HP Envy 14 and 17: first look review
Since the US launch last week we’ve been itching to get up close and personal with HP’s latest Envys. And in the refined confines of London’s Covent Garden Hotel, we finally got our wish: HP revealed the Envy 14 and Envy 17.
Frustratingly, HP wouldn’t actually let us switch them on – despite a full complement of circuitboards, RAM chips and heatpipes visible through the grilles underneath – but the event certainly served to whet our appetite for more.
Visually, there are no surprises. The jury’s still out as to whether the dimpled Imprint finish is just a tad OTT, but it’s certaintly bound to draw admiring glances. If you like your laptops to grab the attention, HP’s Envy range both looks and feels like a finely-tailored cut above.
Physically, the Envy 14 is – gasp – slightly bigger than the Envy 13 it replaces. And the Envy 17? Well, suffice to say, it’s larger. Much, much larger.
Burly, metal-framed build quality extends to both models, but the 17-incher is built like a tank, and weighs about the same, too. A sea of wrist-rest provides room for all but the most Godzilla-like of forearms, and Excel spreadsheet fans will no doubt be frothing with excitement at the prospect of a dedicated numeric keypad.
Altogether more exciting is the presence of the Beats technology founded by hip-hop legend, Dr Dre. Despite the news that the Envy 17 has three sub-woofers, we’re not expecting chest-shattering infrasonics, but if the speakers are better than the usual notebook dross, we’ll be happy.
The bad news? Well, as one disgruntled journalist quite rightly pointed out, the cursor keys are rubbish. Fearful of breaking the clean, geometric precision of the Envy’s design, HP’s has crushed the cursor keys together. Fancy pressing the up cursor? Well, unless your fingers are honed to a finer point than Edward Scissorhands’ digits, you’ll also be pressing the Shift key above.
And if you read our reviews of the Envy 13 and Envy 15, you’ll have noticed that we didn’t like the touchpad a great deal. In fact, we hated it with a passion normally reserved for unelected Prime Ministers. A familiar shudder of loathing coarsed through us as we caught sight of HP’s latest: both models still have that touchpad. We have heard reports from across the pond that new drivers have resolved some of the original issues, so we can only hope that the Envy’s tactile woes will be consigned to history. Fingers crossed.
HP wouldn’t confirm any specifications, but Intel’s Core i5 and i7 processors are certain to make an appearance. All we could be 100% sure of is that eSata, FireWire 800 and HDMI are all present and correct, and while the 14 makes do with two USB ports, the 17 gets three.
We’re haranguing HP for review units at the earliest opportunity, but one thing’s for sure: if HP can get the Envy’s ergonomics back on track, they could be onto a winner. Get it right, and the new additions to the Envy range could prove devilishly tempting.