HP ENVY 15-qXXX (Intel i7-4712HQ & Nvidia GTX 850M) Haswell + Maxwell Review

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  1. T2050

    T2050 Notebook Deity

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    HP ENVY TouchSmart 15-qXXX (Intel i7-4712HQ & Nvidia GTX 850M) Haswell + Maxwell Review

    HP’s refresh HP Envy 15-Q model for 2014 based on last year’s 15-J model. There have been a few changes, some good some bad, but overall is better than last year’s model as it now features Intel’s Haswell refresh processor and NVidia’s new Maxwell GPU.

    Processor is an Intel i7-4712HQ which is now a BGA mounted type and what is good about this refresh model it has both VT-x and VT-d enabled, not to mention it has a low TDP of just 37W, which I prefer in this type of single cooling solution notebook, as it keep the amount of heat under control. All the while is clocked at an extra 100MHz than last year’s comparable model.

    Dedicated graphics processor namely GTX 850M is NVidia’s new Maxwell architecture which is significant update over Kepler, and will certainly be the feature of notebooks and desktops over the next 2 years which is generally the usual cycle time. Great thing about this GPU right now today, is that is easily twice as fast as last year’s 750M model. There are 640 shaders and 2MB on die cache for the GPU, even though we are still limited to DDR3 memory in the HP that is not impacting performance as much as one would have expected due to the new architecture.

    Touchpad is very much improved and has what I believe to be a glass coating on it, which make it very usable. I hated the last year 15-J model touchpad which is hideous to use, often grabbing and gripping the fingertip like glue. The 15-Q new touchpad is a pleasure to use; no longer do I feel frustrated using an Envy 15 touchpad for the first time in history.

    [​IMG]

    Chipset remains the same as last year which is the decent HM87, but will be the case for 2014 at this stage for all manufactures, as everyone is in the boat with Intel’s delays.

    There are a couple of notable bad things are the removal of the mSATA cache connector from the motherboard (last year’s 15-J has this slot), even though the physical recess and printed circuitry for the module it there. HP has decided to remove the connector, and even if added, then I would suspect the supporting circuitry and UEFI support has been removed.

    HP has also removed 2 speakers from the front underside of the leading edge of the laptop and one of the subwoofers. This is a 2 speaker plus 1 subwoofer combination (although in my photos you cant see there are is a single piece with dual subs), as last year’s 15-Q model has a 4 speaker plus 2 subwoofer combo.
    Personally I have found the speakers took a little more volume to sound loud, but once around 70% it can easily fill the room, and the subs add to the fullness of the sound.

    There are also something’s that just haven’t changed at all. Such as the display panel types that are being reused, but that is understandable somewhat (even though I am not exactly thrilled with the quality) as this is something that uses the same part numbers. Also there are several other parts that are just the same, after all the unit is a refresh model, not a brand new model.

    A few words about the display (AU Optronics - Model: AUO33ED), it is terrible. I have been using over the course of a day, and the worse thing about it is the pitiful viewing angles, this thing is ridiculous. The viewing angle is so bad that when looking straight on the top corners invert (colour flip), this is really unacceptable, everyone should be able to look at their display straight on without any inversion, I tried to ignore it but it is way to pronounced. Then if you slightly tilt the screen back, it becomes unusable. The only angle the screen can been seen is with the screen tilted toward you (like you are closing the lid), therefore you are look down at the screen at a silly angle, and at this angle colours become very washed out, as in the photo below which is taken up from higher than the screen, notice the top right corner this part of the hill cannot be seen correct on this screen, although green trees/bush is actually there believe it or not.
    This panel exhibits the screen door effect, it like a vertical banding, stripes that run like columns from top to bottom across the screen very 0.5mm

    Even though there are non-changes, there as a couple of things that have been slightly revised cosmetically on the machine, the palm rest features an extended grill holes along the top of the palm rest. The underside plastic is slightly different with the removal of the speakers, thus closed off or solid plastic. Most notably is the new silver colour keyboard with blue backlight, although new colour it really is just the same as last year’s black keyboard in design, and still features mushy keys with flex.

    [​IMG]

    My particular model I am reviewing is the one and only single pre-build model that I can get in my particular country which is a TouchSmart model. That does not matter much, as this is generally still the same 15t-q000 model, with a few pre-defined specs.

