HP Envy 14 review: Performance for creatives in an unassuming package – CNET

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Josh Goldman/CNET

You know the expression about having the right tools for the job? If you’re making a laptop aimed at creatives, it’s not enough to just put discrete graphics and a strong processor in a slim body. The extra performance really should be paired with a good display, and that’s what you get with the latest HP Envy 14. The laptop’s 16:10 14-inch 1,920×1,200-pixel display not only gives you more vertical room to work, but is color-calibrated at the factory and covers 100% of the sRGB color gamut. The result is a well-rounded option for creatives looking for on-the-go performance at a reasonable price. 

HP Envy 14

Price as reviewed $1,260
Display size/resolution 14-inch 1,920×1,200-pixel touch display
CPU 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-1135G7
Memory 16GB DDR4 (onboard)
Graphics 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max Q
Storage 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Networking 802.11ax wireless, Bluetooth 5.0
Connections Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, USB-A (3.2 Gen 1, x2), HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm audio jack, microSD card slot
Operating system Windows 10 Home 64-bit

The Envy 14 starts at a touch over $1,000 but the configuration I tested sells for $1,260. A similar configuration sells for AU$2,500 in Australia and £1,400 in the UK. That base configuration has integrated graphics and just 8GB of onboard memory, which undercuts its value as a laptop for creatives. The extra money in my case adds twice the memory and good entry-level Nvidia discrete graphics. And while my configuration wasn’t maxed out with a Core i7 processor, the Core i5 provided plenty of performance muscle when combined with the other components (though the 256GB SSD is small for the money). 

The Envy 14 may seem pricey, but it is more affordable than other laptops designed for creators and creatives. Similarly, you can find the Nvidia GTX 1650 and 1650 Ti GPUs used in the Envy 14 in a less expensive gaming laptop. However, it won’t be in a compact 14-inch chassis or have a display like the Envy 14’s. Most gaming laptops don’t last long away from an outlet, either, while this HP ran for 11 hours in our streaming video test. You also won’t get all the other features HP packs in here.

HP Envy 14

Price as reviewed $1,260
Display size/resolution 14-inch 1,920×1,200-pixel touch display
CPU 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-1135G7
Memory 16GB DDR4 (onboard)
Graphics 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max Q
Storage 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Networking 802.11ax wireless, Bluetooth 5.0
Connections Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, USB-A (3.2 Gen 1, x2), HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm audio jack, microSD card slot
Operating system Windows 10 Home 64-bit
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Bottom and rear vents and rubber lift at the back help keep this little laptop cool.

Josh Goldman/CNET

Some of those extra features are software-related, like HP’s Command Center to help you control cooling (the Envy 14 has new fans, heat pipes and an IR thermopile sensor to help detect temperature and keep it in check) and direct network bandwidth to specific applications. There’s also HP Display Control for picking calibrated presets for whatever you’re doing, such as photo or video editing. Then there’s HP’s QuickDrop feature, which lets you instantly send files, photos, videos, URLs and other things from your phone or other devices to the Envy 14. Yes, kind of like Apple’s AirDrop. 

Probably the most interesting addition is HP’s Enhanced Lighting app, though. It essentially uses the 400-nit brightness of the display as a ring light to help brighten your face for video chats. You can get a similar result by putting a blank Word doc on your display and cranking the brightness, but obviously the app makes it easier and you can adjust the tone from cool to warm.

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HP’s Enhanced Lighting app can brighten your face for video chats.

Josh Goldman/CNET

You can adjust the width of the ring, turn it into a box or just set up vertical or horizontal bars at the edges of the display. It’s clever and definitely a “Why hasn’t anyone done this before on a laptop?” feature. I just wish the image quality from the webcam were better regardless of lighting.

Looks the part

The Envy 14 isn’t as fussy as HP’s Spectre line. With the lid closed, it’s fairly nondescript but still attractive — just a simple slab of silver. There’s a gap between the lid and the bottom and, because of it, there’s some flex in the body along the sides and at the rear. Lift up the lid and you’re greeted with its colorful display surrounded by slim bezels so that you’re looking at nearly all screen. 

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The keyboard has three levels of backlighting.

Josh Goldman/CNET

The keyboard is wide and comfortable and the touchpad is smooth and responsive — no issues there at all. On the function key row along with media controls and screen and keyboard-backlight brightness, you’ll find shortcuts for blocking the webcam and muting the mic. If the past year has increased the amount of time you spend on video conference calls, you’ll get just how nice it is to have these. The Envy 14 has improved conferencing features, including AI noise removal to clean up your audio when using its built-in mics.

The laptop’s port assortment is a good match for its intended users, including an HDMI-out and a Thunderbolt 4 port (although it would make more sense to me to have a full-size SD card slot instead of the microSD slot HP includes). There’s a fingerprint reader for easy sign-ins as well.

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Josh Goldman/CNET

The HP Envy 14 gives creatives and creators a solid entry-level option. From its strong performance to its attractive compact design to its nice 16:10 calibrated display, it’s more of a complete package than something like Acer’s Swift 3X. The Swift 3X is aimed at the same users as the Envy 14 and performed well in our tests. HP just gives you more features like the privacy controls for the webcam and mic and a better display. Plus, the Envy proved to be better for gaming, hitting more than 40 frames per second on high settings for games such as Far Cry V, while the Swift on average didn’t break 30fps. The Envy 14 might be a bit more expensive, but in the end it’s a better fit for its intended user.

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Acer Swift 3X

Acer Nitro 5

Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)

Asus ZenBook Duo 14 UX482

HP Envy 14

Razer Book 13 (late 2020)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R20 CPU (multicore)

Acer Nitro 5

HP Envy 14

Acer Swift 3X

Asus ZenBook Duo 14 UX482

Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)

Razer Book 13 (late 2020)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

PCMark 10 Pro Edition

HP Envy 14

Acer Nitro 5

Asus ZenBook Duo 14 UX482

Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)

Acer Swift 3X

Razer Book 13 (late 2020)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test (minutes)

Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)

Acer Nitro 5

Asus ZenBook Duo 14 UX482

Acer Swift 3X

Razer Book 13 (late 2020)

HP Envy 14

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

HP Envy 14 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-1135G7; 16GB DDR4 3,200MHz; 4,096MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650Ti graphics; 1TB SSD
Acer Swift 3X Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 4,267MHz; 4,096MB Intel Iris Xe Max graphics; 1TB SSD
Razer Book 13 (late 2020) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 4,267MHz; 128MB Intel Iris Xe graphics; 256GB SSD
Asus ZenBook Duo 14 UX482 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 4,267MHz; 128MB Intel Iris Xe graphics; 512GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.0GHz Intel Core i7-1185G7; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 4,267MHz; 128MB Intel Iris Xe graphics; 512GB SSD
Acer Nitro 5 Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 3.0GHz AMD Ryzen 5 4600H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 4,096MB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics; 256GB SSD

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