HP Envy 14 Review

The HP Envy 14!

The HP Envy 14!

This is my full review of the HP Envy 14 notebook that I recently bought!
I’ve been using it for over a month now, and I think I can give a pretty good overview of it’s features, ups and downs and what not. So here goes!



Specs of my Envy model are as follows:

  • Intel Core I5 520 2.4Ghz  with turboboost up to 2.93Ghz
  • 6GB RAM
  • 500GB HD 7200rpm
  • Ati  Mobility Radeon HD 5650 with 450Mhz GPU Clock and 800Mhz memory clock.
  • 2X USB, 1X USB/E-SATA, 1X Mini-displayport, 1X HDMI, Headphones out, mic in, SD/MMC card slot
  • 1GB Ethernet, Intel Wireless b/g/n, Bluetooth
  • 14″ HP Radiance Infinity display @ 1600×900
  • 23,7 cm (l) x 35,6 cm (b) x  2,82 cm (max h)


Envy 14 cover

Top cover, closed

The laptop has a very sturdy structure. Its aluminium exterior feels solid and smooth to the touch. The hinges on the display go very smooth, and feel very solid, but not too heavy. Just right if you ask me. At the back is a lit HP logo that turns white when the laptop is turned on.

As with all proper laptops, this one has a removable battery, and easy access to the hard drive. Oddly enough, the memory modules are not readily accessible, but I think there’s a good reason for that, as messing up memory modules is a whole lot easier than messing up the hard drive.

Envy 14 Battery

The Battery

A metal panel at the bottom clicks open very easily to reveal the hard drive and battery. The hard drive is fixed into place with 4 easy to reach screws. If however you would like to adjust your memory configuration, this can be done by removing the complete back panel,  which is fixed into place by a few screws and slides out towards the back.

Envy 14 Hard drive

The 500GB 7200rpm Hard drive

One of the things I really like about the architecture of the Envy 14 is the placement of the battery. The battery has its own compartment next to the hard drive and is sealed off from the main board. If you look at the rest of the laptop, the two exhausts for the hot air coming from the CPU and GPU are located at the top  and left. The battery is located bottom right. Because of this, no matter how hot the CPU and GPU get while you’re playing a game for instance, the Battery doesn’t get any hot air and stays completely cool, which is very good news for the battery’s lifespan!

There are a few minor points to the Envy 14 however (I’m nitpicking, really): For one, the keyboard flexes a bit when you press it at the corners. This is not a problem while typing, but since this is not a cheap laptop either, my only question to HP is: “Come on guys… why!?”
Second: the laptop seems to be made for left handed people 🙂 (If you are left handed, I can see that this is not a problem for you ;-)) What I mean however is that the video connectors are all located on the right side. Since video cables tend to stick out a lot, this can seriously reduce potential mouse space, IF you are planning on using a mouse.

Envy 14 Left sideEnvy 14 US keyboard layoutEnvy 14 right side

In order: Left side, Envy 14 Keyboard Layout, and Right side.


The Envy 14 is a quick and responsive notebook. Of course this also depends on the specifications you picked when ordering, but the Core I5 520 plus 6GB RAM have served me well so far.


Under normal load I find the laptop to be rather quiet. I must mention that my old laptop was really noisy so perhaps I’m biased. Under stress the fans start to blow a bit harder, but even when running intensive programs like 3DMark Vantage or 3D Games I found the fan noise to be very acceptable.

Battery time

Did one simple battery test where I would leave the laptop running on the Intel GPU, and used it a bit from time to time. I wasn’t interested in doing a full test on how long it would last, since there’s almost no sense in leaving the laptop on when you’re not using it. So I had it on with wireless on, bluetooth on, google talk, messenger, and a logged in putty open, so that there would be bit of constant network traffic. I browsed a bit, installed 2 small applications and put it on standby for 1 hour. Not counting the standby time, the battery lasted for 3 hours an 40 minutes, which is a bit low if you ask me.  When I picked this laptop I was hoping for about 5 hours… so this was a bit of a let down (although I’ve read similar reports from other users).  I do want to add that I was in a very bright office environment and put the screen brightness down only 2 steps. When I’m working at home, I turn the screen down further, since it’s really bright to begin with. The Envy 14 does have the option of purchasing the slice battery which will extend battery life to perhaps 7 or 8 hours on this configuration. An SSD hard drive could probably add some extra time too.

Audio performance

Envy 14 Left speaker with Beats Audio logo

Left speaker with Beats Audio logo

The HP Envy 14 features so called “Beats” audio! I’m very happy with the way this notebook performs when it comes to sound, however don’t expect any miracles 😉 the speakers are still very small and ironically, don’t produce much bass (or “Beats” :P)  The sound IS clear for laptop speakers however and can be put RATHER loud! So if you want to share a youtube video with some friends, at least everyone can enjoy the audio for it 🙂

Visual Performance

The HP Radiance Infinity display is simply amazing! The colours are VERY vivid, in all ranges, so bright blue, bright red, and bright green. The 1600×900 resolution is a blessing and a must. I wouldn’t want anything less. Combine this with the ATI Radeon HD 5650 1GB video card and you have pretty much the reason why I bought this laptop!  A sturdy laptop with high resolution, great 3D capabilities, ATI Eyefinity technology and under 15″… I love it 😉

It plays starcraft 2 on full resolution on high settings at a constant 30 fps. It can do ultra too, but framerate drops to about 20 which is too low if you ask me.
Even when stressed like that, the laptop doesn’t become hot. It does become warm, never uncomfortable.

