Introduction and design
HP has made one of its thinnest laptops yet. The Envy Notebook 13-d002na clocks in at a measly 12.9mm high undercutting the fat edge of a 13-inch MacBook Air by some margin – 4.1mm to be precise, and this HP offering is also only 10 grams heavier.
Under the hood there’s the new Skylake i7-6500U processor, just one below the flagship CPU in the fleet, the i7-6600U. For £800 (it’s priced at $1,050 in the US, which is around AU$1,500) this is not to be sniffed at. Dell’s XPS 13 with a similar configuration (boasting an i7-6500U and a 250GB SSD) is considerably more expensive at £1,280 (around $1,836). Admittedly the Envy doesn’t include a touchscreen but many workers and students who just require a solid, reliable and hard-wearing laptop can save money by plumping for this.
It is however more pricey than the much coveted Asus Zenbook UX305 which also features a full HD screen, but with a much improved battery – this machine teeters around the £530 mark (around $770, AU$1,100). Of course, much of this is due to the CPU – the Asus we reviewed features a Core M 5Y10 which is 70% more power-efficient but runs at 2GHz compared to the Envy’s 3.2GHz. So with these two it’s a toss-up between speed versus value and power-efficiency. A more high-level user who requires a higher grade CPU for, say, video editing, could well see the value in plumping for the Envy over the Zenbook.
Encasing the Envy’s screen is tough, brushed aluminium. The overall look is professional and aesthetically exceeds its price tag. The base is plastic but to the casual eye, or even anyone picking this up, this fact would likely go unnoticed. Our test unit had an ever so slight warp in the base meaning it wouldn’t sit flush to a surface, but we’re talking millimetres here.
The much lauded (by HP) hinge has been designed to give the keyboard an extra boost at the back creating a better typing position. Desk-based users will immediately warm to this feature as it reduces RSI and finger fatigue. However the lipped edge (see above) digs into your lap after an hour or so, leaving a numb feeling in the knees.
Although not as bad as some, touchpads on HP laptops are often less reliable and more erratic than others. While dragging the cursor to select text, it would often misinterpret the data and zoom incredibly far in or far out. The unpredictability of this was frustrating.
The keyboard also has a design quirk in the form of the hash key, which lies directly between the backspace and Enter buttons. If you’re used to an L-shaped Enter key then you’re going to end up with a lot of lines ending in ‘#’. Not a huge problem, but something that new users will take a little getting used to. Plus points to the keyboard include the fact that it’s backlit and features a very reliable fingerprint scanner.
Specification and performance
The screen is 1080p, far above a 13-inch MacBook Air’s 1440 x 900 resolution, and this undercuts the cheapest version of that laptop by £50. It also sports double the memory, HD space and a faster processor. When you look at it this way, the Envy has value for money in spades.
Here is the full spec sheet of the HP Envy laptop sent to techradar for review:
- CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U (dual-core, 4MB Cache, turbo up to 3.1GHz)
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
- RAM: 8GB DDR3L SDRAM
- Screen: 13.3-inch diagonal IPS Anti-Glare WLED-backlit 1920 x 1080 resolution
- Storage: 256GB M.2 SSD
- Optical drive: No
- Ports: 3 x USB 3.0 (1 x HP USB Boost), 1 x HDMI, 1 x headphone/microphone combo, 1 x multi-format SD card reader
- Connectivity: 802.11ac (2×2) and Bluetooth 4.0 combo (Miracast compatible)
- Camera: HP TrueVision HD Webcam (front-facing) with integrated dual array digital microphone
- Weight: 1.36kg / 3lb
- Size: 12.85 x 8.90 x 0.50-inches / 326 x 226 x 12.9mm (W x D x H)
As we mentioned earlier, the HP Envy Notebook 13-d002na undercuts the equivalent Dell XPS 13 by around nearly £500 (around $348) but the Envy saves on its asking price by using a lower res non-touch screen. It can be upgraded to a QHD+ 3200 x 1800 pixel-resolution screen but sadly no touchscreen option is available currently. However, the Dell features a reduced screen bezel which cuts down the footprint by over 22.5mm in height and 26mm in depth when compared to the Envy.
The brand new and updated Asus UX305, the UX305CA, features the new Skylake chip and our review of this model is coming soon. Judging by the UX305, it will be a machine to be reckoned with.
Here’s how the HP Envy 13 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 5,293; Sky Diver 3,190; Fire Strike: 810
- Cinebench: CPU: 300 cb; OpenGL: 38.28 fps
- PCMark 8 Home: 2,512
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours 30 minutes
In everyday use, I loved its zippy boot and shutdown times. Multiple tabs and videos in Edge didn’t phase this notebook either. It fared well in the Cinemark OpenGL benchmarks, trouncing the Dell XPS 13 we reviewed last year by 9.52 fps. Not only does the faster processor help boost this, but the on-board graphics chip (Intel HD Graphics 520) also runs 1000MHz faster than the Intel Graphics 5500 solution on the XPS.
That said, the screen itself is bright and viewable from all angles. Its white and lighter colours are a little dull at mid-brightness levels but this isn’t noticeable when watching movies. It’s no Retina Display but it’s an above average screen that’s value for money considering all the other bells and whistles this Envy has for its price tag.
The battery benchmark registered a disappointing 3 hours 30 minutes, which is nearly an hour less than the Dell XPS 13 that clocked in at 4 hours 21 minutes. HP claims a maximum of 9 hours of productivity. but you would struggle to achieve that even by lowering the brightness to its lowest levels.
I also tested the Envy’s 3-cell, 45 Wh Li-ion polymer battery by playing Guardians of the Galaxy on loop overnight in Airplane Mode with the brightness and volume halfway. It fared better but still only hit 4 hours 55 minutes. If there’s one aspect of the hardware where the Envy falls down, it’s battery life.
Here’s what you get when it comes to pre-installed programs:
- McAfee LiveSafe Internet Security – HP’s standard bundled antivirus software
- HP Lounge – HP’s own entertainment hub, a little like Spotify
- HP SimplePass – Software to run the fingerprint scanner
HP’s thinnest laptop lives up to the design hype – it’s light, portable and also resilient. While it’s not a complete aluminium build the non-metal parts don’t feel flimsy. The wide touchpad is welcome and the keys themselves feel sturdy with few dropouts when typing.
The full HD screen has a wide viewing angle with a good colour space. The new i7 processor proved itself in the benchmarks and the price point of £800 is good value for one of the new higher performing Skylake CPUs.
The faults we found were mainly physical. The placing of the hash key and shape of the Enter key are eccentric and take a little getting used to. In general use, the touchpad would occasionally zoom in instead of scroll, an infrequent but annoying glitch that could possibly be fixed in a software update.
The battery life wasn’t quite up to scratch with some of its contemporaries. It couldn’t make it up to 5 hours of looping video playback in Airplane Mode. And in daily use, the battery life didn’t appear to give an old 2012 MacBook Pro much of a run for its money.
We wanted to love HP’s thinnest laptop. It has all the hallmarks of greatness, almost MacBook Air physical specs, and a consistently well-performing new CPU. If you’re looking for something that’s light and portable with processor oomph coupled with an FHD screen then the Envy might just be for you.
However, if you’re moving from office to office or study to study without the chance of a recharge you might find yourself short-changed power-wise.