12-20-2014 06:56 PM
First I had the line "I'm not a screen n@#z* but.." and it wouldn't let me post it, now it says it's too long, so heck with it. Here are some thoughts on the HP Envy M7, which is on sale in my neck of the woods right now.....
I'm a long time techy though I rarely buy a laptop sooner than every five years. I generally spend about five bills on one and replace or add a spare battery and upgrade the memory and/or drive and/or OS in the course of that five years and they stay pretty useable. I went looking for a new one in that price range and frankly they are all junk-ish of one sort or another for what I know is available affordably in 2014. So, this review is for a five bill laptop that just so happened to cost about twice that. That that however you wish..
Not many really, and several of them will no apply to an average end user.
No light for the num lock is sorta odd but not insurmountable. There is software to emulate a notification about it being on or off, or myself I just set windows to turn it on upon bootup.
The Beats audio is gimmicky. This laptop has decent speakers and a tiny little "sub"woofer in the lower casing that fills out the low end to an extent. It's louder and at least as good as my wifes 2012 MacBook Pro which has a similar setup. However, the Beats software is.. Weird.
It does help sometimes, but the consumer would have been far better served by basic, quality speakers and internal amplification with a good, quality, well sorted driver and EQ easily available with a few well vetted presets. I consider it a bit of an insult to our intelligence to stick a trendy name on there and some questionable software and tout it as a feature helping to justify the price. What's next, SkullCandy? The Slipknot edition? A Rolling Stones version with a reminder when to take one's medicine? Silly. The most direct complaint, and you can verify this is a common issue by searching the HP support forums and/or google, is the Beats software seems to utilize some volume nomilization that is not user configurable, and has the effect of making the volume move up and down while playing a given track/source.
It's quite annoying, there is not firm fix for it short of gutting the Beats software, and I suspect they made it this way to keep people from blowing the speakers. It's annoying if you are used to quality audio at all. You've been warned.
The stock 1tb HGST 5400rpm drive is slow. Amazingly slow.
I've had hard drives since they were miniscule in capacity, I've had them ever since. This one is exceedingly slow compared to it's peers in this day and age. I replaced mine with an SSD half the size and it's night and day. They really should have either sprung for a half size faster disk drive or a quarter size SSD and bundled some cloud storage with it. Something. The hard driver ran for FIVE HOURS STRAIGHT on first bootup trying to get Windows Update done and whatever else it was doing. I thought the activity light was malfunctioning. This is nuts in 2014.
12GB of ram is silly. 8gb is enough for most folks, and you get two matching 4gb sticks that way most often. Modern chipsets use what is called interleaving to more effectively (quickly) use two sticks of memory and it's always best if they match, I personally do not trust two mismatched sticks of memory, be them missmatched in brand or capacity, and especially not in both as these were.
I replaced mine with two matching cas9 8gb sticks and I'll never have to give another thought to available physical memory regarding either it's speed nor capacity. 12gb is silly. Do it right, or don't do it at all imo.
Touchscreen. I'll never use a touchscreen on a laptop. I have smartphones and tablets and that works just fine there. Not on a laptop. Gimicky again, or keeping up with the gimicky Joneses if you prefer. It's still annoying. And shiney. So very, useless for outdoors, shiney. Matte screens used to be the norm, and you can't tell me they are any more expensive to produce than shiney ones are. Annoying, but common.
First and foremost, turn off the far left and right Windows 8 control zones, then it acts like an overly wide standard Synaptics touch pad.
It's not great, I've surely used a ton better a looong time ago (progres?), but it's not bad once you take the time to tweak the settings to your usage and hand habits. My exceedingly affordable several year old Chromebook has a much nicer touchpad, which makes no sense.
Again, it's 2014. Come on HP, you guys been doing this for a looooong time. It also tends to go CLACK if you tap too hard for a double tap, and not the actual physical buttons integrated into the lower portion, the whole trackpad moves audibly.
Feels mighty cheap for the price.
It still has a pin type power plug just waiting for a kid or a dog to come running along and rip it out of the computer destroying the charging port. I can't fathom why this is still common place in 2014, and again, at this price point.
Serviceability: In the course of replacing the very slow hard drive and the oddball mismatched memory sticks, I had to completely disassemble this thing which was a huge pain in the posterior.
However it was possible with a certain base level of skill. The chassis is plastic with the exception of the palmrest/keyboard top portion which is very thin aluminum. Aluminum may give you apple-shaped shivers but it's really a dumb material for this sort of device and it's why so many big smartphone manufacturers have steadfastly stuck with plastic for so long despite public cries for something more "premium".