    Specs of the machine are follows:

    Model: HP ENVY 15-Q005TX

    Intel i7-4712HQ quad core processor
    NVidia GTX 850M 4GB DDR3 graphics
    16GB (8GBx2) PC3-12800 DDR3L 1600MHz
    1.5TB Standard Hard Drive (HGST Travelstar 5K1500 1.5TB SATA III HDD)
    Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160
    FHD touch screen display 1920 x 1080 resolution (AU Optronics - Model: AUO33ED)
    62Wh battery (6 cell)
    120W slim power brick

    Photos of exterior and removable back plate

    Headphone/Microphone, 2x USB3, Gigabit LAN, Power Jack
    [​IMG]

    LED Status, SD Card Slot, 2x USB3, HDMI, Vent, K-Lock
    [​IMG]

    Removable Access Bay, Battery Bay, Subwoofer
    [​IMG]

    9mm 1.5TB HDD, 2x 8GB DDR3L-1600, Intel 3160 Wireless, Battery 3V
    [​IMG]

    In the above photos notice where the mSATA cache module would otherwise reside. You could actually install a mSATA cache but without the actual connector it isn't going to do anything. On the edge of the motherboard next to this particular area there is soldering joints for a connector, no idea if these are still physically active or not. HP have run some cables over this area which are glued with a rubber stopper and a piece of tape, so pretty much they are not intending to use this anyway. I would figure that HP have written this port out of the UEFI, and I would think that any supporting circuitry may have been removed?

    mSATA terminals present with circuitry, but no mSATA connector
    [​IMG]

    CPU-Z showing the new refresh version of the 37W processor. This year around see HP using a BGA chip which is soldered onto the motherboard. What does this mean, well basically what you see is what you get, there is no way to upgrade this processor, and it is highly unlikely that HP will offer any other CPU options, certainly not when the i7-4712HQ is combined with the GTX 850M

    [​IMG]

    HWINFO shows various details, which are pretty much obvious if you know what you are looking for such as TDP, memory timing sets, cache size, hard drive cache, special features of the CPU, etc.

    [​IMG]

    GPU-Z details of the featuring GTX 850M in this notebook. HP have the core clock slightly boosted at 902MHz which is a bit over notebookcheck stated 876MHz stock clock for the 850M. HP have pair this up with 4GB of VRAM using DDR3, while this might sound like overkill, I figure it is actually a decent amount to have, considering that I near maxed out the 2GB VRAM on last years 750M. While I am not expect great frame rates if using over 2GB VRAM, the fact of the matter is that is can. Memory is clocked a little low, but should be easily be able to take at least 100MHz overclock.
    I have a NVidia Shield Portable, therefore with the GPU being of GTX class, then this is compatible with NVidia steaming. This also means if you were to pick up the newly release NVidia Shield tablet, then you could steam to that too using the Envy GTX class GPU.
    Make not mistake this GPU is very powerful, it will easily cut through most games on high and sometimes even ultra.

    [​IMG]

    Another GPU-Z screenshot, this time under gaming to see what the core will boost up to. In which it will boost under load to 1084MHz and hold/sustain it without any problems.
    Also to see if I can use more than 2GB VRAM and still actually use the GPU to play a game. In the screenshot is running the new Wolfenstein game at custom, set to high with everything else set to tap into the texture as much as possible, as you can see is using about 2.3GB of VRAM. This would of normally caused lag frame rate on 2GB cards (I know this with my 7970M), although with the 850M 4GB it was without any slowdowns or lag.

    [​IMG]

    Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160 from about 10 metres away and through several wooden walls, I am getting a decent stable connection to my AC router, often seeing the connection speed as 433 Mbps. Even though the card is just 1x1, it is sustaining transfer speeds of ~20MB/s. This is enough for what it is (considering I am not right next the router), I am restoring games from my steam library backup at a considerable rate over wireless, e.g. an 8GB backup takes around about 6 minutes to restore.

