PCs

HP's Envy has qualities worth coveting

The HP Envy 13 is remarkably thin at under 13mm and weighs around 1.25kg. In comparison, Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air comes in at 17mm and 1.35kg.
The HP Envy 13 is remarkably thin at under 13mm and weighs around 1.25kg. In comparison, Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air comes in at 17mm and 1.35kg.PHOTO: HP

This ultrabook is no fancy hybrid but a comfortable, sleek laptop

The HP Envy 13 is just a laptop. It is not a hybrid computer that can twist and turn into a tablet. Its keyboard cannot be detached. And surprisingly, for a premium Windows 10 computer, the Envy does not even have a touchscreen.

But after trying some of the bizarre hybrid designs that PC makers have come up with in recent years, a clamshell laptop like the Envy is like comfort food - you know exactly what you are getting.

The Envy is an ultrabook, a notebook genre inspired by the Apple MacBook Air. It is remarkably thin at under 13mm and weighs around 1.25kg. In comparison, the 13-inch Air comes in at 17mm and 1.35kg.

Like the Air, the Envy has a silver aluminium body. The HP logo is in the middle of the lid, but otherwise, it has a clean-looking design. Inside, the Beats Audio branding found on older HP laptops has been replaced by Bang & Olufsen.

I cannot say with certainty whether the audio quality has improved because of the switch. The speakers at the sides of the keyboard seem loud at full volume with no distortion. There is also a software utility to adjust the audio settings, including a graphic equaliser.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $1,699


    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-6500U (2.5GHz)


    GRAPHICS: Intel HD Graphics 520


    RAM: 8GB


    SCREEN SIZE: 13.3 inches, 3,200 x 1,800 pixels


    CONNECTIVITY: 3 x USB 3.0, HDMI, SD card reader, audio jack


    BATTERY: 45 watt-hour

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5


    DESIGN: 4/5


    PERFORMANCE: 4/5


    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5


    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5


    OVERALL: 4/5

Despite its metallic body, the Envy does not feel as rigid as the Air's unibody aluminium chassis. I also noticed a fair amount of flex when typing on the keyboard. However, key travel is decent and the keyboard comes with a backlight.

The touchpad is wider than usual. HP first introduced a similar touchpad to help novices with Windows 8's edge-swipe gestures, but these gestures have been removed in Windows 10. Hence, the extra width does not have much practical use here, although I like having the extra space to move my fingers.

There is a fingerprint reader, a rare feature on a consumer ultrabook. But there is no support for unlocking the laptop using Windows 10's facial recognition feature.

The Envy has a bright, high- resolution screen. The 3,200 x 1,800-pixel display looks great. However, text can appear too small on non-optimised apps, such as with the dialogue box that pops up if you click on the included Dropbox offer of a year's free subscription to 25GB of cloud storage. This felt more annoying than a serious flaw though, as it probably affects a minority of apps.

Another shortcoming is the battery drain due to the Envy's high-resolution display. Even with a relatively power-efficient Intel Core i7 processor, the Envy clocked just 5hr 10min in our video-loop battery test at full brightness and volume.

While better than the 4-1/2 hours achieved by the Lenovo Yoga 900 (with a 13-inch 3,200 x 1,800 pixel display), the Envy loses to the Dell XPS 13 (61/2 hours).

Like many ultra-thin laptops, the area above the Envy's keyboard gets quite warm while running an intensive app such as a photo editor. Thankfully, the lid's hinge is designed such that when the laptop is in use, the back of the lid lifts the back portion of the laptop slightly off the table. This helps with ventilation and ensures that your lap is not directly in contact with the warmest part of the laptop.

The model reviewed is the highest-end version with 256GB storage. HP also sells a $1,399 model with a Core i5 chip and a 128GB solid-state drive. Both models are competitively priced. A similar Dell XPS 13 costs about $2,099, while an older Asus ZenBook UX305 is $1,698.

• A slim and attractive laptop with a price that is hard to beat. Battery life, however, is not as good as that of some of its rivals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2015, with the headline 'HP's Envy has qualities worth coveting'. Print Edition | Subscribe