HP Envy 15Z Review (Carrizo FX-8800P 15W)

No reason to buy due to HP imposed limitations, but great APU potential

Table of Contents (in short):

++ Main reason to consider:

Overall, good features combination for a sub-$500 laptop, but nothing too special.

-- Main reason to avoid:

As a gaming laptop, a very limited gaming performance of the FX-8800P APU, because of HP cTDP limitations (15W). Significantly slower than competitors with Nvidia 840M/940M GPUs.

Availability

HP Pavilion 15t (much more cost effective and it’s not AMD’s fault)

  • HP, $500-$550 with Skylake I5, GT 940M and an 1080p IPS display, depends on configuration

 

HP Envy 15Z-ah000

  • HP, $450-$500 with coupons
Pro : + Very good battery performance
+ Very modern and slick looks
+ Good performance for general use that doesn't require heavy lifting like gaming
+ Relatively good speakers in this price range
+ Keyboard could be worse (like in the Acer E5)
+ Build quality is relatively good
+ Only $20 for an 1080p IPS display (wasn't available in my time)
Con : - FX-8800P 15W is greatly limited as a gaming chip, compared to competitors with Nvidia GPUs like 840M/940M
- No USB 3.1, no DisplayPort
- Only one Sata connection port
- Keyboard is not bad, but average at best
- Screen's cassis shape might result in some wearing
- Expensive upgrades
More Reviews :

    Introduction

    ComponentDescription
    ModelHP Envy 15Z-ah000
    PriceAs tested, FX-8800P upgrade : ~$450-550
    CPUAMD Carrizo FX-8800P APU 1.3-3.4GHZ, 2.1GHZ base
    GPUIntegrated AMD Radeon R7 core@300-800MHZ
    Motherboard & ChipsetHewlett-Packard 80BA, AMD CZ FCH chipset
    RAMSamsung 2GB+4GB DDR3@1600MHZ
    2 banks of memory available, totally
    StorageHDD : 750GB HGST HTS541075A9E680
    (non SSHD), 5400RPM, 8MB cache
    LCD PanelIn review: 1366x768 SAMSUNG [Unknown Model: SDC4E51]
    Weight / Dimensions2.28kg (~5.03 Lbs.), PSU around 200 grams
    384 x 255 x 23.6 mm
    15.12" x 10.04" x 0.93"
    (w x d x h)
    KeyboardWhite backlit (42levels including off)
    Connection Portsright side: Lexington key, 1xUSB 2.0, 1xUSB 3.0
    Left: power-in, RJ-45, HDMI 1.4, 3XUSB 3.0, microphone/headphone, card reader
    Camera768p
    WiFi / EthernetWiFi: Broadcom BCM43142 802.11b/g/n
    Ethernet: RealTek Semiconductor RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet NIC
    Speakers / Audio4.0 BANG & OLUFSON speakers
    Battery48Wh
    Bios / EC version (test unit)Insyde F.03 / 80.3
    Extra features
    more details

    So, the much anticipated and hyped AMD Carrizo APUs have been released and I decided to review the HP Envy 15Z-ah000 with the AMD top Carrizo chip, FX-8800P. The first reason is that I wanted to benchmark and try the new AMD FX-8800P. The second reason is that I wanted to review the Envy 15Z which is a lower price model and could be a very cost effective option for many. And the third reason is that it was the only one available at the time of purchase and even now there aren’t any alternatives in the US. Some new laptops with the Carrizo chips are Scheduled to be released soon.

    Even though the Envy 15Z doesn’t have a lot of extra stuff like additional storage options, special connection ports (USB 3.1, DP) or a good display, it could still be a nice laptop for $450 (with coupons), given it provides good performance and media features.

    AMD promised that the Carrizo APU will be much more energy efficient for low loads (they talked about a 15W TDP) and it is interesting to see what actually it can do.

    AMD Carrizo

    Let’s see how the Envy 15Z fairs in this review.

     

     

    `

    Build quality, Case, design and looks

    The build quality of the HP Envy 15Z is actually very acceptable. The cassis feels firm enough and even the outer lid has good firmness to it. The display hinges don’t do any strange noises. The upper part of the cassis is made of something that feels like partially metallic, but I don’t know what it is really is.

