The HP Envy 14 is Hewlett Packard's rendering of a MacBook Pro, now available in 14.5in widescreen size, and with useful improvements beyond the HP Envy 13

Last time we looked at HP’s Envy laptops, we couldn’t not mention how much they were modelled on Apple’s MacBook Pro.

From the backlit Scrabble-tile keyboard to the edge-to-edge glass screen, the buttonless trackpad, the all-metal body and understated styling – the Envy was an undisguised attempt by HP to make a Mac portable computer. Only this time playing host to the Windows rather than OS X operating system.

Now we have two more Envys, in two new sizes, following the same blueprint; meanwhile, elsewhere in the design HP seems to have responded to feedback by making some useful changes.

And we’ll try not to keep resurrecting ad nauseum how it pinched various ideas from Apple. Promise.

Up one, up two

When HP first alighted on the idea of copying Another Brand’s notebook, it went so far as to emulate two out of three of its available screen sizes. Hence we saw an HP Envy 13 and an Envy 15, pointing to 13in and 15in displays.

One refresh later, and we have the Envy 14 and 17. That new 17-incher stands at the top, with the 14in Envy here neatly sliding between old 13in and 15in notebooks’ dimensions.

So the HP Envy 14-1050ea we reviewed keeps a glossy screen, now measuring 14.5in along the diagonal of its 16:9 widescreen panel. We feel this mirror-like glass is still one of the poorest design decisions that HP and its mentor could have made.

Unlike the inspiration of the Envy, there’s no anti-glare matt screen option from HP.

But like its forebears, the Envy 14 has a certain elegant simplicity to its design. The display lid is genuinely metallic, in a tasteful bronzey gunmetal finish with rough textile-like patterning. With the notebook open, the company's logo shines through the back of the lid, in a way that looks uncannily familiar.

Lift the catchless lid and you have a no-nonsense black keyboard, with backlighting adjusted from the function keys.

In its hasty bid to photocopy someone else's buttonless trackpad, HP has also inherited its principle flaw: with the pad sited flush with the notebook’s body, you can’t really click the button with your thumb terribly easily.

Otherwise, the 'Clickpad', as HP has trademarked its rendition, works quite well now, with useful multi-touch control.

Genuine improvement

In marked contrast to practically every Windows laptop, this HP at least omits the cheap stickers all over the wrist-rest area, that usually scream Intel Inside! or Genuine Windows 7! or try to bullet point every last internal component.

When it comes to showing off the product rather than festoon with stickers, we won’t mention where we believe HP got the idea from.

Last year’s HP Envy omitted an integrated optical drive, instead packing it in the box as an outboard USB-attached unit. While that makes more sense for a 13in-sized notebook, it seemed a bit churlish for a 15in, a form factor that most people might expect to have all its functionality under one pack-and-go lid.

NEXT PAGE: in and around the HP Envy 14 >>


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