Now that Windows 8 is here to stay, hybrid designs and touch screens will inevitably become a common sight on laptops. The first of these are just trickling into the PC Labs, and we’re still getting used to reaching out to touch the display on an otherwise standard laptop. One of the first laptops to get us out of our comfort zone is the HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100 . It may not have a flipping, folding display like the Dell XPS 12 , but it does bring touch functionality to the ultrabook category with a 14-inch touchscreen. We’ll probably be getting used to this for some time, but it’s hard to deny that the Envy 4 TouchSmart puts us a bit more at ease with the change than we expected to be—it offers all of the touch functionality needed for the full Windows 8 experience, but none of the awkwardness of the hybrid form-factor.
The distinguishing feature of the Envy 4 TouchSmart is the 14-inch touch screen, which adds the touch functionality needed to really take advantage of Windows 8. You won’t see any flipping screens or twisting hinges on the Envy 4 TouchSmart, however, because it’s not a hybrid, just a laptop. The only issue this causes is the need for better, firmer hinges on the display and lid. Because you’ll be poking and prodding the screen of this laptop, the hinges need to be able to stand firm against backward pressure. The hinges on the Envy 4 TouchSmart are alright, but there’s still a fair amount of wobbling whenever you tap or swipe. Designs that fold flat into a tablet don’t suffer from this sort of screen wobble, because the screen is backstopped by the rest of the laptop chassis. For the best implementation of touch, you’ll want something that can be used as a fold-flat tablet, like the Dell XPS 12 or the Sony VAIO Duo 11 (D11213CX) .
The Envy 4 TouchSmart has a brushed aluminum finish, ditching the black and red colors of the HP Envy 4-1043cl for a more conservative look. It’s also a bit thicker, despite carrying the ultrabook designation—Intel allows touch-enabled ultrabooks to be up to 23 millimeters thick in order to accommodate the thicker touch panel. It’s also a bit heavy, weighing 4.77 pounds. The non-touch HP Envy 4-1043cl weighed 3.86 pounds, and the Editors’ Choice Toshiba Portege Z935-P300 barely tipped the scales at 2.36 pounds.
You still get HP’s well-made chiclet keyboard, with backlit keys and a clickpad (HP’s Imagepad) covered with a subtle radial spin finish. We didn’t have any problems with the accuracy or responsiveness of the clickpad, but the texture won’t be to everyone’s liking, especially if they are more accustomed to glass-surface alternatives. Finally, as a member of HP’s Envy line-up, the laptop is also equipped with Beats Audio, providing crisp, clear sound through two stereo speakers and an integrated subwoofer.
On the hardware front, the HP Envy 4 TouchSmart is equipped with two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port with sleep-and-charge functionality, jacks for headphone and microphone, and a card reader (SD/MMC). HDMI output makes it easy to connect to an HDTV or monitor, but the Envy 4 is also equipped with WiDi, for wireless streaming through an adapter. A compact Ethernet port folds closed when not in use, 802.11n Wi-Fi gives you unfettered wireless access, and Bluetooth 4.0 lets you pair peripherals wirelessly. Internally, the Envy 4 TouchSmart has a 500GB hard drive, paired with a 32GB cache of flash memory for accelerated performance.
The standout feature of the Envy 4 TouchSmart, aside from its touch screen, is its operating system. Windows 8 has already gotten a lot of coverage on PCMag, but the new operating system goes out of its way to add real touch functionality to the familiar Windows environment. Adding to this upgraded operating system HP adds a handful of utilities and programs, many of which appear on the Start Screen. In addition to standard Windows 8 apps—like Mail, Calendar, Internet Explorer, Skype, and the Windows Store—HP includes apps for learning to use Windows 8, links to eBay and Netflix, and a selection of HP branded apps and utilities. Included in theses branded apps are HP Connected Music (powered by Meridian), HP Connected Backup (a cloud backup service), and HP Connected Photo (which expands on the old standby of HP SnapFish). HP covers the Envy 4 TouchSmart with a one-year warranty.
With the shift to Windows 8 and touch, the Envy 4 TouchSmart gets a bump in two directions—a bump up in speed from Windows 8, and down again, slowed by touch. On the plus side, Windows 8 is a lighter, faster operating system than Windows 7, which improves the overall speed and performance of a system. On the other hand, it’s slowed down a bit by touch, which adds to the processing load and shortens overall battery life due to a greater energy draw. In the case of the Envy 4 TouchSmart, when compared to similarly equipped systems, it comes up just a bit short in processing performance, slowed by a spinning hard drive and the extra demands of touch.
The Envy 4 TouchSmart is equipped with an Intel Core i5-3317U processor with 4GB of RAM. That’s the same processor found in the Toshiba Portege Z935-P300 and the majority of current 14-inch ultrabooks. Despite the similar hardware, the Envy 4 TouchSmart fell behind in both productivity and processor speed In PCMark 7, our productivity benchmark test, the Envy 4 TouchSmart scored 4,093 points, ahead of both the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 (3,570 points) and the HP Envy 4-1043cl (3,962 points), but behind the Toshiba Portege Z935-P300 (5,477). All three are equipped with the same model processor, yet the Envy 4 TouchSmart fell behind in our Cinebench processor speed test, scoring 1.93 points as opposed to the 2.39 points scored by Toshiba Z935 and the Lenovo U310. It’s a significant difference in performance, but not enough to make much impact in day-to-day use. but not enough to make a significant impact in day to day use. Where you may see some noticeable lag, however, is in multimedia tasks, like video and photo editing. In a 10-hour video rundown test, the Envy 4 TouchSmart lasted 5 hours 48 minutes, nearly 40 minutes longer than the Dell XPS 12 (5:09), which also has a touch screen.
The HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100 may lose step or two to other ultrabooks in terms of processing power and battery life, but it does have a little something special to make up the difference, namely Windows 8 and touch functionality. For some, that’s reason enough to opt for the Editors’ Choice Toshiba Portege Z935-P300, and skip Windows 8 entirely. For others, however, it’s a welcome change, and the HP Envy 4 TouchSmart is a capable laptop that offers touch without all of the complications seen in hybrid ultrabooks. For those who want a solid Windows 8 experience with touch, but without any tablet functionality, the HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100 is a solid ultrabook. For those who want to take touch a step further, however, you’ll want a hybrid, like the Dell XPS 12 or the Sony VAIO Duo 11.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS:
Check out the test scores for the HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100
Compare the HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100 with several other laptops side by side.
More laptop reviews:
|Processor Name||Intel Core i5-3317U|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Type||General Purpose, Ultraportable, Tablet, Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage, Ultrabook|
|Screen Size Type||Widescreen|
|Processor Speed||1.7 GHz|
|Primary Optical Drive||External|
|Screen Size||14 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||500 + 32 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc