Small Business Notebook Review: The HP Envy 14 - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell
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The Battery Life of a Small Business Notebook

How long will you continue to get that hot performance when you’re running the Envy 14 on battery power?

HP says the standard-issue 8-cell Lithium Ion battery will last up to three hours and 45 minutes. In our testing, it lasted 2 hours and 25 minutes while playing continuous, mostly full-screen video at the brightest screen setting. That's not a great showing.

A $200 option will get you an additional 6-cell battery to extend battery life -- by how much, the specifications don’t say, and we didn’t have one to test. Of course, it also increases the size and weight of the small business notebook.

Small Business Notebook Ergonomics

Envy is unquestionably a winner on looks and performance. If it falls down anywhere it’s on ergonomics, which is, in our view, an important aspect of a laptop. It must be comfortable. But comfort, again, is subjective.

The Envy's full-size keyboard floats under the hinge, with four inches below it for resting wrists, and an extra-large touchpad. The Chiclet-style keys have a fairly positive feel but not as much travel -- they don’t press down far enough -- as we would like.

The fact that we received a unit with a multilingual keyboard with a slightly different layout than standard U.S. keyboards may have slightly skewed our perceptions of the keyboard -- it was annoying to type on.

When the Envy 14 is on your lap, slanting slightly downward -- usually the case when you’re sitting in a chair -- hand position on the keyboard with its wide wrist rest is very comfortable. We were also pleased that the notebook PC doesn’t overheat like some laptops we’ve tried, even over long sessions.

But the experience using the Envy 14 on a standard-height table isn’t quite so good. The front edge dug uncomfortably into our wrists.

We're also not wild about the touchpad. The jumbo size is good in some respects, and scrolling by sliding your finger across it works well. But the larger size also increases chances of fingers straying and making the cursor jump on the screen. You can train yourself to minimize this problem, and it’s not as bad as with some touchpads we’ve tried, but it’s still there.

We also found the touchpad somewhat unresponsive at times. This was true both when pressing the buttons -- which are hidden under the pliable surface of the pad rather than being separate keys, and require a fair amount of pressure -- and tapping on the pad to click. It’s likely these problems would go away as you grew more accustomed to the feel of the machine. But then again, maybe not.

Small Business Notebook Connections

The Envy 14 has almost all the connectivity and networking you could want, including three USB 2.0 ports (one of them doubling as an eSATA port), HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface -- for connecting to an HDTV), RJ45 Ethernet, 2-in-1 memory card reader and combination Wi-Fi 11n and Bluetooth wireless network adapter.

It even has a mini Display Port, the Apple video connection used in Macs. The only thing missing, and perhaps it’s forgivable in this day and age, is a standard VGA port for connecting to an analog external monitor.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a showy, high-performance small business notebook to reward either yourself or maybe a highly valued employee, the Envy 14 fits the bill. It’s not perfect, but it does deliver distinctive good looks, a superb screen (if you’re willing to pay for the upgrade) and knock-out performance.

And even though they’re not exactly business applications, it can’t hurt that the Envy 14 does a superb job on video streaming and music play-back with HP’s Beats audio technology.

Gerry Blackwell is a freelance technology writer based in London, Canada. Read his blog, AfterByte

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This article was originally published on October 20, 2010
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