Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Is It Time for a New Computer? HP ENVY TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 Review!

A Broken Laptop I've Dubbed "The Matrix"!
I own 4 laptops, all broken in different ways.  There's the computer that the kids snapped off all the keys to make “alphabet soup”, one with spotty wifi connection, the antique that’s incompatible with today’s technologies, and the one I’ve dubbed “The Matrix” due to the strings of binary code it displays.  But the plain truth is 4 broken computers put together still do NOT equate with 1 working computer!

Having attended the Windows 8 party in Toronto this October, I was well-acquainted with the HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 and wanted one of my own.  And I even put it on my Christmas wishlist.  This Ultrabook is the marriage of a quick laptop and an intuitive touchscreen.  Add to it the new interface of Windows 8, and you have a GREAT computer. 

Some awesome specs include: 3rd generation Intel Core i5-3317U Processor (1.7 GHz), 500GB Hard Drive, 8192MB DDR3 SDRAM, Hard Drive Acceleration Cache (32GB Solid-State Drive Cache), Windows 8, 14.0" Diagonal HD BrightView LED Display, WLAN & Bluetooth and beats audio.  The BrightView LED means an excellent picture when watching movies on the laptop!  And the beats audio system equates with a terrific sound for all your music and audio tracks!
Trying Out the  HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 at the Windows 8 Party!
When the HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 arrived at my front door, I was surprised by how slim the box was!  (Yes, I got my most-needed item on my Holiday wishlish!)  The box it came in was only as wide as a dollar bill, which made me realize that the laptop inside the box was extremely slim (I had not measured it at the Windows 8 launch party, of course)!  
The Slim Box of the HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4
I took the laptop out of the box and measured it: only 2 cm, vs. 4 cm for my husband's old HP EliteBook work computer!  The new HP laptop is literally half the thickness of it's distant cousin!  Would you believe that its thickness is just bigger than a nickel, or just smaller than a quarter!
Just 2 cms! Bigger Than a Nickel, Smaller Than a Quarter!
 
(HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4)
Hey, Slim!

HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4: Half the Thickness
 of the old HP EliteBook!
After I measured the laptop, I plugged in the unit and it literally took me minutes before it was all set up and ready for me.  This is the true meaning of "plug and play" and I'm sure what HP intended for its users.  I looked it over and liked that it was two toned: the top was brushed black steel, and the bottom a brushed silver.  

I also took inventory and counted: 2 internal microphones, a webcam light and webcam, touchpad light, HP Triple Bass Reflex Subwoofer, 2 speakers, 1 RJ-45 network jack, 1 HDMI port, 2 USB ports, 1 security cable slot, 1 audio-in (microphone) jack, 1 audio-out (headphone) jack, 1 USB charging port and of course the power connector slot (well, could there not be one)!  I also took note that they was no optical drive (dvd/cd rom drive), which was great (after all, who uses these anymore)!

I'm all about features when it comes to my laptop.  As I use my computer mostly for writing and social media, the keyboard has to work well for me.  For example, I love the low profile keys on the HP Envy Ultrabook keyboard--and that you can choose to have the keyboard light up when working in dim light.  It only took me a few times trying to refresh using hotkey f5 to realize that this turns on and off the illumination feature!  To type using the touch screen interface, simply touch the "keyboard" icon at the bottom right of the screen, and you can type directly into the virtual keyboard that appears on the screen (similar to a tablet)!    
Windows 8 Showing the New "Tile" Interface

To make my opinion known, I love how Windows 8 interfaces with the HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4.  The colorful squares and rectangles shown in the photo above, allow the user to customize the Start area with applications and websites that are the most commonly used.  This is so much faster than bookmarking!  As soon as I got started, I pinned Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft Outlook, My Blog, Gmail and Microsoft Word all to my start menu.  Windows 8 uses "live tiles" to show current news and events, even if you are not visiting websites online.  It is a very handy way to stay in the know, without actively seeking news. 

Preloaded Into Windows 8 Start Menu

Windows 8 also has some preloaded websites in the Windows 8 menu, which the user is able to keep pinned (or unpinned).  Some of these preloads include Kindle, Ebay, Netflix and lots of XBox functionality (not all shown in the above photo)!  I do like that visual search engine Bing is used in Windows 8, and its horizontal layout is a refreshing change to the usual chronological top to bottom view.  I also like its pictorial layout, rather than text only format.

The HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 integrated touchpad mouse is generous in size, measuring about 2.5" H x 4" W, allowing excellent control of the laptop.  Of interest, Windows 8 commands are built into the touchpad, and by learning specific swipes and gestures, the user can control Windows 8 using the touchpad.  

As I tend to rest my hand on the touchpad while I am typing, I turn off this feature while working on written documents.  (It can be turned off simply by touching the rectangle at the top left of the touchpad.)  Otherwise, the window I am working on may temporarily disappear and a new one will open.  Or the text I am working on will be resized--or my view will zoom in or out.  This will take some more practice on my part using it while in active writing mode, but I do like the built-in touchpad shortcuts.


In terms of the touchscreen integration into the laptop, I love it!  For me, it is all about choices and how I feel like using my laptop at the moment--or for a specific task.  For example, I prefer using the touchscreen when browsing the internet, and not for written tasks.  I will watch videos on YouTube using the touchscreen, or search the internet for photos and images.   I do like that the Windows keyboard icon on the keyboard allows you to switch between both "worlds" (the Windows 8 Start Menu World, and the familiar Desktop World)--and that Microsoft 8 has a preloaded Desktop tile in case the desktop goes astray!  An article about Windows 8 is forthcoming, so I'll save that for another day. 

