Windows laptops like the Dell XPS 13 have shown that you can build a beautiful, svelte machine that's even more versatile than the MacBook Air without sacrificing features or performance. HP hopes to mirror that success with the Envy 13t-d000, but it ultimately falls short. This 13-inch, $849 system catches the eye with a sleek aluminum chassis that's 20 percent thinner than the Air, along with a colorful display and strong audio quality. However, short battery life makes the 2.8-pound Envy 13t-d000 less versatile than we'd like.
Editor's Note: This version of the Envy 13t has been discontinued. Check out our review of the new Envy 13t with 8th Gen Core CPU.
The Envy 13t-d000's silver aluminum-and-magnesium chassis makes for one handsome laptop. Opening the lid reveals a backlit island-style keyboard with matching silver keys that's flanked on both sides by speakers. There's a fingerprint reader on the right side. A hinge that wraps around the lid lifts the keyboard at a slight angle when you open it, providing a better experience for touch typists.
However, the Envy 13t-d000's chunky, gray bezel really detracts from its otherwise premium look and feel. In comparison, Dell's similarly priced XPS 13 has almost no bezel at all, making it far more attractive than the Envy.
The Envy weighs just 2.8 pounds; I easily carried it back and forth between my desk and the Laptop Mag labs in one hand. It has a small footprint, measuring 12.85 x 8.9 x 0.51 inches, which is on a par with the 13-inch MacBook Air (12.8 x 8.9 x 0.11-0.68 inches) but larger than the Dell XPS 13 (12 x 7.9 x 0.3-0.6 inches).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Envy's keyboard has a shallow travel of just 1.2 mm (we prefer 1.5 mm or more) but requires 53 grams of force to press -- just enough to be comfortable. There's some flex in the middle of the keyboard while you type, and it feels a bit spongy. The spacious, full-size keys meant that I could type at my average speed of 100 words per minute on 10fastfingers.com but with a slightly higher error rate of 4 percent. (I tend to have an error rate of 1 to 2 percent.)
The fairly large 4.3 x 2.1-inch touchpad provided accurate navigation as I guided the pointer around the screen. It responded immediately to touch gestures, such as three-finger swipe and pinch to zoom.
The HP Envy 13t-d000's 1920 x 1080 display produced vivid, accurate colors. Based on our readings, it covers 103 percent of the sRGB spectrum (100 percent or more is excellent) and scored a Delta-E color accuracy rating of 0.45 (the closer to 0, the better).
I watched a video of SantaCon in Brooklyn and saw true-to-life red Santa outfits and leaves turning orange on the trees. The Envy 13t's panel is much more accurate than the nontouch Dell XPS 13 (8.2) and the MacBook Air (4.3), though Lenovo's Yoga 700 is just a tad better, with a rating of 0.3.
I watched the latest trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and caught the detail in Henry Cavill's and Ben Affleck's stubble in close-ups. Superman's red cape soaring across clear, blue skies was crisp and vibrant on the screen.
The display registered an average of 312 nits, which is brighter than the ultraportable category average of 302 nits. But the Dell XPS 13 just beat the Envy, with 318 nits, and the 13-inch MacBook Air notched an even brighter 334 nits.
The Bang & Olufsen speakers on the HP Envy are a real treat. I took the Envy into the Laptop Mag labs, closed the door and filled the room with Ellie Goulding's "On My Mind." The two speakers on either side of the keyboard made sure the sound filled both of my ears. Vocals and mids were clear, and I could hear the bass thump rhythmically during each verse.
Whether it's on your lap or your desk, you will be able to use the Envy comfortably. After we streamed full-screen video from Hulu for 15 minutes, the underside of the laptop hit 91 degrees Fahrenheit, the touchpad reached 79.5 degrees and the spot between the G and H keys hit 82.5 degrees. These are all below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Ports and Webcam
Being thin doesn't prevent the Envy from providing all of the ports you will need day to day.
The right side of the laptop plays host to the port for the power adapter, an HDMI port and two USB 3.0 ports. On the left side is a lock slot, an SD card reader, a USB 3.0 port with sleep and charge capability, and the headphone jack.
