HP Envy 13

Moving to the rather more expensive Envy line of machines, there's no escaping the visual similarities with Apple's MacBook range. It's an interesting move really, if only because we're used to second or third tier manufacturers resorting to such tactics (see the MSI X-Slim X340 for evidence of that), not major manufacturers like HP. On the plus side, unlike MSI, HP has a reasonably good pedigree where laptop design is concerned, so if anyone is going to successfully recreate/re-imagine Cupertino's design ethic then HP might be the one.

And it might just have pulled it off. While they may lack the unibody chassis' so beloved of Apple, the magnesium constructed shells of the Envy 13 and 15 most certainly look and feel the part. We particularly like the 'laser-etched' patterns on the 15, which echo the imprint designs so often seen on the company's more affordable consumer laptops.

We're going to start with the Envy 13, though, which as the name suggests is based on a 13in display - 13.1in to be exact. This is the same basic form factor as the MacBook Pro 13in, though in actual fact the Envy 13 has more in common with the MacBook Air - we'll get to why in a moment. Like most recent notebooks, this 13.1in display has a 16:9 aspect ratio rather than the traditional 16:10 of the MacBooks. There will be two display options available, HD (1,366 x 768) and HD+ (1,600 x 900), though we're not sure if both will be sold in the UK - HP's UK website only lists 1,366 x 768 at the moment.

Of course both are LED backlit and HP is claiming a victory here since it reckons the 410 nit, 1,366 x 768 display is the brightest of its kind, while also boasting an impressive sounding 82 per cent NTSC colour gamut. While we didn't have the time or the materials to provide a meaningful judgement, initial viewings suggest this is no idle boast on HP's part - it's seriously bright and vibrant.

So, why more MacBook Air than MacBook Pro? It starts with the price, which will be a whopping £1,499 - now that makes the MacBook Pro look very cheap! And it continues with the connectivity, which comprises just a couple of USB ports, an HDMI port, a single audio jack and a 2-in-1 memory card reader - Gigabit Ethernet will be offered via an External adapter. Neither do you get an integrated optical drive, though an external one will also be provided in the box.

One thing you do get is a user-replaceable battery, but that's not all. An option (on both machines) is a slim, high capacity battery slice that connects onto the bottom of the machine. With this installed HP reckons the Envy 13 will last an incredible 16 hours and 15 minutes on battery power alone. Of course we can assume that this result would be under ideal conditions, but nonetheless it's an impressive figure. Vitally, the slice fits seamlessly with the chassis so won't upset the overall aesthetic too much, but it will add weight to the 1.7kg unit and make it thicker than its standard 20mm. Even without the slice, HP is quoting battery life in excess of six hours, so it's not like you'll need it all the time, either.

Part of this longevity comes from the fact that it uses a low-voltage processor; an Intel Core 2 Duo SL9400 that runs at 1.86GHz - another similarity with the MacBook Air. It also boasts switchable graphics, with the standard Intel integrated graphics supplemented by an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330. All of which should provide ample performance, especially if you choose the 160GB SSD option as well.


This is the battery slice connection on the underside of the machine.

Unlike the Envy 15, the Envy 13 has a smooth unembellished finish, inside and out.

We found no problems with the layout, though this was a US-spec keyboard.

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