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HP Envy 13 (2021) Review

Verdict

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The HP Envy 13 (2021) is an affordable laptop with high-end quality, packing Intel’s latest processors and a satisfyingly sturdy aluminium design. It also has the bonus feature of a discrete Nvidia GPU, giving it the edge over rivals when it comes to gaming and content creation.

Pros

  • Affordable price compared to rivals
  • Dedicated GPU provides decent gaming performance
  • Fantastic aluminium build quality
  • Comfortable keyboard for typing

Cons

  • Plastic trackpad feels cheap
  • Loud fans can be distracting
  • Intel chip lags behind AMD and Apple alternatives

Availability

  • UKRRP: £899.99
  • USARRP: $899.99
  • EuropeRRP: €999.99

Key Features

  • Display:13.3-inch 1920×1080 IPS
  • Processor:Intel Core i5-1135G7
  • RAM:8GB DDR4
  • Graphics:Nvidia GeForce MX450
  • Storage:512GB SSD
  • Dimensions:307 x 195 x 16.9 mm
  • Weight:1.3kg

The HP Envy 13 is a laptop to consider if you want something that looks nice but doesn’t cost a terrifying amount.

It’s a little like the MacBook Air in this respect. Not cheap, not top-end, and not a bad computer to live with day-in, day-out. And as you might hope, the HP Envy 13 actually costs a lot less than a MacBook Air.

There’s only one major criticism. Like the last generation, the 2021 HP Envy 13 has a plastic touchpad instead of a glass one.

HP may have chosen to stick with plastic to keep an obvious built quality gap between the Envy and pricier Spectre series. Or, just as likely, to keep costs low.

I’m reviewing the 2021 version of the HP Envy 13. It has an Intel 11th CPU. If you see that processor generation when shopping, you know we’re talking about the same laptop.

This is the £899/$899/€999 HP Envy 13 with a Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM and the Nvidia MX450 GPU. The 512GB SSD tops off what is a good value package.

There’s also a £1199/$1199/€1499 Envy 13 with a Core i7 CPU, 1TB storage and 16GB RAM. While that’s a well-priced upgrade, the idea of paying £1200 for a plastic touchpad laptop doesn’t sit well.

  • Aluminium design feels premium and sturdy
  • Weighs just 1.3kg, making it easy to carry around
  • Keyboard is great, but trackpad is plastic

The Envy 13 is HP’s mid-range ultra-portable laptop. It doesn’t have a 360-degree hinge like the Envy x360, or quite the same design flashiness as the Spectre series.

But if you’re after a portable work machine, I don’t think you’ll miss either. The HP Envy 13 still looks and feels great.

All its body panels are silver aluminium, which makes it seem a lot nicer than some of the magnesium alloy laptops you might pay significantly more for. Magnesium trades away much of the metallic feel of metal for lower weight, and I’m not always convinced it’s a worthy trade for everyone.

The HP Envy 13 isn’t exactly heavy either. It weighs 1.3kg, and the use of a widescreen display and small-ish scren borders keep its footprint small.

There’s something about quality all-aluminium laptops like the HP Envy 13 that remind you of their quality each time you sit down to work at them. The more substantive build quality factors are all good. too. Its screen is stiff and the keyboard doesn’t bow under finger pressure.

If I didn’t review laptops for a living you could tell me this was HP’s top-end laptop design and I’d believe you. It’s not all that eye-catching, but this does not make it unattractive.

It has more connections than a MacBook too. You get two full-size USB ports, a microSD slot, headphone jack and one USB-C. This is not a Thunderbolt slot, it’s a more ordinary USB with 10Gbps bandwidth instead of 40Gbps. But it does offer DisplayPort 1.4 support, letting you use it to plug in a 4K 120Hz screen, or two 4K monitors at 60Hz.

The HP Envy 13 has, as far as I can tell, a keyboard and touchpad very similar to the last Envy 13 model. Its keys are of a more severe shape than most, but this is a pretty traditional keyboard, all for the better.

There’s a good amount of key travel, moderate resistance and a firm key backplate, which makes the keyboard feel more rigid. Typing is fast and the level of feedback to your fingers is good.

This is the kind of keyboard I like to see in an ultra-portable laptop. You can type long essays on the HP Envy 13 comfortably, more so than on plenty of much more expensive models.

The keyboard has a two-level white LED backlight for typing in dim rooms too, and one recessed ‘key’ is actually a fingerprint scanner.

