Hardware Laptops Reviews

HP Envy 13 review: what’s so special about this 2019 update?

HP Envy 13 review

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Review

Product Name: HP Envy 13

Product Description: A 13in ultraportable laptop that has few weaknesses despite the super-aggressive price

Price: £1,150

  • Speed
  • Battery life
  • Features & design
Overall
4.5

Pros

  • Brilliant value for money
  • Quality in all the right places
  • Capable of playing games

Cons

  • Battery life could be better
  • As could its outright speed

There are times when companies need to radically overhaul their products, other times when they need the smallest of upgrades to create something special. As you’ll discover in our HP Envy 13 review, this 2019 update falls so clearly into the latter category that there’s an audible clunk.

HP Envy 13 review: specs & pricing

So what are you getting if you buy the HP Envy 13? Well, there are three current configurations on sale. For £849 direct from HP, a Core i5 version with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. That’s a decent price (although look out for deals, as HP has sold it for £749 before).

For £1,150 from John Lewis, the specification I tested: a Core i7, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. Right now, it even comes with a £125 cashback in the form of a John Lewis gift card. And, as always when you buy from John Lewis, a two-year warranty. (If you’re short on time, just buy this version because that is a phenomenal deal.)

And for £999, again direct from HP, the compromise option with a 512GB SSD, Core i7 and 8GB of RAM.

Note that all the HP Envy 13s come with an Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics chip, a 13.3in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) touchscreen and Windows 10 Home.

HP Envy 13 review - rear

Whichever version you choose, you’re buying a high-quality ultraportable. It’s designed for home use but would still cut a dash in a boardroom, with an aluminium chassis and classy silver HP logo cut into its lid.

What don’t you get?

There are omissions, some due to cost savings and others linked to the size of the chassis.

HP Envy 13 fingerprint reader

First, there’s no infrared camera, which means you lose out on lifting up the lid and allowing Windows Hello to recognise you and – pretty much instantly – sign you in. Instead, you’ll have to enter a PIN or use the fingerprint reader that sits just below the cursor keys.

Nor is there much in the way of ports. One old-style USB port sits on either side, with a microSD card reader on the right (along with a privacy switch for the webcam) and a USB-C port on the left.

This is a versatile port, though, able to connect to a DisplayPort-toting screen via an adapter, or you can use it to quickly transfer data or power the system. Or stick in a USB-C adapter to do the lot. There’s also a proprietary power connector, which is what the tiny power supply connects to.

Back to what you don’t get. There’s no Wi-Fi 6 (also known as 802.11ax), which is the fastest Wi-Fi standard currently out there. But that’s no great loss unless you intend to buy a Wi-Fi 6 router in the near future, and they’re expensive.

From a home user’s perspective, that’s all that missing.

What can the HP Envy 13 do?

One reason to stick with the cheapest version is that the Core i5 is plenty fast enough for most people. Indeed, because compact chassis such as this will always struggle to cool a Core i7 once it’s been running at full pelt for 30 seconds, you could argue that an i7 is overkill.

The extra horsepower of the i7 does sometimes come in handy for games, though, and note that the GeForce MX250 HP chooses is a big upgrade on the integrated graphics you’ll find in most of its rivals.

For example, in the GFXBench Manhattan 3 benchmark it scored an average frame rate of 55 frames per second (at the screen’s native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080). That’s twice the score of a typical Intel-powered laptop.

The 3D acceleration comes in handy for applications that use Nvidia’s CUDA cores, where you can expect another significant boost. In short, the GeForce MX250 is an excellent inclusion in such a small laptop.

HP Envy 13 review: size, battery life and ergonomics

Which brings me to size. There are smaller and lighter 13in laptops, but at 1.2kg this isn’t going to give you backache. It’s also pretty slim at 14.7mm.

There isn’t space for a huge battery, but the 53Wh unit HP squeezes in managed to keep the Envy going for over nine hours when just playing a video with the screen at medium brightness. That’s a solid result.

The screen can be pumped up to 381 candela, which is still readable in bright sunlight. Note that HP’s power management kicks in when you’re on battery, though, and it then peaks at 305 candela – still good, but you’ll be squinting come the summer sunshine.

HP Envy 13 review

More importantly, it’s a superb screen, storming through our technical tests (full results at the foot of this review) with results that prove it can show colours with exceptional accuracy.

A high contrast ratio makes it great for watching films, and while its glossy finish won’t appeal to those who work with flourescent strip lights I had no issues using it in my office.

Don’t expect any miracles from the speakers – despite the Bang & Olufsen stamp of approval – but they’re fine for movie soundtracks and non-audiophiles.

My final words of praise go to the virtually silent keyboard. Mechanical keyboard lovers may criticise the keys’ lack of travel, but I found it easy to hit a high typing rate and was never left in doubt that keys had been hit. The only things I don’t like are the single-height Enter key and the positioning of the Home, Pg Up, Pg Dn and End keys at the right – that makes it trickier to find the Backspace, for instance.

HP Envy 13 (2019 update) verdict

You can pick holes in the 2019 update to the HP Envy 13, as you can any product, but it’s my new recommendation for anyone who has over £700 to spend on a laptop. (Anyone who has less – well, seriously consider buying an iPad and adding a keyboard.)

If it was my own money, I’d opt for the £1,150 version as its 1TB SSD is a long-term investment, and there will be times when 16GB of memory comes in handy.

HP Envy 13: screen test results

Max brightness381 candela
sRGB coverage/volume98.6%/100.2%
Adobe RGB coverage/volume68.8%/69%
DCI-P3 coverage/volume71%/71%
Average/max Delta E0.39/1.0
Contrast ratio1,842:1

HP Envy 13: speed & battery life tests

Geekbench 4 single-core5,375
Geekbench 4 multicore15,607
Geekbench 5 single-core1,186
Geekbench 5 multicore3,445
AS SSD sequential read 1,344MB/sec
AS SSD sequential write679MB/sec
GFXBench Manhattan 3 on-screen55.2fps
GFXBench Manhattan 3 off-screen63.5fps
Unigine Valley on-screen16.1fps
Video rundown battery test9hrs 23mins

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About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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