|Introduction & Specifications|
The expression "better late than never" fits like a glove when talking about the recent trend towards 15.6-inch Ultrabooks. We fully appreciate that Intel and its hardware partners made a concerted effort to slim down the notebook without sacrificing performance (unlike the once popular netbook form factor), but limiting the segment to 14-inch displays (and smaller) felt like a step back in some ways.
Enter Hewlett-Packard's Envy Ultrabook 6t-1000 Series. The Envy Ultrabook signals a return to the 15.6-inch form factor for those who want a larger size display, but otherwise find themselves, well, envious of slimmer laptops. Now you can have your cake and eat it, too, or at least that's the idea.
We spec'd and ordered the 6t-1000 before Windows 8 hit, though if you're interested in Microsoft's touch-friendly operating system, HP will happily oblige with the slightly newer 6t-1100. The one we have for review runs Windows 7, but aside from the OS, they're the exact same Ultrabook, including the non-touch display.
Speaking of which, does a 15.6-inch LCD panel ruin the Ultrabook experience, or does it enhance it? And is the Envy 6t-1000 Series worth your consideration? Glad you asked; and we're happy to give you the full rundown...
The base price for the Envy Ultrabook 6t-1000 is $799.99; the reason ours is priced higher is because we added an external DVD burner to the mix and doubled the RAM from 4GB to 8GB. It comes standard with a 3rd Generation Intel Core i5 3317U processor and integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. If you're a gamer or simply need more GPU horsepower, you can step up to a discrete AMD Radeon HD 7670M chip for $75.
As configured, our setup sports the same CPU and storage configuration as the Dell Inspiron 14z we reviewed in July. Dell made great use of the 32GB mSATA solid state drive (SSD), which picked up the performance slack left by the 5400 RPM hard drive. How does HP's system compare? We'll toss in some comparison benchmarks in just a moment, but first let's have a look at the total package.
|Software & First Boot|
It's tough going back to a mechanical hard drive after you've experienced the snappy performance of an SSD, but if you're not ready to make the leap cost-wise, shop for a system that supplements the HDD with an mSATA SSD. it makes all the different in the world. We saw it with Dell's Inspiron 14z and here again with HP's Envy Ultrabook 6t-1000. Even with the bloat that comes pre-installed (more on that in a moment), our system booted up in 33 seconds and shutdown in 11 seconds. Those are good figures for a Windows 7 rig running a relatively pokey 5400 RPM hard drive.
Once you've booted into Windows for the first time, you'll want to spend some time assessing which bundled utilities you might use and which ones are destined for the virtual dumpster. HP didn't go completely crazy loading up the 6t-1000 with bloatware, but it's far from a clean desktop. In addition to various bits of junk (like the eBay link), HP pre-loaded several of its own software programs and utilities. The real time-suck comes from researching what each one does.
None of the utilities are particularly critical to the system's core functionality, though some provide a user-friendly frontend for less experienced users to dive into some of Windows deeper settings. The HP Security Assistant, for example, walks users through some of Windows built-in security features and also helps backup system files.
|Design & Layout|
Big, but not bulky, the HP Envy Ultrabook 6t-1000 with its 15.6-inch display checks in at 4.75 pounds. It measures 14.72 inches by 9.95 inches by 0.78 inches, which is bigger and heavier than Ultrabook models with smaller screens, but by no means is this thing a tank.
HP offers the 6t-1000/1100 in "Midnight Black" or "Natural Silver," the latter of which carriers a $25 pricing premium. We opted for the Midnight Black, which looks sleek and sexy. It's also a big time fingerprint magnet. The brushed aluminum motif flanked by a simple HP logo in the lower left-hand corner is absolutely beautiful, but it will take all of two seconds to cover the chassis with finger smudges, marring an otherwise sharp looking exterior. They can be wiped away easy enough, which is a good thing, because you'll be doing it often.
If you prescribe to the philosophy that curved corners slip into laptop bags and backpacks more easily than standard notebooks, then you'll love rounded angles on all four ends. We're indifferent ourselves and much more appreciative of the solid construction. The lid feels strong and doesn't exhibit the amount of flex that some other Ultrabooks do. It's a rigid laptop similar to the MacBook Air, albeit not as light.
Of course the biggest selling point here is the 15.6-inch display, and unfortunately HP doesn't take full advantage of the added real estate. Even though the screen is bigger than most Ultrabooks, it's saddled with a rather disappointing 1366x768 resolution. It's not necessarily a deal killer, especially if you find yourself squinting on smaller laptops, but it's definitely a downer that HP didn't go with a tighter resolution like 1600x900 or even a Full HD 1080p display like Vizio's 15.6-inch Ultrabook.
