HP Envy 14 (2021) review: This budget content-creation laptop does it all

While you can find laptops that outperform the Envy 14, it's harder to find one that can do so for the same price.

Credit: Mark Hachman / IDG

Laptops like the HP Envy 14 fall into the category of “content creation:”  notebook PCs with a modestly powerful discrete GPU that can play some games, edit video, or simply serve as a solid all-around PC. This $1,200 14-inch laptop satisfies all three.

In our tests, we found that while some laptops outperformed the Envy 14, many couldn’t do so for the price. Here, the Envy 14 offers top-notch battery life, support for powerful external Thunderbolt hardware, and a pleasing everyday typing experience. We’ve awarded it an Editor’s Choice, and in this review you’ll see why.

HP Envy 14 basic features

HP says it ships its Envy 14 in one of three configurations. The model we tested is the midrange configuration (14-eb0010nr), which includes a Core i5-1135G7, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. The MSRP is $1,250, but we saw it on sale for $1,210 at Amazon during testing. HP also sells a $1,070 basic version of the Envy 14 (known as the HP Envy 14 14t-eb000) on HP.com without the discrete GPU, a touchless display, and 8GB of memory. HP also says that for $1,700, you can buy the premium model of the HP Envy 14 on HP.com with 1TB of SSD storage.  We didn’t see that model listed at press time, though.

While you might consider the Envy as the “stylish” HP product line, compared to the budget-friendly Pavilion line and the premium Spectre line, HP has recently refocused Envy as optimized for creators. You'll see how it's tuned for those users as we go through the specs and features, beginning with this list of the basics:

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr back Mark Hachman / PCWorld
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-1135G7 (as tested), Core i7-1165G7
  • Display: 14-inch (1900x1200 IPS, 400 nits, touch)
  • Memory: 8GB DDR4, 16GB DDR4 (as tested)
  • Storage: 256TB PCIe NVMe SSD (as tested) / 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD/ 1TB PCIe NVME SSD
  • Graphics: Iris Xe, Iris Xe/Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q (as tested)
  • Ports: 1 USB-C (Thunderbolt 4/USB4, at 40Gbps, DisplayPort 1.4); 2 USB-A (5 Gbps), 1 HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm headphone/mic
  • Security: Fingerprint reader (Windows Hello)
  • Camera: 720p (user-facing)
  • Battery: 61.2Wh rated/ 61.2Wh (full charge)
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax 2x2), Bluetooth 5
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Dimensions: 12.33 x 8.82 x 0.71 inches
  • Weight: 3.3 pounds, 4.2 total with 135W charger
  • Color: Natural Silver
  • Price:  $1,070 - $1,700; $1,250 as tested

Build quality: Solid and mostly silent

HP’s Envy 14 lacks the visual splendor of the company's premium Spectre laptops. While you'll see the stylized diamond grillework that distinguishes HP’s laptop vents, overall the Natural Silver stamped-aluminum chassis is a little plain. The profile signals a thin-and-light, though it's actually about average weight at 3.3 pounds. While the unit looks and feels solid, we noticed a bit of give when depressing the keyboard firmly.

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr venting Mark Hachman / IDG

Like most laptops, the HP Envy 14 sucks in air through the bottom vents and pushes it out through vents in the hinge.

One feature you’ll notice as soon as you start using it: the relative lack of fan noise. HP employs a pair of fans, plus two heat pipes, suck up air from the bottom of the laptop and push it out through vents next to the hinge. The fans seem sensitive to ambient temperatures, remaining quiet on cooler days and ramping up more quickly on warmer ones. 

Even dialed up into performance mode, though, the fan ran extremely quietly during both CPU- and graphics-intensive loads. (Creators don’t want to be drowned out by fan noise while streaming!) HP also provides a utility to manage fan noise, which we’ll talk about later.  The only time the fan really howled was when we were downloading a BIOS update, during which we couldn’t actually work on it, anyway.

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr torx screws Mark Hachman / IDG

We didn’t open up the Envy 14, but the bottom of the laptop is user-accessible through four Torx screws.

A display designed for creators

Creators think about the display quality more than most people do. HP said this is its first 14-inch, 16:10 display. This subtle vertical upgrade, compared to the more traditional 16:9 ratio, allows the 14-inch screen to go beyond 1080p to 1920x1200. HP further elevates it with color calibration and 100-percent sRGB support. HP rates its touchscreen at 400 nits' maximum brightness. As a traditional clamshell laptop, the screen reclines to just short of 45 degrees.

