Review: HP Envy TouchSmart 4 Ultrabook

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Defying longtime predictions of imminent extinction at the hands of mobile tech like tablets, straight up PCs remain the workhorses of business. A decidedly mobile influence has been encroaching the world of desktops and laptops, however. Nowhere is this trend more obvious than with the latest ultrabook from one of Silicon Valley’s founding companies, HP.

The HP Envy TouchSmart 4 Ultrabook is a 14-inch laptop that sports a responsive, touchscreen that allows users to run the tile interface of Windows 8 as designed. While the mouse can still be used to find your way around, users will generally find the touchscreen a more intuitive way of getting around software.

Packing a robust metal finish, speedy processor and a light form factor, the computer offers pretty good bang for the buck. With a $849 price tag, the units ship with a third generation Intel Core i5 chip (1.7 GHz), 8 GM RAM, 500 GB hard drive, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, HDMI  and, something for gamers and music fans, two BeatsAudio speakers plus a subwoofer. All of this packed into a thin shell that includes a full-size backlit keyboard.

The main drawback, ironically, is the monitor. While the touchscreen is (excuse the pun) a lovely touch, the screen resolution is only 1366 x 768 and uses a TN display — a so so experience for anyone used to an iPhone’s Retina Display.

The other drawback has little to do with HP: Windows 8. As much as the Ultrabook is a good deal, Microsoft’s latest platform is an unintuitive hodge podge that often feels like two or three operating systems crammed into one.

Overall this is a solid notebook computer for the price but mainly suited for consumers, not business fare — a terrific present on Father’s Day or some other special event.