HP ENVY 6 Sleekbook Review; AMD's Mobile Trinity APU Arrives
Intel’s Ultrabooks currently dominate the Windows-based ultra portable notebook market, but AMD now has their own range of competing products that have been built around the new Trinity architecture. While there are several new notebook series which have taken up the AMD torch, HP’s new Envy 6 Sleekbook is among the most popular due to its affordable price and wide ranging feature set.
Currently, thin and light are two must have items for most notebooks due to today’s on-the-go yet connected lifestyle. No one wants to be lugging around a seven pound laptop in their backpacks, nor do we want the dubious reputation of pulling out a thick and ugly slab at the local Starbucks. Tablets and so-called “superphones” may have taken over in some areas but the good old fashioned notebook has gradually evolved into something infinitely more adaptable. Intel Ultrabooks are evangelized for exactly these situations but they typically go for about a thousand bucks. Students and most other end users typically don’t want to invest this kind of money in a single device so AMD and HP came up with an alternative called the Sleekbook. While the name may not be sexy, the price for the Envy 6 is very, very tempting: it starts at just $599.
Currently HP’s 15.6” Envy 6 comes in a number of different configurations, running from $599 to $799 but every one of them is equipped with some form of AMD Trinity processor. Our $700 configuration came with a low voltage dual core AMD A6-4455M which certainly isn’t the fastest processor around but 8GB of memory should ensure that bottlenecks are kept to a minimum. In addition, the A6-4455M’s only requires around 17W to operate which should ensure excellent life from the Envy 6’s 4-cell 60 WHr battery pack.
AMD is quick to point out that the Trinity architecture shouldn’t be considered a simple processor since it incorporates a graphics core which can improve overall system performance. In the past GPUs have been tied at the hip to, HD decoding and other forms of entertainment but AMD’s “Accelerated Processing Units” can leverage both the CPU and GPU for increased data throughput in everyday applications. Without the inclusion of a HD 7500G graphics core, the A6-4455M within this notebook would have a hard time standing out from the Intel competition.
Storage options have been severely curtailed in an effort to keep pricing down and as a result, a 500GB hard drive operating at a pedestrian 5400RPM is included. We do have some concerns that the decision to forego a simple cache drive could seriously hurt the Envy 6’s overall responsiveness when compared against Ultrabooks. However, an expensive stand-alone SSD was simply out of the question due to the cost involved.
The warranty included with the Envy 6 is rather basic at a single year but HP’s Concierge customer service is still among the best in this industry. Additional upgrades are available if the Sleekbook is purchased directly through HP’s site.
HP’s Envy 6 Sleekbook may cost less than $800 but it is surprisingly well built. We typically associate low prices with corner cutting but this is actually one of the best-built notebooks we’ve come across this year. Instead of a sea of plastic and faux metal HP has used a hybrid aluminum material with a brushed black finish for the Envy 6’s topside and the effect is spectacular. Now, it may attract fingerprints quite quickly but the aluminum has been coated in a clear matte lacquer that effectively repels scratches while ensuring the Sleekbook remains easy to clean.
Despite the excess of aluminum and the relatively wide chassis necessary for a 15.6” screen, the 4.5lb Envy 6 discards the heft normally associated with larger notebooks. On-the-go users will also appreciate its mere ľ” thickness.
The inner areas of HP’s Envy 6 very much follow the same design direction as the outside with a tight fitting aluminum chassis that looks and feels great. The only hint of plastic is around the slightly inset keyboard but even here the seams between materials are literally nonexistent.
Directly above the keyboard is a slim strip of plastic which acts as a sound bar for the Envy’s two built-in Beats Audio certified speakers and also houses an oblong power button. Like every other piece on this notebook it is well integrated into the aluminum chassis.
Some have complained about the Envy 6’s hinges creaking from time to time but throughout our 4 weeks of continual testing, we didn’t have any issues. The hinges on our model proved to be durable and securely held the screen in place.
Speaking of the Envy 6’s 15.6” screen, it uses a glossy coating which will cause your eyes fits if used outside or in other well lit environments. When used in the Detroit airport for example, we had to increase its brightness in order to compensate for the reflections and that in turn killed this notebook’s otherwise phenomenal battery life.
The screen is housed within a highly reflective bezel which also incorporates the Envy’s TrueVision HD webcam. This glossy finish certainly isn’t an optimal solution but it will stand out on most retailers’ shelves.
This notebook’s thin side profiles house an impressive connector selection with a single USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 connectors, a full sized HDMI 1.4 output, a multi card reader and a LAN jack. Unfortunately, the LAN jack uses a flap which maintains the chassis’ overall sleek look and we’re slightly concerns about its durability since it uses plastic hinges. There’s also a headphone jack and microphone input.
Unlike some of their competitors, HP has decided to place the power connector in a sensible location, on the right-hand side of the Envy 6, making it easily accessible.
HP’s use of a bold red finish for the Envy 6’s underside may turn off some potential buyers but it has been coated in a soft-touch finish that protects against scratches while also dispersing heat.
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