The screen isn't the best and it certainly isn't flawless, but this is a high-quality laptop with all the power most people need
- Great value
- Stylish design
- Laudable supplied ports
- Budget display
- Poor battery life compared to rivals
It’s been some time since I’ve been so surprised by a laptop’s price that I utter the words, “How much?” out loud. But that’s precisely what happened when I scoured HP’s website for this 2018 update to the Envy 13 family. I had it pegged at four figures, perhaps £999 at a push. But £849? For this? That’s a bigger bargain than two-for-one on Pringles.
Much stems from the design. Cast in aluminium, the HP Envy 13 looks stylish without the ostentatious gold flashes of HP’s Spectre range. And while its bezel isn’t as slim as the Dell XPS 13’s, it still has an edge-to-edge look due to the Gorilla Glass stretching from side to side and top to bottom.
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HP Envy 13 (2018) review: Features
This is a touchscreen, too, but don’t get too excited: it’s a nice-to-have rather than a vital inclusion, because the screen doesn’t fold back to create a tablet. In fact, the screen is the main sign of cost-cutting: sRGB gamut coverage of 76.5% is okay, but an average Delta E of 3.29 means colour accuracy isn’t its forte. Indeed, I measured a Delta E of 13.3 for reds, which is nothing short of appalling.
Nor is it the brightest screen. With a peak brightness of 278cd/m2, I often found myself hitting the brightness up button in the hope of a bit more punch. Still, in combination with its 1,119:1 contrast ratio, watching Netflix proved a pleasure: HP rightly makes a fuss of the four Bang & Olufsen-tuned speakers, which are surprisingly rich.
One neat touch is that the rear of keyboard rises by a few millimetres as you open the screen, making typing more comfortable. The keyboard itself is unfussy, with spaces between the surprisingly large keys. I would have preferred the Enter key to be double-height, but that’s my sole criticism: there’s no annoying function doubling, the power key sits separately so can’t be hit accidentally, and the keys themselves have a pleasant feel. I could type on this laptop for hours.
This isn’t a Microsoft Precision touchpad, which is a shame because it misses out on some Windows 10 gestures. However, it still includes the basics – such as resting three fingers and swiping up to reveal the Timeline feature – and responds accurately.
Some people may not like HP’s positioning of the fingerprint reader, which sits on the right hand of the chassis next to one of the two USB 3.1 ports. I soon got used to this, though, and applaud the supplied ports. There’s no dedicated video output, but a USB Type-C 3.1 port means you can connect a screen directly or via an adapter – HP includes an HDMI one in the box. I would have liked the more flexible Thunderbolt 3 rather than USB Type-C, but for most people this point will be moot.
There’s a microSD slot, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, but you should consider a permanent USB Type-C docking station for use at a desk. This can then add Ethernet ports and extra USB ports, with some also providing power charging.
The Envy will just about survive a working day on a single charge. It lasted for 7hrs 10mins at 170cd/m2, which is okay but not a great result compared to rivals. Fortunately, it can charge back up to 50% within 45 minutes.
The other good news is that the machine is so slim and light you can chuck it in a bag and forget it’s there. I weighed it at 1.21kg, and with a width of 307mm and height of 14.9mm it deserves the ultraportable moniker.
Despite that slim chassis, HP includes a respectable specification. The Core i5-8250U is a great mid-range chip, and even though you only get 8GB of RAM in this spec it powered to a creditable 76 in our benchmarks. There is fan noise when it’s pushed, but in general use I never noticed it kick in.
HP Envy 13 (2018) review: Performance
There’s even some gaming capability, with a GeForce MX 150 inside. It’s not the fastest chip, but it hit an average of 38.9fps in Metro: Last Light at the screen’s full resolution – but I had to drop the quality to Medium and switch off all effects. It even proved capable of VR using a Windows Mixed Reality headset. The Steam VR environment is beyond it, though.
There are higher-spec versions of the new HP Envy. Codes that begin with ‘ah000’ identify the 2018 models and, for instance, I would seriously consider the £1,099 ah0003na, which includes 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a Core i7-8550U.
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HP Envy 13 (2018) review: Verdict
The ah0001na we reviewed is the true bargain, however. Yes, the screen isn’t the best and there are minor bugbears, but for £849 you’re buying a high-quality laptop with all the power most people need.