Apr 192011

HP Envy 14 and Dell XPS 14 laptops are often compared to one another and for good reason, they are very similar machines. So when it was time to upgrade recently, I tested them both head to head before deciding.

Summary: If you’re in a time crunch I’ll tell you that while they are both superb machines, truly, I chose the Dell XPS because it felt more comfortable to me.  I recognize that this is subjective (I already owned an older dell laptop), but here are some of the factors that drove my decision.

Since both computers are speedy and well designed, there isn’t that much that obviously sets them apart on a basic functional level. They both “work.” That leaves “feel” or comfort, and the differences I detail are all about the space where you and your computer actually interact.

Keyboard: I tested the backlit version of both, and let me tell you, I will never use a non-backlit keyboard again. Even in a lighted environment, backlit makes the keys stand out. That said, the HP has a chiclet style keyboard, similar to the Mac, with very light typing pressure required. Many people love this, but I type around 45-55WPM, and I prefer keyboards with a bit more resistance, as I found with the Dell. The Dell also had what I found to be a more intuitive layout, which made it much easier to jump right in and start typing.  Advantage, toss-up.

Screen: The HP screen is very shiny, and the glass is smooth from one end of the top to the other. This shininess was disconcerting and was a problem for me in terms of reflecting back light. Also, the edges of the screen got very smudgy very quickly. And while the Dell screen is also glossy, (in the standard configuration I tested), it has a standard “frame” edge that takes the brunt of opening and closing smudges. The HP had better overall visual crispness, but I liked the build of the Dell better. Advantage, HP.

Mouse: The HP touchpad and mouse-buttons are one solid square, similar to the Mac again, and I found myself constantly hitting the wrong part of the pad and having unexpected things happen on screen. With the Dell, the buttons and touchpad are separate, and the interface is so smooth that I often no longer bother with my bluetooth mouse. Advantage, Dell.

Sound: While the HP has its much-hyped Beats Audio system, I found the Dell JBL speakers to be the best built-in computer speakers I’ve ever heard. I constantly have friends tell me how impressive the Dell sounds. Advantage, Dell.

Overall appearance: There’s no question that the HP is the prettier machine from the outside. It’s gorgeous. Opened up it’s still prettier. But pretty is as pretty does, and for me this was secondary to the functionality where I found the Dell to my liking. Advantage, HP.

Finally: Dell no longer manufactures the XPS 14, although can still find them in their outlet store. I read that dell is remodeling the line to make it lighter and thinner. I hate when a company tinkers with success, especially when the changes sometimes flop, but this is a fine computer and I hope they build on it.

  • Sourav

    dell is BEST……..JBL rocks….

  • Moishe

    I agree, the JBL speakers are REALLY good. The thing runs a bit hotter than I’d like, but it’s a good machine, made better by Dell’s good customer service when my HDD failed, my DVD drive failed and my fan failed. (All over the course of a year). Take that how you will, but I do still like my Dell.

  • Pavan

    well the review is pretty good but the overall performance is better with the envy 14 ithink ..

  • I hear you. And certainly a lot of people are happy with the HP Envy. The new one (Folio) seems really exciting too: http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/hp-folio-13/4505-3121_7-35096620.html That said, I’m really happy with my Dell XPS. 🙂