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HP Envy 14 review: HP Envy 14

HP Envy 14

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
7 min read

HP's high-end Envy line of laptops is one of the few bright spots for laptop design in an industry currently filled with midprice plastic boxes. With a solidly built (but slightly too heavy) aluminum and magnesium chassis and a capable collection of components, we liked the original 13- and 15-inch versions of the Envy, but they were priced out of reach for most.


HP Envy 14

The Good

Less expensive than last year's Envy models; highly configurable; solid design and construction.

The Bad

Heavy; ATI switchable graphics not as seamless as Nvidia's; funky volume controls don't play well with games.

The Bottom Line

HP's updated Envy 14 is a well-built high-end laptop with impressive components and a surprisingly reasonable price.

The new 14-inch Envy 14 (we always love logical product names) adds discrete graphics to last year's 13-inch Envy 13, while dropping the starting price by about one third to $999. That gets you an Intel Core i3 CPU, but upgrading to a more powerful Core i5, as in our review unit, only bumps the price up to $1,049 (Core i7 and quad-core options are also available, at prices up to $1,600).

The Envy 14 looks great and generally runs great, but there are also a handful of minor frustrating issues that seem out of place on a high-end laptop. Using the volume control buttons automatically brings up an on-screen volume bar that bumps you out of full-screen games; the multitouch touch pad still has trouble with its two-finger scroll functions; and this laptop had occasional trouble waking up out of a sleep state--more so than we've seen in a Windows 7 laptop in some time.

Price as reviewed / Starting price $1,049/$999
Processor 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 M450
Memory 4GB, 1333MHz DDR3
Hard drive 500GB 7,200rpm
Chipset Intel HM55
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 (switchable)
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium
Dimensions (WD) 14.4 x 9.3 inches
Height 1.0-1.1 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 14.5 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 5.3/6.4 pounds
Category Midsize

Like last year's Envy 13, the new HP Envy 14 is made of aluminum and magnesium, and comes in basic gunmetal gray. The same subtle pattern of imprinted squares covers the wrist rest and back of the lid, making the two systems hard to tell apart, aside from the slight size increase to accommodate the 14-inch display.

The Envy 14, like its Envy predecessors, feels solid and rugged, but is also dense and heavy compared with other laptops of a similar size. At 5.3 pounds, it's not exactly something you'd want to carry in a shoulder bag during a daily commute (and a 14-inch laptop is already just over the line of what we'd consider truly portable), but we could see it working for semiregular trips to the office or coffee shop.

The interior consists of a slightly sunken keyboard tray, with a keyboard made up of widely spaced, flat-topped keys and a single power button. Though there are no quick-launch or media control keys, the row of Function keys has their media control and other attributes as the primary mapping, with the actual tasks of F4, F5, etc. requiring you to hold down the Fn key at the same time (a setup HP and others are using more frequently). One big advantage the Envy 14 has over the older Envy 13 is that the new keyboard is backlit, which is one of our must-have features in any high-end laptop.

As previously mentioned, the volume controls have the unfortunate side effect of jumping to the onscreen volume indicator when you hit the volume down, up, or mute buttons (F7, F8, and F9, respectively). So if you try to use them while playing a game or watching certain kinds of full-screen video, you'll be kicked out of the full-screen mode or even back to the desktop--which is an incredibly frustrating experience.

The Envy's oversize touch pad is now common on many HP laptops. The look and feel are great, and it rivals Apple for sheer size. But having the left and right mouse buttons built right in at the lower corners of the touch pad (clicking down when pressed) cuts down on the actual usable space.

Unfortunately, every HP laptop with this new touch pad we've tried has the same problem: the multitouch gesture controls don't work consistently, especially the all-important two-finger scrolling move. Scrolling down long documents or Web pages with your index and middle fingers almost never works, as one rarely holds those two fingers evenly enough on the horizontal plane to activate the scroll function. We had better luck with our middle and ring fingers. The touch pad also lacks the inertial scrolling that helps MacBooks (and iPhones, iPads, etc.) feel so natural.

The 14.5-inch wide-screen LED display (notable, as most 14-inch laptop screens measure only 14.0-inches diagonally) offers a 1,600x900-pixel native resolution, which is better than the almost universal 1,366x768 pixels found on most laptops with screens from 11 to 15 inches. The screen had impressive brightness and excellent off-axis viewing angles, and audio was also a high point. HP has teamed with Beats Audio to include special bass-boosting software and hardware that purportedly works especially well with Beats-branded headphones, but certainly also sounds clear and hefty with other headphones or through the system speakers.

  HP Envy 14 Average for category [mainstream]
Video HDMI, mini-Display Port VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0 (1 USB/eSATA), SD card reader 4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA
Expansion None ExpressCard/54
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

The HP Envy 14 has a much better selection of ports and connections than the Envy 13. This time around, you get three USB ports, including one USB/eSATA port, both HDMI and DisplayPort, plus a slot-loading optical drive--a feature conspicuously missing from the 13-inch version.

The $999 base model has an Intel Core i3 CPU, and a variety of Core i5 and Core i7 upgrades are available, adding anywhere from $50 to more than $500 to the price. We tested a version with the most basic upgrade, to a Core i5-450m, which seems like a very worthwhile investment. As one would rightly expect from the current Core i5 laptop, the HP Envy 14 performed well in our benchmark tests, but slightly slower than systems with the more common and slightly faster version of the Core i5, the i5-520M (which is available as a $150 option). Still, for all but the most heavy multitasking or gaming, the Envy 14 is more than capable.

The included ATI Radeon HD5650 is a midrange graphics card suitable for mainstream gaming. Playing Unreal Tournament III at 1,600x900-pixel resolution, we got 57.8 frames per second. In Street Fighter IV, at the same resolution, the system ran at 29.6 frames per second.

The Envy also features switchable graphics, which means the ATI card can be turned off to save battery power when not needed, instead running the default Intel HD graphics. It's a nice option to have, but unlike Nvidia's Optimus solution for laptops running Nvidia GPUs, you have to manually switch the graphics here by clicking an onscreen button, which frankly feels archaic at this point (although you can configure the system to automatically jump to the integrated graphics when using the battery).

Juice box
Mainstream (Avg watts/hour)  
Off (60%) 0.68
Sleep (10%) 1.09
Idle (25%) 13.99
Load (05%) 53.64
Raw kWh Number 58.66
Annual Energy Cost $6.66

Annual energy consumption cost
HP Pavilion dm4-1003
HP Envy 14

The HP Envy 14 ran for 3 hours and 20 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included 8-cell battery. That's good for a midsize laptop, and note that we kept the switchable discrete graphics card engaged, as many casual users would. Remembering to switch them off would lead to improved battery life.

HP includes an industry-standard, one-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Upgrading to a three-year plan starts at $399, but includes accidental damage protection and on-site service. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, and a well-maintained online knowledge base and driver downloads.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dm4-1003
HP Envy 14

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Envy 14
HP Pavilion dm4-1003

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dm4-1003
HP Envy 14

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dm4-1003
HP Envy 14

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

HP Envy 14
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 M450; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650; 500GB Seagate 7200rpm

Dell Inspiron 14R
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.27GHz Intel Core i3 M350; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470; 500GB Hitachi 5400rpm

HP Pavilion dm4-1003
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 M520; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated)/1695MB (Total) Intel MHD; 320GB Toshiba 7200rpm

Lenovo Ideapad Y460
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 M520; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650; 500GB Seagate 5400rpm


HP Envy 14

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 7Battery 8Support 7