Laptop makers have been leaning back to cater to creative professionals who need to perform demanding tasks like complex photo editing and 4K video editing. A good example is HP, which launched the new Envy 15 with a focus on creators.
However, the HP Envy 15 faces stiff competition, not the least of which is Dell’s XPS 15, which we’ve long considered the best 15-inch laptop you can buy. A brilliant new design further cements this distinction. Does the upstart HP Envy 15 stand a chance against the Pharaoh?
We’ll start with pricing, because it’s important to keep that in mind when comparing these two 15-inch laptops. Simply put, the Envy 15 is a significantly cheaper laptop in the future, with a $1,600 Core i7-10750H CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive, a 4K AMOLED display, and an Nvidia GeForce 2060 RTX and Max Q GPU. A similarly configured XPS 15 with only the GeForce 1650 Ti GPU is $2,260 (was $2,050).
We don’t have full pricing yet, but you can equip the Envy 15 with up to 32GB of RAM (the XPS 15 maxes out at 64GB) and a Core i9 CPU. We’re sure the price difference will stay the same as the specs go up, meaning you can get a lot of performance out of the Envy 15 for less money.
In short, the Envy 15 is actually one of HP’s midrange laptops that is competing with the very premium XPS 15 and stands out in some ways — at least when you consider the internals. We will have a little performance impact.
The XPS 15 is one of the best-designed laptops you’ll find, in part because its design is the result of constant tweaks to what has been a great form factor for generations. That’s not to say the latest XPS 15 isn’t all that different from past releases—it just has a great pedigree. One thing that has remained the same is the use of carbon fiber on the bottom of the chassis and aluminum on the lid, which makes the laptop very sturdy. The overall size has changed, though, switching to a 16:10 aspect ratio display that takes up almost all the space available on the lid – the XPS 15 has very small bezels, giving it a fairly modern look thanks to it.
Jealousy 15 is another beast entirely. It’s made from stamped aluminum, so while it feels solid, it’s not quite in the same class as the XPS 15. It’s also all silver with subtle chamfering and other design elements that give it an attractive look while rising to the The latest gem-cut HP Spectre laptops. The Envy 15 looks nothing like the XPS 15, but it’s a lovely laptop in its own right.
For its size, the XPS 15 is slightly narrower in width and depth than the Envy 15, with a maximum width of only half an inch and a slightly smaller depth. The XPS 15 is also slightly thinner, at 0.71 inches at its thickest point, compared to the Envy 15’s 0.73 inches at its thickest point. The Envy 15 weighs 4.74 pounds, compared to the XPS 15’s 4.5 pounds (with an 86-watt-hour battery, which you’ll want). All of this takes into account the XPS 15’s taller display.
Input is a toss-up between the two laptops. The Envy 15 has an excellent keyboard stolen from the HP Spectre—with plenty of travel, light weight, and tons of precision, making it a typist’s dream. The XPS 15’s keyboard is also good, with plenty of travel and a comfortable feel, but it can’t quite match the Envy 15’s.
Still, the XPS 15’s touchpad is quite large for a Windows 10 laptop, much larger than the Envy 15’s touchpad (it’s not small by any means), so it’s more comfortable to use. Both support the Microsoft Precision touchpad driver and are responsive and reliable. If you choose the right screen, both laptops will have a touchscreen, although the Envy 15’s version also supports the HP Active Pen.
Connectivity is the real difference between these two laptops. Dell went all-in on USB-C ports—the XPS 15 delivers all of those features, especially two with Thunderbolt 3 support and one USB-C 3.1. They work with a full-size SD card reader (a real plus), as well as a 3.5mm audio jack.
On the other hand, the Envy 15 has two Thunderbolt 3-capable USB-C ports, a full-size HDMI 2.0a port, two USB-A 3.1 ports, and a micro SD card reader (to the dismay of photo pros) ). While Dell does drop a USB-C hub with HDMI and USB-A in the box, you don’t have to worry about carrying a dongle with the Envy 15. Both laptops use Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless connectivity.
We reviewed the XPS 15 with the eight-core Core i7-10875H CPU and the Envy 15 with the six-core Core i7-10750H. Therefore, we cannot directly compare CPU performance. In all the CPU-specific benchmarks we ran, the XPS 15 came out on top. You can’t upgrade the Envy 15 to the XPS 15’s CPU, so we had to do an exact head-to-head comparison of the two Core i9-powered laptops at the same time.
