We hope some of you had an opportunity this weekend to make it out to Dwell on Design, the annual design and decor trade show here in Los Angeles where the large, small and inbetween players in the design world showcase their wares. Friday afternoon we were wined and dined (okay, more like given some tasty sandwiches, salad and soda) by sponsors HP and show host, Dwell, and presented with announcements for the Dwell Design Desk and Dwell's partnership with Heath Ceramics, before moving onto some design+technology offerings from HP.
Stacy Wolff, HP's Director of Notebook Product Design, gave us a thorough walk-thru of the company's current design philosophy and specifically about one of their latest mobile units. The magnesium/aluminum alloy, laser etched HP Envy 14 was amongst their most prominent new units, a midsize laptop that has an undeniable resemblance to the MacBook at first...and second...glance. All the more so since the Envy was displayed in similar fashion to our own machine ontop of a Rain Design mStand in the tastefully decorated HP booth (the Charlie Harper prints on the walls of the staged living room were a nice touch, HP).
But first the specs:
- Intel Core i3-370M processor
- 4GB of RAM
- 320GB hard drive (7,200rpm)
- Option for 128GB or 256GB solid state drive
- ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics
- 14.5-inch LED-backlit display
- HDMI port
- HP Beats Audio
- HP TrueVision HD webcam
- 8-cell lithium ion battery
The Envy 14 may be the first HP machine we'd actually imagine ourselves wanting to own for Windows-related daily operation, admittedly because of its close resemblance to a Cupertino design, but also because its tweener size which makes it an ideal home-to-travel option. The newest Envy has a sleek-thin 1.1" profile, weighs about 5.25 lbs. and exhibits a level of subtle design not always associated with the computing giant's full size laptops (though the Tord Boontje embellished HP Mini 110 Netbook is still amongst our favourite sub-notebook models as it nears the end of its run), coming off as a slightly swarthy, darker, and textured PC version of the MacBook.
The 14" edition seems well suited for users with shallower desk spaces, with a keyboard layout optimized for easy use, but with less overall depth between the front edge to the rear of the machine (those with large paws and higher performance requirements may do better to upgrade to the 17" sibling, which remarkably can drive 3 external screens all at once); the design offers a fair compromise between specs, screen size and travel weight. Details such as the placement of ports on both left and right side make the Envy 14" an easy to accommodate desktop presence.
The construction is not a unibody machine like the MacBook laptops, so seams between sections are visible, but the Envy is still extremely solid in feel (the texture of the laser etching gives it a bit more grip too), while being sold at a moderate price (starting at $999). The Envy's 14.5" Radiance Infinity LED display (1600x900) was specifically cited for its superiority in brightness and clarity compared to the competition, while the integrated fingerprint scanner adds onboard security to work alongside the 4-point trackpad. Accessing the innards like the hard drive and battery unit from underneath is simple, though we admit the section underneath reveals a visual disconnect with the refinement and beauty ontop, and we couldn't help wishing the laser etched surface continued below for continuity.
The overall package, down to the box it comes shipped in, is a premium machine catering to a customer looking for not just a tool, but something they can integrate into a lifestyle and into home decor. We're hopeful HP will further take the design-forward philosophy even further with each update (wish #1: HP branding on the machines are further reduced or completely rethought) and believe the Envy 14 may prove to a winner amongst those looking for
Look out for a hands-on follow up where we see if the HP Envy 14 works as well as it looks!