The 0.9-megapixel webcam on the Envy 13t is better than most. My selfie looked pretty sharp, even though the bright-red wall in our office was rendered a burnt orange.
The built-in fingerprint reader read my digits quickly and accurately. After setting up Windows Hello by scanning my finger three times to register it, I logged in to the computer with just a single swipe -- no password required.
HP also includes a program called SimplePass that allows you to sign in to websites with a finger swipe.
The computer also comes with a 30-day trial of Avast SecureLine VPN, should you want to hide your browsing habits from anyone who might be snooping.
The Envy 13t offers speedy overall performance, but its solid-state drive is sluggish. Our review configuration came with a Core i5-6200U clocked at 2.3 GHz, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
On Geekbench 3, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, the Envy scored 6,306. That score beats the Yoga 700 (5,855), which has the same Core i5-6200U processor, and the MacBook Air (5,783), which has a 1.6-GHZ Core i5-5250U. However, the Envy fell a bit short of the XPS 13 (6,391, also with a Core i5-6200U).
The Envy 13t's SSD performed poorly on the Laptop Mag File Transfer Test, taking 1 minute and 6 seconds to copy 4.97GB of files. That's a transfer rate of 77.1 MBps, which is far below the ultraportable category average of 166.9 MBps, the Lenovo Yoga 700 (145 MBps), the Dell XPS 13 (231.3 MBps) and the MacBook Air (358.4 MBps).
HP's notebook fared well in our spreadsheet macro test, matching 20,000 names with their addresses in OpenOffice in 4 minutes and 28 seconds. That time compares favorably to the XPS 13 (4:34) and the Yoga 700 (4:57), but trails the MacBook Air (4:03).
The Envy 13t's Intel HD Graphics 520 chip helps it handle some low-impact gaming. The laptop ran World of Warcraft at 69 frames per second using autodetect settings at 1366 x 768 and at 48 fps at 1920 x 1080. The Dell XPS 13 ran the game at 80 fps and 40 fps on those settings and resolutions, respectively.
This HP beat other ultraportables in the 3DMark graphics benchmark, notching a score of 59,836. This is higher than the XPS 13 (49,394), the Yoga 700 (41,296) and the ultraportable category average (40,420).
For a laptop that's meant to be portable, the HP Envy 13t offers way too little battery life. HP's notebook lasted a mere 5 hours and 48 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of screen brightness.
That's far below the ultraportable category average of 8:19 and less than half the endurance of competitors like the Dell XPS 13 (11:54) and the MacBook Air (14:00).
Software and Warranty
The Envy 13t comes with a couple of useful utilities but also has its fair share of bloatware. HP's own apps, like SimplePass and HP Recovery Manager, are inoffensive, but I had no need for Candy Crush Soda Saga, Snapfish or The Weather Channel, not to mention a handful of shortcuts for sites like TripAdvisor and Amazon. During my testing, Amazon's live tile rotated through ads for jewelry, showing a watch on one day and a necklace on another.
The Envy also comes with 25GB of Dropbox storage for one year -- a nice benefit, considering that a free Dropbox account comes with only 2GB.
HP sells the Envy with a one-year limited hardware warranty and toll-free phone support. You can buy a two-year warranty for $129.99 or three years of coverage for $199.99.
We reviewed the HP Envy 13t-d000 in its $849 base configuration, which includes a Core i5-6200U processor, Intel HD Graphics 520, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and a 1920 x 1080 display.
HP offers a number of different configuration options via its website. You can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for an additional $70, bump up to a Core i7-6500U processor for $120 or upgrade to a quad-HD+ 3200 x 1800 display for another $50. If you want more storage space, you can spend $130 more for a 256GB SSD or $330 more for a 512GB SSD.
The HP Envy 13t-d000 is really thin and very light, and it offers a vivid display and impressive B&O speakers. But the Envy's battery life, at just 5:48, is downright paltry. Other ultraportables last almost twice as long. Add in a relatively slow SSD and an unattractive bezel, and you'll want to look at other laptops.
Overall, we recommend the Dell XPS 13 instead, which lasts much longer on a charge and sports a more attractive design with an almost bezel-free screen. The Lenovo Yoga 700 is another good alternative, as it offers the flexibility of a 2-in-1 along with more endurance than this HP.