Well it's not premium. It's flimsy and weak, it dents and dings and bends and scratches. Removing this top soda-can metal cover it is brutally easy to bend the very edge of it in a nearly uncorrectable way(cosmetically). I did so before I noticed they had actually wasted the money on aluminum there. Crazy. I'm not a huge fan of Mac's either after servicing a bunch of them. Plastic was developed for a reason. Anyway, once you get the forty seven screws out and pry the top panel off without bending it into a taco and unhook the hair thin unbelievably fragile dozen or so ribbon cables, you can easily pull the entire motherboard out that houses the CPU, cooling fan, and GPU. Which is good, since they mounted it UPSIDE DOWN and you can't access either the RAM slots or the M.2 slot being that they couldn't be bothered to put access doors in the bottom of the chassis. That was a not-nice move and I take personal offence at it. So will you if you have to either replace memory/hard drive or pay someone else to do it.
Once you get the thing apart it's easy enough, I plan to keep an eye out for a quad core CPU motherboard later as well, easy upgrade I suspect.
Fairly upgradeable. As I mentioned if one can surmount the hurdle of getting the top plate off the base and unplug a ton of ribbon cables, the motherboard itself is accessible and replaceable, as is the RAM and disk drive/ssd. There is an M.2 slot but it's not PCIE, only SATA which is no faster than any other SATA SSD, but it does free up the 2.5 inch slot for a high capacity storage drive. There is some discussion about how to convince it to boot from an M.2 slot drive and have the 2.5 inch SATA drive accessible but I'm fairly sure it's possible. I didn't bother as I had a 500gig SSD handy and the currently available M.2 SATA drives are not impressive in speed or cost/size, but it's there for the future. Sorta. Except it's no better than mSATA really as it's just an SATA port tied to a different slot.
The onboard GPU is an 840M and capable of some light gaming with the i7 CPU, the latter being a dual core model and not especially fast but good enough, and quite low voltage. Battery life in general use seems to be 3-5 hours depending, replacement batteries are in the sixty dollar range online at the moment.
HP also has, and this is important long term, a very good support site listing specs and drivers, a pretty comprehensive service manual and a support forum with some very knowledgable people. That sort of thing is golden long term if one is a DIY type. You can learn what you need online to replace anything on or in this laptop, and most likely find the part numbers to hunt down the parts as well. That's a big win in my book and kudos to HP for that.
The screen isn't bad. It's 1080p, good dim to bright range, text is clear enough, colors good. I'm not a screen n@#z* as some are but it's acceptable imo. Shiney, but acceptable.
The i7-4510u CPU seems to be plenty strong for a laptop, even a full time use laptop. It's still decidedly low end by todays standards but it's good enough for the majority of use and I expect Windows 10 or whatever it is to run just peachy on here. As an aside, speaking as an AMD guy, my SSD operates significantly faster on an Intel chipset than a 990FX AMD desktop, that was pleasing to see. Drivers are readily available for everything save the audio, which is a bit of a hack with the Beats integration apparently.
Screen opens and closes well with no wobble, keyboard backlight is bright but not adjustable other than on/off, key presses are acceptable crisp though a bit short on travel for my taste. I am not a fan of the island or chick-lit style keyboards everyone seems to put in laptops these days at all. My desktop has cherry MX mechanical keys if that says anything, and my five year old Acer with a more standard keyboard types a lot nicer. I also don't understand why there is two inches of dead space to either side of the keyboard speaking of which, the laptop is huge, but the keyboard is just barely past the point of not being cramped. Makes no sense other than silly aesthetics maybe.
The trackpad works well enough once the weird side sections for Windows 8 are disabled.
That's about all that really stands out after a couple weeks of usage.
Not a bad laptop, compared to the $400ish crowd which is a bunch of junk for some reason. Has some definite issues but none of them are enough to make me return it and try to find something better, partly because I don't believe there is anything better in a 17" screen at this price. A very few changes could make this a really good laptop, a few more could make it great. I hope HP and other OEM developers search through the user forums online for direction when designing these things, all of this is well documented there. I spend 18hrs a day in front of a computer for work and I've been doing so for over a decade in addition to being an enthusiast. I am a big jaded and my expectations are a bit high, but any of the issues listed above should be able to be corroborated online via Google search.
12-22-2014 12:57 PM
you should also post your review directly to the product on the BB web site. More people would see it there who are considering that particular piece.
12-22-2014 10:51 PM
Can't you embed a video into reviews now?
10-01-2019 05:37 PM