Its touchpad is less of a sure-fire hit. HP had to use a fairly short pad in the Envy 13 because the laptop’s footprint is so small, and offers extra width as a sort of consolation.

The shape and size is fine for this kind of laptop, but the surface is plastic rather than textured glass. While it is a solid example of the plastic kind, it just does not have the smooth, non-juddery finger slide of glass.

This may seem a small issue, but it’s something that affects every interaction you have with the HP Envy 13, without a mouse plugged in anyway. It’s the one thing I would change in this laptop.

The HP Envy 13 has two Bang & Olufsen branded speakers, and they are solid if not class-leading. You get a decent stereo image and there’s some bulk in the lower mid range to avoid too thin a sound, but bass is still pretty poor.

These speakers aren’t powerful-sounding, but do at least have a little warmth.

  • The HP Envy 13 features a 1080p resolution
  • Screen is bright enough for outdoor use
  • Contrast is excellent, but colour accuracy isn’t perfect

You see the first signs the HP Envy 13 isn’t an ultra-expensive laptop in its screen. But even these demand a trained eye.

This is a 1080p 13.3-inch screen, typical for a sub-£1000 laptop. A 4K screen would look sharper, but the upgrade is arguably not worth it for most, given a higher resolution also has a major effect on battery life. Only the MacBook Air finds a great comfy middle-ground, with a 1600p resolution

Colour is that mid-range “tell” I was talking about. The HP Envy 13 has 100% (well, 99.8%) coverage of the sRGB colour standard, but only hits a reasonble 79.3% of DCI P3 and 74.7% of Adobe RGB.

What does this mean? It gives you a good idea how good the colour accuracy is for a display. While sRGB is the traditional standard for laptops, the richer DCI P3 is fast becoming the standard for high-end phones, laptops and tablets. Its colours run deeper, for a richer, more punchy image.

HP Envy 13 (2021)

You need to pay more for wide gamut colour, though. The MacBook Air doesn’t have it either. And, personally, I’m entirely satisfied by the Envy 13’s colour coverage. This is helped by very good (for an IPS screen) contrast of 1675:1.

Brightness is more than fit for outdoors use, with a peak of 423 nits. I wrote part of this review sat in the park, legs folded with the HP Envy 13 resting on a rucksack. Pins and needles were a problem, but seeing what I was writing was not, despite the glossy surface.

A glossy finish is unavoidable here as the HP Envy has a glass-topped touchscreen.

  • Intel i5 chip does for job for basic productivity tasks
  • Nvidia GPU allows for entry-level gaming performance

I have the mid-range version of the HP Envy 13, and it offers the best balance of price and performance for most people. It has an 11th gen Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM and a high capacity 512GB SSD.

The Intel Core i5 is clocked a little slower than the higher-end Core i7 chipset found in the Dell XPS 13, as well as the Ryzen 7 CPU in the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7. But for the kind of basic productivity jobs to which a slim and light laptop is well-suited, it’s not going to make much difference.

HP Envy 13 (2021)Dell XPS 13 (2021)Lenovo Yoga Slim 7
ProcessorIntel Core i5-1135G7Intel Core i7-1165G7Ryzen 7 4800U
Geekbench 5 (single core)133415481142
Geekbench 5 (muli core)427956876757
PCMark 10514348025159
3DMark Time Spy190316571364

The HP Envy 13 puts the budget where the non-techy crowd can appreciate it most clearly, and that’s to be celebrated. Firstly, this laptop has an Nvidia MX450 graphics chipset.

Let’s compare this to the Intel Xe graphics of the main processor, which is already far more powerful than what you’d get in most slim laptops from previous generations. In 3DMark’s Time Spy test the Nvidia MX450 scores 66% higher than the Intel Xe.

This is also an indication of the sort of gaming performance you can expect. The Witcher 3 runs nicely at 1080p with Medium graphics settings. You can even use ‘High’ graphics if you can stomach some frame rate drops into the 20s.

We’re looking at PS4-beating performance here, which seems impressive for a laptop not made specifically for gaming. Performance is also similar to the ‘classic’ entry level Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics card.

HP Envy 13 (2021)

Under strain the HP Envy 13’s fans make a largely innocuous noise, a constant “fffft” of air rather than sounding as though the laptop is about to take off. It doesn’t take too much for the fans to engage, though. A couple of browser active windows and a file download can do it at times, but it does run silent when dealing with something very light, like writing a document.

