HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 review: fast, capable but heavy Windows 8 Ultrabook
At a Glance
HP ENVY TouchSmart Ultrabook 4
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The Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 is a decent performer with good features that lets you take advantage of Windows 8's touch capabilities, but it's also on the heavy side.
The HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 is a cleanly designed, good performing Windows 8 laptop with a nice array of ports and good input ergonomics. The only issue is weight--the digitizer for the touchscreen, support for it and the overall build quality adds quite a bit of heft to the unit which travels at 5.3 pounds with AC adapter. That's heavy for a laptop with only a 14-inch display.
Usability and features
If the weight doesn't bother you, there's a lot to like about the Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4. The keyboard is short-throw, but it types well. The touchpad is a one-piece rocking unit, and has a good overall feel, though the press to click function requires more than the usual amount of force. It's on the sensitive side when it comes to taps, but that's a matter of taste.
Our test unit shipped with an Intel Core i5-3317U CPU, 4GB of system memory, and integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics. The hard drive is a 500GB Seagate Slim with a 32GB Liteonit SSD for caching. All told a $875 configuration. You can lower that price by $75 by opting for a slower Core i3-3217U CPU, or up the price by $100/$150 for 8GB of memory in the form of 2 or 1 SODIMMs.
Our test unit managed a 57 on WorldBench 8 (not comparable to WorldBench 7) which is good, but not scintillating. That score is about 12% lower than the Dell XPS 12 Convertible, but the Dell also costs nearly $1,200.. Subjectively, you should have no problem with the feel of the unit, especially once when the SSD and Windows caching kick in. It boots rapidly and there's little lag at any point. Gaming frame rates were sometimes playable at the 14-inch display's native 1366 by 768 resolution, but lowering game detail or the resolution will be required for truly smooth game play. On the other hand, movies look great and the sound through headphones is top-notch thanks to the Beats audio--through the speakers, not so much. Battery life is a few minutes over 4 hours; not great, but adequate for most users. (The Dell XPS 12 managed 4:39 in our new, somewhat more rigorous Winbench 8 test.)
Any port in a storm
The Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 has a nice array of ports, including a cleverly designed 10/100 Ethernet port that expands when you push the cable in but stays within Ultrabook height specs when closed. There are also 2 USB 2.0 ports, a single USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, plus a SDHC memory card slot. Wi-Fi is 802.11 b/g/n and there's Bluetooth and WiDi onboard as well.
HP ships a somewhat cluttered Windows 8 software installation. On hand are Norton Internet Security, Microsoft Office, Kindle, Netflix, iHeart Radio, Fresh Paint, all of which are free or trials. There is also Cyberlink's YouCam for the HD Webcam as well as a number of useful HP utilities for backup, etc.
The chief issue, as mentioned, with the Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 is its weight. To be fair, HP is hardly alone--I've seen a number of Ultrabooks, including older, non-touch based systems come in at over four pounds. If the heft doesn't bother you, then the Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook is nicely priced, sturdy and all-around pleasant way to get the full Windows 8 touch experience.