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HP Envy M6-1205SA Laptop Review

HP Envy M6-1205SA Laptop
AMD's mobile processors aren't traditionally known for their high performance, but they're well suited to great value mid-range systems such as HP's Envy M6-1205SA. This laptop has dedicated graphics, a 15.6in display, a good battery and great connectivity. It's also well priced. The 2.3GHz A10-4600M processor isn't the fastest mobile chip that AMD makes, but it's ideal for everyday desktop tasks. It runs web browsers, word processors and image editors comfortably, and it can increase its clock speed to 3.2GHz when the processor's operating within certain thermal limits. Its 6GB of RAM is ample for multitasking, and its 1TB hard disk is easily big enough for a large media collection.

The A10-4600M has a Radeon HD 7660G graphics processor built in to it, which performs well enough on its own, but here it's combined with the dedicated HD 7670M GPU in Hybrid Crossfire for even better performance. In Dirt Showdown test, it managed a smooth 29.2fps at 1,280x720 with graphics options set to High. You could even increase the resolution to the screen's native 1,366x768 and get 26.9fps, but switching the graphics settings to Ultra proved too much of a challenge and the Envy M6-1205SA produced a jerky 16fps average frame rate. This shows that many modern games should be playable at a resolution of 1,280x720 if you're realistic with detail settings and anti-aliasing.

Because the dedicated graphics card is able to shut down when the Envy M6-1205SA is running on battery power, the Envy M6-1205SA was able to produce a fantastic result in light-use battery benchmarks. At just under nine hours, you should be able to go an entire working day without hunting for a power socket, as long as you stick to light tasks. This is a fantastic result for an AMD-powered laptop.

In general use, the M6-1205SA is something of a mixed bag. Although it uses the Envy name, which has traditionally been reserved for HP's premium laptops, it doesn't feel as high-end as many other Envy laptops. The lid and wrist rest are brushed metal, but the main chassis is plastic. The screen bends and flexes under minimal pressure, as does the keyboard tray, and the glossy display bezel is a magnet for dust and fingerprints. However, once you actually start using the laptop, things get much better. Conveniently, the M6-1205SA has a wide selection of ports. As well as three USB 3 ports and a USB 2 port, it also has a Gigabit Ethernet port, VGA and HDMI video outputs, a 3.5mm headset audio jack, a multiformat card reader and a DVD re-writer. This should be more than enough for most people, even if you plan on using the M6-1205SA to replace an ageing desktop PC.

The black Chiclet-style keyboard is very easy to use thanks to full-size keys that are incredibly responsive. They don't have very much travel, but they bounce back into place almost immediately. The M6-1205SA also has numeric keypad, with only the arrow keys slightly reduced in size to make room. Unfortunately, there's no keyboard backlight, but you wouldn't expect one at this price.

The touchpad's buttons have very little travel, but still feel responsive. The touchpad itself is smooth and lets you navigate the Windows desktop quickly. All the usual multitouch gestures were recognised quickly, and we liked the option to deactivate the touchpad altogether with a double-tap to the top-left corner. With its 1,366x768 resolution, the 15.6in display is fairly average. It's not particularly bright, and its TN panel provides terrible viewing angles. There's a reasonable amount of screen tilt, but we could only find a few positions where colours didn't begin to warp. Colours are at least fairly vibrant, but it's certainly no comparison to the displays found in HP's more expensive Envy machines.

As we've come to expect from HP laptops, the twin stereo speakers are Beats branded, but the bundled software provides little more than an equalizer that emphasizes bass when listening through headphones.The speakers themselves are reasonably loud, but sound tinny at high volumes. At £600, the Envy M6-1205SA is something of a bargain. The AMD processor and graphics processor are perfectly suited to everyday work, but can also play games at reasonable detail levels. It has a surprisingly long-lasting battery, a comfortable keyboard and plenty of inputs. It's not perfect, as the display is merely average and we don't think the build quality justifies the Envy brand, but there are very few similarly priced machines that are quite so versatile.

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