The HP ENVY series is a line of high-end laptops manufactured and sold by Hewlett-Packard, one of the leaders of the computing industry. Launched in October 2009 as two models, the Envy 13 and 15, the series has been expanded with the addition of the Envy 14 and 17 models.
This time around we are going to review the Envy 14 family including its Spectre version.
Design And Build
The new HP Envy 14 is made of aluminum and magnesium, and comes with textured dark metal lid and palm rest, feeling solid and rugged. The laptop’s dimensions – 14 x 9.3 x 1.1 inches – make it slightly thicker than previous Envy models, however, it is not all that heavy for a 14.5-inch machine and weighs 5.6 pounds, being still one of the most elegant notebooks on the market.
As for the Spectre version, it seems to bring in a new innovation in design – this stunning 14-inch device is the first laptop to feature a lid and palm rest made of a beautiful, scratch-resistant high gloss black glass. It has clean lines and soft rounded corners. 20 millimeters (0.79 inches) thin and weighting under 4 pounds (1.81 kg), it has a solid feel, helped by the soft-touch finish on the chassis’ underside.
The Envy interior consists of a slightly sunken keyboard tray, with a soft-coated island-style keyboard made up of widely spaced chiclet keys and a single power button.
The laptop’s keyboard provides an amazing typing experience thanks to the keys’ smooth surface and lack of flex. It’s now backlit, making the typing process comfortable even in dimly lit environments. A spacious 4.25×2.5-inch touchpad with mouse buttons integrated accommodates multi-touch gestures – seamless pinch-zoom, two-finger scroll and rotation, and three-finger flicks make navigation through documents and websites swift and accurate.
The Envy 14 Spectre excels with a helpful LED sensor which turns the backlighting on and off according to the user’s proximity. Its large 3.9 x 2.4-inch Synaptics clickpad is made of durable scratch-proof glass, and gives the user plenty of room to maneuver. Overall, the touchpads of the Envy 14 laptops are more touch-friendly compared to the older devices of the same family, thanks to the updated software.
Three fingers flick launches a preset application that can be changed from the Control Panel. Four fingers flick launches Windows Aero Task Switcher.
The HP Envy 14 laptop comes with a 14.5-inch 1,366×768 resolution widescreen display delivering impressive brightness and excellent off-axis viewing angles (it can be upgraded to a more advanced display with the resolution of 1,600×900 pixels).
A lot of that has to do with the HP Radiance Infinity LED panel capable of displaying 82 percent of the color gamut with a max brightness of 350 nits. That means that whether you’re watching movies from the hard drive, or streamed from the Web, colors will be bright and crisp with lustrous and deep blacks and no artifacts.
The Spectre is notable for a 1600 x 900 display delivering an amazingly sharp detail. Its average brightness reading of 249 lux is well above the 179 lux thin-and-light category average. It also packs the Intel Wireless Display technology, which allows mirroring the user’s desktop on and stream 1080p to a television set or an external monitor.
That impressive visual experience couples with an equally awesome audio capacity. The speakers on the front edge of both laptops are seriously loud and clear. Furthermore, to provide an immersive surround hardware and software-based audio experience HP has teamed up with Beats Audio. So, the users can hear crisp clear vocals from any artist with reasonably strong bass.
The Spectre version also comes with the HP Wireless Audio technology, essentially a KleerNet transmitter that allows users to stream music to any KleerNet receiver, similar to an Apple AirPlay device. In addition, the right side of the laptop houses a volume dial, along with a dedicated button for launching the Beats Audio control panel, and a mute button.
Ports and connectivity
The 1.09-inch thick Envy 14 system does have room for some added ports. The selection is really imressive: two USB ports, an eSATA/USB combo port (eSATA lets you plug in an external hard drive with a faster and/or less expensive interface.), HDMI (allows connecting your laptop to a large monitor or HDTV for a more immersive viewing experience), mini DisplayPort, Ethernet, and two headphone jacks, one of which doubles as a mic jack as well.
