It's Been a While Since an HP Laptop Felt This Competitive

Photo: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

You used to know a cheap HP laptop just by glancing at it. There’d be a lot of plastic painted to look like metal, and it’d probably be too thick. But the new HP Envy 13 is a shockingly good deal of a laptop. It looks good, it’s fast, and boy is it cheap. But as with many devices that seem too good to be true for the price, there are some compromises.

Before we talk about the downside, let’s go over just how good a deal the HP Envy 13 is on paper. It starts at $750. That scores you a 13-inch laptop with an 8th-generation Core i5 U-series processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256 GB SSD—that’s about $10 cheaper than a similarly configured Yoga 730 from Lenovo, which has traditionally been the laptop to beat at the low price point. HP sent us the top-of-the-line version, with an 8th-generation Core i7 U-series processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD, and an Nvidia MX250 discrete GPU. It lists for $1,300 and regularly sells for $1,200. An extremely on-sale Razer Blade Stealth with an MX150 and just 256GB of storage is currently selling for $1,100 and usually retails at about $1,600. Notwithstanding periodic price fluctuations, you start to get a sense for how much value HP is cramming in. (And prices might keeping jumping around since Intel just announced a bunch of chips, and the huge IFA tradeshow kicks off next week.)

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Performance-wise the Envy is very capable, easily going toe to toe with more expensive laptops. In Overwatch, on high at 1080p, it managed 47 frames per second compared to the Razer’s 57, but it’s entirely playable, and only the most grueling and taxing games should give the Envy issues.

The Envy is also a stunner. At the low price point, it’s much better looking than its main competitor in the Lenovo Yoga 730. But even at a higher price point, HP devices have been convincingly stylish in the last few years. This looks and feels like an expensive computer. There’s none of the flex in the body that you might find in cheap device from, say, Acer. Its all-aluminum body gives it a sturdiness we’ve come to associate with premium devices. Yet at .57 inches thick, it’s thinner than the Razer Blade Stealth. There are thoughtful little design notes too, like the smart-looking vents on top and bottom of the device, plus practical additions like a collapsable USB port.

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HP did a good job with the hardware across the board. The 1080p display is vibrant and maxes out at over 400 nits brightness—which means it’s visible in sunlight. The trackpad comes standard with Windows Precision drivers, so there’s none of the annoyance using it that I found with pricier HP laptops like the Spectre x360 15. Even the keyboard isn’t bad. It’s mushier feeling than I’d prefer and has none of the clean snap and long travel you find in super keyboards like those in most Lenovo devices.

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The big issue with the HP Envy 13—at least the one with discrete graphics—is that the battery life sucks. In Gizmodo’s battery test, in which we set the brightness to 200 nits and play a 24-hour video on YouTube, the Envy lasted just 7 hours and 2 minutes. By contrast, the Razer Blade Stealth lasted over ten hours.

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Personally, I don’t think I’m willing to lose that much battery life, but I’m also writing this review from a chair by the window, racing the battery’s life on the HP Envy in the hopes of finishing this review before I have to go get the charger. I regularly run my laptop down to 5 percent battery or worse. I feel like plugging in is a hassle. A lot of people are not me! If you typically stay plugged in, if your laptop stays at your desk, or if you simply prefer power and polish over battery life, then 7 hours might be enough. And if you don’t mind losing the discrete graphics, you’ll probably get better battery performance with the base model.

Starting at $750, it’s undeniable that the HP Envy 13 gives you a whole lot of device for very little money. If you need to upgrade the computer of someone in your life (be they a student or a parent), or you yourself are looking to save some cash while getting a solid device then the base HP Envy 13 is a very good deal. It’s a shame about the battery life on the souped-up model we tested. With a better battery, it could go from being a good deal to one of the best deals in laptops.

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README

  • The HP Envy 13 is one of the rare 13-inch laptops with an optional discrete graphics card.
  • The power and style are exceptional.
  • Battery life is mediocre to poor.
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About the author

Alex Cranz

Senior Reviews Editor. Trained her dog to do fist bumps. Once wrote for Lifetime. Tips encouraged via Secure Drop, Proton Mail, or DM for Signal.