    One point that makes me worried is the way the screen is opened. When you open the screen, the further part of the screen outer lid becomes the part which the laptop is standing on. I think that it will result in wear to the plastic/finish in time.

    Overall, the HP Envy 15Z does a good impression for a low budget laptop. I like it more, for example, then the Acer E5-573G.

    Looks

    The Envy 15Z actually looks very nice and modern. The finish level is good. The 15Z color is all kind of silver, except of the screen’s bezel which is black.

    Maintenance and inner parts

    Opening the back panel requires removing something like 12 screws and using some card or knife to pull the bottom plate as it’s not easy with just bare hands.

     

    HP Envy 15Z open bottom

    One fan is taking care of the heat, taking air from below and blowing to the rear.

    Connection ports 3xUSB 3.0 and HDMI are the best highlights here. This is a bit lacking set of ports for a high end gaming laptop really.

    Keyboard and touchpad

    Keyboard. Well, the keyboard is a simple one. It’s not the worst, though. The keys are big enough and spaced too and pressure points are rather clear. The feedback is good but not precise and is changing along the stroke. Also, keys’ experience is not uniform. The resistance is acceptable but not enough and travel depth either. The keys texture is average, nothing special, could be nicer. I’d say that the keyboard is not too bad at all, and again, better then the Acer budget laptops’ keyboards, at least those I’ve tested.

    The keyboard “F” keys are operated in opposite to how it is usually done – pressing the “fn” key and an “F” key results in the F operation and not the special function (which is kind of wrong). The special key function is the default.

    Touchpad. Average, maybe a bit less. The multi gesture operations seem to not work fluently, also because not all parts of the touchpad have the same sensitivity (maybe some are not sensitive at all). Texture is nothing special. Two buttons are integrated under the touchpad surface and they work properly, but that’s not too convenient. There is a space between the pad and the cassis and dust will surely get it.

    Sound & Speakers

    Undecided. We are talking four Bang & Olufsen speakers here. Two speakers are located at the front bottom and two are located above the keyboard surface. The Envy 15Z comes bundled with software equalizer and it’s turned on out of the box. Turning it off the software equalizer, I noticed how unbalanced is the sound produced by the speakers. The equalizer’s “music” preset does improve the situation significantly in my opinion, showing that the speakers have potential, but that’s not enough.

    However, I noticed that the front speakers are not that bad when listened to directly without blocking them. It seems that the top speakers produce a more low-mid sound and are more powerful too, so it creates an unbalanced experience even more.

    Overall, taking into account the useful equalizer, I would say that listening to music is rather pleasant with the Envy 15Z and for $450 the competitors are not as good, like the Acer and Asus competitors for such a price.

    General subjective performance experience

    The HP Envy 15Z comes with a budget 5400RPM HGST HDD, non-SSHD. It is not fast and it is felt. I used Windows 10 and not Windows 8.1.

    Here are GPU-Z and CPU-Z screenshots. As other people have unhappily discovered, this FX-8800P is limited by HP to 15W. The Stilt claims there is no option to unlock it via the bios (see here for more info). As we’ll see in our benchmarks, it results in greatly limited performance.

    HP Envy 15Z FX-8800P 15W CPU-Z HP Envy 15Z FX-8800P Radeon R7 GPU-Z

     

    Gaming Performance

    Test Methods & Drivers

    OS : Windows 10, fully updated

    Drivers: Catalyst 15.8 beta

    Summarized gaming performance

    I didn't add a summarizing graph this time, except making a small comparison to the best midrange options currently : Intel HD5600 (Broadwell GT2) and I5 + 840M/940M combination that you can usually find in laptops like the Acer E5-573G.I also added a comparison to the Haswell GT3e (HD5000) GPU which was pretty powerful. This version of the GT3e was used in the Haswell U CPUs which have 15W TDP, like the FX-8800P. You can see that the FX-8800P is at least as fast as this GPU at 15W and that's with heavy throttling.cTDP Wattage:Broadwell I5-U CPUs : 15WHaswell I5-U CPUs: 15WAMD FX-8800P: 15W (in this case)FX-8800P 15W vs I5 840M vs I7 HD5600 FX-8800P 15W vs HD5000 (Haswell GT3e) I7-UFor more numbers check the Carrizo FX-8800P benchmarks post Sources : 1, 2

