Although HP primarily sells consumer laptops through its Pavilion range, its Envy line offers a high-end alternative for those with a bigger budget.

Unfortunately, while the Envy 14 (£999 inc. VAT) is a stylish, powerful and compact machine, it is a little flawed by awkward usability.

Initial impressions are good. The sleek chassis and textured, metallic finish create an elegant look that makes it arguably the best-looking laptop in this group test. Its smooth clamshell design is comfortable to hold and it slips smoothly into a carry case.

At 2.6kg the chassis is not as light as the 13.3-inch Toshiba in this group, but is still suitably portable for use at home or on the move. While the 215-minute battery life is bettered by both the Asus and Toshiba here, you can work for nearly four hours while away from mains power.

HP envy 14: build quality

Full-sized keyboard

With the lid open, the clamshell chassis reveals a full-sized, isolation-style keyboard. Fully backlit, the board moves with a smooth and responsive action when typing. We did notice some minor flex on the right-hand side of the board, however.

Unfortunately, the large touchpad is not nearly so well designed. With the mouse buttons built into the touchpad itself, it is far too easy to misjudge where you are pressing and to send your cursor flying across the screen at any time.

Where the Envy 14 fares far better is in the surprisingly high-powered performance it provides for such a portable machine. Built around a cutting-edge Intel Core i5 processor, there is a stunning amount of power on offer, matching all but the smaller Toshiba in this group test.

Graphics are even better and double the power of all rivals in this group. One of three laptops here to be powered by a dedicated graphics card, performance is staggering for such a slim laptop.

The 14.5-inch screen doesn't quite match up to the high standard set by its graphics card, but image quality is certainly acceptable. The bright panel and sharp resolution show photos off to good effect, but we did find the screen uneven at times, with images a little washed out.

High-quality audio gets things back on track, with HP's Beats technology delivering a powerful and warm sound ideal for games, music and movies. The sound is even better when played through a set of headphones, making this certainly the best multimedia machine in this group.

If you can live with the awkward quirks of its touchpad, there is no denying the style, power and features of the Envy 14. Unfortunately, we found usability too flawed to want to use this as our main machine, however, reducing the impact of what is an otherwise fantastic multimedia laptop.