HP Envy 13 (2016) review:

A sleek laptop that leaves you wanting more

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HP Envy Notebook - 13-d010nr - ENERGY STAR

(Part #: N5P50UA#ABA)
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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

1 stars 1 user review

The Good The HP Envy 13 is a slim, lightweight notebook with a comfortable keyboard and decent speakers -- plus a fingerprint sensor that makes signing into Windows a snap.

The Bad This thin laptop's battery life falls far behind the competition. No touchscreen option.

The Bottom Line HP's Envy 13 is a pretty good notebook, but why settle for good? Dell, Lenovo, and even HP sell better thin-and-light laptops.

6.9 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 6.0
  • Battery 6.0

Last year, something wonderful happened in the world of Windows laptops. Quality became affordable. Companies like Dell, HP and Asus started selling sleek notebooks made of strong aluminum and carbon fiber for less than $1,000.

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The new HP Envy 13.

Josh Miller/CNET

The HP Envy 13 is the latest of those computers to enter the ring. It starts at just $800 (£699) for a no-compromise configuration that comes with a 2.3GHz 15-watt Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, 128GB of speedy solid-state storage, and a crisp 1080p screen -- all in a chassis that weighs just 2.8 pounds and measures 12.9mm thick. It's one of the thinnest laptops ever made.

Thin laptops compared

HP Envy 13 MacBook Air (13-inch) Asus Zenbook UX305 Lenovo Yoga 900 Dell XPS 13 Vaio Z Flip
Dimensions 12.85 x 8.9 in. (326 x 226mm) 12.8 x 8.94 in. (325 x 227mm) 12.76 x 8.9 in. (324 x 226mm) 12.75 x 8.86 in. (324 x 225mm) 11.98 x 7.88 in. (304 x 200mm) 12.76 x 8.48 in. (324 x 215mm)
Thickness 0.51 inch (12.95mm) 0.68 inch (17mm) 0.48 inch (12.3mm) 0.59 inch (14.9mm) 0.6 inch (15.2mm) 0.66 inch (16.8mm)
Weight 2.81 lbs. (1275g) 2.96 lbs. (1350g) 2.65 lbs. (1202g) 2.84 lbs. (1288g) 2.7 lbs. (1224g) 2.96 lbs. (1343g)
Processor 6th-gen 15W Intel "Skylake" 5th-gen 15W Intel "Broadwell" 2nd-gen 4.5W Intel Core M 6th-gen 15W Intel "Skylake" 6th-gen 15W Intel "Skylake" 6th-gen 28W Intel "Skylake"

But after spending a week with the HP Envy 13, I can't quite recommend it. It's just not as good as the competition. (Skip to the conclusion to find out what to buy instead.)

There's no one giant glaring deal breaker that ruins the Envy 13. In fact, there's a lot to love. My favorite feature: a fingerprint sensor that lets me swipe my way into Windows instead of typing a password. It's one of the most responsive I've used on a consumer PC.

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Josh Miller/CNET

Not that typing passwords would be much of a chore. I've been banging out every word of this review on the Envy 13's well-spaced backlit keyboard, and I've had no trouble yet. Same goes for the glass touchpad: Even though the extra-wide mousing surface means the base of my thumb hits it every so often, the mouse cursor doesn't jump around like it has with cut-rate laptops. (Two-finger scrolling is a smidge jerkier than with the best touchpads I've used, but it's definitely passable here.)

While typing, I'm marveling at how good Pandora Radio can sound on the Envy 13's Bang & Olufsen-branded speakers. Some tunes can sound pretty tinny, but it's remarkable how wide a sonic field these speakers are able to project. I can clearly hear the distinctions between the instruments, and/or feel dubstep beats exploding all around my head.

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Insert your favorite "Envy" joke here.

Josh Miller/CNET

Though the Envy's design definitely resembles a certain Apple laptop, there are enough differences here that the similarities aren't too embarrassing. The lid's dark black bezel does a great job of highlighting the screen, which has a matte finish that doesn't produce the distracting reflections we typically see with glass. It's also pretty neat how the J-shaped lid lifts the laptop up to a comfortable typing angle.

The Envy 13's performance is what we expect from one of Intel's latest 15-watt Core i5 processors. It's nothing exceptional, but it's more than fast enough for everyday tasks -- unless you run into a weird issue I saw where the laptop can slow down while you charge it. (There's an easy fix I'll share later.)

Even the port situation isn't as dire as you might expect on a laptop this thin. There's a full-size HDMI port, a full-size SD card reader that doesn't leave the card hanging out the side, and three full-size USB 3.0 ports as well as a standard 3.5mm headset jack. My only complaint is that the USB ports are extremely tight. When I try to yank out my thumbdrive, it feels like I'm going to break it.

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