HP Envy 13 review
Laptops such as the 12in MacBook and Dell XPS 13 are pretty portable, but you’ll struggle to find a computer with a decent-sized screen that’s more portable than the HP Envy 13. It’s incredibly slim and light, and doesn’t cost the earth either. It’s like a MacBook Air, but with more up-to-date hardware. Surprisingly enough, it has power too, using the same dual-core Intel Core i7 CPU you’ll find in larger, pricier laptops. Only battery life holds back this otherwise delightful laptop. And even that isn’t too bad, so keep reading. See also: 20 of the best laptops you can buy right now
Also see: Best Black Friday Laptop Deals
HP Envy 13 review: Price
For an expensive-looking and feeling laptop, the entry price for the Envy 13 is not too intimidating. Prices start at £649 for the 13-d008na from John Lewis for the version with an Intel Core i5 CPU and 1080p screen. If you can take the very reasonable bump up to £799, you can get a near-4K resolution screen and an Intel Core i7 CPU. In fact, at the time of writing the Envy 13-d061sa, with a Core i5 and 3200x1800 screen was on offer at Currys for £649, and that is good value.
Our review unit (Envy 13-d002na - part no. N7K53EA) sits between the two, with an Intel Core i7 CPU and a 1080p display. This specification gets you the performance hit without the battery drain tax of a 4K display. Oddly, it's hard to find, and we could only track it down on HP's own site. Make you sure you consider these when choosing a laptop.
HP Envy 13 review: Design
The Envy 13 is a sensationally petite little laptop, particularly for the price. The superstars in this area are the Apple MacBook, which is very expensive and somewhat impractical, and the Asus UX305, which is a true portable star.
HP has managed to put a bit more of a stamp of distinct visual personality on this laptop than the Asus, though. This ultra-light system offers a mix of officiousness and cuteness: an unusual combo. What tells you this is an HP machine is that ultra-big, ultra?rounded touchpad, a staple of the company’s most luxurious lifestyle laptops. It’s ultimately a very sensible, fluff-free machine, though. The hinge doesn’t limbo-lean back any further than normal (around 130 degrees), and it doesn’t have a touchscreen.
The frame is full aluminium, getting you the sort of feel that a few years ago you’d have paid at least £1,000 for. There’s a little bit of flex to the shell, in particular the little strip beneath the touchpad, that tells you it’s not tremendously thick metal, though.
It probably wouldn’t have been able to slim down to 12.9mm thick and 1.23kg with thick stuff, and its pricing is keen too. We’ve been reviewing a lot of larger laptops recently, but switching to this was truly refreshing. Holding it is like grasping a slim pad of A4 paper.
The only surface-level design issue is it’s a bit odd to use on the knees, as it is the back of the lid that rests on them, not the bottom of the laptop. At least it’s light enough not to cause much discomfort.
The HP’s connections aren’t very forward-looking, though. You get a respectable three USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI socket and an SD card slot, but no USB-C connector. We’re starting to see these on the majority of pricey laptops, and they’re soon to be very important as non-Apple phones are due to use them instead of Micro-USB.
This is about as close to no-frills as an all-aluminium, good-looking laptop is going to get these days. The only part many of you might want to think about is the frame flex. USB-C isn’t yet vital. And those who care about security will be happy to see a Kensington lock port and a finger scanner, which is usually reserved for boring?looking business laptops, but here is lets you use a bit of software called SimplePass to manage your passwords.
HP Envy 13 review: Screen and touchpad
The Envy 13 has a classic Ultrabook keyboard. It’s shallow but crisp, and typists will appreciate just how little HP has messed with the key layout. The Shift and Backspace keys haven’t been shaved down to nubs, making the transition to this from a larger keyboard very easy. Only the top line of keys is slimmed-down, and they are F-key shortcuts that you’re not going to need to work into an essay or email.
We’re glad to see HP has managed to incorporate a keyboard backlight at the price, too. The Asus UX305 doesn’t have one, and it makes typing/gaming in dark places way easier. It’s a blunt object backlight though, being rather bright and lacking the intensity gradations you get in laptops costing, say, a couple of hundred pounds more. You’ll want to turn it off when it’s not strictly needed.
The HP Envy 13’s trackpad is unusual, and something HP has really made its own. While it doesn’t have much vertical height to play with, thanks to the placement of the keyboard, it really makes use of the laptop’s width. This thing is wide, and it gives your fingers plenty of room to play with. Just as the keyboard backlight isn’t necessarily expected at this price, neither is the Envy 13’s high-end textured glass trackpad surface. It feels fantastic, getting you just the right friction and a non-tacky finish to glide across.
The trackpad ranks among the best you can get in a 13in Windows laptop. Its click action is as well-handled as the pad’s surface, and we had no issues with juggling left/right button commands. That may sound silly, but trackpads can be a nightmare in Windows machines.
This one integrates the buttons into the pad with just a tiny dead zone at the top, and you can right-click by either tapping with two fingers on the pad (like a MacBook) or tapping the far bottom-right of the surface (like a trad. Windows laptop). Looking closer into why this works so well, it seems to be down to about 85 percent of the pad being ‘left-click’ territory. And that it feels fantastic, of course.