Lift open the lid and you'll find that the brilliant aesthetic extends to the interior. There's no gaudy plastic mucking up the design, just more brushed aluminum that wraps around the keyboard and large trackpad. Like the exterior, it's prone to picking up fingerprints, though we found it was more of a nuisance on the lid than anywhere else.
HP didn't find room to squeeze a numpad into the keyboard, though there are media functions integrated into the Function keys. The spacing between keys feels comfortable and we like the tactile response. One way HP could improve the keyboard, however, is by having they keys sit a little higher for a bit more play. Otherwise, we like HP opted not muck with certain key sizes, like the Shift, Enter, and Backspace buttons. If you can type on a regular keyboard, you should have no trouble transitioning to the Envy Ultrabook's plank.
The touchpad below the keyboard sits dead center and gives you plenty of space to maneuver your fingers. It supports multi-touch gestures like pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling. There are no dedicated left and right mouse buttons, you just press below the line on either side to activate a left- or right-click. You can also disable the touchpad by tapping in the upper left corner, which you activate by double-tapping.
Ultrabooks seem to be trending towards tapered designs popularized by the MacBook Air, but that isn't the case here. The chassis is about the same thickness on the front as it is in the back. One place this is clearly evident is the Ethernet port, which is partially covered by a plastic clip. You need to flip it down to gain full access to the port.
Other ports on the left side include HDMI output, two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports that aren't color coded, and a multi-format memory card reader. The hard drive activity and power lights are also located on the left side.
Over on the right is a Kensington Lock, audio-in (microphone) jack, audio-out (headphone) jack, powered USB 2.0 port, AC adapter light, and the power connector for the 65W external power supply.
Like the majority of Ultrabooks, the 6t-1000 doesn't sport a built-in optical drive. You can purchase an external model from HP for $50, which utilizes a single USB connection (many external burners require two USB connections).
The bottom of HP's Ultrabook is covered in a red rubberized coating without four small feet. It's also where you'll find air cooling vents and the speakers, which are enhanced nicely with Beats Audio.
|SiSoft SANDRA, ATTO, & Cinebench|
|We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA 2011, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA 2011 suite (CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, Memory Bandwidth and Physical Disk Performance). All of the scores reported below were taken with the HP Ultrabook running at its default settings with full performance mode enabled and the notebook plugged into the AC adapter.
SANDRA CPU Arithmetic and Multimedia Performance
SANDRA Memory and Physical Disk Performance
The CPU scores are exactly where we expect them to be, compared to other systems running the same CPU. It seems like a boring metric, but the synthetic benchmark is helping in determining if a system is firing on all cylinders or is being held back for one reason or another.
HP's use of fast DDR3 system memory also aids in overall performance, though the disk score is a little disappointing. This doesn't come as much of a surprise because the spindle speed is a rather pokey 5400 RPM, and if were to run this metric over and over again, the score would inevitable improve once the mSATA SSD realizes this is a frequently used program.
HP Envy Ultrabook 6t-1000 and Asus Zenbook SSD Performance Comparison with ATTO
Out of all the Ultrabooks we've tested, the speedy SSD in the Asus Zenbook still stands as the fastest storage subsystem (in this category) to date. How does HP compare?
Asus Zenbook UX21
The Zenbook put up hellaciously fast read and write times that are more on par with a desktop SSD than a notebook system.
HP Envy Ultrabook 6t-1000
HP's 500GB hard drive runs decidedly slower and isn't all that impressive even for this class of HDD. Depending on file size, transfers that involve just the disk top out at around 111MB/s.
Maxon's Cinebench R11.5 benchmark is based on the company's Cinema 4D software used for 3D content creation and tests both the CPU and GPU in separate benchmark runs. On the CPU side, Cinebench renders a photorealistic 3D scene by tapping into up to 64 processing threads (CPU) to process more than 300,000 total polygons, while the GPU benchmark measures graphics performance by manipulating nearly 1 million polygons and huge amounts of textures.
The surprise of the day came during our Cinebench run, in which the HP system put up the highest OpenGL score. We had to double check to make sure HP didn't accidentally upgrade the graphics to a discrete GPU. This shows how far integrated graphics have come.
|PCMark Vantage and PCMark 7|
|Futuremark's PCMark 7 is the latest version of the PCMark suite, recently released last spring. It has updated application performance measurements targeted for a Windows 7 environment. It combines 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, Web browsing, and gaming.
Another surprise is that our HP Ultrabook took pole position in Futuremark's PCMark 7 benchmark. The combination of Intel HD Graphics 4000 and the mSATA SSD are clearing pulling their weight.
