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Kavawuvi

HP Envy x360 15z laptop (Ryzen 5 2500U)

I have been using this laptop for a while now, having bought it after my youngest brother had broken my older laptop. I figured I had used it long enough to give my opinion on it.

 

small_HP-Evny-x360-with-Ryzen-Mobile-Bac

 

What is it?

This is a hybrid laptop that has a Raven Ridge Ryzen 5 2500U processor in it. By hybrid laptop, I mean this laptop can be used as a tablet, and this can be done by folding the 15.6” screen backwards. The screen does not detach, but it is touch-capable and can be used for drawing. I don’t use this feature very often, but it is a thing that can be done.
 

Why did I get it?

I had been looking for a laptop with a Ryzen APU, but many of the ones out there, for some reason, only support up to 8 GB of RAM with no 16 GB option, and many of them are not user-upgradeable. Here is why I think this doesn’t make any sense:

 

  • If you’re buying a laptop to use as a mobile workstation, then 8 GB may not quite cut it. Many programs like Adobe After Effects burn through RAM as do things like virtual machines.
  • Also, if you want to play a game or two every once in a while, you might not have enough RAM. This is because the CPU and integrated GPU will use the same 8 GB of RAM, and the RAM may get crowded. Also, laptops and other prebuilts with 8 GB of RAM may be running in single channel mode, hampering the APU's memory bandwidth.
  • If you’re buying a laptop just to buy a laptop and you don’t care about GPU performance, then you probably wouldn’t bother getting a Ryzen 5 APU but something cheaper.

 

Also, the ENVY is not the only Raven Ridge laptop that has a 16 GB option, as there is also the Dell Inspiron 17 5000 which not only has a 16 GB option but a 32 GB option, too. It would have been nice to see the ENVY have a 32 GB option, too, even if I probably would not have gotten it.
 

Specs and Price

Here are the specifications of the laptop I bought:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 2500U (2.0 GHz base; 3.6 GHz boost) with Vega 8 Graphics
- RAM: 16 GB DDR4 @ 2400 MHz (dual channel)
- SSD: 256 GB NVMe
- Wireless: 802.11ac
- OS: Windows 10

 

This laptop set me back around $1000. Unfortunately, there is no Windows 7 support, but that’s Microsoft’s fault and not a fault of this laptop or even HP. Regardless, I would not recommend installing Windows 7 on this laptop, as it’s not supported, and some components probably will not function properly. There are already enough problems with Windows 10 (which I’ll cover in a little bit).
 

Build Quality

Much of this laptop’s chassis is made out of metal, and it looks and feels like a high quality PC. The screen does not flex, either, and touching it feels similar to any high quality phone. However, it is somewhat top-heavy, and the hinges are not as good as they could be at keeping the screen up, so the screen may wobble if you move the laptop around. This can cause issues if you need to use the touch screen while in laptop mode.
 

Display

The laptop uses a 1920x1080 60 Hz IPS display. As such, viewing angles are fantastic It could be a little brighter for anyone wanting to use the laptop either outdoors or near a window, as the reflective screen can make things a bit difficult to see in these cases.

 

Speakers

The sound quality on the speakers are decent on their own. The bass is lacking a bit, but it’s otherwise very listenable. They are a little quiet at times, though I would probably just go with headphones when convenient.

 

Battery Life

I don’t have the means to adequately test battery life, but from my own normal use, I got around 5-6 hours of web browsing and coding before I got a low battery warning. I've used worse laptops, but I've also used better.

 

Basic Usage

This laptop is quite responsive and very nice to use, overall. This can probably be attributed to its NVMe SSD. The fan is usually not that audible, but it can ramp up at times, and it isn’t the most pleasant thing to hear. The bottom of the laptop does get fairly warm, too, so I would not recommend doing something intensive like render videos unless it’s on a desk. The keyboard feels pretty good to type on. It’s not as good as typing on a mechanical keyboard, of course, but it does the job fairly well and it is quite comfortable.