    [​IMG]

    Keyboard is essentially the same as last years 15-J, with the exception of the 15-Q colour scheme being changed silver and the backlight is now very light blue, although to me it look more white than anything. The keys are the typical mushy and flex ones, so no improvement here, although most people will not be so fussy and care.
    I personally don't like it, but I brought this knowing that the flex is still there, but was not prepared to how annoying it was going to be, I tried not to care that much this time around, but it is really a poor design. The keyboard is good enough to type reasonably fast on, which I am writing this on right now, so despite the flex it is useable buy definitely annoying.
    Although you must be prepared for the keyboard to be raised up significantly with a lot of movement around the 2345QWERTYASDFGHZXCVB area which is a lot of keys, and there is a bunch further to the right hand side between the number pad and Enter key area.
    During the day time the keys are readable, but make sure you don't turn on the backlight (not that you would want too, otherwise the letters on the key cannot be seen. On the other hand at night, the keyboard looks really good with plenty of light, key are easily readable. Here is a photo of the keyboard looking down in a slightly darken room by closing the blinds.

    [​IMG]

    As about you can see the size of the touchpad which is very wide and its surface is so much better. I am not totally sure but it certainly feels like a glass finish with finger slipping freely over the surface. If it is not glass, then whatever it is, maybe special metal, it just works better than any of the previous touchpads that HP have put on their laptops. HP calls this touchpad Control Zone, there is a left and right side which are slightly coloured to mark special swipes, seems to work ok, that part of the surface has a different texture on it, it tend to grip a little bit, but not much of a problem as the middle of the touchpad is pretty vast.

    In the market area where HP sells the these particular notebooks, every year they stick in the 62Wh battery packs and reserve the low rated 47Wh pack for the lower cost machines. Personally one of the main reason to have a notebook is to have decent battery life, in general the 62Wh battery performs good and last a decent amount of time. I have been writing this thread and editing photos over the last 3 hours over a RDP session connection to my Alienware M17xR3 via the HP 15-Q wireless connection, I still have a good 30% battery remaining from the first full charge.

    [​IMG]

    Power brick is 120W slim type, pretty much the same as last year with the same barrel connector. It is fairly light for the amount of output that it is capable of. Personally I never travel that far so weight is not an issue for me. General power pack with been getting smaller over the last few years.

    [​IMG]

    Display panel has poor viewing angles, and darker colours in the top corners pretty much invert if you look at the screen directly, which is not good, there is also a bit of grainy effect too. However I do have the touchscreen version, not sure it then overlay affects the panel somewhat. Seems ok brightness, could be better, the colours are a little washed out, but in all generally better than HD panel The touch screen is good and functions well. The panel I have is reported as AU Optronics - Model: AUO33ED
    Not going to post a photo here, but you will be able to see from the photo near the top of the post what it look like. Notice the top right hand corner inverting even in the photo.

    Fan noise is fairly constant, but is very low while doing general everyday tasks. The notebook runs cool enough to run directly on lap, and there is an option in the UEFI to turn fan from "always on" to disable, where I am sure the fan should turn off when just idling away. If there is a fair bit of load for sometime, then the fan will ramp up, at the same time very acceptable. Great thing with a 37 TDP processor, it will stick to those limits thus fan noise is not much of a problem, which is not the same that can be said about a 47W processor as these get loud with the fan very quickly from my own experience.
    During gaming (which I haven't really had the time to go into just as of yet), the fan will ramp up, but much less than last years i7-4702MQ and 750M combination. Even though the 850M has more shaders, it just runs better and cooler. I do need to look into this further at this stage.

    Hard drive at 1.5TB although being a mechanical drive, isn't as bad as I though it would be, it actually a pretty good performer. It is not that loud and runs pretty silent. Not exactly anywhere near a SSD and no way it could ever be, but the transfer speed is pretty good with large files. Overall I might be able to put up with this drive until I can afford a SSD and that is will only be ~480GB, but I really want the space of the mechanical 1.5TB to install games on the drive.
    http://www.madshrimps.be/articles/a...inch-Mobile-Hard-Drive-Review/4#axzz39CICzpOF

    Overall I am pretty happy to actually get this, even though it is just a refresh. I have been following this even before I actually knew anything about it, and posting a substantial amount of information in the main 15-qXXX thread, basically after all of that, there was no way I could not get it.
    The MacBook that I already own I usually use on the couch, but that is not a windows machine (I don't like boot camp with 650M as it never switches off), therefore for the HP is a good one for cruising on couch with the touchscreen at hand. My alienware 14 simply is not that pleasant to use on the couch is a bit heavy even though is 14 inch and pretty dam fat, for casual use anyway.

