- Excellent build quality
- Great keyboard
- Cool "green" packaging
- Overly sensitive touchpad
- Limited number of ports
An attractive 13-inch notebook with an unattractive price.
Last year, HP claimed to “redefine the premium notebook PC” when the company unveiled the new HP Envy 13. This 13-inch notebook offers high-performance, power-efficient processors, ATI switchable graphics, lightweight aluminum and magnesium construction, and features a bright screen with amazing color depth for exceptional picture viewing and video playback. On paper, the Envy 13 promises to be everything you want in a laptop. Keep reading to find out if this premium notebook is worth its premium price tag.
Our HP Envy 13 Specifications:
- Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
- Intel Core 2 Duo Processor SL9600 (2.13GHz, 6M Cache, 1066 MHz FSB)
- 3GB DDR3 SDRAM (1066MHz)
- 250GB 5400RPM SATA hard drive
- 13.3-inch diagonal High Definition LED HP Radiance Infinity Widescreen Display (1366×768)
- ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 Graphics (512MB) with Intel X4500M integrated switchable graphics
- External Slot Blu-Ray ROM with SuperMulti DVD+/-R/RW Double Layer with 2 USB Ports
- Intel Wireless-N Card with Bluetooth
- Dimensions: 12.59″(W) x 8.46″(D) x 0.8″(H)
- Weight: 3.75 pounds (not including weight of AC adapter).
- 4-cell 41Wh battery
- One-year standard warranty
- MSRP: $1,924.99
Build and Design
The Envy 13 marks a significant design departure for HP. Gone is the glossy HP Imprint finish that was common to its Pavilion line, and plastic has given way to aluminum and magnesium alloy. The simple magnesium lid doesn’t feature any kind of eye-catching design, but we appreciate the emphasis on function over form. This is one of the most durable lids we’ve seen on a 13-inch consumer notebook and should easily withstand any use and abuse from most owners. We applied significant force to make the lid flex, which means the screen should be well-protected inside your laptop bag or backpack.
Build quality remains very good thanks to a solid chassis and durable components throughout. The etched-metal palmrest provides an interesting combination of style and support. The magnesium palmrests don’t flex like typical plastic palmrests and the etched pattern is a subtle way to add a splash of creativity to a typically boring area of the notebook. I suspect the recessed etching might collect dust and dirt over time, but the etching is shallow enough that you can probably clean it with a microfiber cloth.
People who like to upgrade their computers on their own by adding extra RAM, a new hard drive, or other aftermarket features will be in for a rude awakening with the Envy 13. HP built this notebook with an emphasis on the thin form factor and clean lines. There aren’t easy-access panels on the bottom of the notebook or quick release tabs for the keyboard. Getting inside the Envy 13 isn’t a task for the faint of heart. If you decide to upgrade it yourself, you’ll need to remove four rubber feet from the bottom of the notebook in order to expose recessed screws, then remove the battery and several additonal screws before finally removing the entire bottom plate. Given the complexity of disassembly, you’re probably better off purchasing upgrades when you buy the notebook rather than trying it on your own.
The ENVY 13 and 15 are packaged in new “green” yet stylish paper carton boxes using minimal ink. To further HP’s environmentally-friendly goals, the only paperwork included in the packaging is a simplified setup poster. All additional documentation – from the user manual to the warranty guides – are contained on a SD card in the box. The power adapter, VGA display adapter and optional external Blu-ray drive fit neatly inside storage spaces beneath the notebook.
Screen and Speakers
The 13.3-inch “HP Radiance” display is roughly twice as bright as other notebook displays of the same size – 410 nit brightness – and this helps compensate for the glossy surface covering the screen. It also allows you to cleary see the screen even under direct sunlight. This LED-backlit display offers 82 percent color gamut (versus the standard 45-60 percent on other notebooks), so photos have more intense color saturation and video “pops” off the screen. Of course, if you’re a photography enthusiast you might want to tone down the colors on this display since they are a bit too rich compared to natural colors. Viewing angles are average, though at first glance, the screen looks better since the intense color depth masks the typical signs of color shift and inversion at steep viewing angles.
The built-in stereo speakers carry the “Beats Audio by Dr. Dre” branding which suggests a premium listening experience. In our test lab, the results weren’t as impressive as the “Beats” brand implies. The speakers produce clear sound with plenty of volume but bass is lacking and the overall sound quality is rather tinny; akin to listening to music from inside an aluminum can. Headphones are the best option to enjoy music and movies from the notebook. Another alternative is using the HDMI-out to pass digital audio to a home stereo.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size island-style or “Chiclet” keyboard is a welcome change from HP’s previous keyboards and provides excellent key spacing and support. Most of our editors agree that the 13-inch form-factor is a perfect compromise between size and user comfort when typing. Too small, and the palmrest won’t support your wrists. Any bigger, and the notebook ceases to be travel-friendly. Key action is smooth and quiet with a mild click emitted when you fully press a key. Key wiggle is minimal and individual key depth or “throw” is perfect. We didn’t notice any keyboard flex on the underlying support struicture even when we pressed forcefully on the keys. In short, the Envy 13 keyboard is among the best we’ve used on a 13-inch notebook.
The Envy 13 offers a large and spacious Synaptics touchpad with integrated touchpad buttons. HP calls this a “Clickpad” but that name feels odd to me. When it comes to size, this is one of the nicest touchpads I’ve used on a 13-inch notebook – with a few exceptions. If you are someone who rests your thumb on a touchpad button and moves the cursor with one of your other fingers, you will need to learn to use the touchpad in a completely different way. The cursor will often jump from one finger to another when the thumb is resting since the entire touchpad surface is being used. You can get past this dilemma by using one finger to move the cursor and then use the “tap to click” setting to click on icons. The touchpad is just too sensitive for two fingers.
Ports and Features
Port selection is disappointing on the Envy 13. You get a SD card slot, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI out and a combo audio jack. This is simply depressing since most 11-inch notebooks offer more. Frankly, given the cost of the notebook and the amount of unused space around the edges, HP could at least add one more USB port as well as FireWire or eSATA. On a more positive note there are three large heat vents on the sides and back, so at least overheating shouldn’t be a problem.