 

I/O

Here is all of the external I/O:
- 1x USB 3.1 Type-C (Gen 1); DisplayPort 1.4
- 2x USB 3.1 Type-A (Gen 1)
- 1x HDMI v2.0b
- 1x SD card slot
- 1x 3.5 mm headphone/microphone

 

The I/O is pretty good even if it’s a little sparse. There are several options for video output available to you, as well, thanks to DisplayPort. Also, having a Type-C port is nice, too, even if it’s only one. However, if you want to plug in more than two Type-A devices (e.g. a keyboard, mouse, flash drive, gigabit Ethernet, etc.), you’ll need an adapter. Perhaps they could have replaced the proprietary charging port with another USB port and then just use the USB Type-C port on the laptop for charging.

 

Camera and Microphone

The webcam image quality isn’t great. Even in a well-lit room, it’s still a little snowy. For a Skype chat, it’s passable, but that’s about it. As for the microphone, like the camera, it works, and I can clearly understand what is being said through it. However, the audio quality is quite unimpressive.


Gaming?

Let’s make one thing clear, first: This is NOT a gaming laptop. If you are buying this or any laptop with only an APU in it for the sole purpose of gaming, then you’re making a mistake. Yes, this laptop has Zen and Vega mashed together, but the gaming performance won’t be as good as a laptop with a decent discrete GPU, and you cannot upgrade the GPU like you could with a desktop. In fact, you cannot even use a Thunderbolt enclosure with this laptop, as it lacks Thunderbolt ports.

 

That said, it does play games much better than any current Intel graphics processor can. AMD doesn’t really say a lot with the AMD Ryzen 5 2500U’s GPU specifications on their website other than it has 8 Vega cores running at 1100 MHz. However, you can figure out some of the other specs with a little math or by looking at GPU-Z.
 

Here are the specifications of the GPU:
- Compute units: 8 (Radeon Vega)
- Frequency: 300 MHz base; 1100 MHz boost
- Memory: 256 MB DDR4 @ 2400 MHz

- Memory bandwidth (Eff. GHz x 64 bits x channels): 38.4 GB/s
- Stream processors (CUs x 64): 512
- TMUs (CUs x 4): 32
- ROPs (GPU-Z): 16
- Compute GFLOPs (Boost GHz x SPs x 2): 1126.4
 

Yes, it does only have 256 MB of RAM dedicated to it, and no, you cannot change that in this laptop’s BIOS. In most cases, this isn’t a problem, as you are using system RAM, anyway, and it will simply use more system RAM when it runs out of its 256 MB, and Windows will happily share up to 8 GB. However, some games may give warnings or even restrict some settings due to only detecting 256 MB.

 

For comparison, the base Xbox One GPU:
- Compute units: 12 (Sea Islands)
- Frequency: 853 MHz
- Memory: 8 GB DDR3 @ 2133 MHz

- Memory bandwidth: 68.256 GB/s
- Stream processors: 768
- TMUs: 48
- ROPs: 16
- Compute GFLOPs: 1310.2

 

In terms of theoretical compute power, the Xbox One GPU does have ~16% more gigaflops, but this does not necessarily equate to 16% gaming performance, as there are other factors that come into play. The Xbox One uses an older GPU architecture from the Radeon 7000 and 8000 series. The Xbox One also uses quad channel memory, effectively giving it a 256-bit interface, while my laptop’s dual channel memory gives it only a 128-bit interface. Therefore, Xbox One’s memory bandwidth is much higher despite using slower, older memory.

 

The CPU of the Xbox One is also a bit different, being an octa-core 1.75 GHz AMD Jaguar-based processor. This wouldn’t make it very good for most recent PC titles (at least at 60 FPS; 30 FPS probably) due to the low IPC and clock speeds even if these games were to take advantage of all eight of its cores, but consoles may have some magic hocus-pocus optimization or something.

 

Here are all of the benchmarks I did:

 

pPN1SsN.png

 

Yooka-Laylee (1280 x 720, Fastest) – Initial Cutscene
AVG: 60.90 FPS
LOW (1%): 15.46 FPS
LOW (0.1%): 7.01 FPS

 

Yooka-Laylee is a game based on the Unity engine. I honestly thought this would run better after seeing it run pretty well at 4K on my GTX 1070, but this was unfortunately not the case, even on the lowest possible settings. It has a good average FPS, and for most of the initial cutscene, it was pretty smooth. However, the random stutters make this game difficult to play, forcing me to lock the game to 30 FPS with vSync to get something consistent.

