The Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 is HP’s first Windows 8 notebook offering such features like an attractive design and a sleek touch-screen display. It does give solid performance and speedy boot times, but the battery life is below par and the keyboard could be better.
The HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 follows the same design of the Envy 4 (1030us) laptop, which is a really great thing. This new model has a black brushed aluminum finish on the lid with a chrome-colored HP logo in the corner. On the inside, it also has a brushed aluminum silver finish. The laptop measures 13.5 x 9.3 x 0.9-inches (wdh) and weighs 4.6-pounds, which is a little heavier than other similar laptops.
HP chose a matte black keyboard that is slightly recessed within the device. We found the island-style layout to provide good spacing and large keys, but the keys felt mushy. The backlighting isn’t the brightest out there, so that could also be improved too. The gray touchpad has a shiny chrome border this is also slightly recessed. It is nicely sized and has a very smooth surface to navigate. The bottom corners act as the left and right mouse buttons and gave a solid click when pressed.
The 14-inch display on the Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 has a 1366 x 768-pixel resolution and has wide viewing angles and good, all-around performance. The screen is quite glossy, so reflections were a problem and the display’s brightness could have been brighter.
The touch-screen element of the 14-inch display goes perfectly with the Windows 8 operating system. (Read our review of Windows 8). The screen felt very responsive but the sensitivity could have been better as we encountered some difficulties clicking on small objects on the screen accurately.
With regards to Windows 8, HP does pre-install a lot of apps onto the computer (and the Windows 8 Start Screen as a result). Because of this, the Start Screen is fairly cluttered with icons, so some housekeeping is probably in order when you first setup your system. Some of the apps that come pre-installed include Amazon Kindle, Netflix, eBay, IHeartRadio and many others.
The HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4’s selection of ports includes two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, HDMI-out, gigabit Ethernet, headphone and microphone jacks and an SD memory card reader. There is also 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity.
Our review unit had a third-generation Intel Core i5-3317U (1.7GHz) CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB 5400RPM hard drive, a 32GB mSSD cache drive and integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics. Our performance benchmark with PCMark 7 turned in a score of 4122, which is over 1000 higher than other similar Ultrabooks.
Real work performance was just as promising as the benchmark. The mSSD cache drive allowed Windows 8 to boot in about 12 seconds, which is much quicker than your typical laptop. We also had no troubles multi-tasking or streaming HD media. The integrated Intel graphics system limits your graphical abilities to simple games and HD videos, so heavy-duty 3D gaming is not possible with this laptop.
Battery lifetime with the HP Envy Ultrabook runs in at around 5 hours and 15 minutes, that’s virtually an hour short on the Ultrabook average.