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HP Envy 13 (2021) review

You won't find a much better laptop for around $800 than the HP Envy 13

 HP Envy 13 (2021) review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Laptop Mag)

Our Verdict

HP's Envy 13 re-establishes itself as a top value pick, combining a modern design, fast performance, and long battery life at a reasonable price.

For

  • Bright, vivid display
  • Attractive design and clicky keyboard
  • Core i5 CPU is speedy
  • 11+ hours of battery life
  • USB-A and Thunderbolt ports
  • Priced to sell

Against

  • Plastic touchpad
  • No IR camera option
HP Envy 13 specs

Price: $849 ($949 as reviewed)
CPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7
GPU: Iris Xe
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 256GB
Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p touchscreen
Battery: 11:15
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5
Size: 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 2.9 pounds

The HP Envy 13 enjoyed a long reign as the best laptop for under $1,000 after we awarded the previous model a 4.5-star rating back in 2019. I was eager to give the refreshed model a spin to see if it could retain its position despite growing competition in this space. Thankfully, the 11th Gen Intel CPU in this Envy 13 delivers faster performance and longer battery life than you’d expect from a sub-$1,000 laptop. 

The highlight, however, remains the sleek aluminum design, which finds a nice balance of form and function. The latter is achieved by offering USB Type-A and Type-C ports, along with a comfortable keyboard and an excellent 1080p display. 

HP put so much effort into making this mid-range laptop feel like a flagship device that the decision to use a plastic touchpad is confusing. It's a frustrating cost-cutting measure, but not a deal-breaker when the Envy does so many things right at an agreeable price. Given its excellent value, the Envy 13 deserves a spot on our best 13-inch laptops and overall best laptops rankings. 

HP Envy 13 price and configurations

With a starting price of $899 (on sale for $849 at the time of writing), the Envy 13 slots below pricey flagship models like the Dell XPS 13, MacBook Pro and HP Spectre x360

There are various configurations of the Envy 13; I'll spotlight a few of them. The base $849 model comes with a 1080p, non-touch display as well as an Intel Core i5-1135G7 CPU with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.  

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Our review unit costs $949, but comes in the gorgeous Pale Gold ($10 extra) and is equipped with 16GB of RAM and a 1080p touchscreen. If you're good with silver and don't need a touch-sensitive panel, a model with a Core i7-1165G7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD goes for $1,009.

Upgrading the components doesn't cost too much extra. For example, with the Core i7 model, you can go from 8GB to 16GB of RAM for only $40 more (we strongly recommend doing so). Spending another $70 doubles your storage to a 512GB SSD, although the 1TB option is pricey, at $170 extra. You will pay a $150 premium on the base 1080p display to upgrade to a 4K panel.

Stock shortages are an industry-wide issue at the moment, so patience might be required for some configurations.

HP Envy 13 design

Here is a toast to HP for sending me the champagne model. The subtle hint of gold on this version adds a touch of class to an already premium design. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

HP fully embraced this pale peach hue, which covers the lid, the deck, keyboard and touchpad. The only non-gold elements are a stylish chrome HP logo centered on the lid, and small Envy and Bang & Olufsen branding on the deck. 

This is a rare occasion where I'm glad HP didn't make too many changes to this design. As I mentioned in my review of the previous model, the Envy 13 is the most premium laptop you'll find at this sub-$900 price point. That's because it shares features with its pricier sibling, the Spectre x360 14

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

While not as luxurious as its flagship counterpart, the Envy 13 has a sleek metal chassis with some pleasing design elements, including chrome trim around the touchpad and an aggressive wedge shape. It also feels robust, particularly the bar-style hinge, which requires a reassuring amount of force to rotate. 

I'm sad to see the fancy patterned speaker bar removed from the deck, but it was sacrificed to make the Envy 13 as small as possible. To that end, the bezels surrounding the 13.3-inch display were trimmed and the deck was compressed. Despite the thinner frame, the webcam remains above the display (sadly, there is no IR camera). Dual speakers in that same triangular pattern are now found on the bottom of the laptop. Anything else taking up space on the deck, like the power button and fingerprint sensor, was moved to the keyboard. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Similar to the previous model, this Envy 13 sits on the bottom edge of the lid — rather than the underside of the chassis — when the screen is raised. This angles the deck downward for a more comfortable typing experience and improved airflow. 

A few changes feel like steps backward. The previous model had concave front edges that made it easier to lift the lid; you won't find that on the 2021 version. Also, this Envy 13 doesn't lift as high off a surface because it lacks the overhanging spine that dropped below the deck on the previous version. These are tiny flies in otherwise clear ointment. 

At 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches and 2.9 pounds, the Envy 13 is lighter than the Lenovo Yoga 7i (12.6 x 8.5 x 0.7 inches, 3.1 pounds) and about the same size as the Acer Swift 3 (12.7 x 8.6 x 0.67 inches, 2.7 pounds) and the MacBook Air (11.9 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches, 2.8 pounds). 