 

Killing Floor 2 (1280 x 720, Low)
AVG: 90.17 FPS
LOW (1%): 27.85 FPS
LOW (0.1%): 12.84 FPS

 

Here’s an Open Carnage favorite. Killing Floor 2 uses a modified version of Unreal Engine 3. This game was played on Hard, four waves, solo, and on one of the most graphics-intensive maps Killing Floor 2 comes with: Infernal Realms. Most of the gameplay was smooth, but there were times where it stuttered. With some careful .ini tweaking, you can get this game to run better.

 

Other maps are a better, so this does seem like a worst-case scenario. The game is still very enjoyable, even despite having played the game at over a 100 FPS on my desktop PC at settings that exceed the Ultra preset.

 

Fallout 4 (1280 x 720, Low, Borderless Windowed, vSync disabled) – Commonwealth
AVG: 56.25 FPS
LOW (1%): 28.41 FPS
LOW (0.1%): 13.85 FPS

 

Bethesda-developed games are a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, and Fallout 4 is no exception. Fallout 4 is a game that tries to be a great game, falls short of being even a good game, and yet I played it for over a hundred hours knowing this. It runs fairly smoothly if you play with vSync disabled, though if you play the game with vSync disabled, make sure to cap the frame rate to 120 FPS with something like Rivatuner. The game’s physics gets very wonky if it goes above 120 FPS.

 

Being an open world game, Fallout 4 does vary a lot in performance in different places. Indoors, I can get about 80 FPS. Outdoors, I get about 60 FPS, though it’s a bit more stable at night likely due to fewer shadows. Diamond City gets to only around 40 FPS.

 

Either way, it runs a lot better than the console releases despite having a theoretically weaker GPU, though I suspect this is due to the Zen-based CPU and that I’m running it at 720p instead of 1080p. You could probably get more performance out of this game if you mess with the ini file. You can also drop the game to 450p, but then the window will only take up 17% of your screen, making it difficult to see.


You may be wondering why I did borderless windowed mode, and that's because the game failed to start in full screen mode. And this is why Bethesda games are so great.

 

War Thunder (1280 x 720, Low – Low Texture Quality) – Pacific Battle (Day) In-Game Benchmark
AVG: 156.97 FPS
LOW (1%): 81.20 FPS
LOW (0.1%): 36.32 FPS
 

War Thunder (1280 x 720, Low – Low Texture Quality) – Tank Battle (CPU) In-Game Benchmark
AVG: 63.95 FPS
LOW (1%): 47.38 FPS
LOW (0.1%): 26.70 FPS

 

War Thunder, by Gaijin Entertainment, uses an in-house engine called the Dagor Engine. In both of these benchmarks, I’m using the Low preset with Low texture quality. The reason for the Low texture quality setting is because the game capped this particular setting due to the low dedicated VRAM. I don’t know how well it would have run if it had allowed me to use a higher texture quality setting.

 

Anyway, there are basically two games in War Thunder: Air Forces and Ground Forces. Air Forces uses air vehicles such as jets and fighters and Ground Forces uses ground vehicles such as tanks and anti-aircraft vehicles. There is quite a performance difference between the two modes as clearly illustrated in the benchmarks.

 

The Pacific Battle (Day) benchmark showcases Air Forces, which runs and plays as smooth as butter with no noticeable stuttering. Having to run the game with low texture quality is a bummer, but with a great, consistent frame rate, I’m not complaining. Ground Forces does fairly well, but it’s not the smoothest experience. There is a preset, Lowest, which might improve things at the cost of more visual quality.

 

The Talos Principle (1280 x 720, DirectX 11, Low CPU/GPU/GPU Memory)
AVG: 80.84 FPS
LOW (1%): 29.15 FPS
LOW (0.1%): 13.03 FPS

 

The Talos Principle looks pretty good even on low settings at 720p, and it plays quite well, too. There is some minor slow down that can happen when moving around a lot between puzzles, but stuttering is minimal. The settings do go down even more to Lowest which give another 40 FPS or so, but the difference in visual quality is very drastic, even moreso than going from Low to High. I’d have loved to have tried the Vulkan renderer, here, but setting it to Vulkan crashes the game upon starting up. Speaking of which, this game can give a low VRAM popup message if you start it up.
 

