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HP Envy 13 review

Verdict

A lavishly designed ultraportable with staggering battery life, but more liable to frustrate than excite

Review Date: 25 Nov 2009

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £1,304 (£1,500 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

It's taken them quite a while, but PC manufacturers are increasingly seeking to compete on even terms with Apple's iconic designs. The Dell Adamo was among the first to try its hand, and despite a weak, low-voltage CPU, keen pricing and a gorgeous physique won it a deserved place on our A-list. Now there's one more contender ready to enter the fray: HP's Envy 13.

Just like its big brother, the Envy 15, the 13 seeks to justify its considerable expense from the off. The plain, dark aluminium exterior looks smart and businesslike - a definite improvement on the somewhat overwrought, textured finish of the Envy 15. Peer inside, and those geometric dimples we found tattooed across the Envy 15's frame are applied with more reserve, spread only across the wristrest. It's still an odd decision, though, given those dimples are in the one place most likely to build up dirt and grime.

Practical and aesthetic qualms aside, the Envy 13 feels like it's worth every pound of its £1,304 asking price. Build quality is beyond reproach, with barely a hint of flex anywhere to be found on its 21mm thick chassis. It's all the more impressive as, while it might not trouble Apple's anorexic MacBook Air in the weight stakes, it weighs a creditably light 1.69kg.

Sturdy, portable, almost rather dashing in the right light, it's an impressive first showing from HP's new darling, but there's more. It's a minor thing, but the glossy power supply makes some attempt to look the part, and its practical too - a little loop of rubber at its rear helps bundle the power leads together when it isn't in use.

Far more interesting, though, is the battery slice. This moulds neatly to the Envy's underside, and swells battery life by an impressive margin. Working alone, the Envy's integrated battery manages a credidable 6hrs 12mins in our light use tests. Clip the battery slice into place, though, and while it pushes the Envy's weight to 2.34kg, battery life soars to an astonishing 15hrs 1min.

The Envy 13's stamina is partly due to the choice of a frugal, power efficient Intel processor. The SL9400 is the same processor found in Apple's £999 MacBook Air, and while it's dual core architecture nips along at a mere 1.86Ghz, the 3GB of DDR3 memory keeps Windows 7 feeling light on its feet. It's no speed demon, but a creditable 1.02 in our benchmarks proves it has enough oomph for most tasks.

HP Envy 13 rear

The Envy 13 also has switchable graphics. ATI's Mobility Radeon HD 4330 chip provides the brawn, while one of Intel's integrated chipsets steps in when stamina is required. It's a sensible addition, with the switching software providing the option to automatically default to the spendthrift Intel chipset when on battery power. Allow the ATI chipset to take the reins, however, and it's man enough to manage our Medium Crysis test at an average of 13fps.

And while we might have moaned about the Envy 15's display, the Envy 13 gets it emphatically right. Colour reproduction is vastly improved and brightness levels are staggering; a combination that means photos, games and movies positively burst forth from the screen. And here, applied to a 13.1in panel, even the 1,366 x 768 resolution seems to make more sense.

There is evidence of less favourable aspects to the Envy's personality, though. Hunt around the Envy's smoothly contoured edges and you'll find just two USB ports, an HDMI socket, a single headphone socket - which like Apple's laptops, doubles as a microphone socket - and a card reader on the left flank. There's no Ethernet socket either: instead, the Envy 13 forces you to occupy one of the two USB sockets with an adapter (supplied in the box).

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User comments

Why buy?

You can buy a apple macbook pro for £899 which will be made better, and is faster. the macbook battery lasts 7 hours any way. £1500 is a lot for a copy.

By BenSearson on 26 Nov 2009

Yeah, but with the macbook you'd have the stigma of being an apple attention whore.

Also what's with running crysis on underpowered garphic chips, what's the point, it's hardly a real world test is it. No one is going to do that, use a photoshop test or something useful and meaningful.

By dodge1963 on 26 Nov 2009

Touchpad

Why are other companies trying to copy Apple's buttonless touchpad (e.g. HP, Dell). Even using OS X is is an acquired taste, and it's less well suited to Windows - particularly when it's badly implemented.

By davidbryant4 on 3 Dec 2009

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