HP Envy 13 Review: A sleek machine for the basics

Ready for all you throw at it

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The HP Envy 13 is an easy to carry portable notebook weighing just 1.22kg. In the gold accent we have, it reflects a classy aura that ties in well with what HP intends to do with its future products.

Build quality and connectivity

Given its metal chassis, the HP Envy 13 feels extremely premium. The company’s new logo is etched on the center of its lip alongside an indentation towards the base. We quite like the minimal look combined with the ultrabook’s sharp edges. Interestingly, the device props up a bit when opened to improve thermals which is a neat touch. Inside, it is more of the same. There is a triangular pattern to the notebook’s speakers which makes for a unique look. But we think there may be a few small kinks with design when it comes to port selection.

The Bang and Olufsen tuned quad-speakers on the HP Envy are great aside from a noticeable lack in bass

On the right edge, you find a fingerprint scanner, a Type-A USB 3.1 port and the power input. In this case, we would have preferred to see the fingerprint scanner etched into the computer’s power button as that is just more natural when it comes to usage. The left edge houses a microSD card reader, a Type-C USB port capable of DisplayPort 1.2 and power delivery, another Type-A USB 3.1 port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. While the port selection seems underwhelming on paper, it makes sense given most consumers are now opting for external dongles anyway. Interestingly, the maintain the thin profile of the laptop, both the Type-A USB 3.1 ports come with a flap mechanism. While this is a viable solution, we are not sure how durable it may prove in the long run given we tend to use these ports on a more often basis.

Display performance

Opening up the laptop, you find a 13.3-inch FHD IPS display. It is an edge-to-edge panel with fairly small bezels. But given it is not touch enabled, we would have liked it to have anti-glare properties for ease of use under direct light. From a multimedia consumption perspective though, it gets the job done. Colors look good and contrast levels are slightly lower than expected. However, that does not mean you will struggle watching your favorite TV show or movie. Somewhere that you will perhaps miss greater quality is if you intend to edit photos or work with graphics.

We think an anti-glare coating on the screen could have worked wonders

Otherwise, the bezels around the display do not get in the way too much either. There is a web-camera on the top edge which sports a mediocre 720p resolution. However, we feel the quad-speakers play a crucial role in completing the experience. They are tuned by Bang and Olufsen and go a long way accompanied by HP’s Audio Boost. The only region where they lack is when listening to bass heavy music.

Keyboard and trackpad

At the base of the notebook, you find both the keyboard and trackpad. Throughout usage, the keyboard does flex slightly however that aside, the keys are satisfactory. For a 13-inch form factor, the layout too is spacious and it has you covered even in low-light thanks to its back lighting. Unfortunately, there is only one level to this backlight.

While the keyboard is great to type on, the trackpad is not the best

The trackpad on the other hand has left us wanting more. It supports multi-touch however it is a bit too deep for our liking. Furthermore, clicks feel slightly mushy and are inconsistent depending on where you click. This seems to be the only drawback in the otherwise very premium feeling HP Envy 13.

Hardware and software

Arguably, the internals on the HP Envy 13 are slightly outdated. Inside, you find 8GB of RAM with an Intel Core i5-8250U processor clocked at 1.6GHz. While the quad-core processor can turbo boost up to 3.4GHz, the laptop’s chassis restricts that to a certain extent. Furthermore, you find Intel’s UHD Graphics 620 for your gaming needs and 256GB of SSD storage.

We think embedding the fingerprint scanner onto the power button of the HP Envy would have been a good move

With this configuration, you laptop becomes a good choice for office or school work. It has enough power to work through your assignments or data sheets. However, anything more strenuous will result in the laptop slowing down. Unfortunately, the machine does not come with a dedicated graphics card either which is not great for gaming or editing on a regular basis. Nowadays, we see competing laptops throw in more power and this is where the HP Envy 13 may struggle. Not just this, it does not have any added software enhancements up its sleeve running Windows 10. You get some HP software including CoolSense and JumpStart but nothing as exclusive or useful as Huawei Share, which helps with productivity to a great extent.

Battery life

The HP Envy 13 sports a 53.2Wh battery with a 45W power adapter bundled in for charging. This results in a full charge in just over an hour with the laptop is idle. In terms of usage, HP claims about 14 hours of battery life from the machine. But in our testing, the numbers clocked in around the 9 hour mark. This was done at 70 per cent brightness on the laptop’s ‘Balanced’ power profile. We think this is good backup but given its efficient internals, perhaps a higher number should have been on the cards.

Conclusion

It seems that the HP Envy 13 is a good option when it comes to build quality and aesthetic. Our model has outdated internals though so we cannot recommend it in 2020. However, a refresh to this laptop with more recent and robust processing and perhaps better power efficiency could make it a viable choice, so long as you can afford to pay a premium for the machine. We say that because HP notebooks in general seem to be priced a bit higher than the competition.