PC

Stylish ultrabook with good audio

The HP Envy 13 has an all-metal chassis and comes with Bang & Olufsen-tuned quad speakers.
The HP Envy 13 has an all-metal chassis and comes with Bang & Olufsen-tuned quad speakers.

HP's Envy 13 has a premium-looking exterior and tighter bass than the average laptop speakers

The HP Envy 13 ultrabook costs less than a phone - albeit compared with the latest Apple iPhones - but looks so classy it feels like HP's top ultrabook.

It is not - that honour goes to the luxurious HP Spectre series, which is typically in the $2,000 range.

But such a false impression is understandable, as the Envy 13, with its silver-clad exterior, looks like a premium offering that belies its $1,449 starting price.

Its all-metal chassis has the minimalist, abstract-looking HP logo introduced a few years back. Its spine is adorned by elegant whorls similar to the swirly patterns on Damascus steel blades.

A closer examination reveals the corners that HP has cut to reach the Envy's more affordable price. Its chassis exhibits slightly more flex than a unibody chassis.

Its in-plane switching (IPS) screen, dubbed micro-edge display by HP for its narrow bezels, is good, but does not look as stunning as the best displays.

Viewing angles are suitably wide, but colours are not as vibrant and the brightness level is average.

But I am nitpicking. These are acceptable compromises for the competitive pricing. In any case, what matters most for an ultrabook is its weight and, at about 1.2kg, the Envy 13 is thin and light.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $1,449

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i5-8250U (1.6GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Intel UHD Graphics 620

    MEMORY: 8GB DDR3

    SCREEN SIZE: 13.3 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 1 x USB Type-C Gen 3.1, microSD card slot, audio jack

    BATTERY: 53 watt-hour

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

There are just three connectors at the sides of the laptop - two full-sized USB Type-A ports that have a drop-jaw design similar to some Ethernet ports and a USB Type-C port.

The Type-C port is also used for display output, in place of the omitted HDMI port. In addition, there is a microSD card slot to transfer data or to augment the laptop's 360GB solid-state drive.

Interestingly, the Envy has a slim fingerprint sensor on its right edge. It feels accurate and took about a second to authenticate my fingerprint. First-time users probably need to glance at the edge to locate it.

The well-spaced keyboard feels tactile with decent key travel. The lettering on each key seemed extra large to me, like it was designed for those with poor eyesight.

When you flip open the laptop, the bottom end of the lid pushes against the desk, lifting the laptop base at a slight angle.

This design ensures your lap is less likely to be in direct contact with the warmest part of the laptop. The keyboard is also raised at an angle, which improves typing comfort.

While heat did not appear to be an issue with my review set, which has less-powerful integrated graphics, HP also offers a version with the dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics chip that might benefit from this design.

Its Bang & Olufsen-tuned quad speakers sound more well-defined and have tighter bass than the average laptop speakers.

My $1,449 review set is equipped with the mid-range Intel Core i5 chip instead of the higher-end Core i7 variant ($1,749). Its 8GB of RAM should be adequate for most users.

It has good battery life, lasting about seven hours in The Straits Times' video-loop battery test, with the screen brightness set to maximum.

• Verdict: A good-looking ultrabook that is priced competitively and performs well in terms of audio quality and battery stamina.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2018, with the headline 'Stylish ultrabook with good audio'. Print Edition | Subscribe