Still, the Envy 15 outperformed other laptops with the same CPU in our synthetic benchmarks and real-world tests. Turn on “Performance Mode” in the HP Command Center utility, this is what you’ll do when you’re pushing the system, as HP tuned the Envy 15 very conservatively in default mode, and the Envy 15 beat the XPS in our Handbrake 15 tests, converting 420MB video to H.265. The Envy 15 took a full two minutes, while the XPS 15 took two seconds. Of course, it doesn’t make much difference. However, it’s surprising to see such an attractively priced laptop with slower CPU performance and a laptop that costs hundreds of dollars more and has two extra cores and four extra the rout.
Still, this is the GPU we need to pay attention to. As mentioned, the Envy 15 comes with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q compared to the GeForce GTX 1650 TI in the XPS 15. Not only does this extra GPU power bring real gains in games, the Envy 15 runs much faster than games. XPS 15, and creative apps that can take advantage of the GPU. We ran the Envy 15 through the Premiere Pro rendering test, finishing in 3 minutes 53 seconds in performance mode (5 minutes 1 second in default mode). Compared to the Dell XPS 17, which also uses a GTX 2060 Max-Q GPU, it printed in three minutes and 38 seconds. The XPS 15, on the other hand, needed 4 minutes and 50 seconds to complete the same test.
When it comes to gaming, the Envy 15’s performance is naturally much faster. In Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, for example, the Envy 15 can handle 45 frames per second at 1080p Ultra mode, while the XPS 15 hits 45 frames per second at 26 fps. In Civilization VI, the Envy 15 hit 100 fps in 1080p Ultra Mode, while the XPS 15 managed only 64 fps. This performance difference permeated all of our gaming tests, which means that if you want a creative workstation that can play some games at reasonable fps and graphics detail, the Envy 15 is definitely the better choice. Not bad for a laptop that will save you $500 or more.
We’ll go ahead and quickly mention battery life here, because there’s not much difference between the Envy 15 and the XPS 15 in terms of longevity (we’re only talking minutes here). In short, neither laptop can get through a full day of real work without being plugged in. Both use fairly large power bricks, which means carrying them around isn’t an easy task.
Dell and HP have gone in slightly different directions with display choices, but both end up in the same place. We tested the 4K option on both laptops, which in the case of the Envy 15 means a 4K AMOLED display with a 16:9 aspect ratio; in the case of the XPS 15, it’s a 4K IPS display with a display ratio of 16:10. There are many uses for both displays. Dell’s panels are higher and better in terms of productivity, and that alone is likely to appeal to many. Better to switch HP to the same aspect ratio (or better yet, follow Microsoft’s lead and go straight to 3:2).
Both monitors have a wide color gamut, with the Dell at 100 percent AdobeRGB and sRGB, and the HP at 97 percent and 100 percent AdobeRGB and sRGB, respectively. The XPS 15’s accuracy was 0.65, while the Envy 15’s was 0.73, but both were below the 1.0 threshold that defines the most accurate display.
Also, the XPS 15 is slightly brighter at 442 nits compared to the Envy 15’s 404 nits. But this is the contrast where the Envy 15’s AMOLED display really shines (or doesn’t actually shine), at least when it comes to the deepest blacks on the laptop. The XPS 15 has a contrast ratio of 1480:1, which is perfect for an IPS monitor. However, the Envy 15 came in at 404,410:1, clearly in another league entirely.
You can’t go wrong with any of these displays. If you want a taller aspect ratio and a brighter display, the XPS 15 is for you. But if you want unparalleled contrast and deep blacks, the Envy 15 is definitely for you.
The XPS 15 is a better laptop, but the Envy 15 is a better value
There’s no question that the XPS 15 is the more elegant, refined laptop, and, all things considered, the best in its class when it comes to judging a machine. At the same time, the Envy 15 performs so well and costs so much less that it would be unfair to just hand the award to the XPS 15. The Envy15 saves a lot of money and in many ways is a better experience than the XPS 15.
If you have deep pockets and don’t really need fast GPU performance, then the XPS15 is definitely the way to go. However, if you’re on a budget and can benefit from significantly faster graphics, the Envy 15 is your choice.