Test videos we played back on the internal display looked bright, vibrant, and color-accurate across the color gamut, with no dropped frames even at 4K/60 fps. The included HP Display Utility offers three preset color options: Default (a little cooler), Native (a little warmer, with no optimization), and the “Photos and Videos” setting, which is slightly dimmer on the Default. (These options have also been added to the Windows 10 Settings menu.) 

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr right side Mark Hachman / IDG

A USB-A port and an SD slot, plus the power charger, adorn the right side of the Envy 14.

The Envy 14's port selection embraces both the past and the future, thanks to the Intel 11th-gen Tiger Lake CPU at its heart. This CPU family supports Thunderbolt 4, the latest generation of a powerful connector that supports advanced storage, charging, and display technologies. You also get HDMI 2.0 port and a pair of USB-A ports (one on either side of the chassis), plus an SD card reader for importing photos.

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr left side Mark Hachman / IDG

Another USB-A port, an HDMI connector, and the Thunderbolt 4/USB-C port are on the HP Envy 14’s left side.

Excellent keyboard and typing experience

The Envy 14's keys are springy and quite comfortable to type upon, with adequate travel. HP’s Envy 14 offers two levels of backlighting, with some light bleed near the bottom of the keys.

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr keyboard Mark Hachman / IDG

The Envy 14’s keyboard is just a tiny bit smaller than what you’d find on a larger laptop, but you should find it extremely comfortable to type upon.

The layout is a bit on the funky side, with some navigation keys stacked to the right. Otherwise, we appreciated the dedicated keys to mute the mic and block the webcam. HP includes a dedicated keyboard shortcut to its HP Command Center utility, too.

The only wasted opportunity I found was the dedicated “help” key (the F1/? key), which simply opened a browser window with a pre-programmed “how to get help in Windows 10” query. Some users may find that insufficiently helpful.

Instead of a Windows Hello camera, HP included a fingerprint reader, nestled in next to the spacebar and replacing the underutilized “right click” key. Fingerprint readers can be difficult to judge, as your finger (or the sensor) can get grimy over time and lessen the efficacy. Though the fingerprint sensor worked well initially, more than a few times I was forced to use my PIN code when the reader didn’t recognize me.

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr fingerprint reader HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr

The Envy 14’s fingerprint reader wasn’t nearly as accurate as I’d like.

HP’s precision trackpad crams into the remaining space beneath the keyboard. While the trackpad may not be as slick as I’d like, it’s clickable up to about a finger's-breadth from the top. Gestures worked reliably.

A gimmicky, privacy-minded webcam

While HP touts the Envy 14 as a “personal creative studio,” it certainly doesn’t include streaming in that category...or does it? Unfortunately, HP includes a standard 720p user-facing webcam—which, to be fair, performs admirably in terms of color accuracy. Naturally, the 720p resolution leaves room for improvement in terms of the how sharp the image resolves. “Pro” controls, though technically available within Windows’ Camera app, are non-existent.

HP Envy 14 webcam Mark Hachman / IDG

The Envy 14’s webcam provides excellent color accuracy, though it’s a bit soft at 720p.

But wait! HP also includes an app called HP Enhanced Lighting, which projects a white “ring” on your laptop’s display that you can widen, dim and brighten, and even shade to project whatever color of light you’d like on your face. I’ve actually done that myself with my second display at my desk.

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr hp advanced lighting what youll see HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr

In this photo, you can see how HP’s Enhanced Lighting works, and what its weaknesses can be. 

The problem with such an approach, of course, is that the more screen real estate you devote to your faux ring light, the less information you can actually see onscreen. You can solve this with an external monitor, of course, or buy a 1080p webcam with an integrated ring light

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr hp advanced lighting collage HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr

Does HP’s screen-based webcam work? A little. On the top I’ve snapped selfies in my home’s dining room, and perched on a bed in a darkened room; the lower row of images have HP’s Enhanced Lighting turned on. 

I like HP’s approach to webcam privacy better. If you click the camera privacy button on the keyboard (to the right of the F12 key), the webcam shutter closes with an audible snap.  About the only drawback is that this fools Windows, too. Try opening Windows’ Camera app, for example, and you’ll see an error message. The Envy provides a button to mute the mic, too, something we wish more vendors would do, and which HP has led the way on.

