Design and build: impeccable finishThe Envy-1114ef is a nice object, no doubt about it. Its finish is simply impeccable. No matter where you press on the chassis, it won't give at all. Note that the outside of the screen is glossy, which makes it a magnet to finger marks.
The keyboard with separated keys has backlighting that can be deactivated to preserve battery life. The palm-rest has a soft coating, which makes it a real pleasure to use. The keys are well proportioned and well positioned. Keying is supple, agreeable and quiet. Great for word processing.
The multitouch touchpad is precise, sufficiently wide, and you can perform a right click anywhere on it. Some members of the editorial team here don't like the fact that you can right click the touchpad itself however as this can cause a problem when you're used to putting more than one finger on the buttons. More unanimously, the coating is a problem. While the palm-rest is soft, the touchpad is slightly sticky and holds up the end of your finger. This can get annoying.
The webcam gives a good quality picture. Exposure is good, as is the level of detail in black tones and the restitution of movements. Perfectly okay for daily use.
The connectivity is pretty standard. On the left, there's a slot-in optical drive, two USB 2.0 ports, a combo headphones out/mic in socket and a second headphones out. On the right, you'll find the RJ45 port, the mini-DisplayPort and HDMI outs and an eSATA/USB 2.0 combo. Lastly, the SD card reader is on the front.
The fan is quiet at start-up but noise levels increase rapidly as soon as you ask a bit more of the laptop. Even against background noise, it is pretty audible. Temperature levels are however kept under control. The Envy 14-1114 Beat Edition doesn't exceed 40°C, even during heavy gaming.
Envy 14-1114 Beat Edition temperature readings when you push the components hardReadings taken using a Fluke Ti25 (Distrame) camera
Underneath, with the panel off
DVD rewriter, USB 2.0 (x2), headphones/mic out combo, headphones out
Combo USB 2.0/eSATA port, mini-DiplayPort, HDMI, RJ45 and power supply socket
Processor power: excellent performanceThe least you can say is that HP and Dre haven't neglected to match the innards to the finish. Thanks to a Core i7-720QM, this 14.5 inch will handle even the most demanding processing. In comparison with our reference machine, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650, with an index of 100, the Envy 14-1114ef Beats scores 140. This is quite simply excellent and you can feel the rapidity in your everyday tasks. A very responsive machine. It is even capable of satisfying users who do a lot of photo retouching or HD video encoding.
The turbo mode - automatic - integrated in Core i7s is of course everything to do with this excellent showing as the processor can adapt its clock (up to 2.8 GHz) according to the application being used. For some pieces of software (video encoding for example), the Core i7 720QM will use all four cores (x2 thanks to hyperthreading), while for others (the majority of games) only two cores will be used with a higher clock. This is a very effective system in practice. You can sometimes double the performance levels you get on a dual core model.
HD 1080p video playback (Blu-ray equivalent) is a walk in the park for such a machine. Although the processor can easily handle this task itself, it is preferable to let the graphics card do it. That way, the CPU is freed up and energy consumption falls to keep battery life to a max.
Windows 7 Family Edition 64-bit takes 50 seconds to boot and you'll need to wait another 10 to 20 seconds for the various background applications to start running (antivirus off). It turns off in twelve seconds.
Gaming: good capacity
With its ATI Mobility Radeon HD5650, the Envy 14-1114ef Beats allows you to do pretty much all your gaming at native res (1366 x 768 pixels). Older or less demanding titles, such as Half Life, Left 4 Dead or Starcraft 2 (single player) can run at max or high settings. On more demanding titles such as the latest Call of Duty, you'll need to lower settings a bit to retain optimal fluidity.
Audio: big headphones and little speakersHP talk up the audio technology on their Beats range. Unfortunately, apart from the costly - but not exceptional - headphones that come with the laptop, you're left wanting more.
Sure, the dedicated headphones out is impressively clean and loud enough for the demanding headphones but what to say about the weak speakers that crackle and are hidden under the keyboard? Can do better!
Battery life: don't stray too far from the power socketWhile a 14.5 inch isn't really an ultra, the Envy 14-1114 is sufficiently compact to be slipped into your rucksack. At two kilos, it sits better on your knees than under your arm, but in a rucksack, it can be carried around without too much trouble.
Unfortunately however, battery life is under 2h for video playback (wi-fi deactivated, headphones plugged in, brightness at 100 cd/m²). This is a shame for a product of this size, but not very surprising given the performance of the graphics card.