HP Envy 13, Envy 15: No VooDoo, Yes MacBook Pro

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Envy 13: US$1699, 13.3-inch LCD with a 1366 x 768 resolution, 400 cd/m2 of brightness, 3.74 pounds, 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 3GB RAM, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 GPU with 512MB RAM, 250GB hard drive, an external DVD-RW drive.

Envy 15: $1799, 15.6-inch LCD with either 1366 x 768 or 1920 x 1080 resolutions, 5.18 pounds, Intel Core i7 CPU, up to 16GB RAM, an external DVD-RW (Blu-ray drive optional).

Imitation I’ll just come right out and say it: HP pretty much copied the design of Apple’s MacBook Pro notebook PCs for its Envy 13 and 15. HP, with its Envy 13 and 15, is showing its sincerest form of flattery. There are some minor differences: The chassis material is slightly different with a fusion of aluminum and magnesium that has been anodized several layers deep for durability, scratch-resistance and lightweight. Incredibly the metallic chassis takes only a few minutes to manufacture that is considerably faster than the previous design that took an hour. As you know Apple uses a slab of aluminum. Let’s compare.

Thinner & Lighter* The Envy 13 is slightly thinner (0.8-inch) and lighter (3.74 pounds) compared to the 13-inch MacBook Pro (0.95-inch thick, 4.5 pounds). Of course, the Envy 13 achieves this in part because it doesn’t have a built-in optical drive. *The MacBook Air, which also lacks a built-in optical drive, is 0.76-inch thick (at the thickest point) and weighs just 3.0 pounds. HP’s 13.3-inch LCD also sports a bit more pixels with a 1366 x 768 resolution (1.049 megapixels) compared to Apple‘s 1280 x 800 (1.024 megapixels). I personally prefer a 16:10 LCD (Apple) since I’m doing mostly work where a bit more vertical space is welcome. If you watch more HDTV on your notebook then perhaps the 16:9 LCD (HP) would suit you better. The 2.26GHz 13.3-inch MacBook Pro starts at just $1199, which is significantly more affordable than the $1699 Envy 13 running at a much slower 1.86GHz. My biggest question is regarding the LCD: does it have the slightly wider viewing angle technology as well as the improved 72% color gamut that you find in the latest MacBook Pros?

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Thicker But Lighter The Envy 15 is 1-inch thick and weighs 5.2 pounds. The 15.4-inch MacBook Pro is 0.95-inch thick and weighs 5.5 pounds. So the Envy 15 is slightly thicker but weighs a bit less. Without a built-in optical drive it is surprising the Envy 15 is actually thicker. If you are a Blu-ray fan and thinking of getting the Envy 15 with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, HP plans to offer an external USB-connected Blu-ray drive as an option. The externals of the Envy 15 may look very much like what Apple is offering but the internals are quite a bit different. For instance, the Envy 15 sports Intel’s next-generation CPU: the Core i7, which will be much much faster than a Core 2 Duo. The next feature will be music to power users: RAM can be upgraded up to 16GB and that is twice the RAM you can cram into a MacBook Pro. But can Windows 7 make effective use of the CPU and RAM? We will need to wait and see. Apple is just now working toward making use of multi-core CPUs with its new 64-bit Snow Leopard operating system. In terms of price the 15.4-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1699 for the 2.53GHz version. Since the Envy 15 will be quite a bit more powerful with its i7 CPU it might be more applicable to compare it to the $2299 2.8GHz MacBook Pro, which is $500 more than the Envy 15.

2.5 Hours But with that much horsepower the Envy 15 suffers with the battery lasting just 2.5 hours. You will absolutely need the extended 95wh battery but that will add weight, thickness and cost. The 15.4-inch MacBook Pro last quite a bit longer: up to 7 hours, translated to about 5 hours of real world use. Both Envy units will feature Windows 7 and will be available on or after October 22, which is the launch date for Windows 7.

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