HP also added an optical drive – the slot-loading dual-layer DVD-RW is on the left side of the system. A two-in-one card reader dwells on the front lip of the laptop. In 2011 models the eSATA/USB combo port has been replaced by an arguably more useful USB 3.0 port. As for the Envy 14 Spectre, it features a power jack on the right side, while a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0, HDMI, a mini DisplayPort, a 2-in-1 card reader, a Gigabyte Ethernet and a combination headphone/microphone jack can be found on the left.
Wireless connectivity features include a 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi for Envy 14 series, and an Intel Centrino Advanced N-6230 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi for the Spectre. Practically speaking, wireless connections are a mixed bag. According to tests, at 15 feet from the access point, there is an excellent throughput of 48 Mbps (if the average is 29 Mbps). However, at 50 feet, throughput drops to just 18.3 MBps, which is below the 20.5 Mbps average.
The Spectre has an NFC radio built into the left side of the palm rest. Thanks to a built-in chip, users can transfer websites between an NFC-enabled Android phone and the Envy 14 Spectre using Touch to Share.
The HP Envy 14 laptops feature the TrueVision Webcam capable of high-definition video recording delivering best quality even in low-light conditions. The Spectre captures images and video in 720p using the same type of webcam.
Performance And Specifications
The Envy laptop series notable for fast performance with a user-friendly operating system. It is powered by Intel’s Core CPU series and a mid-level ATI Radeon Mobility 5650. The dynamic swapping GPUs are excellent for gaming or using graphic intensive programs. The baseline for Envy 14 laptops is a second-generation Intel Core i5 clocked at 2.4 GHz and upgradable up to the quad-core i7 at 2.3 GHz.
This processor features the Turbo Boost Technology, which enhances performance and increases speed up to 2.9GHz. Standard configurations feature 6GB DDR3 RAM installed, but the system can handle up to 16GB. The CPU and RAM alone push out some of the best benchmark scores ever seen, which translates to very zippy everyday performance making the system extremely adept at handling word/document processing and various multimedia tasks. The hard drive is available in 500GB or 750GB variations.
The Envy 14 has two graphics cards – ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 and slower stock Intel GMA HD (built into the motherboard chipset) that enhance your viewing or gaming experience drastically. The laptop can automatically revert to the slower Intel HD graphics to save battery life. Though, the users will have to switch GPUs manually, the latter are more than capable of playing the latest titles. Its 3DMark06 score of 6,876 is a good indicator; that is more than 4,000 points above the category average, and even bests the 15-inch MacBook Pro (which uses an Nvidia GeForce GT 330M) by about 100 points.
When it comes to the Spectre version, the specifications are as follows: The laptop is built around an Intel Core i5-2467M CPU operating at 1.60GHz and 4GB RAM which is the starting configuration. It is not the fastest or highest-spec chip, but it’s more than enough for general day-to-day use, and it manages to keep up with all multitasking needs. The Spectre also comes with a 128GB SSD drive and an Intel HD 3000 Graphics GPU thanks to which it can easily play high-definition videos and casual games. More expensive Spectre models feature an Intel Core i7-2677M CPUr, 4GB RAM, a 256GB SSD drive together with the mentioned Intel HD 3000 Graphics.
The Spectre’s Intel HD 3000 graphics built into the processor delivers immersive casual gaming, 3D experiences and smooth and fast next generation browser experience. However, the laptop notches 3,468 in the graphics scoring system 3DMark06, which is around 700 to 800 points less than the score of the Dell XPS 13, MacBook Air and UX31. Overall, a machine with the standard specs (namely, a 1.6GHz Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB RAM and a 128GB SSD) is more than powerful enough to use as an everyday device — assuming your everyday tasks consist of email, web surfing, chat, word processing, video streaming, basic photo editing and some light gaming.
A key ultrabook feature is its ability to resume from sleep within a few seconds. Our HP models take between 1 and 2 seconds to wake up, putting them on par with other ultrabooks, including the MacBook Air 13. Thanks to having an SSD instead of a mechanical hard drive the Spectre line provides faster boot times and near instantaneous file transfers. It boots the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium in 35 seconds, which is 26 seconds faster than the category average. The regular Envy 14 model is capable of booting Windows 7 (64-bit) in mere 49 seconds, better than average booting time offered by notebooks of this category.
