HP 14z Laptop review: A budget device you can depend on

Despite a mediocre trackpad and a dim display, the HP 14z Laptop is nevertheless a strong option for people looking to save.

HP 14z Laptop
(Image: © Windows Central)

If you're not willing or able to pay for the costs of some of the best Windows laptops, your best bet is to turn to budget-friendly laptops that are designed to offer users a decent computing experience for a significantly lower price. There are tons of these devices out there, but unfortunately, their quality varies widely. Some cheap laptops are simply terrible due to issues like mediocre performance and unacceptably poor build quality, while others are surprisingly smooth and enjoyable to use.

The HP 14z Laptop, which is one of HP's most affordable devices, falls into the latter category. While it lacks the bells and whistles that make top-notch devices so appealing, this model has traditionally offered solid overall performance and decent battery longevity for a very affordable price. This has consistently made the HP 14z Laptop one of the best budget laptops in recent years, and it recently got a 2021 refresh that includes some brand new Ryzen CPUs.

I was able to get my hands on one to test, and after spending over a week with the laptop, I can confidently say that the HP 14z Laptop is one of the top budget-friendly devices on the market right now — though it's definitely not without its disappointing drawbacks.

HP 14z Laptop: Price, availability, and specs

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

HP supplied Windows Central with a review unit of the HP 14z Laptop. It was configured by the manufacturer with an AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, 128GB SSD, and 14-inch FHD non-touch display.

This exact model costs $550 on HP's website at the time of writing (the most expensive configuration is $990). Additionally, my review unit shipped with Windows 10 installed; HP is now selling the device with Windows 11. Notably, you can purchase the HP 14z Laptop with Windows 10 installed from Amazon, although the prices are higher.

Below are all of the different specs that you can customize an HP 14z Laptop with:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
OSWindows 10 HomeWindows 11 Home
ProcessorAMD Ryzen 3 5300UAMD Ryzen 5 5500UAMD Ryzen 7 5700U
GraphicsAMD Radeon Graphics
Display14-inch HD display (1366x768), non-touch (250 nits)14-inch HD display (1366x768), touch (250 nits)14-inch FHD IPS display (1920x1080), non-touch (250 nits)
Ports1x USB-C2x USB-A1x HDMI 1.4b1x AC smart pin1x SD card reader1x 3.5mm headphone/mic combo
AudioDual speakers
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6Bluetooth 4.2Bluetooth 5.0Bluetooth 5.2
CameraFront-facing 720p
KeyboardNot backlitBacklit
Battery41Wh battery7.5 hours
Dimensions12.76 x 8.86 x 0.71 in (324 x 225 x 18 mm)
Weight3.24 pounds (1.47kg)
ColorJet blackMercury burgundyNatural silverIndigo bluePale goldSnowflake white

HP 14z Laptop: What I like

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At the price level that HP is targeting with the HP 14z Laptop, it's crucial for devices to offer solid and dependable performance for general productivity and other light tasks. Thankfully, the HP 14z Laptop delivers this in spades. I spent over a week using the device for work, and throughout the duration of my testing, I was able to bounce between Word documents, Google Docs files, emails, and webpages with speed and precision. There's even enough horsepower here to deliver good performance in light games like Minecraft, which will no doubt make Xbox Game Pass subscribers happy. It's far from the fastest laptop I've used, but it's nevertheless impressive for something in the $400-600 range.

The device's display also looks good considering the price of the HP 14z Laptop, as it serves up decently vibrant colors and a nice 1080p resolution. You can save a little money by opting for a slightly less expensive 1366x768 panel instead, but I think it's worth the $40 upcharge. If you want support for touch, you can spend $30 to get a 1366x768 touchscreen.

The HP 14z Laptop delivers solid and dependable performance in spades.

In terms of battery life, the HP 14z Laptop clocks in at 7.5 hours after general productivity tasks and 50% brightness. This falls just short of the eight-hour standard, which is solid for something this affordable. If you need to get as much time out of each charge as possible, I recommend turning the brightness down to save on power.

Lastly, the physical design of the laptop is good. It's got relatively thin bezels, and even though it's a bit heavier and thicker than I'd like at 3.24 pounds, I've seen far worse in this price range. The build quality is solid (aside from one issue I'll touch on later), featuring a hard plastic chassis that feels nice and sturdy and has a textured finish that's pleasant to the touch. The keyboard is nice, too. It comes with chiclet low-profile keys that are comfortable to use and actuate with snappy precision. The laptop also comes with a nice selection of ports, including a USB-C slot, dual USB-A ports, an HDMI port, and an SD card reader.

HP 14z Laptop: What I don't like

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The HP 14z Laptop doesn't have a ton of significant issues, but one drawback is the 250-nit max brightness that all of the device's available displays have. It would have been nice if HP could get the brightness up to the 300-nit range, as 250 just isn't enough to fight off sun glare while using the laptop outside (especially since the display isn't matte).

The dim display and the mediocre trackpad are disappointing.

Another problem is that the laptop's trackpad feels very loose and hollow, which leads to an unsatisfying user experience that contrasts the otherwise enjoyable keyboard. The trackpad is accurate, at least, but ultimately HP could have done better to manufacture a trackpad that feels sturdy to use. It might be a good idea to look around for good deals on wireless mice to pair with the HP 14z Laptop.

Some other annoyances include the lack of a fingerprint reader to use with Windows Hello, the lack of an option for a 1080p touchscreen, and the absence of backlighting for the keyboard. It's also worth noting that the device's textured chassis collects so many smudges and fingerprints, which will definitely annoy people who like keeping their laptops looking spiffy.

HP 14z Laptop: Competition

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While the HP 14z Laptop is certainly an excellent budget device, it's not the only one out there. If it's not what you're looking for, whether you want more features or a smaller device, both the ASUS VivoBook 15 and the Surface Go 3 are great alternatives to consider.

The ASUS VivoBook 15 is ideal for people who want the features that the HP 14z Laptop lacks. These include a fingerprint reader and a backlit keyboard, both of which can be very useful. The overall performance is worse and the battery life falls short of six hours, but the ASUS VivoBook 15 is nevertheless a great option for those who want more features.

If you'd prefer something that prioritizes compact size and a small weight above all else, look no further than the Surface Go 3. Its performance isn't as good as the HP 14z Laptop, but the upside is that the Surface Go 3 is far thinner and lighter than HP's budget offering (as well as pretty much every other laptop on the market in general). It can also be used as a tablet, and it has a rock bottom starting price of $399 as well.

HP 14z Laptop: Should you buy it?

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You should buy this if ...

  • You need capable performance
  • You need a device with solid battery life
  • You need something affordable

You shouldn't buy this if...

  • You're a hardcore gamer
  • You do demanding tasks like video editing
  • You want something on the premium side

Folks who need or want an advanced machine for things like video editing or hardcore gaming should look elsewhere, and people that want a laptop with premium build quality, performance, and features will be disappointed. However, for the budget buyer that needs reliable performance and solid overall quality for an affordable price, the HP 14z Laptop is a great choice.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows. Things like the subpar trackpad and the lack of a fingerprint reader or backlit keyboard are unfortunate, but ultimately, the HP 14z Laptop is fantastic for folks who need a lot of laptop functionality for not a lot of money. Without a doubt, it's one of the best budget devices you can buy in 2021.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.