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Decent Hardware at a Great Price
There are many aspects to the HP Envy 13 that make it a great laptop, particularly for users after something closer to the budget end of the price spectrum.
One of my favorite parts of the Envy 13 is the design. HP has crafted a beautiful, sleek laptop using mostly aluminium, delivering a look that fits in with other high-end ultrabooks. Best of all, the Envy 13 is very slim and reasonably light, making it a fantastic device for someone on the go. The large plastic bezel around the display was a letdown, but it's easy to overlook this downside when the rest of the laptop is well made.
The keyboard on the Envy 13 is seriously impressive for something so slim and light. Considering this keyboard uses standard rubber dome switches, the clickiness is surprisingly satisfying, and the travel distance and key spacing is excellent. The trackpad is also pretty decent after the latest round of software updates, and even if it's not the best I've used, it's more than usable.
Performance of the Core i3 model I received to review was okay, limited by 4 GB of RAM more than CPU performance. I would highly recommend getting at least the Core i5 model with 8 GB of RAM for the best experience, which is worth the few extra dollars that it commands. Solid state performance disappoints, as does a lack of USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3, with other high-end laptops offering more in this regard.
The worst part of the Envy 13 is the display. HP has opted for a 1080p IPS display in entry-level models, which reports below average color reproduction and brightness. The lack of a touchscreen is a minor downside, although the matte finish prevents glare and helps negate issues with low brightness. There is a high-resolution 3200 x 1800 display option available for an extra $50, and it's probably worth getting considering the lacklustre 1080p panel.
Speaking of upgrades, the entire pricing structure for the Envy 13 is very reasonable. $799 for a Core i5 model with 8 GB of RAM, a 1080p display and a 128 GB hard drive is great value considering a similar Dell XPS 13 configuration will set you back $200 more. Upgrades to a QHD+ display for $50 and Core i7 CPU for $120 are also great deals, with the top-spec model (Core i7, 512 GB SSD, QHD+) costing $1,299.
At $1,299, the high end Envy 13 is competing with the likes of the Lenovo Yoga 900, which offers near-identical specs for the same price. The Yoga 900 features a more versatile design, but it lacks models cheaper than $1,200, which is where the value in the Envy 13 lies. The XPS 13 is a better laptop overall, but you're looking at spending several hundred dollars more across the entirety of Dell's line-up. And to be perfectly honest, unless you love Mac OS there's no reason to buy a MacBook Air over the better package provided by the Envy 13 at a lower price point.
There are some deficiencies to the Envy 13, in particular its display, but it does offer good value to consumers looking for a well-designed laptop in the $800 to $1,000 laptop market. The fact you can get a Core i5 CPU with a QHD+ display for just $849 is particularly compelling, and models around that price point are the sweet spot for HP's ultrathin laptop.
Pros: Thin all-metal design looks pretty nice. Fantastic, responsive ultrabook keyboard. Good range of hardware at a great price.
Cons: Below average display. No USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3. Lacklustre storage performance.