HP Envy 14 (2021) : This budget content-creation laptop does it all
PCWorld|May 2021
While you can find laptops that outperform the Envy 14, it’s harder to find one that can do so for the same price.
MARK HACHMAN

Laptops like the HP Envy 14 fall into the category of content creation: notebook PCs with a modestly powerful discrete GPU that can play some games, edit video, or simply serve as a solid all-around PC. This $1,200 14-inch laptop satisfies all three.

While some laptops outperformed the Envy 14 in our tests, many couldn’t do so for the same money. At its price point, the Envy 14 offers top-notch battery life, support for powerful external Thunderbolt hardware, and a pleasing everyday typing experience. We’ve awarded it an Editor’s Choice—you’ll see why.

BASIC FEATURES

HP says it ships its Envy 14 in one of three configurations. The model we tested is the midrange configuration (14-eb0010nr), which includes a Core i5-1135G7, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. The MSRP is $1,250, but we saw it on sale for $1,210 at Amazon (go.pcworld. com/en14) during testing. HP also sells a $1,000 basic version of the Envy 14 (known as the HP Envy 14 14t-eb000) on HP.com without the discrete GPU or touchless display, and with 8GB of memory. HP also says that for $1,700, you can buy the premium model of the HP Envy 14 on HP.com with 1TB of SSD storage. We didn’t see that model listed at press time, though.

While you might consider the Envy the stylish HP product line compared to the budget-friendly Pavilion line and premium Spectre line, HP has recently refocused Envy as optimized for creators (go. pcworld.com/opzd). You’ll see how it is tuned for those particular users as we go through the specs and features, beginning with this list of the basics:

Processor: Intel Core i5-1135G7 (as tested), Core i7-1165G7

Display: 14-inch (1900x1200 IPS, 400 nits, touch)

Memory: 8GB DDR4, 16GB DDR4 (as tested)

Storage: 256TB PCIe NVMe SSD (as tested)/512GB PCIe NVMe SSD/1TB PCIe NVME SSD

Graphics: Iris Xe, Iris Xe/Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q (as tested)

Ports: 1 USB-C (Thunderbolt 4/USB4, at 40Gbps, DisplayPort 1.4); 2 USB-A (5 Gbps), 1 HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm headphone and mic

Security: Fingerprint reader (Windows Hello)

Camera: 720p (user facing)

Battery: 61.2Wh rated/61.2Wh (full charge)

Wireless: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax2x2), Bluetooth 5

Operating system: Windows 10 Home

Dimensions: 12.33x8.82x0.71 inches

Weight: 3.3 pounds, 4.2 total with 135W charger

Color: Natural Silver

Price: $1,070–$1,700; $1,250 as tested

BUILD QUALITY: SOLID AND MOSTLY SILENT

HP’s Envy 14 lacks the visual splendor of the company’s premium Spectre laptops. While you’ll see the stylized diamond grillwork that distinguishes HP’s laptop vents, overall the Natural Silver stamped-aluminum chassis is a little plain. The profile signals a thin-and-light laptop, though it’s actually about average weight at 3.3 pounds. While the unit looks and feels solid, we noticed a bit of give when depressing the keyboard firmly.

One feature you’ll notice as soon as you start using it: the relative lack of fan noise. HP employs a pair of fans, plus two heat pipes, to suck up air from the bottom of the laptop and push it out through vents next to the hinge. The fans seem to be sensitive to ambient temperatures, remaining quiet on cooler days and ramping up more quickly on warmer ones.

Even dialed up into performance mode, though, the fan ran extremely quietly during both CPU- and graphics-intensive loads. (Creators don’t want to be drowned out by fan noise while streaming!) HP also provides a utility to manage fan noise, which we’ll talk about later. The only time the fan really howled was when we were downloading a BIOS update, during which we couldn’t actually work on the laptop anyway.

A DISPLAY DESIGNED FOR CREATORS

Creators think about the display quality more than most people do. HP said this is its first 14-inch, 16:10 display. This subtle vertical upgrade, compared to the more traditional 16:9 ratio, allows the 14-inch screen to go beyond 1080p to 1920x1200. HP further elevates it with color calibration and 100 percent sRGB support. HP rates its touchscreen at 400 nits of maximum brightness. As a traditional clamshell laptop, the screen reclines to just short of 45 degrees.

Test videos we played back on the internal display looked bright, vibrant, and color accurate across the color gamut, with no dropped frames even at 4K/60 fps. The included HP Display Utility offers three preset color options: Default (a little cooler), Native (a little warmer, without any optimization), and the “Photos and Videos” setting, which is slightly dimmer on the default. (These options have also been added to the Windows 10 Settings menu.)

The Envy 14’s port selection embraces both the past and the future, thanks to the Intel 11th-gen Tiger Lake CPU at its heart. This CPU family supports Thunderbolt 4 (go. pcworld.com/spt4), the latest generation of a powerful connector that supports advanced storage, charging, and display technologies. You also get HDMI 2.0 port and a pair of USB-A ports (one on either side of the chassis), plus an SD card reader for importing photos.

EXCELLENT KEYBOARD AND TYPING EXPERIENCE

The Envy 14’s keys are springy and quite comfortable to type upon, with adequate travel. HP’s Envy 14 offers two levels of backlighting, with some light bleed near the bottom of the keys.

The layout is a bit on the funky side, with some navigation keys stacked to the right. Otherwise, we appreciated the dedicated keys to mute the mic and block the webcam. HP includes a dedicated keyboard shortcut to its HP Command Center utility, too.

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