model
SD card reader
Display Subsystem AMD Mobile Radeon HD 6770M discrete + Intel HD integrated 1Gb dedicated graphics RAM in discrete mode
Screen 17” widescreen (1600 x 900) LED-backlit LCD
Network Wi-Fi 802.11g/n with inherent support for Intel WiDi and Wi-Fi personal area network
Bluetooth Yes
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Connectors USB 2 x USB 2.0
2 x USB 3.0
Audio 2 x 3.5mm headphone jacks
1 x 3.5mm microphone jack
Digital out via HDMI
Operating System on supplied unit Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Power-saving Intel Graphics mode High-Performance AMD Radeon graphics mode
Overall mode 5.9 5.9
Graphics 5.9 6.9
Gaming / CAD graphics 6.3 6.9

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build quality

The HP Pavillion DV7-6000 Series computers are finished in a black brushed-aluminium case and also have a black brushed-aluminium keyboard escutcheon. There is some of the anodised-aluminium or satin-chrome trim around the edge of the computers base and hinges, which provides for a contrasting two-tone finish.

HP Pavillion dv7-6013TX laptop computer - reflective HP logo on lid

HP logo reflects when the computer is turned off

But there is a finishing touch that hits at the Apple MacBook range very squarely. Here, the HP logo located on the bottom left of the lid reflects like a mirror when the unit is off but glows like the Apple logo on those MacBook computers when it is on. It wouldn’t be noticed as readily as the Apple logo that is positioned on the centre of the lid on those computers.

HP Pavillion dv7-6013TX laptop - glowing HP logo when on

HP logo glows when computer is on

Whatever, it leads to a well-built computer that doesn’t feel flimsy in any way.

User interface

The HP Pavillion DV7-6000’s keyboard is a similarly-styled chiclet keyboard to the Dell L702x but isn’t illuminated. This is infact a common keyboard style used on most laptops nowadays. The keys are a short-throw variety which may allow for quicker touch-typing but may affect user accuracy.

There isn’t an option to determine whether pressing a key on the function-key row activates the laptop functions or a Windows-defined function like F5. Here, you would have to hold down the Fn key to select a Windows operating-system function.

The trackpad has its own area with separate primary and secondary buttons. This is even made easier with a white “neon-effect” ring surrounding the trackpad area. There are no speaker or other grilles on the palm-rest area that can be masked by your palms thus affecting the sound quality of cooling performance of this computer.

Another feature that the HP Pavillion DV7 has is a fingerprint scanner that is supported by Windows as a login measure. But this requires the computer to run HP software for the functionality to operate.

HP Pavillion dv7-6013TX laptop - keyboard highlighted

Photo with keyboard more visible

Audio and Video

The Pavillion DV7-6000 Series laptops are equipped with dual-mode graphics with Intel HD “Sandy Bridge” graphics in power-saving “economy” mode and AMD Mobile Radeon HD graphics in “performance” mode. Unlike switching a car’s transmission between “normal / economy” mode and “sport / performance” mode, these computers require all of the applications to be shut down before you change graphics modes. This will take a few seconds to occur during switchover and the unit will suggest the operating mode to use as you change between external power and inbuilt-battery power.

The screen is a 17” LED-backlit unit which works at 1600 x 900 resolution. It could benefit from having a full-HD 1080p resolution screen even if it is offered as a differentiation option. This is compared to the Dell XPS L702x which had the full HD screen as the high-end model option.

This laptop is another example of a laptop that has its audio-playback subsystem “worked” by a company who has had strong involvement in sound recording and/or reproduction. Here, the goal of this involvement is to move away from that lifeless tinny sound that typically emanated from most laptop computers and yield some decent room-filling sound that was easy to understand.

In this case, the job was done by Dr Dre’s “Beats Audio” team, who have worked the sound subsystem in the HP Envy 15 that I previously reviewed. This uses a 2.1 speaker configuration with a separate bass driver. Like the JBL improvement in the Dell XPS, this has allowed the computer to deliver room-filling sound without a that horrible “tinny” sound output common to most laptop computers. It is also worth knowing that the stereo speakers are actually placed above the keyboard so your hands don’t obstruct the sound while the computer is in use. The visual evidence of this is an aluminum grille at the top of the keyboard, between the hinges.

