The Envy line up adds two new models to its range in the form of the 14-inch Envy 4 and the 15.6-inch Envy 6. Both models feature the same design, with the Envy 4 using a slightly smaller form factor to go along with the smaller screen. These models will likely form the backbone of HP's Ultrabook range in 2012 with a wide variety of SKUs to cover all demands, ranging from low-end models starting at USD$699 all the way up to premium models with discrete GPUs.
HP introduced a new term to the tech industry today with the unveiling of the HP Envy 4 and 6 Sleekbook. No need to be confused though, essentially a Sleekbook is just a thin and light notebook PC that doesn't qualify for Intel's Ultrabook specifications. For now, that just refers to internal components as both the Envy 4 and 6 Sleekbook and Ultrabook will be using the same base design, although we're told that HP may in the future make Sleekbooks using lower-cost materials such as plastic.
Overseas, many HP Sleekbooks will be fitted with AMD A6 or A10 processors, however, for Asia-Pacific, we're told that all Sleekbooks (and of course Ultrabooks) will be using the same low-voltage Intel processors.
We had a chance to take a look at the Envy 6 Ultrabook, which has a weight of 1.79kg and measures about 19mm thick. Specs on the model we were looking at weren't retail finalized, but for now, we saw a core i5 Ivy Bridge processor, 4GB RAM and a 500GB HD with 32GB SSD.
Our model was using integrated Intel HD4000 graphics, but we're told that models with discrete AMD Radeon HD 7600M GPUs will also be available. Unfortunately, all SKUs will be using the same 1366x768 resolution screen, which was just about passable on the 14-inch Envy 4, but looked rather poor on the 15.6-inch Envy 6.
We were surprised that the supposedly 'premium' Envy range opted for such a low resolution on their 15.6-inch display and fortunately we had a chance to ask Kevin Frost, HP's Vice President of Consumer Notebooks, as to why 1366x768 is now the only resolution available on their new Ultrabook range, especially considering that their previous generation Envy 14 Spectre was available in 1600x900 resolution.
Frost answered, "Many consumers just don’t want to pay the premium for higher resolution screens but we do understand the desire for them. For our current range, we’re trying to make our Ultrabooks as accessible as possible, so that’s why you’ll see the HD 1366x768 display. However, in future, in fact, by Holiday season this year, we will definitely be introducing full HD Ultrabooks, so you’ll have the option to choose between both HD and full HD."
Frost refused to comment on whether the upcoming full HD Ultrabooks would be updated versions of the existing range or completely new models altogether.
For now, with the current batch of Envy Ultrabooks, it will be interesting to see how well they fare, especially when faced with competition that already boasts higher resolution screens such as ASUS's Zenbook series (and of course, Apple's MacBook Air).
Both Envy 4 and 6 come in two colors, either a black brushed aluminum lid with matching keyboard and red soft-touch plastic/glass composite base, or a black lid with silver keyboard and a black soft-touch base, again made of the same plastic/glass composite. Both look fairly stylish, although we much preferred the black keyboard with red base version, which looks more interesting. The red base is particularly slick with the Beats branding.
In terms of ports, both Envy 4 and 6 feature two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, an HDMI port, an RJ-45 port, and a multi-card reader.
Like the Spectre XT, the Envy 6 boasts a nice, oversized track pad that looks to be larger than 11cm in length. The track pad is finished with a circular brushed metal finish that looks very similar to the finish used by ASUS on their Zenbooks. While the track pad doesn't seem to be glass, it is very smooth and has a unique feel to it. In our quick test session, it felt comfortable to use and gesture recognition seems much improved from HP's previous efforts - two finger scroll worked surprisingly well at least.
As mentioned above, Beats audio can be found on both Envy 4 and Envy 6 models, with both Sleekbook and Ultrabook designations packing a 4.1 speaker setup, with a hidden subwoofer concealed in the base. It was a bit too loud on the show floor to pick out the bass qualities of the Envy 6's sound system, but we're impressed that HP was able to cram a subwoofer into a relatively thin design. Whether it's actually any good or not will have to wait till our full review.
The Envy 4 and 6 line will be available in Singapore from the end of May, with prices starting at USD$699. Like the Spectre XT, a business oriented 'Pro' version, with additional enterprise options such as Windows 7 Professional and a TPM security chip will also be available.