HP Envy 13 ports

The selection of ports on the Envy 13 is jaw-dropping. I mean, literally. HP cleverly uses a drop-jaw hinge to fit USB Type-A ports on each side of the laptop so you can charge your accessories or connect peripherals. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

On the right side of the laptop is one USB 3.1 Type-A port next to a microSD card slot.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

On the left side, you'll find a second USB 3.1 Type-A port and headphone/mic jack alongside a Thunderbolt 4 port for fast transfer speeds or connecting to 4K monitors. 

HP Envy 13 display

The Envy 13's 13.3-inch, 1080p touchscreen display is among the best available in this price range. 

It isn't 4K or OLED, and it doesn't have a fancy aspect ratio, but the screen nails the basics: it's sharp, bright and vivid. I hope the movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings finds its way to streaming soon after release because watching the trailer on the Envy 13 got me excited for this upcoming Marvel superhero movie. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The panel showcased the gorgeous costumes used throughout the movie; I could see each individual stitch woven into a garment worn by an ominous hooded figure (could this be Death Dealer?) while the red paint on the antagonists' mask made them all the more creepy. Be warned, though; this panel is very glossy and will reflect objects in bright environments. 

The Envy 13 is not a 2-in-1 laptop, however, the touchscreen on our model responded quickly to swipes and taps. If you prefer a convertible form factor, consider the Envy x360 13, which is essentially this laptop with a flexible hinge. 

Capable of covering 80% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, the Envy 13's display is just as vibrant as the one on the Yoga 7i (80%) and MacBook Air (81%) while the Swift 3 (44%) falls flat on its face. The category average just surpasses these capable machines at 84%. 

Reaching a peak brightness of 361 nits, the Envy 13 outshone the competition, including the Yoga 7i (266 nits) and the Swift 3 (251 nits). It was edged out by the MacBook Air (386 nits) and the category average (390 nits).

HP Envy 13 keyboard and touchpad

I zipped through this review while typing on the Envy 13's clicky keyboard. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The keys have relatively deep travel and a pleasant tactile bump when you hit the actuation spot. My fingertips gingerly bounced from one letter to the next and never seemed to bottom out. What's more, there was no learning curve going from my traditional external keyboard. These keys are nicely spaced and only a few are smaller than normal (e.g. the left Ctrl key). 

Some hunt-and-peck typists may struggle with the transparent font on the keys. It doesn't contrast as well as white-on-black or black-on-silver. What I do like is the two-stage backlighting that produces an even white glow beneath all but the spacebar key. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Oh HP, you have cut one too many corners. Sadly, the Envy's 4.3 x 2.4-inch touchpad is made of plastic. This, for me, is the biggest functional sacrifice you make when stepping down from the Spectre, which has a silky glass surface. I say functional because my fingers didn't glide across the touchpad as well as they do on glass; I could even hear a rubbing noise when I swiped my middle finger back and forth. The saving grace is the Precision driver, which ensured my movements were accurately tracked and allowed me to execute Windows 10 gestures like pinch-to-zoom.

HP Envy 13 audio

Now located on the underside of the Envy 13, the dual speakers produce mixed results depending on your music genre of choice. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I instinctively furrowed my brows when the first notes of The Killers' "Andy, You're a Star" pierced my ears; the treble tones of the electric guitar were like daggers on my eardrums and there was an odd buzzing sound behind the cacophony. So imagine my surprise when Tiëso's "The Business" sounded exceptional. There was a stadium-like airiness to the presentations, the vocals were crisp and while the bass was lacking, the speakers captured the energy of the song.

I listened to several more songs across a range of genres and concluded that the speakers sound excellent with simple instrument arrangements, but struggle with too many overlapping noises. Put a few electric guitars together on top of vocals and the sounds will blend together. When they don't, these speakers are some of the best. There is an equalizer in the Bang & Olufsen Audio Control apps, so consider tinkering with it for the best results. 

Regardless of which genre you're listening to, these speakers get loud enough to fill a large room without distorting and the stereo separation is effective.

HP Envy 13 performance

Don't be fooled by the "Core i5," the Envy 13 is every bit as powerful as other ultra-slim laptops in this segment. It even races past more expensive models and those with older Core i7 processors. As of now, the gap between a Core i5 and Core i7 config is $150, which doesn't seem worth the upgrade based on the excellent results we're seeing from the Core i5 in our testing. Oh, and just to emphasize, the $50 RAM upgrade is a no-brainer. 

Digging into the specifics, our review unit has a Core i5-1135G7 CPU with 16GB of RAM. It juggled 20 Microsoft Edge tabs like a skilled jester, regardless of how many extra balls I threw into the mix. Those included two tabs playing 1080p YouTube videos, a dozen tabs of my favorite tech websites, and a Fox Sports stream of a CONCACAF Champions League match between the Columbus Crew and C.F. Monterrey. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The Envy 13 achieved a Geekbench 5.4 overall performance score of 4,930, putting it ahead of the Yoga 7i (4,538, Core i5-1135G7), the Swift 3 (4,895, Ryzen 7 4700U) and the category average (4,429). The MacBook Air with M1 continues to topple the competition with a score of 7,575. 

