Help Me, LAPTOP: HP Envy 14 or MacBook Pro 13?

Recently, one of our readers, a student about to head off to college, asked us if he should get the 13-inch MacBook Pro or the HP Envy 14. He wrote:

“For everyone who will be doing graphic arts or web design projects from a dorm room, and who will also have to lug their choice around for the next few years, please help in making the decision between the HP and the new MacBook Pro 13. Is the battery life difference between the two laptops several hours, really?  Is that offset by the extra “real estate” of a 14.5 display?  Speaking of displays, I’ve read the HP Radiance Infinity display is 60% brighter than anything else. Is that true; does that include the new MacBooks?”

Putting aside the different operating systems, we’ll go, round by round, through the merits of each notebook, and see which one is best suited for students.

Design, Portability, and Usability
Apple has long led the way when it comes to notebook design. Its laptops’ aluminum unibody construction is not only first-rate in terms of looks, but also feels durable too. However, the HP Envy’s bronze metal etched lid and deck is every bit as stylish as the MacBook Pro.

Both notebooks feature comfortable, island-style keyboards, but the MBP’s 4.1 x 3-inch touchpad is not only larger than the Envy 14’s (4.25 x 2.5), but is easier to use–HP’s improvements notwithstanding.

Naturally, the Envy 14’s larger screen size necessitates a bigger chassis and heavier weight. While both are roughly 1 inch in thickness, the Envy 14’s footprint is 14 x 9.3 inches to the MacBook Pro’s 12.8 x 8.9 inches. Also, the Envy 14 weighs 5.4 pounds, compared to 4.4 pounds for the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Winner: MacBook Pro

Display
In terms of sheer size and pixel count, the Envy 14 carries the day. Its 14.5-inch screen has a resolution of 1600 x 900, which is much greater than the MacBook Pro’s 13.3-inch, 1280 x 800-pixel resolution screen. However, in terms of image quality, the two are evenly matched: The HP’s Radiance Infinity screen was as bright, crisp, and saturated as the MacBook Pro’s.

Winner: HP Envy 14

Performance
The HP Envy 14’s more powerful components led it to outperform the MacBook Pro in most areas. The  Envy 14 uses a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-450M, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive. The MacBook Pro has a 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600, 4GB of RAM, and a 250GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive.

Before we delve into numbers, a little disclaimer: The MacBook Pro’s performance scores were taken while the system was running Windows 7 in Boot Camp mode.

In PCMark Vantage, the Envy 14 scored 6,129 to the MBP’s 4,164, an obvious delta. Also, when transcoding a 114MB MPEG4 file to AVI, the Envy took 54 seconds, about 20 seconds faster than the MacBook Pro. However, the efficiencies of the Mac’s operating system allowed its slower hard drive to complete the transfer test in 2 minutes and 54 seconds, nearly as fast as the Envy 14 (2:51).

Winner: HP Envy 14

Graphics
The Envy 14 features switchable graphics in the form of integrated Intel GMA HD and a discrete ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 with 1GB of memory. By contrast, the MacBook pro has an Nvidia GeForce GT 320M GPU with 256MB of memory. Here too, the HP was a bit more powerful.

In 3DMark06, which measures overall graphics performance, the Envy 14 scored 6,876 to the MBP’s 4,754. When playing World of Warcraft at native resolution and with effects at max, the Envy notched 54 fps to the MBP’s 50 fps. Same goes for Far Cry 2: The Envy 14 saw gameplay of 27 fps at native, where the MacBook Pro got just 19 fps.

Winner: HP Envy 14

Battery Life
One of the biggest drawbacks of the Envy 14 is its battery life: On the LAPTOP Battery test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi) the machine lasted just 4 hours and 26 minutes. That’s about 3 hours and 20 minutes less than the MacBook Pro (7:48).

Winner: Apple MacBook Pro

Value and Verdict
The HP Envy we tested costs $1,289, the MacBook Pro was $1,199. So, which one should you get? Well, if you value endurance and portability, there’s no question that the lighter and longer-lasting 13-inch MacBook Pro is the better value. But if pure performance is what you’re after, then the HP Envy represents the better deal.

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  1. Sam Says:

    Seems like you mixed up the winner for battery life!