    The first time around (with the 15-J), there was no FHD option on last year 15-J that I no longer own, in which I hated it HD resolution, it is good now to have FHD. The GPU is a massive improvement/architecture change even though the processor essentially hasn't really changed, and the touchpad is so much better. This will keep me happy until I can get my hand on Broadwell quad and maybe a die shrink of Maxwell, although that is a long way from today.
    Heat is a non issue, I can up the laptop directly on my lap when doing everyday stuff. However I would not recommend using directly on lap if you are going to be power the machine during gaming or extensive tasks.

    The only disappointment I really have with this is that there was no other models available (just a single pre-built), thus having to shell out top dollar for top spec model, and with that being a touchscreen. Being a touchscreen means there is no chance of changing out my poor TN embedded under glass panel for an IPS panel, but if I look on the bright side I do like touchscreen and laptops experience. The good news for those of you that can get it without a touchscreen, HP are using the exact same part number for the display cable, which means it will be a straight swap no matter if you have a HD or FHD version originally.

    The main reason I can see for this notebook is primarily the Maxwell GPU, why wait when can have right now. When HP updates the GPU later on, once Intel Broadwell is out, no doubt it will be just a rebrand part.
     
    justinkw1 and ThatOldGuy like this.
  2. T2050

    T2050 Notebook Deity

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    I will be tweaking the review as I settle into the refreshed 15-Q, therefore will continue to be a work in progress, add and change things as necessary in due time.

    This #2 post I will add things like tweaks, benchmarks, overclocking the CPU & GPU, once I have finished near fully finished writing the above post.


    Just to start off (will organise this better as I go along) will post a couple of screenshot of the 850M overclocked.

    I found that the 850M will easily overclock to its maximum that NVidia will allow which is +135MHz on the core. This results in a base clock of 1037MHz, with a boost clock of an incredible 1219MHz, which is really good for a laptop form factor.

    Stock Core/Boost = 902 / 1081

    Overclocked Core/Boost = 1037 / 1219

    The memory on the other hand overclocked as expected, it is DDR3 and I was not expecting any miracles, and general went to where I figured it would reach. I was able to overclock it +255MHz, but that resulted in the odd texture flash during gaming. I backed off the clock to +240MHz and then it seem fine without any texture flashes.
    When the bandwidth is this low, anything will help here.

    Stock Memory = 900MHz @ 28.8GB/s

    Overclocked Memory = 1140MHz @ 36.5GB/s

    [​IMG]

    Under load you can see in this following screenshot, where exactly the boost clock is getting to. After about10-15 minutes of gaming the GPU stayed around the 67c mark. Overall the heat wasn't bad it all. However I need to run longer gaming sessions, but considering that I have only just got this, I haven't had time yet to get into specifics.
    I have only benchmarked Tomb Raider 2013 selected to High pre-set running 1080p. I found the frame score to jump up by a decent amount across the board of around 7 FPS. Most importantly to me is the minimum frame rate which moved from stock clocks 29 FPS to an overclocked frame rate of 36 FPS.

    [​IMG]

    Processor overclocking of the i7-4712HQ is easily obtainable by simply download Intel Extreme Tuning Utility, then installing, reboot and tune. Just move all the processor multipliers up to their max including the cache ratio, click apply and your done. Extra 200MHz boost on all 4 cores for free, which takes 4 core boost from 3.0 GHz to 3.2GHz, single core boost moves from stock 3.3 GHz to 3.5 GHz.
    Basically you can get an extra 2 bin overclock from the processor across the board. Download the latest version of Intel Extreme Tuning Utility v5.1
    https://downloadcenter.intel.com/SearchResult.aspx?keyword=""extreme+tuning+utility""

    This next screenshot is what it looks like at stock

    [​IMG]

    After overclocking, these are the changes that were made

    [​IMG]

    CPU-Z result showing a single core turbo to 3.5 GHz running under load using Super PI

    [​IMG]

    UEFI is not that extensive, but we all know that is the way with HP consumer line notebooks. There is something that cannot be change although can be seen, which the TPM setting. Most other pages look pretty standard. On the boot page there is no RAID configuration area, such as the 15-J from memory actually had. What I am trying to determine if there is anyway that the mSATA slot is active for using Intel RST, which from my understanding needs to be enabled for it to work?