The HP Envy 13 isn’t excessively loud under heavy strain, but you may end up wishing the fans wouldn’t start-up so easily. It does seem to run quieter when on battery power, because the laptop’s processor is restricted to prolong charge, which in turn reduces the amount of heat generated.

The SSD is a moderately fast, if not cutting-edge, with read speeds of up to 1708MB/s and writes of 967MB/s. There are much faster SSD in read/write drag race tests like this, but it performs perfectly well in a day-to-day context.

  • Battery lasted for 12 hours in our benchmark tests
  • AMD and Apple chips provide better battery efficiency

The HP Envy 13 has a 51Wh battery, similar to the capacity of the Dell XPS 13 (52Wh).

HP claims 10-hour battery life, or 16 hours 45 minutes when streaming video. I found it lasts 12 hours 15 minutes when streaming video over YouTube, suggesting HP’s numbers refer to a much lower screen brightness than our 150cd/m standard.

HP Envy 13 (2021)

Still, this shows the general 10-hour figure is achievable if you don’t give the HP Envy 13 anything too taxing to do. It’s what I’d consider normal stamina for a laptop like this. You’ll see better results from the Lenovo Yoga 7 Slim, which has a larger battery and an AMD Ryzen processor, or the MacBook Air.

MacBooks are currently unbeatable for battery life under significant strain, thanks to their ultra-efficient Apple M1 CPUs. The HP Envy 13 will last around three hours under heavy load, which is not even close to a MacBook. Still, I’d be happy to use the HP Envy 13 as my everyday work PC.

The HP Envy 13 (2021) is a great value laptop that features a top-notch build quality and competent performance, despite costing noticeably less than the likes of the Dell XPS 13 and Apple MacBook.

It lacks some of the more expensive features found elsewhere, such as a glass trackpad, high-resolution display and a convertible design, but it covers all of the basics so well that it’s hard to complain.

As an added bonus, it packs a discrete Nvidia GPU that’s more powerful than the integrated graphics found with other ultrabooks. This means you can play the likes of Fortnite on your lunchbreak, albeit with scaled back graphics settings.

The only major issue is that the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 can be purchased for a similar price and boasts a better CPU performance and battery life. Although HP still has the upper hand when it comes to the GPU grunt.

Should you buy it?

You should buy if you want some high-end style at under £1000:
The review spec of this HP Envy 13 costs £899. That is not cheap, but is still less than what you would have to pay for a Dell XPS 13 or MacBook Air, by a significant margin.

You shouldn’t buy if you want premium features:
The HP Envy 13 lacks a glass trackpad, has a basic screen resolution and can’t be folded up like a tablet. It covers the ultrabooks basics well, but don’t expect any fancy features.

Verdict

The HP Envy 13 (2021) is an affordable laptop with high-end quality, packing Intel’s latest processors and a satisfyingly sturdy aluminium design. It also has the bonus feature of a discrete Nvidia GPU, giving it the edge over rivals when it comes to gaming and content creation.

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FAQs

Does the HP Envy 13 have a touchscreen?

The HP Envy 13 has a standard capacitive touchscreen, although is otherwise a fairly conventional laptop design.

Is this a hybrid laptop?

This laptop does not have a 360-degree hinge. Its hinge motion is actually pretty restrictive even by the standards of normal laptops. Check out the HP Envy x360 for the hybrid version.

Does the HP Envy 13 support a stylus?

The HP Envy 13 does not support one of HP’s active styluses. You can use a passive stylus, but it won’t have the pressure sensitivity you get with a dedicated stylus. The Envy x360 is better for digital art, as it supports a smart stylus.

Can you use the HP Envy 13 outdoors?

The HP Envy 13 has a fairly bright screen, handy for use outdoors, but the glossy screen surface means you will still notice reflections.

Can it play Fortnite?

This laptop is actually one of the better slim and light models for gaming as it has Nvidia MX450 graphics. Fortnite runs fine, although you will need to play around with the graphics settings for best performance results.

Specifications

UK RRP
USA RRP
EU RRP
CPU
Manufacturer
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Storage Capacity
Front Camera
Battery
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
ASIN
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Trusted Reviews’ Test data

PCMark 10
Geekbench 5 single core
Geekbench 5 multi core
3DMark Time Spy
CrystalDiskMark Read speed
CrystalMarkDisk Write Speed
Brightness
Contrast
sRGB
Adobe RGB
DCI-P3
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