    I would question the 7+ hours of battery life for the MacBook Pro. I have many friends who own the MBP and all of them tell me they get battery life between 4-5 hours, never the 8+ hours that many review sites have quoted. I’m sure that 8 hours can be reached just by browsing the web but in real life, no one’s going to just browse the web for that long.

    Nonetheless, it’s a good comparison!

  2. Ha Says:

    “One of the biggest drawbacks of the Envy 14, though, is its battery life: On the Notebook batteries provide power to the system whenever it’s unplugged.
    Learn MoreLAPTOP Battery test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi) it lasted just 4 hours and 26 minutes. That’s about 3 hours and 20 minutes less than the MacBook Pro (7:48).

    Winner: HP Envy 14″

    I think you mean to say the winner is the Macbook pro

  3. labchuk Says:

    unless you live in a world without AC power outlets, have a crippling weakness that doesn’t let you carry that extra pound of weight or just like apple products . . . why would you get a 13″ MBP? especially if the owner was planning on doing any kind of video editing or art projects, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want a 256mb video card and a C2D processor as opposed to core i5 or i7 and a 1gb ati 5650 card.

  4. david stillwell Says:

    “Before we delve into numbers, a little disclaimer: The MacBook Pro’s performance scores were taken while the system was running Windows 7 in Boot Camp mode.”

    Well, no it was not. Not on battery performance where running Windows the MBP 13″ gets the same battery life as the HP Envy 14.5″.

    Why is that? It’s a mystery, much like the Mac laptop always being the laptop exhibited in a movie or TV show. Never a Windows laptop there.

    Maybe this site should figure out how to turn the Envy into a Hackintosh and run a head-to-head test against the MBP 13″.
    ==

  5. Jonathan Says:

    The good reason to go for the MacBook pro is it’s portabiliy and battery life

  6. Kevin Kasperbauer Says:

    I’m the person who originally wrote to Laptop Magazine asking the question that resulted in the article. With the exception of being on a flight to Asia, I’m never away from electrical outlets more than four hours at a time. I’m going with the HP for the better performance and larger screen. Also, if having a Mac makes a rebellious anti-corporate-anti-robotic statement, then maybe the Envy takes on the design crowd in the same way, since they all are Apple core.

    The comment above from David S is intriguing. Is there something inherent in the Mac operating system that would cause every laptop to last longer than if its operating system is Windows? In other words it isn’t that MacBooks have better batteries or are built better, its that the Mac OS is more power efficient?

  7. xxx Says:

    If you want to be like every other follower I’d say go with the Macbook, but if you want pure elegance, power and portability…go with the Envy.

  8. HollywoodLaw Says:

    Where did the “14.5″ diagonal edge-to-edge HD+ Radiance Infinity LED display with super sharp resolution (1600 x 900)” go? Went to configure this morning and the only choice is the “14.5″ diagonal High Definition HP BrightView Infinity LED Display (1366×768)”

    Was HP having problems with the other or not making enough $$$ on it?

  9. Shehanrg Says:

    HP wins..

  10. Zack Says:

    I got any Envy AFTER returning a macbook pro for it’s overheating and strange sensation when it’s sitting in your lap. Envy 14 is a much better computer. HP’s Mediasmart software (which never gets mentioned) seems much more capable than Apple’s iLife. I have used iLife very little because I just didn’t like it much, while I have used mediasmart quite a bit… The Envy 14 is actually more comparable in size and power to a MBP 15. Why not do a review vs. MBP 15? It actually competes with both quite well price and performance wise I am sure. As someone who has tried both, I say Envy 14 is a much better value, but what do I know?

  11. Bob Says:

    The HP Envy 14 is obviously the better choice; when you consider the difference in specs, graphics, and portability there is not much of a competition. Macs are a retro idea of looking modern and faddy. Lately Macs have simply become a fashion statement. Apple has never been good at making decent electronics. When the iPod was released people flocked to buy the new tech; competitors soon rebuttaled with similar, cheaper devices. For example, Apple is unable to create its own OS. They begin with someone elses tech and build off of that. Microsoft built there entire OS from scratch and have many years of expirience in building usable and secure software. Statistics constantly say that Macs are the easier to hack, not to mention that Windows 7 alone blocks the majority of viruses without anti-virus software. I see the HP Envy 14 as the obvious choice between the two systems.

