HP Envy TouchSmart 15 review

Well-judged blend of quality, price and features

HP Envy Touchsmart 15

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Envy laptops of the past were aptly named in part for the power they packed into small cases. The TouchSmart 15-j004ea is built to that principle. It may not be the smallest laptop in the world, but you can't argue with its specs.

The processor is an Intel Core i7-4700MQ, which means it's a quad-core chip running at 2.4GHz, capable of boosting itself to 3.4GHz using Intel's Turbo Boost technology. It also features Hyper-Threading, meaning that it can act as eight virtual cores.

The 4700QM is from Intel's latest generation of CPUs, named Haswell, meaning that it's much less battery-hungry than an equivalent processor would have been in the past.

Being quad-core, and from Intel's newest and greatest line-up, the processor is as good a statement as any for the purpose of this machine. For most home users it's simply overkill, but for gamers, video editors and other intensive users, it offers lots of horsepower. It's not the highest-end chip you can get in a laptop; but it's not all that far off, and is great for the price.

Room to manoeuvre

That CPU grunt is backed up with 16GB of RAM, which is a rare thing to see in laptops, especially in ones that can be found for under £1,000. It gives the 64-bit Windows 8 vast quantities of headroom, especially for photo or video editing. It's no coincidence that HP pre-loaded CyberLink PowerDirector and PhotoDirector on it.

The GPU is similarly impressive. An Nvidia GeForce GT 740M chip provides the graphics power, packing in 2GB of dedicated video RAM. It's based on Nvidia's Kepler technology, meaning that, like the CPU, it's latest-generation stuff. That said, also like the CPU, it's not right at the top end. It uses GDDR3 memory instead of the faster GDDR5, and is intended as a fairly mid-range laptop gaming card in Nvidia's range.

However, with integrated graphics from Intel currently being what you're most likely to find in new laptops, it's a pretty huge boost to have this graphics card. It's easily capable of playing the latest games, just not at the higher settings. It'll also provide a good boost for graphics-heavy programs, again including image or video editing.

HP Envy TouchSmart 15

The 1080p screen is also nice to see for both creative and document work. It gives a big desktop working space, as well as plenty of detail.

The 1TB drive is the one area where we feel a little bit disappointed. The size is excellent, of course, but it's a standard 5,400 RPM laptop drive, and it isn't paired with an SSD to offer faster boot and wake times. Basically, with all of these fast components around, the hard drive may well hold back the TouchSmart 15 from being quite as snappy as it could be.

At least, if you end up adding more storage, you've got four fast USB 3.0 ports (two on each side). For video out, there's an HDMI port, as well as an Ethernet port, for working in an office or hotel. There's also an SD card slot and a headphone jack.

There's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, of course, as well as a webcam with a dual-array microphone, for more accurate audio capture.