Electronics
HP Envy Touchsmart M6 Laptop Review
HP Envy (1)

Image courtesy of AMD.

As a network administrator, I buy a lot of computers. HP is always at the top of my preferred list when it comes to laptops, because I’ve had great experiences with their durability and longevity (and considering I’m in the construction industry, that says a lot). The sleek design and 15.6-inch HD bright-view LED-backlit touchscreen feature is what drew me to the Envy Touchsmart.

From the moment I turned it on, I was impressed with the speed that I was experiencing. On average it took 4 seconds to boot up to the login screen and when I was ready to shut it down for the night, it took 19 seconds on average to fully power down.

Getting down to the basics, the HP Envy M6 features an AMD A10-5745 M processor with a Radeon HD graphics card and operates at 2.10 GHz. It also has 6GB of memory (but can be maxed out at 16GB) and the 64-bit Windows 8.1 operating system. The wireless card inside operates on 802.11 b/g/n with Bluetooth capability. I’ve been told that the graphics card does not have dedicated memory, and while that might be bad for some, I didn’t notice any lack of performance because of it.

This particular model does not come with a CD-ROM drive, but because everything I need is either downloadable or loaded on a flash drive, I’m not missing it. In place of the CD-ROM drive, the Envy has one HDMI port, (2) USB 2.0 ports and (1) USB 3.0 port, an SD card reader, and an Ethernet port.

How Does It Compare?

Taking some time to check on the empire \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

Taking some time to check on the empire. Image: Dakster Sullivan.

I compared the HP Envy M6 to two other laptops online: the Toshiba Satellite P55T-A5116 and the Lenovo IdeaPad U430. Toshiba is another one of my favorite brands, but it came in at $100 more than the HP Envy, with the only differences being in memory (8GB) and processor (Intel Core i5). After some reading on various CPU websites, I learned that while the Intel chip gets higher scores for some things, the AMD still wins out because it has more advantages than the Intel chip, including its larger number of cores to tackle multiple processes at once.

Lenovo was the closest in price to the HP Envy ($659.99), but it lacked in hard drive space (500GB compared to 750GB in the HP) and still cost more. The biggest Achilles heel on the Lenovo is that you can’t expand the memory on that particular model. At least with the Envy, if you have a need for more memory, it’s pretty simple to install.

Something that makes the HP Envy stand out above the competition is the Beats audio system and AMD Radeon graphics card.

No other laptop brand has Beats technology, so if you are looking for great sound out of your laptop, this is one you need to be considering with its audio dual speaker and subwoofer sound system. When it comes to sound on a laptop, neither my Asus nor my Sony Vaio could hold a candle to the quality that the HP Envy dishes out.

For the graphically inclined, you will be happy to hear that the HP Envy comes with a dedicated graphics card. That basically means that it doesn’t share its memory power with the rest of the computer and it’s less likely to cause your graphics to bog down your computer. After talking with a couple of gamer geeks, they recommended this laptop for anyone who would like a less expensive, but still reliable, gaming laptop.

To test that theory out, I downloaded two games: Star Wars: The Old Republic and Disney Infinity. Disney Infinity was the easiest to play and I had no problem with the graphics. Star Wars: The Old Republic, on the other hand, was a bit more of a challenge. I could see the graphics didn’t want to play 100-percent nice, but that could also have been my internet connection. After looking at the CPU usage of both games, I noticed they jumped between 10 and 30 percent.

Included Software: The Yay and the Nay

Now normally, I would remove all the extra programs on a PC when setting it up. This time around, I decided to play with a few and see if they were worth keeping.

The first one I played with was the AMD Face Login application. This program allows you to set up your computer for facial recognition login. Translation: It takes a picture of you and instead of logging in with a password, it recognizes you with the webcam and logs you in instantly. This made logging in much simpler when I wanted to get down to work. As far as the login speed though, if I got my password right on the first shot, it only took 4 seconds for me to login verses the 8 seconds with the facial recognition.

Another feature of the AMD facial recognition is the ability to set it to lock the computer if it doesn’t see you in the webcam for a certain amount of time. This is cool if you walk away from your computer a lot and forget to log off or lock your keys.

The next program I played with was the AMD Gesture Control. The best way to describe this program is that it’s like an XBox Kinect system on your laptop. With the flick of your hand, you can scroll up or down, or open files. This one likes to lock up on me, so I can’t say that I’m that impressed. When it was working, it was neat, but since I don’t like random things running in the background, it’s not something I would run all the time.

YouCam is a fun program that uses the webcam to either take pictures or record video. The fun part comes in with the special features that allow you to draw on the screen, change the frames, and add other special effects to the video/image. My son and I had a little fun with this the first night, and I can see this as an easier way to do video posts in the future.