    Crysis 3

    HP Envy 15Z Review FX-8800P Crysis 3 benchmark

    Thief

    HP Envy 15Z Review FX-8800P Thief benchmark

    Bioshock Infinite

    HP Envy 15Z Review FX-8800P Bioshock Infinite benchmark

    Civilization : Beyond Earth

    HP Envy 15Z Review FX-8800P Civilization Beyond Earth benchmark

    Alien : Isolation

    HP Envy 15Z Review : FX-8800P Alien Isolation benchmark

    World of Tanks

    HP Envy 15Z Review FX-8800P World of Tanks benchmark

    Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling

    Stress tests and throttling behavior

    I had no reading on the APU temperatures, so I skipped that test this time. The integrated GPU temperature was pretty low, below 60C, and it’s hot here in this time of the year.

    This is the real problem, really. The AMD Carrizo FX-8800P APU can be configured by the manufacturer to have a cTDP of between 15W and 35W. HP configured it to be a 15W part and this is for the CPU + GPU part.

    The CPU and GPU are heavily throttled when the system is loaded, especially 3D stuff. To understand the scale, The integrated GPU has a maximal core clock of 800MHZ, but if you’ll run a 3D game, it will be downclocked to 300MHZ – 37.5% of its computing power.

    Moreover, there seem to be some driver/OS problem with Windows 10. Sometimes the FX-8800P APU clocks will be set to the lowest value (core@1.3GHZ, GPU core@300MHZ) disregarding Windows power mode. Sometimes, the GPU will be set to maximal clocks (when idling) with CPU at base clocks and sometimes the other way around. I haven’t found the reason.

    Just to state one bright point – when the system is not loaded with demanding applications like games, it’s actually quite snappy. Check the Prime95 clocks above.

    FX-8800P 15W CPU and GPU usage World of Tanks

    FX-8800P 15W CPU and GPU clocks World of Tanks

    Heat

    Under light load, the shell remains at the reasonable range of temperatures, but as soon as the system is loaded considerably (like in gaming), the cassis start warming significantly until a point when it becomes unpleasant in some areas, including the keyboard left part.

    Some think that HP tried to save on material with this laptop and that was the reason the limited the CPU to 15W (without mentioning it)

    Noise

    THe Envy 15Z stays pretty low-noised under load. While idling it’s pretty quiet.

    Screen & Screen quality

    The panel in use is a SAMSUNG SDC4E51 model.

     

    Pretty bad TN panel with bad viewing angles, terrible contrast (nothing similar to blacks, for example) and washed out colors. Sometimes it’s hard to read with this display. Max brightness is enough for office use, so at least this one is not a problem. I think it is replaceable however.

    ContrastBrightnessBlack levels
    sRGBadobeRGBNTSC

    Battery Performance

    The battery performance, like AMD has promised is pretty good and can rival Intel systems actually:

    • With power mode set to “Power Saver” and speakers off and reading/writing (no big applications running), you could get to as low as 5-6W, reading stuff and with Wifi on. This translates to around 8-9.5 hours of work. And that’s with an HDD (vs an SSD) and with lowest clocks of 1.3GHZ.
    • With power mode set to “Power Saver”, speakers off and doing stuff like excel sheets, a bit of internet (no flash!) you could get away with 7.5-8W, which translate to around 6-6.5 hours.
    • With power mode set to “Balanced”, speakers running hot and applications in use, you could do 11-13W, which translate to around 4 hours of work, but usually you’ll have long periods of relative rest so the average wattage should be lower.

