HP's Envy 13t proves that you don't have to break the bank to get a lightweight laptop with heavy doses of style and performance. For under $800 ($749 as of this writing), this 2.9-pound ultrabook packs the power of an Intel 8th Gen Core processor, the sexiness of an all-metal chassis and the convenience of all-day battery life. It also has one of the best keyboards on the market. Higher-priced competitors offer more vibrant displays and even longer endurance, but verall the Envy 13t is a fantastic value, especially for college students on a tight budget.
Update May 28: HP's announced the 2019 Envy 13, which improves the 2018 model with a privacy camera kill switch and a fingerprint reader.
We see so many silver laptops in our lab that it can be hard to tell them apart, but the Envy 13 adds some original touches that make it stand out. The matte aluminum lid has a small incline in the back that covers the hinge, giving it clean, sleek lines. The shiny HP logo in the middle of the lid really pops while the tapered shape of the chassis makes the entire system look slim and sexy. A smooth bottom surface is made from magnesium alloy.
Opening the lid reveals an attractive aluminum deck, completely with silver keys that match the aesthetic (MacBooks break the color scheme by using brown keys). The side bezels around the 13.3-inch screen are relatively thin, but no one would mistake this display for one of the nearly edgeless offerings on Dell's XPS 13 or Lenovo's Yoga C930. HP also offers the Envy 13t in a "Silk Gold" color.
At 12 x 8.5 x 0.55 inches, the Envy is slim enough to fit into a narrow pocket in your bag and compact enough to fit on even the narrowest seat-back tray while its 2.93-pound weight makes it very easy to take with you. The Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 are both lighter (about 2.7 pounds), as is the latest MacBook Air (2.75 pounds).
For a notebook this thin, the Envy 13t has a fair selection of ports, which includes two standard USB 3.0 connections and two USB-C ports, with one of each on either side. There's also a 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD card slot. The USB-C ports can be used for charging, data and video out, but you they can only accept power from an HP branded charger. The device itself comes with a proprietary, non-USB charger.
The 13.3-inch,1080p touch screen on the Envy 13t offers decent image quality. When I watched a trailer for Thor: Ragnarok, colors like the green in Hela's cape, the purple on a statue and the red behind the Marvel logo all seemed fairly accurate but they didn't "pop" like they do on pricier competitors like the Dell XPS 13 and HP's own Spectre 13. HP also offers the Envy 13t with an optional 4K display, which may be brighter and more vibrant (we haven't tested one).
According to our colorimeter, the Envy's screen reproduced a solid 106 percent of the sRGB color gamut. The MacBook Air scored a slightly higher 109 percent, and the XPS 13 fared even better (130 percent at 1080p, 117 percent at 4K). The Surface Laptop 2 is in a class of its own at 176 percent.
The glossy surface on the panel, along with below-average brightness hurts the viewing angles on the Envy. Even from just 45 degrees to the left or right, colors started to fade and the overhead lights in my office reflected back at me. The screen measured a modest 248 nits on our light meter, which is below the 317 percent premium laptop average.
The Envy 13t's audio output is good enough for listening to dialog in movies or Skyping, but for music, you'll want external speakers. When I played AC/DC's "For Those About to Rock," the music was loud enough to fill a small room, but it was tinny.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Envy 13t's keyboard is so good that it alone makes this laptop a compelling option for students or productivity workers. Competitors take note; HP has shown that, even on a very-thin laptop, you can have a world-class typing experience. Though the keys have a modest 1.2 millimeters of travel (1.5 to 2mm is typical for mainstream laptops), they have such a snappy, responsive feel that I never found myself bottoming out. The keys felt so much like an extension of my finger tips that I was able to match my all-time high of 110 words per minute on the 10FastFingers.com typing test.
The 4.3 x 2.1-inch buttonless touchpad was highly accurate,whether I was highlighting text or navigating around the desktop. It also responded flawlessly to multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom and three-finger swipe.
With its Intel 8th Gen Core i7-8550U, 8GB of RAM and 256GB PCIe SSD, our review configuration of the Envy 13t offered a plethora of performance, both in everyday use and benchmark tests. Even with over a dozen Chrome tabs open and a video playing, I didn't experience even a hint of lag.