Function Keys

The Top row of keys on the HP envy 14 keyboard are function keys for different things, like turning on the keyboard back light, manipulating the audio volume, or turning off the wireless. However you will notice that these keys are also the normal F1 –  F12 function keys. Some people might find it annoying to have to use the fn key when wanting to press F5 for refresh for instance (I know my mom wouldn’t mind ;-)) but in that case, you can easily switch the default functionality of the keys to the F1-F12 keys in the bios.  Here’s how:

  1. Press esc during the HP logo when you turn on your Envy (be quick about it!)
  2. Press F10 from the boot menu, to open the BIOS setup
  3. Use the arrow keys to navigate to “System configuration”
  4. Navigate to “Action Keys Mode” and use Enter to change the setting to “Disabled”
  5. Navigate to “Exit” and press Enter to “Exit saving changes” and confirm.

This will make the function keys behave normally again, and will require you to press the FN key to adjust volume, screen brightness etc!

Software and system BIOS.

Pre installed stuff

HP Recovery Manager

HP Recovery manager

In short: I really like the software that came with the HP Envy 14. I’ve always been a fan of PaintShop Pro and this laptop comes with a full version of Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3! So not the trial, but the full suite. That’s $90 of software right there!  There’s not too much pre installed stuff on here. I really only removed a desktop skinning tool (which they use for the optional HP Envy 14 theme) and the Norton Internet Security Centre trial.

A lot of stuff installed on the Envy are programs you’d probably install anyway, like Flash player, Shockwave player, PDF reader, Silverlight, Java and Live Messenger. Aside from that, there are programs by HP for instance for using the webcam, or the  media controls on the keyboard. There are also some standards HP video and music tools on here, but they are not very “in your face” and remain silent if you are not using them.

If you delete any of the pre installed tools by accident, you can use the HP recovery manager, to manually reinstall whichever program you have removed, without having to recover the entire operating system. Brilliant!

Recovery Manager

As mentioned before, the HP recovery Manager not only lets you revert your entire configuration to factory defaults, but it also lets you manage the applications that come pre installed on the Envy 14. The Recovery Manager can also be used to create a recovery medium. You can buy a set of recovery dvds from HP, or you can burn your own with the recovery manager. Since the HP Envy 14 comes with a DVD burner, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Aside from creating recovery disks, the recovery manager can also create your recovery set on a large enough or set of USB memory sticks. The Recovery Manager will only allow one recovery set to be created. So it’s eitehr USB or DVD. The complete recovery set is 13GB, so you”ll need a 16GB memory stick for the USB option, although I believe it can also span the recovery set over multiple drives. It seems like the recovery creator will also accept SD cards, however I’m not sure if the Envy is able to boot from the CardReader, so I didn’t try this out, since it will only allow one set to be created. I personally used a 16GB USB  memory stick for my set.

The recovery set, whether you made a DVD or USB version, will allow you to reinstall the factory installation for instance when you’ve upgraded the hard drive.

If your windows doesn’t boot at all, system recovery can also be initiated from the boot menu which I will discuss in the next paragraph.

Bios and Tools

Envy 14 System Diagnostics screen

System Diagnostics from Boot Menu

Another thing I REALLY like is the BOOT menu, BIOS and system diagnostics tools. When the laptop boots, it will give the HP logo for a short period with a note saying: “Press  the ESC key for Startup menu”. If you’re quick enough you get a boot menu with a  few choices, like system (and warranty) information, system diagnostics, Enter BIOS or run system recovery.

The System diagnostics tool is really neat. It starts a graphical interface that supports mouse input, which gives you system information about what hardware is installed, but also gives you the opportunity to start a RAM/MEM test, HD test, Battery test or system check! So no more fiddling around with boot CD’s or USB sticks! Just start the diagnostics tool from the BIOS. Aside from that, the BIOS setup itself also offers links to a memory and HD test you can use.

All of this looks really polished and complete, is easily accessible and easy to use!


All In all, I’m really happy with the HP Envy 14. Its a neat and sturdy laptop, with a solid set of easily configurable software. The screen is magnificent, performance is great, while staying fairly cool and rather silent if you ask me. A quick recap: Here are the pros and cons:


  • Great Screen!
  • Great Performance!
  • Nice audio output  for a laptop.
  • Cool and quiet (by my standards)
  • Great Software and Tool set
  • Sturdy build
  • Hardware is easily accessible
  • PSU cables are REALLY long


  • Battery time not realistically as good as advertised
    (update: HP now lists a 3.75 hour battery life with its standard battery on the US specs page)
  • Screen connectors on right side (not great for right handed people)
  • High levels of screen brightness could use more steps.
  • Don’t think Optical drive does small CDs but glad to have one at all!

