- Build quality, Case and design and looks
- Keyboard and Trackpad
- Sound and Speakers
- General subjective performance experience
- Gaming Performance
- Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling
- Screen / Screen quality
- Competing gaming laptops / alternatives
++ 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.
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
+ 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)
- 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
|Model||HP Envy 15Z-ah000|
|Price||As tested, FX-8800P upgrade : ~$450-550|
|CPU||AMD Carrizo FX-8800P APU 1.3-3.4GHZ, 2.1GHZ base|
|GPU||Integrated AMD Radeon R7 core@300-800MHZ|
|Motherboard & Chipset||Hewlett-Packard 80BA, AMD CZ FCH chipset|
|RAM||Samsung 2GB+4GB DDR3@1600MHZ |
2 banks of memory available, totally
|Storage||HDD : 750GB HGST HTS541075A9E680|
(non SSHD), 5400RPM, 8MB cache
|LCD Panel||In review: 1366x768 SAMSUNG [Unknown Model: SDC4E51]|
|Weight / Dimensions||2.28kg (~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)
|Keyboard||White backlit (42levels including off)|
|Connection Ports||right side: Lexington key, 1xUSB 2.0, 1xUSB 3.0|
Left: power-in, RJ-45, HDMI 1.4, 3XUSB 3.0, microphone/headphone, card reader
|WiFi / Ethernet||WiFi: Broadcom BCM43142 802.11b/g/n|
Ethernet: RealTek Semiconductor RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet NIC
|Speakers / Audio||4.0 BANG & OLUFSON speakers|
|Bios / EC version (test unit)||Insyde F.03 / 80.3|
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.
Let’s see how the Envy 15Z fairs in this review.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
OS : Windows 10, fully updated
Drivers: Catalyst 15.8 beta
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 (firstname.lastname@example.orgGHZ, 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.
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)
THe Envy 15Z stays pretty low-noised under load. While idling it’s pretty quiet.
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.
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.
- 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
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
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.