    Showing the grey out option of the TPM
    [​IMG]

    Nothing different or new about this one, turn on VT and control of the fan
    [​IMG]

    Cant see anything related to RAID in any place here, such as the 15-J has
    [​IMG]

    Bio Shock Infinite

    1080p @ Ultra settings (DX11)

    Average FPS / Scene Name
    32.40, Welcome Center
    38.35, Town Center
    38.72, Raffle
    56.01, Monument Island

    CPU and GPU overclocked
     
  3. ThatOldGuy

    ThatOldGuy Notebook Virtuoso

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    Nice review
    Can you tell us how the fan/system noise is? and how is the Beats speaker quality? Do you think they'll continue to have Beats in the near future (as Apple just bought out Beats)?
     
  4. plasmos

    plasmos Notebook Enthusiast

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    I'm not an electrical guy, but can't you stick a multimeter in the msata connectors to figure out if it's live or not?
     
  5. AntonioDB

    AntonioDB Notebook Geek

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    It's impossible to know using a multimeter.
    May be that you can find that there is the power supply, but there no easy mode to verify if all the other signals are ok.

    Sent by Tapatalk
     
  6. T2050

    T2050 Notebook Deity

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    Thanks. I have added comments near the bottom of the first post about fan noise. I don't know what the long term deal is with Apple, although HP could have a contract with beats that has not expired yet.

    There are about 25 pins on each side of where the solder points are on the board, they are extremely close together. If any are live then one slip will create a short. Way to risky, and then you will need to know what you are doing and looking for.
    Also take into account where the wires have been run over this area by HP, they are tacked down to this area. Although they are not a permanent fixture, there maybe no wriggle room to move these to the side, if you could get a mSATA connector in here. Never the less a pain to work around.

    This is pretty much what I have been trying to point out, there just may not be anything active to connect up. From the UEFI screenshot in the post #2, there is not anywhere to configure RAID, as far as I know without RAID enabled, then cannot use RST to create a cache drive.
    That said if there is anything actually active at all, such as being able without RAID mode, the standard AHCI will be active in the UEFI, still then is the question "is the port still active?". If so then I think there is only about 5-6 pins than will need to be connected from seeing someone else that had wired up a mSATA drive to bare connectors on a notebook motherboard.

    I have wondered that maybe I got a motherboard where the mSATA connector was no soldered on by mistake during manufacturing, but felt that would have been highly unlikely. There is a chance the connector may return as my notebook is a very early model, and has been sitting at the brick and mortar store since end of June. On second thoughts, HP would of not routed the cables at the same time tacking them down over the mSATA connector if it weren't meant to be there. Unless they do this anyway and my connector was not there to place on the top of?
     
  7. E90dima

    E90dima Notebook Guru

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    T2050, really nice and thorough review. I really wish HP had added an IPS display option.
     
  8. T2050

    T2050 Notebook Deity

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    Thanks.

    I paid an excessive amount of money for the one and only pre-built mode in my country, and with it being the top and only model it should of came with at least a very good TN panel, or and IPS panel.

    The keyboard is worse than last year. I had the chance to see two different 15-Q and both has way more flex in the keys, especially to the left of the keyboard. Basically the entire left hand side would move up and down with a single and very light key press. Not acceptable to be called Envy.

    The display panel really is the major let down, and being touch screen there is no way to be replaced. With the HP 15-Q panel being so bad, this one is particular bad, much worse than an average Acer v5-571pg (1366 x 768) touchscreen, really at the price paid it wasn't worth keeping.

    I still recommend this to USA buyers if they don't care about keyboard flex, and it they are happy to replace their panel with something decent. Otherwise I wouldn't buy it.
     
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  9. plasmos

    plasmos Notebook Enthusiast

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    Regardless, it's a great deal for the parts you get (FHD display, i7 quad, gtx 850m) in the US store at least. Right now with a coupon it's like $750.
     
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  10. E90dima

    E90dima Notebook Guru

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    That's true, at that price you could add an IPS display, and a 1tb ssd, and still be cheaper than other brands.
     
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