Speaking of the battery, HP claims that the Envy 14’s 3800mAh eight-cell battery should last for up to six hours on a single charge. However, the system lasted just 4 hours and 26 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi); that’s about 20 minutes shorter than the average, and well below the 13-inch MacBook Pro (7:48), not to mention the 15-inch MacBook Pro (7:54). To double battery’s endurance, HP does offer an extra battery slice, which attaches to the bottom of the laptop, for a whopping $200. But it will also add 1.5 pounds to the total weight.
According to HP, a Spectre device will offer you a reasonable nine hours of battery life. In reality, however, it gives you just five and a half hours, which is, though a big improvement from the regular Envy, is still average compared with other ultrabooks. When looping a movie off the local disk with WiFi on and the screen brightness fixed at 65 percent, the four-cell battery lasts about at long as both the MacBook Air’s and UX31’s.
To sum up, below is the comparative analysis of Envy 14 regular series and new Spectre version:
|HP Envy 14||HP Envy 14 Spectre|
|CPU||Intel® Core™ i5-2410M 2.4 GHz (can be upgraded to i7 at 2.3 GHz)Turbo Boost to 2.9GHz||Intel® Core™ i5-2467M 1.6GHzIntel® Core™ i7-2677M 1.8GHzTurbo boost to 2.9GHz|
|Operating System||Genuine Windows® 7 Home Basic 64 bitGenuine Windows® 7 Home Premium 64 bitGenuine Windows® 7 Professional 64 bit||Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium 64-bitGenuine Windows® 7 Professional 64-bitGenuine Windows® 7 Ultimate 64-bit|
|RAM||6 GB DDR3 RAM clocked at 1333 MHz||4GB or 8GB DDR3 RAM clocked at 1066/1333 MHz|
|Screen||14.5-inch HD+Radiance LED backlit display||14-inch HD+Radiance LED backlit display|
|Resolution||1,366 x 768||1,600 x 900|
|I/O port||two USB ports, an eSATA/USB combo port, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, Ethernet (2011 models feature USB 3.0 port instead of eSATA)||USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, a 2-in-1 card reader, Gigabyte Ethernet|
|Storage||128GB or 256GB mSATA SSD||128GB or 256GB mSATA SSD|
|Wi-Fi||802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Intel® Centrino® Advanced-N 6230 + Bluetooth (2×2 Wi-Fi)|
|Webcam||HP TrueVision HD Webcam||HP TrueVision HD Webcam (Skype HD capable)|
|Graphics||ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 + Intel GMA HD||Intel HD 3000|
|Dimensions and weight||14’’W x 9.3’’D x 1.16’’H, 5.6 pounds||12.88″W x 8.7″D x 0.79″H, under 4 pounds|
HP packs the Envy 14 series with a solid suite of software comprised of both old favorites and new arrivals. HP ProtectSmart detects if your laptop gets dropped, and will lock in the hard drive. This protection works in either a normal or enhanced mode. The enhanced mode is more receptive to bumps and jolts of the device and will protect the hard drive if it senses the device is being carried while powered on. HP QuickWeb is an instant-on environment that lets you surf the Web and chat on Skype, among other things.
A small utility called Fences is intended to keep your desktop looking tidy; it lets you create small windows where you can store shortcuts to apps. Other nice additions include the full versions of Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 and Corel VideoStudio Pro X3. HP MediaSmart helps you create, share and enjoy multimedia content in one bundle.
Third-party offerings include Skype, Microsoft Office Starter, Adobe Reader X, Windows Live and a limited free subscription to Norton Internet Security. Similar to other Envy notebooks, Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and Adobe Premiere Elements 10 are also included.
Prices for HP Envy 14 series start from USD 799 for the standard configuration. However, upgrading to more powerful versions will bump the price significantly – up to USD 1,500. The Spectre models are a bit more expensive – the price points here start from 1,149 USD.
In conclusion, it worth mentioning that the HP Envy 14 family is a highly functional work of art, fusing stunning good looks with an outstanding performance, a fast boot time, good audio and satisfying battery life. Overall, these laptops are a really great choice for consumers searching for one-of-a-kind design ultrabooks that will help accomplish all their computing, media and gaming tasks.