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HP's Envy 13 proves that you don't have to break the bank to get a lightweight laptop with heavy doses of style and performance. This 1.31-kilogram ultrabook packs the power of an Intel 8th Gen Core processor, an all-metal chassis and the convenience of all-day battery life. It also has one of the best keyboards on the market. Higher-priced competitors offer more vibrant displays and even longer endurance, but overall the Envy 13t is a fantastic value.
We many silver laptops, but the Envy 13 adds some original touches that make it stand out. The matte aluminium lid has a small incline in the back that covers the hinge, giving it clean, sleek lines. The shiny HP logo in the middle of the lid stands out, while the tapered shape of the chassis makes the entire system look slim. A smooth bottom surface is made from magnesium alloy.
Opening the lid reveals an attractive aluminium deck, completely with silver keys that match the aesthetic (MacBooks break the colour scheme by using brown keys). The side bezels around the 13.3-inch screen are relatively thin, but no one would mistake this display for one of the nearly edgeless offerings on Dell's XPS 13 or Lenovo's Yoga 920. HP also offers the Envy 13 in a "Silk Gold" colour.
At 30.48 x 21.59 x 1.39 centimetres, the Envy is slim enough to fit into a narrow pocket in your bag and compact enough to fit on even the narrowest seat-back tray while its 1.3-kilogram weight makes it very easy to take with you. The Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft Surface Laptop are both a little bit less than 0.09 kilo’s lighter, the MacBook Air is about the same weight and the pricier HP Spectre 13 is 0.22 kilograms less.
For a notebook this thin, the Envy 13 has a fair selection of ports, which includes two standard USB 3.0 connections and two USB-C ports, with one of each on either side. There's also a 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD card slot. The USB-C ports can be used for charging, data and video out, but you they can only accept power from an HP branded charger. The device itself comes with a proprietary, non-USB charger.
The 13.3-inch, 1080p touch screen on the Envy 13 offers decent image quality. When I watched a trailer for Thor: Ragnarok, colours like the green in Hela's cape, the purple on a statue and the red behind the Marvel logo all seemed fairly accurate but they didn't "pop" like they do on pricier competitors like the Dell XPS 13 and HP's own Spectre 13. HP also offers the Envy 13 with an optional 4K display, which may be brighter and more vibrant (we haven't tested one).
According to our colorimeter, the Envy's screen reproduced a solid 106 percent of the sRGB colour gamut, which is just a few points ahead of the ultraportable laptop category average and 5 or 6 points between the XPS 13 and Spectre 13. The stunning screen on the Surface Laptop can show 30 percent more colours than Envy. Apple's MacBook Air can't even compete as its panel can only hit 71 percent of the gamut.
The glossy surface on the panel, along with below-average brightness hurts the viewing angles on the Envy. Even from just 45 degrees to the left or right, colours started to fade and the overhead lights in my office reflected back at me. The screen measured a modest 248 nits on our light meter, about 15 percent below the category average
The Envy 13t's audio output is good enough for listening to dialog in movies or Skyping, but for music, you'll want external speakers. When I played AC/DC's "For Those About to Rock," the music was loud enough to fill a small room, but it was tinny.
The Envy 13t's keyboard is so good that it alone makes this laptop a compelling option for students or productivity workers. Competitors take note; HP has shown that, even on a very-thin laptop, you can have a world-class typing experience. Though the keys have a modest 1.2 millimetres of travel (1.5 to 2mm is typical for mainstream laptops), they have such a snappy, responsive feel that I never found myself bottoming out. The keys felt so much like an extension of my finger tips that I was able to match my all-time high of 110 words per minute on the 10FastFingers.com typing test.
The 10.9 x 5.3-centimetre buttonless touchpad was highly accurate,whether I was highlighting text or navigating around the desktop. It also responded flawlessly to multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom and three-finger swipe.
With its Intel 8th Gen Core i7-8550U, 8GB of RAM and 256GB PCIe SSD, our review configuration of the Envy 13 offered a plethora of performance, both in everyday use and benchmark tests. Even with over a dozen Chrome tabs open and a video playing, I didn't experience even a hint of lag.