Final Score :  8/10

A note on “CPU Whine” (and how I turn it off)

I would like to say a thing or two about this too. A lot of laptops out there at the moment running on Intel Core I processors have a problem often called CPU whine. Now I know a lot of people have been asking about this so I thought i’d write a little bit about that too. CPU whine is a very high pitched noise coming from the CPU area of the laptop, and is usually audible when the laptop is idle. It has been reported in all kinds of notebooks, not just the HP, but also DELL, Asus, Macbooks etc etc.  Please note that it doesn’t occur in all notebooks, but some users experience this high pitched noise. Sad to say my Envy is one of them. It’s a very soft noise, but can be a bit piercing from certain angles.  When I’m working on the laptop, I don’t notice it at all. however when it’s just sitting on my desk beside me, I sometimes notice it. It can sound a bit like an old TV.

I’m not planning on sending the notebook back because of this, since my old notebook made a hack of a lot MORE noise, and I can totally live with it 🙂 But if the laptop is sitting next to me idle, I just pull out the USB mouse that I use, and if the bluetooth is on, the noise stops! so I’m a happy chappy! 🙂 A lot of users who had this problem have reported something similar, so if you buy a laptop that has this, try different combinations of Yes/No USB and Yes/No bluetooth. It might just help 🙂

That’s it!

Hope you liked this review! Leave a comment if you like and until next time!


Comment by brendrt451 — September 3, 2010 @ 11:51 pm

Great review, my envy 14 is in shipping. Can’t wait to get it. I hope it doesn’t have any of the problems listed on NBR like the un flush clickpad or the CPU whine.

Comment by Allayna — February 21, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

That’s amazing! I am a new ENVY 14 owner and I’ve been troubled by the whine, tried to ignore it, read a lot of forum posts and wasn’t able to resolve the issue. I had disabled Bluetooth because I read it contributed to the issue, but after reading your post just now I went back to check my settings and observed that Bluetooth can be “turned off” even when it is disabled. I turned it off, and like magic, the whine went away! I turned it on and it came back, then off and it went away again, so that’s definitely the cause/solution. Thank you so much for saving my laptop experience!

Comment by Geoff Ives — September 12, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

One point I feel I should make. After only four months my hard drive failed. I got notified on Thursday and had a replacement HD on Friday – that’s a good thing. However, upon removing the bottom plate and replacing the HD I noticed that the protective plate is extremely thin – amost foil like. It wouldn’t take much to impact the HD. For instance, if you place that laptop down hard on a flat surface with a bump on it (a srew head, or wooden button of some sort.) That could be enough to impact the HD – so be aware of it. And get as much foam in your carrying case as possible.

Comment by Wracky — September 14, 2011 @ 10:22 am

Hi Geoff, and thanks for commenting!

Most of the time hard drive will get damaged because of G-forces, with which the bottom plate doesn’t help. Direct damage from pointy objects is hardly ever a problem.

In my opinion, the bottom plate is a nice compromise between strength (it IS made of metal) and weight. I do want to add that my Envy is well over a year old now, and there have been some revisions since then, so maybe something changed.

I would advice against putting any laptop down hard on top of any pointy things 🙂 If it doesn’t dent the casing, it’ll sure leave a nasty scratch 😉

Thanks again!

Comment by Chris — October 21, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

Loved my Envy 14 but also had a hard drive crash while hooking up an hdmi cable. just out of warranty too. :/

Comment by Geri — November 11, 2011 @ 12:33 am

Hi, Great review and I just bought this model. I have one question for you, and I feel very silly not knowing the answer, but I’ve given up looking and trying.

On keys such as the number keys. Let’s take, for example “3”.
You can access the # sign by using the cap lock, but how do you access the “british pound” sign and the backslash. I can’t find a way to access any of the blue things, if you know what I mean.


Comment by Wracky — November 13, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

Hi Geri and thanks for commenting!

I have a US model myself, which does not have any of the extra blue characters.
If the FN keyn doesn’t work, have you tried the Right ALT button in combination with the key you need?
I’ve seen that work on some systems.

Good luck!

Comment by Geri — November 14, 2011 @ 2:04 am

Hi Wracky,
Thanks but I’ve tried every combination I can think of. Alt, Cntrl, Shift, alone and together. I guess I’ll shoot a note off to HP and see what happens. Thanks for replying though.

Comment by Sam — November 23, 2011 @ 5:30 am

hey! great review! would you reccomend the envy 14 or the dell xps 14 z? ive been debating so much!! ok thx 🙂

Comment by Chuck Morriso — May 2, 2014 @ 11:13 pm

Thanks for the info on the function keys. I am really not happy with the keyboard at all, but I love the unit overall. This is a couple years after your review – but it is very much helpful to me as I set up my Envy. THANKS!!

Comment by Wracky — May 2, 2014 @ 11:24 pm

You’re welcome! Yes my envy is almost 4 years old now but still going strong 😉 I still use it almost daily. I tried to put specifics like this in my review since others don’t mention it. Glad to hear it was useful and hope you enjoy your envy! Regards, Wracky.

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