Rocket League (1600 x 900, High Performance / Performance)
AVG: 126.68 FPS
LOW (1%): 60.14 FPS
LOW (0.1%): 27.71 FPS

 

Rocket League, a popular game by Psyonix, runs on Unreal Engine 3 and it does so incredibly well. At 900p on the lowest presets, this game runs like a dream, and there is plenty of room to turn up settings which would make the game look considerably better while still being well over 60 FPS on average. This can be done to your preference, though if you want the highest frame rate possible without dropping to 720p, here is what you can get.

 

Overall, this laptop does fairly well in games considering it only has integrated graphics. You will need to lower settings on many recent-ish games to get a good framerate, but it will be much better at gaming than an ultrabook with Intel graphics and will be around on par with a low-end discrete GPU like a GT 1030. However, a laptop with even a GTX 1050 Ti will run laps around this without any problem in gaming.

 

Video Encoding

Using Handbrake, I encoded Big Buck Bunny (2160p 60 FPS, 10 minutes 34 seconds) with the following settings:

  • 3840 x 2160
  • 60 FPS
  • Fast
  • 20 CRF
  • H.264

On this laptop with the Ryzen 5 2500U, it finished in 53 minutes 28 seconds. This isn't quite as fast as what I get on my desktop PC, which with its Intel Core i7-6700K finishes this same task in 30 minutes 43 seconds (when set to stock frequencies), but for video encoding while mobile, the Ryzen 5 2500U is pretty good.

 

Crapware

Like most prebuilts, this laptop does have bloatware installed, and you will need to remove it before you can use your PC.

 

McAffe and Priceline.com, for instance, don’t really do anything useful and only seem to take up space. They can be safely trashed.

 

Windows 10 also has the Get Office 365 app ad which you can safely remove. It may also come with a trial of Microsoft Office, but you can uninstall this, too. Unless you need Microsoft Office such as if it’s required by your workplace, I’d just use LibreOffice if you need an office suite.

 

Some optional preinstalled stuff might be useful like HP Support Assistant, which can look up warranty information or update certain drivers, but Windows Update can also take care of drivers. Overall, it’s fairly light on crapware, but I’ve seen cleaner prebuilts.

 

Headaches

The Wi-Fi on this laptop is not the greatest and had cases (albeit infrequent) where it would have trouble sending and receiving data. Updating drivers through Device Manager (several times over the course of a few weeks) fortunately did improve this and got it to be stable.

 

The laptop’s touchpad does not function when the keyboard is use or shortly after it is used. This makes pretty much every game genre unplayable without an external mouse or gamepad. I fiddled around with the SmartSense options, but it was still doing this regardless of what I set it to – all I could do was change the delay before it would let me move my cursor again.
 

Not only does this impact gaming but it also impacts basic use. I have to wait a whole second or so before I can switch from typing to using the trackpad, and this makes typing things difficult as I may have to edit things. It also makes writing code a pain, because I jump around in different parts of the code as I edit it. The palm rejection is pretty good even when I’m not typing, so I don’t see the point of not letting me move the cursor and use the keyboard simultaneously.

There are also problems when using Google Chrome with hardware acceleration enabled (a default setting). Video from YouTube can get corrupted and the drivers would crash sometimes. Turning hardware acceleration off can solve this problem, however. I think this may be due to Vega’s drivers still in their infancy, though.

 

Overall

This laptop is good. Specs-wise, I’ve never owned a better laptop. I’m used to dual-core-with-hyperthreading Intel-based laptops, though, so that’s not saying much. The Ryzen APU performs reasonably well in games, and when I’m away from my desktop PC for extended periods of time, this is something I will use to my advantage when I get bored.

 

That said, the past month with this laptop have not been a flawless experience. Getting Wi-Fi to finally work took a lot of patience. Vega drivers with Raven Ridge are still not 100% mature, but that is the price of being an early adopter. Also, the fact that I can’t use the touchpad with the keyboard means I have to pack a mouse or gamepad with me if I want to play games on this, and it makes doing tasks like typing or programming a bit annoying.

 

It is also worth noting that while it does look and feel premium, they clearly have cut some corners here. Battery life isn't the greatest, the camera and microphone aren't great, and they have installed some unnecessary software. Otherwise, it's a good machine and I'm otherwise satisfied with it.