    HP Envy 15Z Review Battery performance

     

    Issues

    • The Wifi connection sometimes gets almost lost. Seems like updating the system bios and drivers remedied it a bit
    • The big issue of heavy CPU/GPU throttling, rendering this system cost inefficient for gaming
    • Unclear performance based on Windows 10 power settings

    Competing gaming laptops / Alternatives

    • Every machine with a GT 840M/940M for around $450-$550 would be much faster for games based on DX11 or below and good chance that for DX12/Vulkan too, just because of the FX-8800P 15W throttling. If it was not that heavily throttled, it could be a smash and definitely match the 840M/940M competitors

    Conclusion

    Well, as the subtitle says, I see no good reason to purchase this laptop. HP have limited the cTDP to 15W, maybe to save in BOM (as more heat means more material or something) and it simply destroyed the beauty of the FX-8800P as a budget gaming chip.

    As for the laptop itself, it has its strengths. Very good and modern looks, nice speakers, quite good battery performance that even matching Intel competitors, not crappy keyboard (better than the Acer E5-573G keyboard I tested), rather quiet operation, relatively good cassis build quality. So, it could be a good competitor for $450-$500 (with coupons, like I got it), if it wasn’t so limited.

    Yes, at 15W, throttled down, it significantly faster than Intel laptops with integrated GPU for such a price (and even higher) – no question about it. But, then again, if that the performance level required by you, then there are other laptops, more interesting.

    If you really want a gaming Carrizo FX-8800P based laptop, wait for the Lenovo and Acer laptops, hoping they won’t be as limited. Meanwhile, HP’s own Intel variant – the HP Pavilion 15t with a Skylake I5-6200U, GT 940M, 1080p IPS, go for around $500-$550.

    .

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    Michael Galdenzi
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    Michael Galdenzi

    I am really surprised as well with the results. Do you have any intention of getting an A10-8700p unit for testing? Dell currently has the Inspiron 5555 in the outlet with the 8700p for as little as $300 after their usual coupons. I actually just ordered one for personal testing, just wish the screen was at least 1080p. Still for $300 seems like a steal.

    Junky
    Guest

    What?! link!

    Michael Galdenzi
    Guest
    Michael Galdenzi

    http://www.dell.com/learn/us/en/22/campaigns/gdo_consumer_weekly_sale_dfh?dgc=IR&cid=288565&lid=5619098

    Then look for inspiron 5555 from the left. Sometimes a scratch and dent pops up for 399, refurb for 419. If you chat they give you 32 % off not 30% off.

    Junky
    Guest

    I looked for Dell laptops with Carrizo APUs, how did I miss those? Are they available as new too?
    Anyway, do you think I should?

    In terms of performance, for $300 you won’t have an Intel CPU that is outperforming it, probably

    Michael Galdenzi
    Guest
    Michael Galdenzi

    Not sure if they sell the 5555 new outside of the education/business market. I personally would like to see how it performs in your tests and how you rank it. Not sure if this is ethical, but dell outlet has a no questions asked 21 day return policy, so if you get it and 1. dont like it or 2. can’t sell it on CL for more than you paid, then you can always set up a free return. I don’t condone getting a computer with the sole purpose of returning it, but seeing as you can’t just walk into… Read more »

    Junky
    Guest

    ethics cannot be isolated to a specific case, if you ask me, and I feel nothing for these companies, but I’m not living in the US, and if I’ll buy it, then I’ll buy it (-: But my tests aren’t anything special, you can do it yourself too! And I’ll be glad if you could post some My guess that we’ll see nice improvement in DX12/Vulkan application if they are adequately using the parallel power of the Carrizo chips. I’m sure the FX-8800P GPU is underutilized and there is a lot of CPU overhead I think I’ll dismiss that one… Read more »

    Michael Galdenzi
    Guest
    Michael Galdenzi

    Well 400 is a 25% price increase which may matter to some. You also get a full year of warranty opposed to used which you may have no warranty. I think to some it would be a good deal, even though an 840m/940m will blow it out of the water. I don’t mind running some programs and reporting back to you. I don’t have 3d mark but this would be a great excuse for me to pick it up 🙂

    Junky
    Guest

    There is a free version of 3DMark! Plus, have you checked the other tests?
    https://www.glj.io/amd-carrizo-fx-8800p-benchmarks-15w/

    Also, you can compare with notebookcheck’s tests of the FX-8700P

    Junky
    Guest

    I have the Acer V5-552G with an A8-5557M and a Radeon 8750M (GCN), I’ll try to unlock the bios so I’d be able to run DX12. Currently, it is recognized as DX11 only, because the drivers are judging by the iGPU

    Junky
    Guest

    Any news? tests?