Our video editing test proved trickier for the Envy 13, which needed 17 minutes and 29 seconds to convert a 4K clip to 1080p resolution. That isn't a bad score, but the Yoga 7i (14:59), Swift 3 (11:00) and MacBook Air (9:15) were much quicker to complete the task. The category average stands at 15:58. 

The 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD in the Envy 13 is decently quick; it converted a 25GB multimedia file at a rate of 415.6 megabytes per second. It sped past the Yoga 7i (311 MBps, 512GB SSD) and flirted with the Acer Swift 3 (462.7 MBps). The category average, which includes much pricier premium laptops, is quicker (622.5 MBps).

HP Envy 13 graphics

The Intel Iris Xe graphics in the Envy is much improved from the integrated solutions of yesteryear. You won't be playing the newest AAA games at Ultra settings (not without an eGPU, at least), but day-to-day tasks like loading webpages, watching 4K videos, and even doing light photo editing won't be a problem. 

On the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark, the Envy 13 scored 3,709, crushing the scores put up by the Yoga 7i (2,025) and the Swift 3 (2,847). The category average, buoyed by creator laptops with discrete GPUs, is 4,774. 

You won't be playing Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm (Medium, 1080p) on the Envy 13 as it ran the strategy game at a measly 18 frames per second. The Yoga 7i (Iris Xe) puttered at the same laggy frame rates while the Swift 3 (AMD Radeon) notched a respectable 27 fps, just below the 28-fps average.

HP Envy 13 battery life

Only a few years ago, finding a laptop that lasted for 10 hours on a charge was like mining for gold. Now, it's becoming a standard. The Envy 13 reaches that mark and then some, lasting for 11 hours and 15 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits). 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

It edges out the Swift 3 (11:09) by a few minutes, but falls to the Yoga 7i (12:36) and the MacBook Air (14:41) by as much as 3.5 hours. The category average is 10 hours and 15 minutes, and rising thanks to laptops like these.

HP Envy 13 webcam

The photo I took with the 720p webcam reminded me of those intentionally grainy handheld thriller movies. As you can see in this shot, a thick layer of noise makes everything in my office look textured. My beard is a brown blob and the yoga mat standing in the corner looks like a dark void. It isn't all bad. The colors look good; my highlighter yellow bike helmet in the background stands out and my wife's teal bike is visible over my left shoulder. For the best video and photo quality, however, we strongly recommend investing in an external webcam like the Logitech C920.

HP Envy 13 heat

The Envy 13 can stay in the kitchen all it wants because it withstood our heat test without breaking a sweat. After playing a 10-minute, 1080p video, the Envy 13 reached a peak of 91 degrees Fahrenheit on the underside, well below what we consider a laptop fever (95 degrees). The parts you'll be touching were even cooler, with the keyboard at 87 degrees and the touchpad at a breezy 78 degrees.

HP Envy 13 software and warranty

I will stand on my cliff until HP packages its various programs into one catch-all app. For now, you have to sift through 10 or so apps to find documentation, contact info tech support, the latest BIOS and driver updates, and hardware diagnostics. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Why am I so worked up about this? Just look at the HP Privacy Settings app — it's a separate program with the sole purpose of asking you three privacy questions. That's it. Yes, privacy is important, but why not just fold this into another app? Of the included software, HP Support Assistant is definitely one you'll want to keep. Here, you can find device health, warranty info, a link to the latest updates, and support resources. 

Other pre-installed Windows 10 Home apps include Booking.com, ExpressVPN, LastPass, McAfee Personal Security. That is on top of Microsoft apps like the Xbox Game Bar and Your Phone. Some of this bloatware helps bring the price down, so I don't want to sound too critical. Plus, you can uninstall the ones you won't use. 

The Envy 13 comes with a one-year warranty. See how HP fared on our Tech support showdown and Best and worst brands special reports. 

Bottom line

HP addressed almost every shortcoming of the previous Envy 13, a laptop that already had very few faults. The latest model introduces a Thunderbolt 4 port and slims down the display bezels, resulting in a modern, compact design. 

Everything else about the Envy 13 is either better or as good as it was before. The 1080p display is bright and vivid, the keyboard is a joy to type on, and you still get a Thunderbolt 4 input along with two USB Type-A ports for connecting mice, keyboards or webcams. Bringing an 11th Gen Intel CPU onboard has improved a winning formula. Our Core i5 model impressed in real-world and benchmark tests, and the Envy 13 lasted for almost 11 hours on a charge. 

One area HP didn't improve was the touchpad. It works well, but the plastic surface doesn't feel as effortless to use as a glass one. Also, the speakers were dropped from the deck to the underside, resulting in hit-or-miss sound quality. 

Those quibbles are easily excused when you consider the entire package — the Envy 13 gets you a nearly flagship-level laptop at a not-so-flagship price. 

HP Envy 13 (2021) Specs

Size12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches
Display13.3-inch, 1080p touchscreen
CPUIntel Core i5-1135G7
Price$849 ($949 as reviewed)
GPUIris Xe
Battery11:15
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5
Weight2.9 pounds
Storage256GB
RAM16GB
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