Next up, we ran our test systems through Futuremark’s previous generation total-system performance evaluation tool, PCMark Vantage. PCMark Vantage runs through a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition TV and movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity. Since we have a large database of scores for this test, we felt it would be good to give you additional reference points to compare to.
HP's Ultrabook didn't score quite as high in the older PCMark Vantage build, which is another barometer of overall system performance. This time, the 6t-1000 scored in the middle of the pack.
|3DMark 11 and Gaming|
Ultrabooks aren't designed for heavy gaming. Even so, it's good to know what to expect from any system you're thinking about buying. Although they may not be designed with gaming in mind, Ultrabooks can (and will) be used for light-duty gaming. To help you get a feel for the type of gaming performance you can expect from the HP Envy Ultrabook 6t-1000, we loaded a few gaming-related benchmarks to see just what it can do.
Despite some impressive scores in previous tests, make no mistake, the Intel HD 4000 Graphics is not designed for heavy gaming. You should be able to get away with playing Source titles and most less demanding games, especially if you dial down the visual quality settings, but you're not to run triple-A titles with all the eye candy cranked up, as indicated by the mediocre 3DMark 11 score.
To get another perspective on the IdeaPad Yoga 13's gaming capabilities, we fired up the "Ranch" demo in Far Cry 2. This FPS game features lush vegetation and plenty of explosions and graphical mayhem. For this test, we turned off AA and used a resolution of 1280x720.
Even an older title like Far Cry 2 can put a strain on integrated graphics, and that's with the resolution dialed down to 1280x720. Note that we run this test at High Quality, so lowering that will provide the few extra frames per second needed for a playable experience. The bottom line is, Ultrabooks that rely on integrated graphics are all about making compromises when it comes to PC gaming., and the HP Envy Ultrabook 6t-1000 is no exception.
|Let's face it, if you're shopping an Ultrabook, you're less concerned with gaming performance and more interested in what kind of battery life you can squeeze out of these featherweight systems. This is perhaps the most important metric, at least for some, and what we have below is one example of a worst case scenario.
In our web browser portion of our battery benchmark, the HP Envy Ultrabook 6t-1000 performed superbly, running for nearly seven and a half hours before giving up the ghost. That's very impressive, and in fact it's the best we've seen from any Ultrabook thus far by at least a half hour.
Battery Eater Pro allows us to test a worst case scenario, and in doing so, HP's system again performed very well by staying awake for 142 minutes (2 hours, 22 minutes), though it wasn't best in class, falling shy of the top mark by about 30 minutes. In both tests, we set the display brightness to 50 percent.
Keep in mind that HP's Ultrabook is working with a 15.6-inch display, so in theory it shouldn't perform as well as smaller size Ultrabooks with less real estate to light up. Whatever mojo HP injected into this machine, it's working, and working very well.
|Performance Summary & Conclusion|
Performance Summary: HP managed to surprise us on more than one occasion with its Envy Ultrabook 6t-1000. Of the systems we compared it to, the 6t-1000 posted the best OpenGL score in Cinebench, and then followed it up with another strong showing in PCMark 7, which measures overall system performance. It also ran longer than we thought it would in our battery benchmarks, considering the relatively large 15.6-inch display the system is wielding. Overall it was a solid showing, save for gaming performance (always a weak spot for integrated graphics) and the slow spinning hard drive, even though it's flanked by an mSATA SSD.
Ultrabooks in the 15.6-inch category are few and far between, so we're glad to see HP go down that road, even if most others are reluctant to do so. Unfortunately, HP didn't go the distance, stopping well short of taking advantage of that extra screen real estate. Users would be better served with a Full HD 1080p resolution (1920x1080) or even 1600x900, but 1366x768? That's a missed opportunity.
Our disdain for the screen resolution aside, HP has an otherwise solid offering on its hands. The Envy Ultrabook 6t-1000 with its brushed aluminum chassis looks fantastic (just be sure to wipe away those fingerprints) and feels solid to boot. The touchpad is spacious, USB 3.0 is present and accounted for, and the keyboard is sufficient for daily use, though not best in class.
Perhaps most impressive is the system's battery life, especially after you factor in the enlarged display. Under normal circumstance, you can expect several hours of runtime, over seven hours in some cases (if you're primarily a web surfer). It almost defies the relatively small 4-cell battery that's tucked inside.
As we mentioned at the beginning, there's a newer model available with Windows 8 (6t-1100) that's otherwise the same machine. Overall we fell it's a good value at the starting price of $800. One thing we've learned when shopping HP systems, and this is true of other bulk OEMs as well, is that you can often reduce the price through a constant stream of coupon codes. At the time of this writing, there's a coupon code floating around for $150 off, bringing the starting price down to $650, which is a tremendous value for this Ultrabook.