The program I was most excited to see included was Dragon Naturally Speaking 12, a voice recognition program that allows you to talk to the computer and operate it without touching the keyboard.

This paragraph was “typed” using the Dragon natural speaking program. It didn’t take me long to get used to it, and overall it was a lot of fun to play with. The only downside to this is if you have a loud household and don’t have a quiet place to go to dictate to the computer.

At the time this paragraph was “written”, I had the original 1980’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie playing on my TV and Dragon was only picking up my voice and not Shredder’s dominating voice. As I’m talking, I notice that it tries to pick up Shredder’s voice but when it realizes it’s not mine it disregards and does not put what he’s saying in this text.

An unexpected surprise was a free 50GB lifetime subscription to Box cloud storage. The ironic thing is that the HP Envy comes with Windows 8.1 installed and the Box installation gave me a hard time because of Dot Net-framework 3.5. I found a work-around that helped me get it installed, though. The trick is downloading the file manually and then going into group policy and command prompt to get it to install correctly. You only need this trick if you plan on installing Box on another Windows 8.1 device (like your home computer). 

Battery Life

Having fun with the camera app! \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

Having fun with the camera app! Image: Dakster Sullivan.

I’d like to start off by telling you that I never turn off my laptop unless I’m on a trip and the flight attendant tells me I have to. Otherwise, I keep it turned on and unplugged until the battery starts yelling “Danger! Danger!!”—and even then, I wait until it hits 15 percent or less before I plug it in. With that said, the other day I let it get down to 15 percent and then I plugged it in and waited to see how long it would charge.

With the screen on the entire time, it took approximately 2 hours to go from 15 to 100 percent.  As for how long the battery has lasted me, I turned it on and used it for a couple of hours, then shut the screen (left the laptop on), and went back and forth with it for three days before having to plugging it back in. I only used it for a few hours each time I woke it up during those three days.

In my opinion, the battery life fits my needs and I’m very happy with how quickly it charges.

Pros and Cons

Cons:

1. If you use the touchscreen feature, your screen will get dirty pretty quickly, so keep a bottle of screen cleaner handy.

2. The screen leaves something to be desired in terms of glare. You can buy an anti-glare screen to help with this, but that will also keep you from using the touchscreen feature.

3. I wish the webcam had a timer function, so you could take a picture/video without it being obvious that you’re messing with the keyboard to do it. A “photo booth”-like app addition would also be neat.

4. The gesture feature is cool to play with once, but after that, it’s not very useful on a day-to-day basis.

5. From an IT standpoint, installing memory or replacing the hard drive takes a bit more effort than I’m used to, because you have to remove the entire bottom of the laptop to get to anything.

Pros:

HP Envy \ Image courtesy of AMD

HP Envy. Image courtesy of AMD.

1. The HP Envy has amazing sound and I couldn’t be happier with the graphics (my comics look awesome).

2. It’s just the right size to carry with me to work, the library, or a friend’s house.

3. I love the touchscreen feature and use it so much, when I return to work, I catch myself wanting to touch the screen instead of using the mouse.

4. The inclusion of both Dragon Naturally Speaking ($60 value) and a lifetime 50GB subscription to Box cloud storage (around $60 per year value) is a major plus for me because they are both services I will use.

5. The hard drive space and the memory are just right for my needs without going to overboard. If I feel the need for more memory in the future, I have the knowledge to install it myself.

Summary

In a typical day on my laptop, I’m on Manga Studio 5 and Photoshop Elements, surfing the internet, checking my email, or reading my comic books on ComiXolgy. The laptop handled these functions very well and performed very quickly when my Wi-Fi at home was cooperating. To my surprise, the included software was actually useful for once and I can see myself using it quite often.

Overall, this laptop is a “Swiss Army laptop”  in the sense that you can play games, work on some Photoshop, dictate a blog post, stream movies, listen to music, or just relax during those moments when things aren’t so crazy.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Dak

Dakster Sullivan is an all-around technology and comic book geek. When she's not at the office being the Network Administrator, she's hanging out with her Minecraft obsessed 8-year old son and magician husband. On the weekends, she enjoys cosplaying for charity with the 501st and Rebel Legion costuming groups. Check her out on Twitter @Dak903

1 Comments
  1. Pete O.

    Great review! I recently purchased this computer and I think you summed it up nicely for anyone looking to take the jump on it. This was my first HP, I’d always been an Asus person, and although I had heard both good and bad about the brand this particular product line seems to have had a lot of care and thought put into it. The build quality and performance are both excellent, something about the keyboard just feels right (it’s cool that it’s lighted, too) and although the metal touchpad felt odd at first, after using it for about a week I got a feel for its sensitivity and now it’s second nature to me.

    This computer is highly recommended by me as well.

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