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Scratch another MacBook Air rival: HP Envy 13 sales end

Hewlett-Packard has stopped selling the Envy 13, one of the last 13-inch models from a top-tier PC maker originally conceived as a response to the MacBook Air.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
3 min read

Hewlett-Packard has officially killed the Envy 13, a MacBook Air rival that follows the Dell Adamo into the dustbin of luxury laptop history.

HP Envy 13: like the 13-inch MacBook Air and Dell Adamo 13, it has an all-metal chassis.
HP Envy 13: like the 13-inch MacBook Air and Dell Adamo 13, it has an all-metal chassis. Hewlett-Packard

After moving the Envy 13 into the fire sale bin over the last few months, the laptop is officially defunct. This follows the demise of the Dell Adamo.

"We don't offer the Envy 13 anymore...the Envy 14 basically replaced [it]," an HP spokeswoman said today.

But the Envy 14 is hardly what the 13 was: at under 4 pounds, it weighed about two pounds less than the 14 and was a svelte 0.8 inches thick, compared to the 14's prosaic 1.16 inches. (Like the MacBook Air and Dell Adamo, the Envy 13 did not integrate an optical drive.)

For those unfamiliar with the Envy 13, it was an obvious response to Apple's aluminum MacBook line and specifically the MacBook Air. (This was confirmed by an HP representative I spoke to at a trade show I was attending when the Envy 13 was released.)

In fact, the 13 was the marquee model in the original Envy lineup announced back in September of 2009, when HP sang its praises. "The Envy 13's strong performance is delivered in a small frame--less than an inch thin and weighing 3.74 pounds. The exterior's aluminum and magnesium construction provides durability in a sleek design," HP said at the time.

And it was probably the only top-tier ultra-slim luxury laptop to use a high-performance standalone, aka "discrete," graphics chip: an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330, which gave it stellar graphics performance compared to its peers. Even the Air used (and still uses) an integrated graphics solution from Nvidia. (For all of you graphics silicon aficionados who might take exception to that statement, the Nvidia GeForce 9400M, used in the prior version of the Air, and the GeForce 320M, used in the 2010 Air, are integrated into an Nvidia chipset, i.e., they are not discrete graphics chips.)

Where the Envy 13 fell down was the use of a standard 5400RPM hard-disk drive. Though better than the prior MacBook Air's slower 4200RPM hard disk model, it was a mismatch for that form factor that ultimately, like the Dell Adamo and 2010 MacBook Air, would standardize on solid-state drives.

There were Intel 80GB and 160GB solid-state drive options for the Envy 13, but these drove the price into the stratosphere (a common failing of first-generation ultraportables). The Envy's original starting price was $1,699 and it quickly jumped to more than $2,000 by adding an SSD.

Over the past few months, HP had been selling the Envy 13 for $999, with a $450 instant rebate. That model included an Intel 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo Processor (SL9300), 3GB of memory, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 Graphics with 512MB of dedicated memory, Beats audio, a 250GB (5400RPM) hard-disk drive, an external SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-R/RW drive with double layer support, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.

But that may have been too little, too late. Like the Dell Adamo, the first-generation of ultraportables were just too pricey for many consumers to justify.

Here's a spec-to-spec comparison with the MacBook Air that I did back in November of 2009.