Some benefits I have noticed when I watched some conference videos on this computer was the clarity of the sound recorded in the video including incidental traffic sound. As well, the voices of the speakers had more of the “personal depth” in them, whereas a lot of laptops would have the voices sound like an AM radio announcer as heard on a low-end pocket radio. As well, when I played “Munich” on this computer, the soundtrack had some depth with it especially with the sound effects.

Battery life

The dual-mode graphics also allows the HP Pavillion dv7-6013TX to work for a longer time on its own batteries, especially if you are doing basic computing tasks like emailing or word-processing. Here, unlike most other laptops with discrete graphics, I had noticed that the battery wasn’t running down as fast

I had done a mixture of activities on this computer; including copy-editing and viewing of videos from a “connected-TV” conference. Yet I was able t get at least two hours of battery life out of this activity. This is although I was running the computer on the Intel graphics mode.

It was able to play through a feature-length “cinema” movie with 11% battery charge remaining at the end of the credits while on the Intel power-efficiency mode while the Wi-Fi connection was alive. This shows what the Intel Sandy Bridge chipset was all about when they promised the power efficiency for graphics-intensive tasks.

Other experience notes

The HP Pavillion DV7 doesn’t run hot as easily as a lot of the laptops that I have used. Even if the fan is run at full pelt, it makes use of the grillework on the left side and the top of the base to permit proper cooling. It may be unusual for a laptop that doesn’t have a battery “lump” or kickstand that positions it at an angle, something I have seen with a few other laptops like the Dell XPS or the HP Probook 4520 stablemate.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The DV7-6000 Series could benefit from a 1080 Full-HD screen especially if it is to be used for preparing or viewing Full-HD content. HP could also implement a higher-performance ATI Mobility Radeon discrete graphics chipset in the higher-end model as a key product differentiator. As well, it could support dual-band Wi-Fi networking in markets where this is permitted.


The HP Pavillion DV7-6000 Series laptop computers are another laptop worth considering if you are moving towards a laptop-focused “New Computing Environment” for your home or small business. Similarly, it could serve its purpose as a “work-home” laptop for business owners who primarily use it in the home or workplace and primarily travel by car. Some people may find these computers being suitable for their needs if they “live out of the car boot” and frequently drive to and stay at another person’s place for nights at a time.

This may not be as strong a performer as the Dell XPS L702X but would win on memory capacity across the series (8Gb for all models) and the mid-tier and top models having 2Tb hard disk space and Blu-Ray writing. On the other hand, this level of performance may suit most average games players or most multimedia tasks.

Product Review – Hewlett-Packard Envy 15 luxury “thin-and-light” notebook computer

Do you really envy the HP Envy?

I am now reviewing the HP Envy 15, which I have talked about previously in relation to Windows 7, especially if you have noticed the AdSense ads for this computer that appeared on the blog around the time of that operating system’s launch.HP Envy notebook computer

This computer is a consumer-market “thin-and-light” notebook computer pitched at the luxury end of Hewlett-Packard’s notebook computer range. This review is infact the first review I have done for a “thin-and-light” travel-friendly notebook in this blog.

Look and feel

Even from the moment you unpack the Envy from its box, you will notice a look and feel that says the word “deluxe” about it. It was as though I was unwrapping something that was very special like a good watch. You would find the computer itself wrapped in a black cloth bag and the keyboard was covered with a black sheet. Even the cardboard box had the sense of “Black Label” about it.

The computer itself has a “bronze-tone” lid and keyboard escutcheon with a display that is shrouded with a black escutcheon. That same “bronze-tone” is very similar to how the Nokia 6210 mobile phone was finished. There is even a detailed pattern in the perforations on the lid an keyboard escutcheon that reminds me of a pattern associated with satin-finish or flock-finish wallpapers used by some people  to achieve the “manor house” look in their homes. The casing also has a feel that reminds me of aluminium even though it is plastic.

User Interface

Pattern detail on HP Envy lid

Pattern detail on HP Envy lid

The keyboard has a “chiclet”-style layout which may not appeal to touch-typists and the keys don’t have a “deep throw” that most PC users are used to. Therefore, it will take some time getting used to. This may be an attempt to mimic the Apple MacBook Pro’s keyboard. You also will need to use the Fn key to gain access to the function keys, otherwise these keyare used for managing functions like sound volume, display brightness and media-player controls.