The Envy 13 scored a strong mark of 12,225 on Geekbench 4, a synthetic benchmark. That number is about 60 percent higher than the category average and Microsoft Surface Laptop and its slower Core i5-7200U. However, the Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre 13 were 7 to 16 percent better, though they both have the same Core i7-8550U CPU as the Envy.
The laptop's 256GB PCIe SSD took just 24 seconds to copy 4.97GB of mixed media files. That's a comfortable rate of 212 MBps, which would dwarf any laptop with a mechanical hard drive or a slower SSD. The MacBook Air returned an identical speed on our test. However, the ultraportable laptop category average is a modest 15 MBps higher, the Spectre 13 was 60 percent quicker and the Dell XPS 13 was more than twice as fast.
The Envy 13 completed our spreadsheet macro test, in which we match 20,000 names with their addresses, in 3 minutes and 36 seconds, which is about 2 minutes quicker than the category average and 25 seconds ahead of the Surface Laptop. However, the XPS 13 was about 27 seconds faster than the Envy while the Spectre was just 7 seconds ahead.
With its integrated Intel UHD 620 GPU on-board, the Envy 13t can't replace a gaming rig, but it can play videos and run less-demanding titles. When we fired up the Dirt 3 racing game, HP's laptop managed a strong frame rate of 48 fps, which is nearly 20 percent above the category average. However, the XPS 13 and Spectre 13 both offered well above 50 fps while the Surface Laptop screamed to a rate of 68 fps.
On 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a synthetic graphics test, the Envy 13t scored a strong 77,685, which beats the category average by over 30 percent and bests the Surface Laptop by over 15 percent. The Spectre 13 came up a few points short of the Envy while the XPS 13 was about 5 percent quicker.
If you're heading to work or school, the Envy 13t can tag along while you leave its charger at home. The laptop lasted a strong 9 hours and 46 minutes on the Laptop Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. That time is an hour and 20 minutes longer than the category average, about 45 minutes ahead of the Surface Laptop and 3 hours and 45 minutes longer than the Spectre 13. The MacBook Air lasted about 40 minutes longer than the Envy while the XPS 13 blew away the field with a time of 16:05.
The Envy 13’s 720p camera is good enough to use for Skype calls, but if you are podcasting or making a really important call, you'll want to invest in an external webcam. When I shot an image of myself under the fluorescent lights of my office, the blue in my shirt appeared dull and flat and fine details like the hairs in my beard and pores in my skin were impossible to distinguish. The image was very bright, but there was a lot of visual noise in the background.
HP packs the Envy 13t with a few useful utilities, a sprinkling of bloatware and the standard Microsoft-installed bloatware that every Windows 10 computer gets these days. Great for novice users, HP JumpStart contains a series of tutorials such as "Must-know keyboard shortcuts for Windows 10," but it also has promotions for its extended warranty and ink refill programs.
ePrint lets you output to an HP printer over the Internet. Recovery Manager helps you create a system backup or reset. HP Support Assistant provides access to live chat and other tech support resources. The Bang and Olufsen audio control app allows you to adjust the volume and choose among music, movie and voice sound profiles.
What good is a laptop if it's too hot to use on your lap? Fortunately, the Envy 13 kept its cool throughout our testings. After streaming a video for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured 27.7 degrees celsius, the keyboard clocked in at 32.2 degrees and the bottom hit only 33.6 degrees Celsius. We consider temperatures below 35 degrees comfortable.
Our review configuration, which features a 1080p touch screen, Core i7-8550U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB PCIe SSD.
The HP Envy 13 is a great choice for students, knowledge workers or anyone that just needs to get something done. Though it has the sleek looks of a premium consumer laptop, this 13.3-inch ultraportable has the great typing experience, long battery life and strong performance people expect from the finest business laptops.
If you can spend a few hundred dollars more, depending on sale prices, the Dell XPS 13 offers much longer battery life, a more vibrant screen and better audio, but its keyboard isn't as good as HP's. Whether you need it for work or play, the Envy 13 provides exceptional power and portability for the money.