    Michael Galdenzi
    Guest
    Michael Galdenzi

    The one I got had a bad charger and after it died, I had no way of powering it back on. I ended up returning it without the ability to run any major tests, basically all I did was update windows. The build quality of the laptop was great though and the screen was not terrible for TN. Seemed snappy enough too.

    Junky
    Guest

    And I was surprised too, but really – that’s a powerful GPU in there, at 28nm, and it has to share 15W with the CPU. Not really a lot of space to play and I’m pretty sure it is underfed, utilized and unhappy

    Klaus88
    Guest
    Klaus88

    Strange graphic results. It performs like a 8700P which has R6 and not R7.

    Junky
    Guest

    I actually wondered if the 8700P would be faster for 3D, for the reason that its iGPU requires less power resulting in less limited clocks for this 15W APU But anyway, it is barely surprising as there are many limitations: The CPU that downclocks to 1.3GHZ, the shared DDR3 – check the API overhead test. It’s really high compared to DX11 test I’ve tried to use analyzer applications like AMD’s PerfStudio and MS GPUView, but expect seeing that the Carrizo does run compute shaders in parallel, I couldn’t understand much and barely run it without having it crushed. Also, couldn’t… Read more »

    Klaus88
    Guest
    Klaus88

    Possible reasons:

    – TDP at 12W, not 15W
    – memory bandwidth too low to feed 512 cores
    – heat dissipation system not good enough

    Junky
    Guest

    – Well, I don’t know. Some people have checked it and it seems to be 15W with some other values being 25W
    – probably
    – Haven’t had any problems with heat actually

    Klaus88
    Guest
    Klaus88

    Well, a bad heat dissipation doesn’t mean you would see real problems. Simply, if your system has a 15W SoC but it is able to dissipate less than 15W, that system will reach thermal limits faster and it will throttle more.

    Junky
    Guest

    I don’t have it no more. Can’t keep them : That’s true, the TDP has relation to the temperature too and indeed there was a period where the FPSs were higher in some games, then going down. I don’t think it was just the temperatures/thermals, but there was some kind of a built-in algorithm that acted differently each time. Maybe it was related to Windows 10, but in some cases, even idling for a long period didn’t result in higher-than-base clocks. I’m not sure how much more can be squeezed from the this machine at reasonable temps, though. About the… Read more »

    Junky
    Guest

    Are you Klaus from Notebookcheck?

    Junky
    Guest

    BTW, I won’t be surprised if this difference in the GPUs is simply not being utilized in DX11. This GCN GPU has at least two ACEs and as we’ve seen with other GPU, even like the Radeon 260X which doesn’t have a lot more shaders, DX12 can add a lot to AMD’s GPU’s performance just from utilizing the hardware fully. I guess that the Radeon 250 kind of GPUs are the same.
    So, R7 and R6 might not be that different, given the power limitations, underutilization and bad AMD DX11 drivers and CPU overhead..

    Klaus88
    Guest
    Klaus88

    Hi Junky,

    no my opinion is that the heat pipe is not good enough to drive all the generated heat. It is kinda small..

    Junky
    Guest

    That just might be the a factor. I was in a hurry so I didn’t think about stuff really
    Do you think an external thermal sensor will be useful here?

    Klaus88
    Guest
    Klaus88

    No, external sensors are useless here. What you need is a software which reads core temps in relation to Tjunc. The slope at which it reaches the thermal throttling tells us how good is the thermal dissipation.

    Junky
    Guest

    Couldn’t get reads even with AMD’s usual software. I guess it is not updated. If you know of any good software except HWInfo (which I tried), please let me know

    Junky
    Guest

    Any news, Klaus? new info?

    monstercameron
    Guest
    monstercameron

    interesting results.

    Junky
    Guest

    thanks