 

Who is this laptop for?

If you're getting a laptop strictly for gaming, do not get this laptop. It does not have discrete graphics, and while the integrated graphics are good enough to play most modern games fairly well (sometimes better than the base Xbox One thanks to the fast Ryzen CPU), it doesn't always hit 60 FPS, and you almost always have to turn things down.

 

If you're getting this laptop as a mobile workstation, the Ryzen 5 processor does bring good all around performance.

 

 

Pros:
- IPS display
- Good keyboard
- Good CPU performance

- Can play most games
- Good build quality

 

Cons:
- Lackluster camera and microphone
- Touchpad does not work with keyboard at same time

- Battery life is sub-optimal
- Some crapware may need removed

WaeV, Tucker933 and Sunstriker7 like this

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You should sell this review to PC Magazine or something.

 

Also there's no shame in liking Fallout 4.

Kavawuvi likes this

Kavawuvi: one of these days these glutes are gonna squawk all over you

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3 hours ago, Sunstriker7 said:

You should sell this review to PC Magazine or something.

 

Also there's no shame in liking Fallout 4.

 

The "guilty pleasure" thing was mostly a joke. I don't think there's anything wrong with liking Fallout 4, either. It does a lot of very good things, and for the most part, I enjoyed playing it. There were some pretty good little side quests in there that I enjoyed playing, and the main quest, even if much of it wasn't something I really liked, was all right.

 

However, during the time I've played it, I've become very much acquainted with its many things.

  • Limited dialogue options where every option or almost every option means the same thing
  • Some of these options have a chance of pissing off one of your companions yet you have no way of knowing this due to how vague they are before you say it
  • Numerous game-breaking bugs that require a reset to fix such as being trapped in a building while every door doesn't have physics
  • Numerous game-breaking bugs that a reset cannot fix such as enemies I have to kill for a quest not actually spawning or settlements showing the wrong number of resources and losing happiness when they shouldn't
  • General Bethesda things like framerate-based physics, NPCs having buggy animations like sitting in midair, NPCs turning hostile for no reason, hostile NPCs randomly standing in place and T-posing while taunting me, having only 5 voice actors and have them even say exactly the same things as what the others say (e.g. "never should have come here" in Skyrim), etc.

Bethesda isn't the greatest at making mostly bug free games. Their story writing doesn't do much for me, either. The gameplay itself was also pretty good usually, but these bugs can get in the way and ruin everything. Therefore, I find it difficult to call this game "good" even if I do like it.

 

Even if it had no redeeming qualities whatsoever and did absolutely nothing good, there would still be nothing wrong with liking it.

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I decided to give Fortnite a try on this PC. The settings were 1280x720, Full Screen, vSync off, unlimited framerate, low preset but with far render distance.

 

Skydiving (riding the Battle Bus and then falling to the ground)

AVG: 81.9 FPS

LOW (1%): 38.2 FPS

LOW (0.1%): 23.3 FPS

 

There was a little bit of stuttering, but at this point of the game, it has little effect on gameplay. For the most part, it's quite smooth even when looking downward. As I approached the ground, the game's average framerate goes up a bit, and the infrequent stuttering goes away.

 

On Ground (once I touch the ground)
AVG: 102.9 FPS

LOW (1%): 57.9 FPS

LOW (0.1%): 34.6 FPS

 

It was quite smooth and responsive. No noticeable stuttering could be detected.

 

Overall (both skydiving and on ground)

AVG: 101.3 FPS

LOW (1%): 53.5 FPS

LOW (0.1%): 28.5 FPS

 

Overall, the game performs quite well on the Ryzen 5 2500U. The visual settings I used here do make the game look like a potato, but I wanted to show you the maximum frame rate you can get without compromising render distance.

 

I did do a little testing with other settings. Medium textures do not look any better and High lowers the frame rate. Lowering the render distance might help for this, but it will put you at a disadvantage; many other people have the render distance at the high or far settings.

 

Lastly, you could limit the game to 30 FPS, and you might be able to set a few more things to high, including textures. However, lowering the frame rate makes the game a little more difficult to play and, like lowering render distance, gives you an unnecessary handicap when facing people who play the game at a good frame rate.

 

Here's a bar graph:

 

SARxPkR.png

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