The trackpad looks just like the MacBook Pro’s trackpad, with the buttons being as though they are part of the trackpad rather than as separately distinct buttons. Here, you would use tne area on each side of a white marker on the bottom of the trackpad to select your options.

Processor and RAM

The computer works on an Intel Core i7 processor and is loaded with 8Mb RAM, which would allow for a high level of performance. This should be considered enough for the kind of performance expected from a deluxe machine.

Secondary storage

The Envy has a 640Gb hard disk that is split between 3 partitions – a 580Gb boot partition that is used for programs and data, a 14.5Gb recovery partition and a 99 Mb HP TOOLS partition for HP’s own software.

For removeable storage, there is an integrated SDHC card reader on the front edge of the machine as well as an external tray-load DVD burner that is connected via the USB ports. The external DVD burner, which is finished in a similar manner to the Envy, also has an integrated 2-port USB hub.


The Envy has a 15” widescreen LED-backlit LCD driven by an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5830 integrated-graphics subsystem. The memory used for this display is 1Gb of main system memory, which may affect system performance. This would be adequate for most tasks and had performed very well during the DVD run-down test with “Munich”.


The Envy also has “up-to-the-moment” connectivity abilities with 2 USB 3.0 sockets, ,1 eSATA socket, an HDMI video/audio output socket and a jack for connecting a microphone or headphones.,It doesn’t seem to work with the new 4-conductor plugs used as part of the OMTP specification for wired mobile headsets.

At the moment, HP has to supply operating software to “open up” the USB 3.0 functionality but Microsoft will rectify the problem by integrating this functionality when they release the next or subsequent service pack for Windows 7.


The Dr. Dre Beats Audio sound tuning primarily adds a 10-band graphic equaliser and balance control  to the sound controls, but the common lack of bass response is still there when you use the Envy’s integrated speakers – the small size and cramped space makes the job harder.

HP Envy alongside B&O headphones

HP Envy alongside some premium B&O headphones

This sound tuning is best enjoyed with good sound equipment or a pair of good headphones in the order of AKG, Bang & Olufsen, Bose, or Sennheiser. Infact the sound comes through clearly with my B&O Form 2 headphones that I am using with this laptop and I would recommend these headphones as befitting the luxury style of this computer.

It may be worth noting that the Beats Audio tuning won’t affect the HDMI digital-audio output path mainly because the device that is used to reproduce the sound will be the control point for the sound output and usually offer better sound reproduction.

Operation Issues

I had run a “DVD-rundown” test which measures battery runtime when the computer is playing a DVD. This test has the graphics subsystem constantly working as it shows the movie and als runs the DVD player constantly. Here, I was playing Stephen Spielberg’s “Munich” and had noticed that whether the wireless functionality was on or off, the computer couldn’t make it through the movie. This may also be because of a smaller battery pack built in to this computer and the fact that the DVD is played on an external DVD drive.

Sometimes the “throw-in” software that comes with a name-brand computer may be described as “crapware” can be of high calibre. One example is the MediaSmart Music Player, which behaves properly with UPnP MediaServer setups. Here, it allows you to navigate the MediaServer’s content tree in the same way as you would navigate it using a DLNA device’s user interface.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

A major limitation with the Envy’s “thin-and-light” chassis design is that it is simply “cramped inside”. This limits proper cooling which leads to the machine becoming hot after a significant time of use. It also leads to the “Beats Audio” sound-reproduction tuning being off the mark because there isn’t enough room for the bass frequencies to resonate.

What HP could do to “build-out” the Envy deluxe notebook range is provide a larger “mainstream-style” notebook computer with integrated direct-load optical drive (preferably Blu-Ray) and larger battery in to the Envy series in order to set itself up with a worthy competitor to the Apple Macbook Pro computer. The suggested machine would have the same styling and Beats Audio sound-tuning as this machine and could support a larger screen.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would place the Envy towards people who are wanting the look of one of the “thin and light” Apple MacBook Air computers but want to have something cheaper or stay on a “standards-based” computer operating environment.

Women may like this computer because of its emphasis on aesthetics, especially if they are enamoured by the “old-class” manor-house styling. The “thin-and-light” chassis may not fit in to a handbag but would fit well in a small briefcase or large shoulder bag.

Functionally, I would still class it as an all-rounder for most data-intensive applications. Some multimedia applications may require the computer to be on an external power source. The Beats Audio sound tuning would be justified when used with external sound equipment or good-quality headphones.