  12. polocanada Says:

    Is this post all about the hardware? It’s like discussion about the size of the spoiler or whatever. Don’t you realize Mac is a completely different OS? The reason for going with Mac or Win is the Operating system diference. The hardware is changing every 6 months or faster. Given that both platforms have its advantages, it’s “what one is going to do with it once one has it” is what counts and it’s the first question every buyer should answer.

  13. swenbottom Says:

    Good discussion. I am in same quandry. My main concern is the hp trackpad. Kind of a purist when it comes to LAPtop, living 10 years now without a mouse. Love the Dell trackpad and Mac as well, but HP Pavilions I have tried are frustrating. Must keep thumb completely off mouse and float fingers with wrist up to get dependable motion. Also requires much more pressure than Dell and Mac, and not smooth surface and no pressure adjustment. All referring to Pavillion, however. Cannot get straight answer from anyone on how the Envy trackpad compares to Pavillion. Cannot get my hands on an Envy would have to order on faith from hp. Anybody actually try out and compare the touchpads?

  14. Bob Says:

    You have to remember this is the ENVY. Not a Pavillion. I have an Envy 14 and the track pad is fantastic. I have not had any problems with it whatsoever. The instant on software is useful as well. The mac trackpads have a strange feeling to them in my opinion. They are slightly larger but theyre a large square which has an unusual feel. With the mac you are basically buying a fashion item. The Envy is powerful and looks just as nice as any mac Ive ever seen (better in some cases!). Not to mention Windows 7 > OS X. OS X is very unorganized. Windows 7 has several new features that ad to it without changing it too much. I would suggest the Envy over any PC or Mac.

  15. since1969 Says:

    It is hilarious to begin a comparison by saying, “Putting aside the different operating systems,” and then not come around to include that in the final verdict. As someone who spends workdays designing on a PC and evenings consulting on a Mac, there is absolutely no comparison. Snow Leopard is a joy to use, almost too much like my own brain. Meantime in my Windows daytime, I find myself feeling like my co-workers who inevitably view their computers as a necessary evil.

    I have a Macbook Pro and it is almost too much fun. The Envy is gorgeous, really lovely. But it is a Windows 7 machine, and there is no way to write that out of the script.

    MacBook Pro wins. Take it from someone who knows.

  16. Flavor Blasted Courage Says:

    Hey dudes. I just wanted to say that I’m returning my MacBook Pro 13 ASAP! Don’t get me wrong. The build is amazing and battery life is a dream (though not the claimed 10 hours more like 6!) but the perfomance let me down. I’m a college student and I type papers and surf, normal stuff. But I’m also a gamer. I really thought this thing would be able to play games decently. I don’t mean like maxed out, more like low to medium (it is a laptop after all). I totally crapped myself by how poorly this thing ran L4D2 for both Mac and Windows (bootcamp). I mean come on. C2D 2.4 ghz and a 320m should be just fine to run an outdated engine like Source. I’m returning it and getting the Envy 14 ASAP. Also OSX didn’t have the religious effect on me some people get and I kind of missed Windows 7 and its ability to run everything without thinking (my life became incomplete without OneNote). I will however miss the gorgeous multitouch trackpad and expose’ and garageband but really nothing else.

  17. Mad Science Says:

    A couple of things I can add to this conversation… I was contemplating this same purchase for a couple of weeks and these are the things that I was considering (aside from what is mentioned above) when I made my decision to go with the Envy 14.

    *There are 3 USB ports on the Envy as opposed to 2 on the MPB (being able to plug in all my peripherals without a hub makes a huge difference for me).
    *The Beats Audio thing does make a noticeable difference when listening to music through headphones or external speakers.
    *The better graphics card on the Envy will make a difference when rendering video edits or playing games.
    *There is a line-in port for recording audio input or plugging in an external mic which seems to be missing on the MPB.
    *You can easily replace or expand the hard drive and memory on the Envy – can’t do that on the new macbooks.

    I was really contemplating on going with the Mac because of the build/design/look. The built-in speakers on the macbook are noticeably louder than the envy and every other hp/toshiba/samsung in this price bracket. The backlit keyboard on the mac looks much nicer and brighter for low-lit situations. Mac OS X is way better than Windows 7 IMO but there are too many applications on the Windows side that I couldn’t give up, including games and audio editing apps.

    I agree with the notion that Macs are a fashion statement but for some reason I can justify why everybody would want one – there’s just something about the Mac that looks and feels better when you’re using in front of your peers.

