The new HP Envy 13 was all I hoped would be the new Apple MacBook Air: fast, attractive, and affordable. The company provided us an even better version this year, with a more elegant design, a bright and vibrant display, and first-class speakers. Combine all this with long battery life (on the 1080p version), a comfy keyboard, and a reasonable price, and it becomes difficult to understand why someone would buy the Apple’s latest MacBook Air over the Envy 13. Here is our HP Envy 13 Review.
HP Envy 13 Review – Design
I can’t remember the last time I discussed an Envy, Spectre, or EliteBook that didn’t shame Apple’s MacBook design. Following the appearance of its predecessor, this of 2020 Envy 13 has a slim, silver-metal frame with a stylish chrome HP logo in the center of the lid. Open the lid, and you will find an interior similar to that of the beautiful Spectre x360. The most obvious similarity is the triangular pattern on the speaker grill just above the keyboard.
Some people may complain about a lack of contrast between the silver keys of the laptop and the deck, but I like the combination. I wanted HP to hide the gray antenna strip under the chassis, but that’s a small knock on what would otherwise be a perfectly packaged notebook. On the deck, there is also a slim on/off button with an LED strip, opposite a fingerprint sensor. A chrome finish around the touchpad and several inconspicuous Envy and HP branding give this reasonably priced notebook a premium aesthetic.
The sleek screen edges of the Envy 13 are taken from HP’s more expensive Spectre laptops. Although not as thin as some Dell and Asus laptops, the narrow black frame around the Envy panel offers an immersive viewing experience without compromising on the webcam. The Envy 13 sits on its flat rear edge, which falls below the base when you lift the lid and tilt the deck down slightly. From what we’ve seen on Dell and Asus laptops, the feature provides a more comfortable typing experience and improved airflow.
Another smart feature is the concave edges of the Envy 13. If you’ve ever had an Ultrabook, you know how hard it can be to open the lid. Inward-facing edges on the lid and the base of the Envy 13 solve this problem by giving your fingers a place to grasp.
HP used a smart expanding flap mechanism, called a “drop jaw,” to fit on USB 3.1 Type-A ports on both sides of the HP Envy 13. You can use these inputs to connect older peripherals – such as mice, keyboards, or external webcams – without a dongle. Still, we are concerned about the long-term reliability of this moving part. Also on the left side of the Envy 13 is a USB Type-C port and a headphone jack, while the right side has a micro-SD card reader and a power port. Unfortunately, there is no Thunderbolt 3 port.
Keyboard and TouchPad
My fingers appreciated the crucial 1.2-millimeter travel on the keyboard of the Envy 13, although it did not reach our 1.5 mm preference. I didn’t reach a bottom when I wrote this review, which I can’t say about most other Ultrabooks. The generous size and distance of the island-style keys on the Envy 13 also make typing a pleasure. That said, I would change a few things on the keyboard. The paint that HP used on the keys has a somewhat sticky feel, which slowed down my fingers.
Anyway, the keyboard of the Envy 13 is better than what we find on most slim laptops. HP has finally adopted Precision drivers, and the Envy 13 touchpad is better for that. I had no problems performing Windows 10 gestures, such as pinch to zoom or a four-finger tap to open the Windows Action Center on the 4.3 x 2.2-inch surface.
HP Envy 13 Review – Display
The 13.3-inch Full-HD 1080p non-touch display on the Envy 13 base is just as good as the 4K touch option, if not better. Although both touch panel panels are very sharp and clear, the FHD version is even more vivid than the panel with a higher resolution. When I watched a trailer for Mulan’s live adaptation, I saw the intricate floral pattern in the traditional warrior robe and the small beads on her helmet. Mulan’s battle robe was a vibrant red, contrasting with a bare, snowy landscape.
Although the 4K screen looked saturated, the colors did not look more vivid than those on the 1080p display. I found the Envy’s 4K touch screen pretty responsive when I scribbled a few notes about a screen grip in Microsoft’s Snip & Sketch app. I also had no problems using the onscreen keyboard to type URLs or draft emails. The 1080p panel on the laptop reproduces 109% of the sRGB color gamut, making it more vivid than the 4K panel, which reached only 99.4%.
Both screens are less colorful than the 1080p display on the Notebook 9 Pro (118%), the display of 2256 x 1504 pixels on the Surface Laptop 2 (176%), and the 4K screen on the Asus ZenBook S UX391UA (116%) ). The 1080p and 4K displays of the Envy 13 also do not meet the premium laptop average (130%). Despite that showing, the FHD and 4K panels of the Envy 13 look reasonably lively because of how bright they become. With 411 nits brightness on the 1080p panel and 397 nits peak luminance on the 4K display, the Envy 13 surpasses the screens on the Samsung’s Notebook 9 Pro (254 nits), the Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 (321 nits), the Asus ZenBook S UX333FA (225 nits) and the average premium laptop category (346 nits).
I had a good time ‘groovin’ on the sound of the sharp speakers of the Envy 13. HP went all out with the Envy and placed double speakers at the bottom of the chassis together with a third, top-firing speaker above the keyboard. Devon Gilfillian’s funky jam “Here and Now” boomed smooth, soulful tones in my little office room. The twang of the electric guitar sounded nice with the popping percussion but never overshadowed Gilfillian or the female backup vocals.
Bang & Olufsen software is pre-installed on the HP Envy 13, with equalizer controls so you can adjust bass, mid-tones, and treble to your liking.
