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HP Envy 14 Beats - Connectivity, Specs and Usability

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers



Our Score:


Connectivity on the Envy 14 Beats Edition is good, if slightly out-dated – which is forgivable considering this laptop has been out a while. Along the left you get two USB 2.0 ports and headphone plus microphone sockets, the front houses an IR sensor and SDHC/MMC memory card reader, while on the right side you'll find white power and HDD activity LEDs, a USB 2.0/eSATA combo port and Gigabit Ethernet jack, HDMI [i]and[/i] mini DisplayPort (a great addition for outputting to high-resolution monitors like the Apple Cinema Display).

There's no USB 3.0, but even now eSATA devices are still more common, so fast external storage is adequately catered for. Naturally both Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth are on hand to deal with the wireless side of things. Our one major disappointment is the Envy 14-1195ea's lack of a Blu-ray drive. Instead, you only get a DVD-Rewriter, which is rather stingy considering this machine will set you back £1,100.

Further specifications are adequately impressive. The Core i7 might not be Sandy Bridge (as found in the Samsung Series 9 900X3A and MSI GT680), but we're still talking about a previous generation top-end, quad-core Intel CPU. Though its standard clock speed is 'only' 1.6GHz, it can Turbo-clock up to 2.8GHz on a single core with lightly threaded workloads. It's backed by 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a fairly generous 500GB hard drive that runs at a speedy 7,200rpm.

Graphics are competently handled by a discrete Mobility Radeon 5650 sporting 1GB of dedicated memory. While we certainly wouldn't go so far as to call this solution in any way gaming-worthy, it's up to handling casual and older titles at the screen's relatively low 1,366 x 768 resolution. In Stalker: Call of Pripyat, the Envy managed a perfectly playable 33.8 frames per second average, though this was in DirectX10 mode and with details set to medium.

The major disadvantage to this kind of hardware in a relatively slim chassis is that - though virtually silent when during light use - the laptop gets quite loud under load, with its fan whirr being distinctly audible.

On the ergonomics front, the Envy 14 Beats Edition holds up reasonably well and the keyboard is mostly a pleasure to use. The soft-touch palm-rests ensure your hands rest very comfortably. Feedback is just a hair away from being too shallow, yet the large matte keys nevertheless offer a positive click and are well-spaced. Layout is spot-on too, though experienced users may dislike the F-Function keys being secondary to their multimedia functions. Still, this is fast becoming the norm and can be changed in the BIOS.

One of the keyboard's nicest features is that it's backlit in red. Not only does this allow you to type in the dark, it adds a serious wow-factor to the laptop's aesthetics in an adequately dark environment. Unfortunately, there's no automatic brightness sensor and the LED intensity isn't adjustable as on the Samsung Series 9, but it is perfectly even.

The touchpad is positioned centrally, so the palm of your right hand may inadvertently move the cursor on occasion when typing. Thankfully, HP has the best touchpad-deactivation system on the market: simply double-tap twice on the top left hand corner of the pad to enable or disable it.

HP has opted for the same ClickPad as on the Envy 17 3D, meaning it integrates its buttons into the pad's touch surface. This leaves a responsive, large surface to work with while the 'buttons' offer a positive click and don't suffer from a large dead zone. However, there are still rare instances where the pad mistakes a button-press for a cursor movement, and overall HP's all-in-one touchpad solution isn't a patch on that found in the Samsung Series 9.

Nav Garayal

April 27, 2011, 5:31 pm

I am in the market for a new laptop. I clicked the link to the Macbook Pro which you mentioned in your article and from what I can see, the Apple machine has a similar spec (but includes Sandy Bridge chips) and also has no Blu Ray (only a DVD drive). TR has stated that the HP machine looks good/ good build/ performance etc but it is overpriced at approx £1000. If this is the case, why has TR given the Apple machine a 9 star rating when this machine costs £1900? The last line of the Apple review being along the lines " if you get over the price of the Apple, you cant deny its a thing of beauty/ style etc". There seems to be some inconsistency here and it has left me really confused.


April 27, 2011, 5:58 pm

There are a few things.

For one, the macbook model we actually reviewed is the upgraded version, which thanks to Apple's high upgrade prices makes it expensive. However, the scoring and text review point to the fact that if you opt for the standard configuration it's reasonable value.

Also, the build quality of the MacBook is another level up from the HP.

The screen is better and has a higher resolution.

As you mention, the CPU is the new Sandy bridge type.

Battery life is nearly double at around 7 hours.

Admittedly, we were perhaps a little generous to the MacBook but essentially the feeling we got from the two machines was that the HP is expensive for little real world gain - unless you like the headphones - whereas the MacBook feels more worthy of its high price.


April 29, 2011, 3:21 am

Just to add to Eds comments i will say that despite apples appalling marketing (which making me want to throw my expensive and incredibly useful macbook air through the tv) the ownership experience with macbooks is at another level to every pc i have ever owned. Though the dell d420 i had before it was arguably just as useful and very well built Macs just feel better.

Apple really thinks through each and every component, the keyboards while they can be a bit different are excellent, the screens good (with special mention to the macbook pros which are superb) and battery life great. Conectivity and power are sacrified but to be honest i am beginning to think that geeks put far to much stock in connectivity. I don't know any of my friends who use more than an external harddrive or usb stick and a set of headphones with there mac and increasingly i don't use anything but the bluetooth and the displayport to hook it up to my 24.

Machines like the envy and especially the dell xps (the orginal 13 version of which was actually a good match to the plastic macs) have forgotten that most people just want to watch films and surf the internet with maybe play the odd game and the first priority of these machines should be to make them as pleasurable to use as possible. This means good IPS screens (or at least good basic PVA's or excellent high res TN ones) good speakers and a solid output and rock solid build quality particularly in the premium market. Yet these remain absent from mainstream machines or at least expensive extras. You look at a macbook pro 15 and it looks expensive and distinctive and it feels it when you use it. The last envy i saw looked like a cheap macbook copy but to use felt much worse and cost almost as much.

If im honest i don't enjoy using mac osx as much as windows 7 but the hardware is so much better at the laptop level (even if a well made windows 7 desktop will embarrass the hidediously expensive mac pro in the looks, cost, and performance department (i keep mine in the excellent and gorgeous black silverstone ft02 plugged into the but ugly but excellent multisync 24wmgx3)) that until one of the manufacturers get they act together i would never consider paying more than £1000 for a windows laptop when i could get a mac equivalent.

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