    All in all the specs and what I am getting for what I am paying is what pushed me to stay on the PC side and go with the Envy.

  18. Frank Says:

    *You can easily replace or expand the hard drive and memory on the Envy – can’t do that on the new macbooks.

    I am not a Apple fanboy but, at least for the mid-2010 models, this statement is completely false. You can easily swap out the HD or put new memory in. Ten screws and about 20 minutes and you are done.

  19. Jordan Says:

    Has anyone determined if the Envy 14 can even be used as a hackintosh.
    I think that if it can be hackintoshed to use both the windows (via bootcamp) and mac programs.
    And
    If the mac operating system semi-solves the power problem.

    I think the Envy wins hands down.

    But, that is if anyone has found a hackintosh for this.

  20. TareX Says:

    Is there even a comparison here? HP Envy wins with a landslide. Reasons: Much bigger (and better) screen with very little sacrifice in overall footprint, a WAY better CPU and incomparably better GPU. Design-wise, the Envy 14 looks spectacular and wins this category for me as well.

  21. Andy Says:

    lol, it’s amazing how the author of this article was just completely stomped by the readers :D

    I agree, the Envy 14 wins hands down, and really the efficiency and beauty of OSX is complete negated by the infinitely more vast software library presented to Windows.

  22. brent Says:

    note: you can buy an ultra thin battery for the envy that doubles it’s battery life!
    the battery is just a plate, you can put under the envy

  23. beaner Says:

    You guys forget that the Macbook pro is a bit older, also for the extra cash you can upgrade the hardware. Also the rumor is a new Macbook pro design coming out soon that will probably blow the Envy away. Mac is far less likely to get a virus.

  24. piratesmvp04 Says:

    HP Envy 14 is way cheaper than the Macbook Pro 13 and 15. I checked it out on the HP and Apple online stores just now. In fact, you get better specs for cheaper price with the Envy. Also, don’t forget that in addition to the $1200 minimum you’ll pay for the Macbook Pro, you also have to buy an HDMI adapter if you want to connect to your HD TV (Envy has it built in) and also a VGA adapter if you want to connect to a projector for presentations (Envy already has that built in too). One could argue that the physical build quality of the Macbook Pro is better than the Envy, but with regards to specs and cost, there is you way you can argue that the Macbook is a better deal than the Envy.

  25. Sid Says:

    Guys, lets face it. Macbook was super trendy when it was launched. But now, it just seems to be losing its charm. Some of the many reasons i dumped my macbook and went for an envy are:
    * BEATS AUDIO: No laptop sound system can beat it. Plus, you invest your money and buy a Beats headphone, all you get is divine music. The bass and clarity throws any doubt about the winner.
    * FASTER: The envy notches up the competition when it comes to performance. I am a gamer (not a pro) and envy just seems like my perfect companion.
    * BIGGER SCREEN: somehow, this is completely obvious and i don’t need to point it out.
    * DESIGN: Agreed, the macbook is beautiful. but the red beats on the black body of the hp is unbeatable.

    According to me, The winner is HP Envy, the higher price be damned. It is totally worth every dime that i spent on it

  26. UltimateTraceur Says:

    Which is better for video editing? I could care less about gaming, but editing videos will be the main game changer in my decision making. I have herd imovie is popular and actually pretty good. But it also does not work with 1080p i think. I’m looking for better graphics and render speed. I like the look of the Macbook, but from what i have read I feel like the answer will be the ENVY. But I believe there is going to be a new release of Macbooks with upgrades later in August, and same with intel, but I’m not entirely sure. Any suggestions from a video editors point of view?

  27. Neal Says:

    Hi guys, just bought an envy14 for my daughter on ebay for $440, try finding a macbook pro for that! don’t be fooled by the HP lemons you find at walmart, these high end aluminum machines are sweet.
    i wasn’t a huge HP fan until I bought myself a refurished 8740W for graphics work on ebay, it cost about a third of the price of the macbook pro 17 + it’s more powerful too. I learned on a mac but I find they have left the hands of artists and fallen into the hands of yuppies and wannabies.
    One more thing, TRACKPOINT MICE RULE for photoshop and everyday surfing!! try doing a complicated selection in photoshop with any trackpad, pretty much impossible. Wish the envy had em’ too.

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