Friday, February 04, 2011

HP Envy 14 (1110NR) review

Quick specs
  • Intel Core i5 460M 2.53GHz
  • 2x2GB DDR3 RAM @ 667MHz
  • 2.5" 7200RPM 640GB Samsung SATA HDD
  • ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 w/ 1GB RAM and Intel GMA HD Graphics
  • 14.5" 16:9 LED (HP Brightview Infinity) screen (1366x768) w/ webcam and stereo mic
  • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200 802.11 AGN wifi + bluetooth
  • Super Multi 8X DVD+-R/RW w/Double Layer
  • 8-cell 3760MAh 59Wh battery
  • Weight 5.4lb (2.44kg)

This is arguably the best looking consumer HP laptop right now. The minimalistic approach, the simple design and the quality materials make it stand out. It's got an all over aluminum body that feels well built (except the battery cover, see below).

Ports and layout:
Like most laptops in a while this one has all the ports on the sides.

On the right side we have: USB/e-SATA port, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, kensington lock, network and AC. It's worth noting that the power and drive activity lights are also on this side. They're out of direct sight.

On the left side we have: slot-loading optical drive, 2 USBs, headphone/mic jack, headphone jack.

The speakers are located in the front of the laptop. They provide mediocre sound with very little bass. I was expecting more from the "beatsaudio" edition of this laptop. Turns out what it does is allow you to "hear what the artist hear" if you buy a pair of beats headphones. I'd much rather have better speakers, than this gimmick that makes you buy special headphones. Also in the front right corner of the laptop there's a SD/MMC card reader.

This laptop has a 14.5" LED (HP Brightview Infinity) edge-to-edge glossy screen, 16:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 1366x768. I feel this is not enough and that 1600x900 would look much better. On top it has a webcam with great video quality and 2 microphones. The horizontal viewing angels are ok while the vertical ones are mediocre. Also, being glossy you can use it as a mirror when dark surfaces are displayed so it can be challenging to view outdoors.

This is how bright the screen is compared to a Dell XPS-1645 (on the left) that has a RGBLED display, both on maximum brightness:

Keyboard and touchpad:

The touchpad, even tho it's big and matte, is not good. Its major flaw is that it does not separate the "buttons" from the touchpad area. It's all one big touch-sensitive surface with the bottom part also playing the role of the buttons. If you have a finger on the touchpad and try to click a mouse "button" with another finger, the cursor jumps to the bottom of the screen. You have to take your firs finger off, click the mouse button, then resume moving the cursor. Also the entire area of the touchpad pushes in when you perform a "button" click which can be a little distracting too. Tapping twice on the white dot in the upper left corner will disable the touchpad completely, presumably for gaming or when you're using an external mouse.

The chiclet style back-light keyboard feels solid and does not bend or twist when typing. One strange thing i noticed is that the Ctrl key seems to play the role of the Fn button, and the Fn button needs to be pressed when you want to hit any F-keys. Changing the screen brightness, for example, is done by pressing Ctrl-F2/Ctrl-F3 (instead of Fn-F2/Fn-F3) but if you want to press Alt-F4 you have to do Fn-Alt-F4. This is how the backlight looks in the dark:

Battery and AC adapter:
The laptop came with a 8-cell 3760MAh 59Wh battery. It comes pre-installed and is located completely within the laptop's chassis, under a cover panel. Also located here is the hard drive, so no need to unscrew anything else to replace it. The cover itself feels a little flimsy when on as it does not fit tightly enough and can wiggle a bit when you pick up the laptop. This definitely detracts from an otherwise solid build quality.

The power adapter is not too big.

An interesting aspect of this laptop is that it has two videocards. By default, if you're on AC it uses the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650, but if you're on battery power it switches to the Intel HD. I wonder how inefficient the ATI videocard is at saving power if HP choose to have a second one in there :)

On the software side you get windows 7 home premium 64-bit. It boots from power-on to login screen in 51 sec. Shut down takes 11 seconds from clicking the button to power-off. Going to sleep takes 6 seconds and waking up - 4 seconds. The OS and all the bundled software take about 35gigs and the recovery partition is 25gigs.

Windows experience index:
On AC power in "High Performance" profile - 5.9

Super PI for 1mil and 8mil (on AC power):


On AC power with ATI videocard in "High Performance" profile - 8008
On battery power with ATI videocard in High Performance" profile - 8055
On battery power with Intel videocard in "Power Saving" profile - 5505 (about 46% slower)

On AC power with ATI videocard in "High Performance Mode" - 6949

 On battery power with ATI videocard in "High Performance Mode" - 6948

On battery power with Intel videocard in "High Performance Mode" - 1975 (251% slower)

Wi-fi speed (on AC power):
Tested on Asus RT-N16 b/g/n wireless router at a distance of 5 feet (2 meters).
 On 802.11g it averages to 1.8MB/s - aprox. 30% link utilization

On 802.11n it connects at 144Mbps and averages to 6.6MB/s - aprox. 45% link utilization
AC adapter, manuals, 2gb sd card, cloth pouch.

- good specs
- back-light keyboard
- slot loading optical drive (on the left side too)
- aluminum case
- great build quality

- crap beats speakers (no bass at all)
- low resolution (1366x768) glossy screen
- horrible touchpad
- flimsy battery cover

This laptop has had the potential to become HP's best yet, with its beautiful design, great aluminum body and good specs. Unfortunately it's being held back by the low screen resolution and the terrible touchpad. The flimsy battery cover also detracts from the otherwise really well build chassis. So close guys, but no cigar. At least not yet.

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