Surprise, surprise – our 4K Envy 13 came with a discrete graphics card. Although the Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU is not intended for demanding to the game, it is a step ahead of an integrated graphics card, as proven by comparing it with the UHD 620 GPU in the FHD model. The Envy 13 equipped with MX250 scored a 116,575 on the Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark, while the base model scored an 82,270. An upgrade to the discrete graphics gives the HP Envy 13 better performance than the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro (61,662; UHD 620), Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 (71,647; UHD 620), and the premium laptop category average (86,937).
We played the Dirt 3 racing game at 92 fps on the MX250 model, which is well above our 30-fps playability, the premium category average (69 fps), and what Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 2 (82 fps) achieved. The Asus ZenBook S UX391UA (45 fps) fell flat on this real-world test but ran better than the base model of HP Envy 13 (31 fps).
HP Envy 13 Review – Performance
We have tested two versions of the Envy 13: a basic model with a Core i5-8265U CPU and 8 GB RAM and a 4K model with an Intel Core i7-8565U CPU and 16 GB RAM. The 4K Envy 13 broke through my real-world performance test and quickly loaded 20 Google Chrome tabs with multiple 1080p YouTubevideos played in the background. I was then able to download the trailer for Mulan while I watched Season 3 of Stranger Things on Netflix, all without stuttering. The fans of the laptop kicked at this point, but they were not annoying.
The Core i5 and Core i7 versions of the HP Envy 13 performed excellently on our synthetic benchmark tests and scored 15,147 and 15,738 respectively on the Geekbench 4 evaluation. The Samsung Notebook 9 Pro (15,432; Core i7-8565U) falls in between those results, while both Envy 13 models the Surface Laptop 2 (12,744; Core i5-8250U), the Asus ZenBook S UX333UA (15,110; Core i5-8265U) and the category average (15,085). They also embarrassed Apple’s MacBook Air (7,880).
The HP Envy 13 also did well on our hard drive test. The 256 GB SSD in the base model duplicated 4.97 GB of mixed media files in 13 seconds for a transfer speed of 391 megabytes per second, while the 512 GB SSD in the Core i7 version lasted 14 seconds for a transfer rate of 363.5 MBps. That is faster than the Surface Laptop 2 (203 MBps) but slower than most competitors, including the Notebook 9 Pro (3915 MBps), the Asus UX333 (424 MBps), the MacBook Air (1,011 MBps) the category average (646 MBps)).
Leave the lap desk at home – you don’t have to worry about the Envy 13 overheating. After playing a 15-minute full-HD video on the full screen, the touchpad on the HP Envy 13 increased with a Core i7 CPU to just 83 degrees Fahrenheit. At the same time, the keyboard (87 degrees) and the bottom (90 degrees) also remained well below our comfort limit of 95 degrees. Even the hottest part of the machine, the bottom left edge at the bottom, is 94 degrees.
Get an HP Envy 13 with the 1080p non-touch display if the battery life is essential to you. The FHD model lasted 11 hours and 11 minutes, while the 4K model lasted only 4 hours and 36 minutes during our battery test, which includes continuous browsing on the web via WiFi with a brightness of 150 nits. Competitive laptops such as the ZenBook S UX391UA (7:05), Surface Laptop 2 (9:22), and Notebook 9 Pro (8:53) surpassed the 4K Envy 13 but were long disabled for the 1080p version.
Price and Configuration Options
We reviewed two models of the HP Envy 13: the basic Full-HD version with a Core i5 CPU and a 4K display with a Core i7 processor. The basic Envy 13 that we tested cost $799 when it was released in August of 2020. The laptop had a 1080p touchscreen, Core i5-8265U CPU, 8 GB RAM, and a 256 GB SSD. You can now buy the exact model but with a more powerful Core i7-8565U CPU for just $719. For only $20 more, you can upgrade from the integrated graphics card of the UHD 620 to an Nvidia’s GeForce MX250 graphics card, while an additional $150 RAM doubles from 8 GB to 16 GB.
The 4K unit that we reviewed costs $1,149 and has a Core i7-8565U CPU, 16 GB RAM, a 512 GB SSD, and an MX250 graphics card. If that is not enough storage, a 1 TB drive costs an extra $220.
HP Envy 13 Review – Conclusion
The Envy 13 has cemented its reputation as the ultimate laptop for students or travelers. Together with more than 11 hours of battery life (on the FHD model), the Envy 13 has a slim, ultra-portable chassis, powerful performance, and decent speakers. Best of all, the Envy 13 starts at a fair price of $799, which is hundreds less than the competition. In many ways, HP’s Envy 13 is what we wanted the new MacBook Air to be.
Make sure you purchase the correct model. We highly recommend the 1080p version over the 4K model, because it lasts a few hours longer and costs less. If we assessed the 4K model separately, we would only give it a rating of 3.5. If you need a high-res display, the 4K Envy 13 is one of the many good options. We also suggest the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro, which has an equally premium design but has a much better battery life than the 4K Envy.
In general, the HP Envy 13 is a fantastic laptop that enables all the right checkboxes, as long as you purchase the 1080p model.
The HP Envy 13 is an almost perfect Ultrabook that offers fast performance, long battery life, and a clear screen at a reasonable price.
- Attractive, lightweight chassis
- Fast performance
- Bright display
- Long battery life (on FHD model)
- Crisp, powerful speakers
- 4K model has a short battery life
- No Thunderbolt 3