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HP Envy 14-1110NR Reviews

When I think of high-end mainstream laptops, brands like Apple's MacBook Pro, Dell's XPS, and Asus's U-Series are usually what come to mind. Another rising star in this category is the HP Envy 14-1110NR ($1,050 list), found at Staples. As its name suggests, it's the 14-inch version of HP's Envy line, lavished with features such as a glass-covered screen, a backlit keyboard, and some of the fastest components available. There are some lingering issues with the gesture touchpad, and the system is a little on the heavy side. Otherwise, the Envy 14-1110NR is a viable mainstream laptop for sophisticated users.

High Technology Product Reviews | Trends and News | HP Envy 14-1110NR Reviews

Design
Anodized aluminum is the recurring theme in HP laptops. The Envy 14 is covered in it, whereas laptops like the Asus U45Jc-A1 ($867 street, 4.5 stars) and HP Pavilion dm4-1160us ($849.98 list, 4 stars) only use it on the cover and palm rest area. The design concept is similar to the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (Core 2 Duo 2.4Ghz) ($1,199 direct, 4 stars), in that you take a single slab of metal and carve out the center for the components. Metallic designs are sleek, or at least more modern-looking than laptops made from plastic. At 5.5 pounds, the Envy 14 isn't nearly as light as its Pavilion counterpart, the dm4-1160us (4.4 lbs). It's the heaviest laptop I've seen in the 14-inch class, which includes the Asus U45Jc-A1 (4.7 lbs) and Gateway ID49C13u ($849.99 street, 4 stars) (4.9 lbs), and is as heavy as a desktop replacement laptop.

Specifications
Type
Gaming, General Purpose, Media
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium
Processor Speed
2.53 GHz
Processor Name
Intel Core i5-460M
RAM
4 GB
Weight
5.5 lb
Screen Size
14.5 inches
Screen Size Type
widescreen
Graphics Card
Intel GMA HD
2nd Graphics Card
ATI Mobility Radeon 5650
Storage Capacity (as Tested)
640 GB
Networking Options
802.11n
Primary Optical Drive
Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW
Although it's classified as a 14-inch laptop, the Envy 14 has a 14.5-inch widescreen. The screen is at least one size larger than the one on the MacBook Pro 13-inch (Apple doesn't have a 14-inch version). Though this particular configuration settled for the boilerplate 1,366-by-768 resolution, a higher 1,600-by-900 resolution is available if you order it through HP. With either resolution, the edge-to-edge glass, combined with the highest brightness rating (350 nits) on a 14-inch screen, will make your high quality videos and photos look stunning.

The Envy 14 has an exceptional keyboard, with keys that are adequately spaced and raised high enough for a deep response. They're similar to the chiclet-style keys found in the MacBook Pro and U45Jc-A1—keyboards you want to be modeled after. A backlit keyboard should be in every laptop, but only the premium brands have it. It's a prized tool for those who spend a lot of time in low lit places. The Apple MacBook Pros have it, and so does the Envy 14. The "clickpad" is wide and roomy for all workloads, but the embedded multi-touch gestures are light years behind those of the MacBook Pros'. Simply surfing the web with two fingers can be maddening at times, because the second finger (used for clicking) often triggers these gestures. HP improved the gestured touchpad somewhat with a driver update, but it's far from fixed. I found that disabling these gestures in the mouse settings (Control Panel) or clicking and tapping with a single finger was a good work around.

Features
The Envy 14 has features that you wouldn't expect from a 14-inch laptop. It has both HDMI and DisplayPort technologies when most laptops ship with one or the other. The 3 USB ports are spread out on both sides, one of which doubles as an eSATA port). It has a slot-loading DVD burner, as opposed to the tray-ejecting ones used by its peers. Like the Pavilions, the Envy can only be configured with speedy 7,200rpm drives. In this case, its 640GB capacity easily trumps the 500GB ones found in the U45Jc-A1, ID49C13u, and dm4-1160us. The Monster Beats Audio bundle is a superb speaker system, as it amplifies bass and volume levels on any pair of headphones, a home theater system, or basic external speakers. The sound coming from the speakers will have you tapping your feet, as it did mine.

Performance
HP Envy 14-1110NR The Envy 14-1110NR houses a top-tier 2.53GHz Intel Core i5-460M and 4GB of DDR3 memory. It and the Gateway ID49C13u have the highest clocked processor in this group. The Envy 14 finished right behind the ID49C13u in Handbrake (2:46) and Cinebench R11.5 (2.24)—tests that measure CPU performance. Compared to the Core i3 processors found in the U45JC-A1 and Dell Inspiron 14R ($820 direct, 3 stars), the Envy 14 was simply dominant. Its PCMark Vantage score (6,553) was tops among this group, thanks in part to a powerful graphics chip.

The Envy 14 allows you to manually switch between graphics environments—an integrated Intel and discrete ATI Mobility Radeon 5650 chip. The graphics switch is not as seamless as Nvidia's Optimus technology, used by laptops like the ID49C13u and U45Jc-A1 that automatically switch between chipsets. But having complete control of the graphics switch isn't bad either. The switch is done using ATI's utility, which is accessible by right clicking the desktop and selecting "Configure Graphics". The system also defaults to Intel's integrated graphics when the AC adapter is unplugged. Its 3DMark 06 scores (7,438) lagged behind the Gateway ID49C13u (7,893), which runs an Nvidia GeForce GT 330M. Lost Planet 2 (37.4 fps) and Crysis (56.5 fps) favored the Envy 14 by a significant margin, but either one of these (the Gateway and Envy 14, that is) is guaranteed to deliver smooth frame rates in any game, so hardcore gamers won't be disappointed.

Battery life doesn't bode well in laptops with speedy parts. Even after switching to Intel's graphics, the Envy 14 lasted just 4 hours 20 minutes in MobileMark 2007 tests. The Gateway ID49C13u laid out its parts more efficiently, delivering 5 hours 52 minutes in the same test. But no other 14-inch laptop had more battery prowess than the Asus U45Jc-A1, which finished battery tests in 9 hours 27 minutes. Good news is that HP sells a 6-cell battery slice that fits over the standard 56WH battery (8-cell), but you have to buy it through the HP website. Though it adds significant weight to the system, the tandem batteries will be worthwhile for frequent travelers.

The HP Envy 14-1110NR crams in a lot of technology for a 14-inch laptop. Some of them are rare finds in a laptop of this stature, including the Beats Audio system, the powerful ATI Radeon 5650 graphics chip, and other high-end features like HDMI and DisplayPort, a backlit keyboard, and 640GB of storage. There are some minor drawbacks, though. For instance, the Envy 14 is as heavy as a desktop replacement and battery life takes a beating, because of the hard-punching components. If you're willing to look past these two things, then I wholeheartedly recommend this system. Otherwise, go with the Asus U45Jc-A1—the Editors' Choice in the mainstream category.

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