The audio experience is a mixed bag. By default, what comes out of the Envy 14’s speakers is as tinny as we've come to expect from any laptop, and somewhat muddled on the low end. Like many HP laptops, though, HP asked Bang & Olufsen to tune the Envy’s speakers. Open the included Bang & Olufsen Audio Control app, go to the Equalizer tab, and flip on the Audio Preset--that dramatically improves the audio quality. My recommendation is not to fiddle too much with the actual equalizer, also in the app; any preset I chose besides the default “HP Optimized” setting required too much fiddling to make right.

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr camera shutter HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr

While I like HP’s camera privacy shutter, the choice of a white shutter is too visually similar to the white LED that HP uses to indicate that the camera is in fact, on. 

Like basically any laptop, you can solve many of your audio problems simply by plugging in a set of headphones.

Chock full of preloaded apps

HP’s Envy 14 ships with a number of additional preloaded apps, though fortunately they don’t take up much physical space on your hard drive. The Windows 10 taskbar includes the Amazon app, a Dropbox promotion (25GB of space for free for one year) plus the MyHP app. You’ll also find Amazon’s Alexa app, an Energy Star app; free one-month trials of Adobe apps, a trial of McAfee Personal Security; and shortcuts for the LastPass password manager and Booking.com. 

HP also has 11 (!) of its own utilities cluttering the Envy’s Start menu. Some are more task-specific, such as the HP Display Control app for shifting the color temperature by app (a bit cooler by default, with a slight warming effect for viewing photos) and the HP Enhanced Lighting app we’ve mentioned above.

HP Command Center is the overarching system utility, and it pales in comparison to other OEM utilities, especially those for business PCs. Command Center is noteworthy for its fan controls, allowing you to turn the fairly frequent fan off in Quiet mode, or ramp it up into Performance mode. A separate Network Booster tab allows you to control which apps on your PC receive the most Internet bandwidth, if you’d like. (It’s off by default.) We didn’t test this, since we were fortunate enough to have a robust broadband connection.

HP AirDrop is HP’s dedicated app for transferring photos and other documents back and forth from your phone. In some ways, it duplicates the function of Windows’ Your Phone app, but it’s extremely easy to set up and use. Unfortunately, however, it requires your laptop to be online via an active Internet connection.

HP Envy 14 performance: Tuned for creators 

By positioning the Envy 14 as a tool for content creation, HP is setting an expectation for better performance tier than you'd get from a mainstream PC. By and large, it delivers. As you'll see in the performance charts below, the HP Envy 14 sits pretty much square in the middle between gaming laptops with high-performance CPUs and GPUs, and premium mainstream laptops with nice CPUs but mere integrated graphics. 

HP sets its default power/performance setting to the middle “better performance” setting, which is where we left the laptop for our tests. Feel free to check out the comparison laptops: On the gaming side, we have the Acer Predator Triton 500 and the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. The MSI Prestige 14 is similar to the HP Envy 14 in target user, with the same low-end GTX-1650 Max-Q GPU. The Acer Swift 3X, Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1 9310, and HP’s own Spectre x360 14 represet premium mainstream laptops with integrated Iris Xe graphics.

The modern PCMark 10 benchmark tests a variety of tasks encompassing office productivity, photo and video editing, and even some rendering workloads. The HP Envy 14 performs in the upper-middle range, very satisfactorily.

HP Envy 14 pcmark 10 edit Mark Hachman / IDG

HP’s Envy 14 performs more than competently in everyday office tasks.

We test CPU performance using the Cinebench benchmark, which renders a complex 2D scene over a short period of time. Though this is a somewhat synthetic benchmark, it does indicate how well the HP Envy 14 will perform in real-world applications that lean heavily on the CPU. Predictably, the Envy 14's Core i5 processor comes in behind the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 with its Ryzen 4000 processor, and several laptops with more powerful Core i7 CPUs.

HP envy 14 cinebench r15 edit Mark Hachman / IDG

As you might expect, the Envy 14 shows a decided performance advantage over Intel’s 10th-gen hardware. Laptops using AMD’s Ryzen processor, though, still rule the roost.

HandBrake, meanwhile, is a prolonged CPU rendering test, which transcodes a 30GB movie file into a format that can be viewed on a tablet. Shorter times are better her, and the Envy 14's upper-middle score shows off how well it cools itself during intensive workloads.

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr handbrake 0.99 Mark Hachman / IDG

The Envy 14 performs well in our Handbrake transcoding test.

