Scales to a quad-core processor. Graphics card can pump out those frame rates. Exquisite design. Sharpest and brightest screen available. Superior speaker system. Backlit keyboard. Tandem batteries available. Very good keyboard.
Hefty for a 14-inch laptop. Touchpad could use some more tuning.
Despite mixed reviews of the HP Envy 15 ($1,800 direct, ) laptop, HP spiritedly charged forward and launched new additions to the Envy line. The HP Envy 14 ($1,286 direct), as its name suggests, is the 14-inch version, lavished with a high-end audio system, a backlit keyboard, and a high-resolution glass screen—features you won't find in an HP Pavilion laptop. Performance can be tuned beyond any other laptop in its class. There are some lingering issues with the gesture-enabled touchpad, and the system is a little on the heavy side. Otherwise, the Envy 14 is a pretty fast laptop that lives up to its name.
All Aluminum Design
Anodized aluminum is the recurring theme in HP laptops. The Envy 14 is covered in it, whereas laptops like the Asus U30Jc-1A ($899 street, ) and HP Pavilion dm4 ($905 direct, ) only use it on the cover and palm rest area. The design is similar to the Apple MacBook Pros, basically a single slab of metal with the center carved out for the components. This creates a thin and extravagant-looking laptop. Decorative etchings spruce up the lid, which are both eye-catching and resistant to fingerprints and smudges.
View Slideshow See all (7) slides
At 5.2 pounds, the Envy 14 is heavier than the 4.4-pound HP dm4, 5-pound Dell Inspiron 14R ($820 direct, ), and 4.9-pound Lenovo IdeaPad Y460 ($1,049 direct, ) but then again, the Envy 14 also has a bigger screen.
- Gaming, Media
- Operating System
- Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium
- Processor Name
- Intel Core i5-450M
- Processor Speed
- 2.4 GHz
- 4 GB
- 5.2 lb
- Screen Size
- 14.5 inches
- Screen Size Type
- Graphics Card
- Intel GMA HD, ATI Mobility Radeon 5650
- Storage Capacity
- 500 GB
- Networking Options
- Primary Optical Drive
- Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW
Although it's classified as a 14-inch laptop, the Envy 14 has a 14.5-inch widescreen, as opposed to the 14-inch screens found in the Lenovo Y460, HP dm4, and Dell 14R. It's also larger than the MacBook Pro 13-inch ($1,199 direct, ) (Apple doesn't have a 14-inch version) and Asus U30Jc-1A. More compelling than the larger screen is its resolution and brightness levels. While every one of its rivals settled on a 1,366 by 768 (WXGA) resolution, the HP Envy 14 has a 1,600 by 900 resolution. Plus, its 350-nit screen is brighter than any other laptop in its class. Photos, movies, and HD content, it look absolutely stunning.
One of the complaints about the Envy 15 was that it didn't have a backlit keyboard; the Envy 14 adds the LEDs underneath its chiclet keys. In terms of bumpiness, the keys fall somewhere in between those of the Toshiba Portégé R705-P25 ($800 street, ) (bumpiest) and MacBook Pro 13-inch (flattest).
The "clickpad," or the touchpad with the integrated mouse buttons, is not as big as that of the MacBook Pros, and its embedded multi-touch gestures are light years behind it, too. HP improved the gesture-enabled touchpad somewhat, as the scrolling and sizing commands are now behaving like they should. However, the cursor still seems to have a mind of its own when surfing with two fingers (the system was tested with the most current touchpad driver). I found that disabling these gestures in the mouse settings (Control Panel) or clicking and tapping with a single finger was a good workaround.
Loaded with Features
In terms of features, the Envy 14 has a clear advantage over its rivals. It has a slot-loading DVD burner, which, interestingly enough, is something that the Envy 15 lacks. A Blu-ray option is a glaring omission, though. Alongside the HDMI port, HP added a mini-DisplayPort, which is similar to the one found in the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch. The 3 USB ports are spread out on both sides (one of them double as an eSATA port). The 500GB, 7,200rpm hard drive is both spacious and speedy, and out of all the HP Envy laptops (Envy 15 and Envy 17), the Envy 14 is the only one that has an option for embedded 3G, for the well-connected road warrior.
The Monster Beats Audio system is arguably the best and costliest in the laptop business, as it can significantly amplify bass and volume levels on any pair of headphones, home theater system, or basic external speakers. The sound coming from the speakers will have you tapping your feet, as it did mine.
With a premium laptop, you also get premium parts. The Envy 14 can be configured in many ways, perhaps more so than any other laptop. My review unit runs on an Intel Core i5-450M processor and can scale all the way up to a quad-core variant. In fact, only a handful of 14-inch laptopsdares to go this far up in the chain. So why is it daring? Well, the faster the parts, the more heat they generate. When I reviewed the Envy 15, it had issues containing the heat that came from its quad-core processor, so the laptop ran hot. While HP was able to keep heat at bay with the Envy 14 (it ran warmest on the right side of the base, measuring 95 degrees Fahrenheit), a quad-core processor might very well push these limits. That, or fan noises would be unbearable. Of course, this is just speculation until I can get a review unit with a quad-core processor.
With the as-configured dual-core processor, the Envy 14 finished tops in video encoding tests (46 seconds). Cinebench R10 scores (7,684) were admirable, but finished behind the Lenovo Y460 (7,895) and HP dm4 (8,156), which run on higher-clocked Core i5 processors.
The Envy 14 allows you to switch between graphics environments—integrated (Intel) and discrete (ATI Mobility Radeon 5650)—but only if you configure it with a Core i3 or Core i5 processor, as switchable graphics is not available with a quad-core configuration. The graphics switch is not as seamless as Nvidia's Optimus—a technology that automatically handles the switch for you—so you'll have to change the setting using ATI's utility, or at the very least, pull the AC adapter plug. The ATI chip is the same as the one found in the Lenovo Y460, but trailed it by several hundred points in 3DMark 06 (7,376). It's a better gaming chip than the one found in the Asus U30Jc-A1, HP dm4, and Dell 14R, so hardcore gamers won't be disappointed.
Pretty Good Battery Life
Battery life wasn't outstanding and will likely dwindle quicker than other laptops over time, because of its speedy parts. The Envy 14 lasted 4 hours 15 minutes on MobileMark 2007 with the graphics set to power savings (Intel's integrated environment), which fell slightly behind the Lenovo Y460 (4:25). When running on the discrete ATI chip, though, the Envy 14 lasted just 3:35. It outlasted the Dell Inspiron 14R (3:30), which doesn't have a graphics switching mechanism, but couldn't keep up with the Asus U30Jc-1A (8 hours flat) and MacBook Pro 13-inch. (5:05). Good news is that HP sells a 6-cell battery slice that fits over the standard 56WH battery (8-cell). Though it adds significant weight to the system, the tandem batteries will be worthwhile for frequent travelers.
Laptops that are as slim as the HP Envy 14 are a dime a dozen, but finding one that can harness this much power and squeeze in this many luxury features is an extraordinary feat. Of course, with the Envy 14, your pocketbook takes a bigger hit than any other laptop in this review. And there are some drawbacks, like a touchpad that could use more tuning and a hefty frame that weighs as much as some 15-inch laptops, especially with both batteries attached. But for its power and size, it has few equals. The Asus U30Jc-1A—our Editor's Choice in this category—is the better pick, as it delivered outstanding battery life (8 hours) and won't cost you nearly as much.