In sum, I really love my new HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 and would recommend it if you are considering a new laptop this Holiday season.  For just under $1000 Cdn, it is definitely a great value for what you get!

Disclosure: HP products mentioned in this post were supplied by HP Canada.

Weigh in: Is it time for you to purchase a new computer?  What is the biggest flaw or concern with your current computer?

34 comments:

  1. I personally repair computers (for a school board) so I see a lot of what goes on. Heck -- I've actually just replaced a hard drive and am just setting it back up again for the admin (eating lunch right now).

    Biggest flaw on our current laptop (an HP) is the contact under the left mouse button is not so functional. They are not consumer replaceable and there's no where in town that I can pick up the switch to solder on to the board to replace the current on.

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  2. I am loving the new touch laptops and found myself drooling over many of the Windows 8 laptops at the new Microsoft store in Yorkdale Mall. This MacBook owner is actually starting to teeter back to the PC side of the fence.

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  3. It is definitely time to get a new laptop, my current one shows the lovely blue screen of death too often. I've been excited to see that touch screen laptops are out there, this is a great review - I think i'm adding this to my christmas list for ..me :)

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  4. "awesome specs: [...] No Optical Drive"

    Don't think that's a spec. That's sort of a lack of spec. :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Eric, I will jockey that point in with the no cd rom then!

      Jenna

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  5. wow so slick and shiny! love how skinny it is! I fear Windows 8 though! lol

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    1. Mom vs. the boys, absolutely nothing to fear! It is a system enhancement...your desktop lays beneath if you don't like it.

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  6. Wait, Wait, Wait, it has touch screen?! Plus a keyboard. How is it for fat fingers?

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    1. Kyla, the virtual keyboard is very generous: almost 1" x 3/4" each key! The regular laptop keyboard is a standard size.

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  7. Cool laptop. Where did you buy it from and how much?

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    1. Mr. D, thanks! It can be purchased from the HP Canada store for just under $1000. Here's the link: http://h20386.www2.hp.com/CanadaStore/Product.aspx?pdetail=P263647&lang=en-CA&jumpid=re_r552_ca/en/hho/psg/win8_C2K82UA/20121019

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  8. Great review. I just bought a new laptop (not an HP), but was seriously considering this one. Sounds like I may have made the wrong choice and now I'll have to wait for my kids to break my new laptop before I can get another one :( / :)

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    1. lifetakesover, my kids break everything...I understand the sentiment.

      Jenna

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  9. I totally am ENVIOUS. Looks like an amazing computer. I have an HP right now and it works just fine. But, I've been totally eyeing a touch capability for my next purchase.

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  10. I have an HP and love it. So awesome that you got to review a laptop. I'm jealous!

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    1. HP is the way to go, it has lots of great features. My husband's 12-year old work computer (EliteBook) also had some great features. My kids still like to turn on its little light that is a night time spotlight as you type.

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  11. That looks so amazing - a touch screen?! Serously?!

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    1. Multi-Testing Mommy, having a touchscreen with the computer is pretty neat. We already have a tablet and smartphones (with touch), but I like that the HP Envy gives you a choice to use one or the other (touch or traditional keyboard).

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  12. This sounds like a great laptop! Love how sleek it is and I'm so curious about Windows 8!! I've been hearing so many things about it :) I love all things touchscreen! And I love that you can use one or the other :)

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    1. Windows 8 really rocks, Brandi. It is really nothing like Windows 7...it is completely different entity! I just typed out my response on the touchscreen keyboard much faster than on my tablet. Bigger keypad and easier to type on an upright screen.

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  13. I am so jealous. I saw it in SCCTO! And loved it!

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    1. Ourfamilyworld, I'm pleased with HP Envy and would recommend it if you are looking for an ultrabook. There was very little learning curve, and because it set up quickly it did not interrupt my work routine.

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  14. I'm in desperate need. Mine broke down and now I just have my iMac. I need something that I can type on while watching tv lol.

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  15. I've looked at these computers and am beyond in love with them! They're an astounding computer. So light weight and just, awesome! We have Window's 8 on a few of our computers already and it definitely is a difficult one to learn. Been fiddling with now for over a month and still getting the hang of it.

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    1. Mommy Matter.com, I just treat the Start menu as a separate layer from the desktop layer. It really helps if you learn to use the keyboard shortcuts, so you can make the Start menu of "tiles" appear and disappear.

      Here's one tip: take your cursor and point it at the upper left corner of your screen. This allows you to quickly switch between screens. Another tip: use the windows icon key on the button left of the keyboard, and you can switch between layers.

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  16. Wow nice and slim!
    I've never used a lap top before. This looks nice and shiny and perfect!

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  17. It seems to have lots of nice features for the price point. I love the slim design too!

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  18. What an awesome laptop! Love how slim it is and that it has a touch screen. I love HP products. We have had a couple HP computers in the last few years.

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  19. I'd love to have a touch computer with windows 8, the design is flawless and smooth and I love you can customize how you want your dashboard built in.

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  20. My computer just dies and overheats. its awful!!

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  21. I sometimes suffer from the lovely blue screen of death on my laptop. I think its about time for a new one lol

    Anne Taylor

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  22. Looks like a great computer! I just recently got a new computer its a windows 8 it was a bit confusing at first but i got the hang of it the more I used it!~

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  23. I hate when that screen appears,i really need to invest

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