The Envy 13t scored a strong mark of 12,225 on Geekbench 4, a synthetic benchmark. The Core i5 version of the XPS 13 notched 13,254 on this test, while the Surface Laptop 2 with a Core i5 chip hit 12,676. The less powerful Y Series processor in the MacBook Air scored under 8,000.
The laptop's 256GB PCIe SSD took just 24 seconds to copy 4.97GB of mixed media files. That's a comfortable rate of 212 MBps, which would dwarf any laptop with a mechanical hard drive or a slower SSD. Still, the premium laptop average is closer to 500 MBps now.
With its integrated Intel UHD 620 GPU on-board, the Envy 13t can't replace a gaming rig, but it can play videos and run less-demanding titles. When we fired up the Dirt 3 racing game, HP's laptop managed a strong frame rate of 48 fps, which is more than playable. However, the XPS 13 hit 57 fps and the Surface Laptop 2 reached 82 fps.
On 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a synthetic graphics test, the Envy 13t scored a fairly strong 77,685.The Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 scored a lower 71,647. The XPS 13 (77,584) was in the same ballpark as the HP.
If you're heading to work or school, the Envy 13t can tag along while you leave its charger at home. The laptop lasted a strong 9 hours and 46 minutes on the Laptop Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. That's better than the Surface Latop 2 (9:22) and MacBook Air (9:32), but the Dell XPS 13 lasted a much longer 11:59.
The Envy 13t's 720p camera is good enough to use for Skype calls, but if you are podcasting or making a really important call, you'll want to invest in an external webcam. When I shot an image of myself under the flourescent lights of my office, the blue in my shirt appeared dull and flat and fine details like the hairs in my beard and pores in my skin were impossible to distinguish. The image was very bright, but there was a lot of visual noise in the background.
HP packs the Envy 13t with a few useful utilities, a sprinkling of bloatware and the standard Microsoft-installed crapware that every Windows 10 computer gets these days. Great for novice users, HP JumpStart contains a series of tutorials such as "Must-know keyboard shortcuts for Windows 10," but it also has promotions for its extended warranty and ink refill programs.
ePrint lets you output to an HP printer over the Internet. Recovery Manager helps you create a system backup or reset. HP Support Assistant provides access to live chat and other tech support resources. The Bang and Olufsen audio control app allows you to adjust the volume and choose among music, movie and voice sound profiles.
The manufacturer has also preloaded Netflix, Priceline, Amazon and Dropbox apps, along with a card game called Simple Solitaire. If you are a new Dropbox subscriber, you get a free 25GB of space for a year. On top of these unnecessary apps, you have the standard Windows 10 set of bloatware, including Candy Crush Soda Saga, Bubblewitch Saga, Asphalt 8, March of Empires and a link to download Drawboard PDF editor, which costs $9.99. Fortunately, it's easy to remove any unwanted apps.
What good is a laptop if it's too hot to use on your lap? Fortunately, the Envy 13t kept its cool throughout our testings. After streaming a video for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured 82 degrees, the keyboard clocked in at 90 degrees and the bottom hit only 92.5 degrees Fahrenheit. We consider temperatures below 95 degrees comfortable.
HP Envy 13t Price and Configuration Options
The base model of the HP Envy 13t features a Core i7-8550U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe SSD for $799 as of this writing. Opting for a touch display costs $50 more, or you can get a 4K screen ($120) or 4K touch display ($170). An extra $150 will get you Nvidia MX 150 graphics.
Other storage options include 512GB and 1TB NVMe SSD drives for $200 and $500, respectively. Depending on current pricing, we'd definitely recommend the Core i7 model with at least a 256GB SSD.
The HP Envy 13t is a great choice for students, knowledge workers or anyone that just needs to get something done. Though it has the sleek looks of a premium consumer laptop, this 13.3-inch ultraportable has the great typing experience, long battery life and strong performance people expect from the finest business laptops.
If you can spend a few hundred dollars more, depending on sale prices, the Dell XPS 13 offers longer battery life, a more vibrant screen and better audio, but its keyboard isn't as good as HP's. Whether you need it for work or play, the Envy 13t provides exceptional power and portability for the money.