HP India has been on a roll in 2021. A lot of that confidence perhaps comes from what happened in 2020, and how the PC market suddenly found more than its share of the mojo once again. And this is sensible too, taking advantage of the wave of popularity of PCs once again. This year, we have already seen HP update more than one laptop series on our shores, including the new arrivals, the Victus by HP gaming laptops and their lightest laptops yet, the HP Pavilion Aero 13. The latest chapter in this saga leads us to the HP Envy series, the refreshed line-up that gets us new HP ENVY 14 and HP ENVY 15 laptops. It is the former we are looking at, as the ideal blend of portable, powerful, and premium. Or is it?
You can buy the 2021 edition of the HP ENVY 14 in two avatars. There is the HP ENVY laptop 14-eb0019TX that is priced at Rs 1,04,999 and is powered by an 11th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD along with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti graphics. Mind you, this is significantly better spec-ed than anything the rivals have to offer. The variant that we are reviewing here is the HP ENVY 14 laptop 14-eb0021TX which is priced at Rs 1,24,999 and brings along an 11th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, a 1TB SSD and the Nvidia GeForce GTX1650 Ti graphics. HP keeps talking about how this will be a great laptop for creators, but I have a feeling the appeal is much wider than that.
Dell, which is often very vocal with the XPS series as a premium laptop for almost everyone, is at a significant disadvantage. The entry spec Dell XPS 13 7390 priced at Rs 1,01,900 is powered by the 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor, offers 8GB RAM and integrated intel UHD graphics. The latest 11th generation Intel Core i5 option starts with the XPS 13 9310 series, which has a sticker price of around Rs 1,41,900 and gets 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD and the Intel Iris Xe graphics. There you have it. If you thought a price tag of around Rs 1,00,000 is expensive, it isn’t as expensive as some of the rivals.
There is a bit of uniqueness about the HP ENVY 14 laptop. And that’s not just because of the screen size—this with a 14-inch screen fits in between the more common 13-3-inch and the 15.6-inch screen sizes and could just be the ideal sweet spot between convenience and portability. This is most definitely understated in its looks. Unlike the premium HP Spectre series complete with the gem-cut edges, this is more conventional with straighter lines and a sophisticated colour to go with it. That’s Natural Silver, mind you. And it is complete in most respects. Multiple ports on either side, a fingerprint sensor, Bang & Olufsen tuned speakers, a 14-inch display and a fast charger—it all seems to be coming together well. This weighs around 1.49kg, and being a well balanced machine, doesn’t feel top heavy.
What I still fail to understand is why Windows 10 laptops have just not been able to replicate the flat undersides of the Apple MacBook, for example. The attempts to chisel off some bit of the underside panel towards the front to give the illusion of thinness isn’t really fooling anyone. A flat underside would perhaps add balance to the overall looks. MSI does it well, from time to time. What works is the large integrated rubber rail that elevates the laptop very slightly towards the display, which gives you a bit of an angle as you type on the keyboard. No flashy lights, no shouty elements and nothing that is unnecessary.
This is a 14-inch screen. That’s with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 and is an IPS display. That has its own advantages, which cannot be denied. It is a 16:10 aspect ratio calibrated display, and it’s the calibrated part that you should be the most excited about. This is, in fact, factory calibrated for colour accuracy making this the most calibrated display that HP has ever released on a laptop. On the HP ENVY 14, you’ll also find the utility app called HP Display which lets you tweak settings around depending on what you are watching on the screen at the time. The idea is to make this screen more in-tune with what creators would need, for editing photos and videos. In fact, this also gets an anti-glare coating, which reduces the reflections significantly.
And this leads us on to something that can immediately be filed under “why has no one thought of this before”. Preloaded on the HP ENVY 14 laptop is a utility called HP Enhanced Lighting. What this basically does is puts a bright ring on your laptop screen which should brighten up your face during video calls. You can adjust the width of this ring and the colour temperature. Most certainly a classy way of getting the same objective achieved, than to be opening blank Microsoft Word docs and increasing the brightness of the display to have more illumination on your face for a Zoom call. Yet, this doesn’t take away from the fact that the HP ENVY 14 laptop has a 720p webcam, which should have at least been 1080p and that’d have shown you in better light and better clarity during video calls.
HP haven’t changed much around with what has worked on most of their premium laptops all this while. And that includes the keyboard. The HP ENVY 14 laptop gets one that’s nicely laid out, good spacing between each key but not too much and a fairly consistent key response. I did feel that the key mechanism could have sounded a tad sharper, but you’ll get used to the slightly hollow sound soon enough. What this does do is get you typing quickly, and that will matter to most buyers. The trackpad is wide and pretty receptive to multi-finger gestures, horizontal and vertical, and doesn’t really get in the way as you quickly switch between virtual desktops, apps and slide through galleries.
Battery life is where you’ll need to be a bit more creative. HP claims that the ENVY 14 laptop can do up to 17 hours on a single charge, in certain usage conditions—they say video playback. In my experience of using this as a regular work machine for a few days, I got a maximum of just under 8 hours on a single charge with the brightness at 40% and just under 9 hours with brightness reduced to a more comfortable 20% level. I suspect the reason for that is the slight heating which is noticeable on the underside when there is web browser tab load, which forces the fans to speed up. Heat makes batteries discharge quicker, that’s the simple rule. I would expect BIOS updates to further optimize this, which should get you longer battery life on a single charge. Internally, the HP ENVY 14 laptops get the new thin-blade fans and heat pipes as well as the IR thermal sensors that’ll drive the cooling on these machines.
The Last Word: A Premium Laptop That Is Offering Rare And Genuine Value
For outright performance, and I’ve saved the best for the last—the Intel Core i5 variant should get the job done for most creators, thanks to the very capable Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti (Max-Q) graphics. And then there is always the Core i7 option, for even more performance, if that is really what you need. Tie this along with a very sophisticated build, a display that’s calibrated out of the box making the most accurate ever on an HP laptop, battery life that is already more than acceptable and can actually be improved as well as a keyboard which simply lets you get down to work without a learning curve, and you have the HP ENVY 14 laptop series which is really going to worry its Windows 10 competitors. And for those who aren’t exactly decided between a Windows machine or a MacBook, this has the price advantage over the MacBook Pro 13 as well. Simply put, creators may be the HP ENVY 14’s primary audience, but I will stick my neck out and say the appeal is much wider—anyone who wants a slim and powerful premium laptop should add this to their shortlist.
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