Because HP designed the Envy 14 with content creation in mind, we also evaluated the laptop using UL’s Procyon benchmark. This tests the laptop in two ways: using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom to measure its performance in terms of photo editing; and a second test, in which Adobe Premiere Pro is used to export video files in a variety of formats. In each case, the Envy 14 performs in the middle of the pack. But it's important to note that the leaders in these results are larger, heavier, gaming laptops with high-end discrete GPUs.

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr procyon photo editing Mark Hachman / IDG

As a content-creation machine, we’d expect the Envy 14 to perform well here. Here, photo editing using Lightroom and Photoshop is competent, though nothing special. It also falls somewhat behind other 11th-gen Core hardware.

Keep in mind, too, that the HP Envy 14 will offer some benefits that won’t necessarily be seen in our benchmark results. Nvidia GeForce GTX GPUs include support for NVENC and NVDEC, the video encoder/decoder architecture that offload video encoding and decoding functions. These functions would normally be processed by the CPU, with adverse effects on the resulting frame rate when streaming a game. 

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr procyon video editing Mark Hachman / IDG

In video editing, HP’s Envy 14 again falls in the middle of the pack.

Likewise, Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake platform includes support for AV1, the emerging video codec that may replace H.265 HEVC video. You may not see any immediate benefit right now, but if widely adopted, AV1 streaming support could future-proof this laptop for years to come.

Tiger Lake also includes support for OpenVINO, the machine-learning architecture Intel supports. Machine learning is a bit abstract at the moment. But ML, too, could evolve into something of value over time. 

What the Nvidia GTX GPU doesn’t support, however, is Nvidia’s RTX ray-tracing technology that has become popular in gaming laptops. The HP Envy 14 isn’t explicitly marketed as a games machine, but the standalone GTX GPU allows for some light gaming, especially in conjunction with the 11th-gen Core beside it. (For additional context, you can read our Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ review, whose Tiger Lake CPU was unaccompanied by a discrete GPU, yet handled some games with relative ease.) HP’s Envy 14 just adds a bit more oomph to the equation.

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr 3dmark time spy 1.2 Mark Hachman / IDG

Though gamers may prefer Nvidia’s RTX GPU technology over its GTX parts, any discrete GPU performs well in gaming.

Finally, there’s battery life. The Envy 14’s 61.8Wh battery under the hood partly explains the HP Envy 14’s chunkiness. But boy, does the Envy put that to good use! You’ll receive all-day battery life of fifteen hours and change.

HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr battery life Mark Hachman / IDG

For our money, battery life about twelve hours is worthy of applause. At just over 15 hours, the HP Envy can last all day and then some. 

Conclusion: Great value

Don't let the Envy 14's performance compared to gaming laptops dissuade you from this laptop. It's not a gaming laptop. It's something in between that and the high-end mainstream laptops we also compared, which fell behind the Envy 14 in most respects. In addition to solid performance, the Envy 14 offers Thunderbolt 4, a solid typing experience, a conscientious camera shutter, and absolutely fantastic battery life. It offers more bang for the buck than HP’s Spectre x360 14, itself an Editor’s Choice-winning 14-inch Tiger Lake laptop that lacks the discrete GPU. We don’t think much of the gimmicky Enhanced Lighting app, but we can see this laptop easily being used for content creation and some streaming.

As an everyday laptop, it wins, too. We didn’t directly compare it against the Surface Laptop 3 (Core i7) for Business, but Microsoft’s $2,099 2019 laptop pales in both price and performance to what HP offers here. 

While the HP Envy 14 14-eb0010nr may not be the absolute pinnacle of content-creation PCs, it definitely offers enough to warrant our Editor’s Choice award. It’s a solid, no-fuss laptop that wowed us where it counts.

If your creator activities demand a little more screen space, last year’s slightly larger (and heavier) Envy 15 is an option. There, HP offers 4K screen options, Nvidia RTX 2060 GPUs, and a pair of Thunderbolt ports—but, as of now, just 10th-gen Intel chips, such as in the HP Envy 15 15-ep0098nr for $1,599. HP also just announced the Envy 15 with up to a Core i7-1165G7 or a Ryzen 7 5700U. HP will begin shipping them in April for $799 and up. We haven’t tested it, but we notice they do not have anything more powerful under the hood than a GeForce MX450 GPU, which is less than what this Envy 14 offers.

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Mark Hachman

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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