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Envy 15 review: HP turns up the volume

The physical volume control wheel on HP's redesigned Envy 15 is simple but brilliant, yet almost no other laptop makers offer anything similar.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With a radical redesign, HP's latest Envy system looks a lot different from previous models, but the most important change is one you might not even notice at first.

The big news in the new Envy 15 is the inclusion of a physical volume-control wheel. Physical volume controls are very rare. Occasionally, you'll get a couple of tiny volume-up and volume-down buttons above the keyboard, and a few years ago capacitive touch strips were popular (but never responsive enough to use). Most of the time, you're stuck fumbling with alternative functions of the Fn keys for volume and muting.

The volume control wheel on the new HP Envy 15. Sarah Tew/CNET

This is an actual wheel, built into the right edge of the system. It's small, but just the right size for flicking with a finger while playing a game or video. A separate mute button sites right below it (and could perhaps be a bit larger). The top of the volume wheel clicks as well, but that command brings up the Beats Audio menu, with access to input and output levels for different devices, EQ settings, and even the ability to flip the volume wheel control direction between clockwise and counterclockwise.

The biggest downside to the new system is HP's just-announced Envy Spectre 14-inch laptop from CES. With an entirely new glass-covered design, it's already got the Envy 15 beaten on looks before even hitting stores.

Read the full review of the HP Envy 15 here.