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Tuesday, 25 July 2017 15:41

HP Envy 13 (2017) – solid, dependable and yet strangely desirable (review)

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HP’s new Envy 13 is a value packed, Intel 7th generation, Core i5 or i7 notebook that is a step above the HP Pavilion and other value sub-brands. It also comes in both 13” and 15” models and with a choice of clamshell or x360° style hinges.

HP loves to make different models and customisation of models/chassis within models – hence the HP Envy 13 sent for review, model number 13-AD038TU, part number 2FL17PA, is not on HP Australia’s website.

But it is at retailer Harvey Norman Australia so all I am saying is that you may find other models, part numbers or even discontinued 2016 models that may result in a cheaper or dearer unit. That is fine — caveat emptor — if you know what you are buying.

So, the review is more about the new Envy 13 chassis and we will leave any variations to you.

Out of the box – HP Envy 13 – review unit Core i5-7200U, 8/256GB, 13-ad038tu, product number 2FL17PA

  • The unit
  • A 45W AC 19.5V/2.31A charger and wall cable
  • USB-C to HDMI adaptor

That’s it – no faux leather sleeve or dongles. Initial impressions are thin but a little heavy at 1.32kg – sorry, I have been reviewing the excellent HP x2 Spectre Hybrid that at 760g for the table and 1.13kg all up seems feather light. Still, it costs a lot more and Envy is about prestige without the Spectre price.

HP Envy 13 back

The first thing you'll notice it that is a lot more premium-looking Ultrabook than last year’s model, with narrower screen bezels, wider keyboard, enhanced speakers and an attractive grille, and more of the other design changes seen for many of the 2017 models – they are sexier!

Note the 2017 model has keys and the screen right to the edge – the older models have larger bezels and keyboard surrounds so that means a 13.3” screen in a 12” chassis.

Specifications

Model

Review: HP Envy 13-ad038tu, part number 2FL17PA
Note: Core i3 available (no part number) and Core i7-7500U part number 2FL25PA.
Optional NVIDIA MX150 graphics as well and possible 4K display models

Display

13.3”, 1920 x 1080, 16:9, 166 ppi
IPS WLED (includes White LED plus RGB)
Edge-to-edge glass, multitouch enabled

Processor

Intel Core i5-7200U, 2.5/3.1GHz, 2 core/4 thread

Graphics

Intel HD Graphics 620

RAM

8GB-LPDDR3-1866

SSD

256GB, PCIe, NVMe, M.2

microSD

Yes (size unspecified)

Wireless

Intel 8265, AC, 2x2, MIMO, Wi-Di

Bluetooth

4.2

Keyboard

Full size, chiclet, 1.5mm/60g throw
Large glass touchpad with up to four finger gestures
No fingerprint reader

Audio

4 x Bang & Olufsen tuned, up-firing and down firing speakers with HP Audio boost
HP Web camera
Dual array mics

Ports

2 x USB-C, Gen 1, 5Gbps, DisplayPort 1.2
Interchangeable - power delivery upstream (charging tablet) and downstream (charges devices)
2 x USB-A 3.1 (one with sleep and charge)
1 x 3.5mm combo audio
1 x microSD

Dimensions

30.54 x 21.56 x 1.39 cm

Weight

1.32 kg

Battery

53.6 WHr
Claimed up to 10 hours

Charger

45W, 19.5V/2.31A

Colour

Cast and milled Magnesium and Aluminium alloy - polished and burnished

OS

Windows 10 Home

HP Apps

HP 3D DriveGuard; HP Audio Switch; HP Documentation; HP ePrint; HP JumpStart; HP Orbit; HP Recovery Manager; HP Support Assistant; HP Sure Connect

Missing

Windows Hello or Fingerprint sign in

Price

i5 as reviewed - $1799 at Harvey Norman
i7 – 16/512GB - $2,399 on HP site

Screen

It is a good, competent, HD, IPS panel using HP’s WLED (white LED backlight) like that used on the x2 Spectre. And like the Spectre, it gives a whiter screen but a slightly cooler colour gamut.

What I really liked was the narrow bezels and it was a very responsive touch screen. Brightness is fine for office lighting, but a little washed out in direct sunlight.

HP Envy 13 header

The screen is easy to lift and the 135° hinge allows it to lift the base off the table for more cooling.

Audio/webcam/microphones

The front B&O tuned L+R speakers are up-firing from in front of the screen and the other two are down firing from the bottom of the chassis.

Volume is good – around 70dB but the speakers lack bass response, being focused on the high range vocals.

You can adjust the sound using the B&O app but it makes a little difference – every preset is essentially 100% bass and variations on mid and treble. B&O know these speakers' weakness.

It does a much better job of providing a clean, 20Hz-20kHz feed via the 3.5mm headphone and Bluetooth.

The mic array has basic noise cancellation and can be tuned to your voice or multiple voices.

The 720p @30fps web cam is wide angle (good for huddles) but induces a little  too much noise even in office light (500 lumens).

Keyboard/trackpad

It is a good, rock solid, chiclet style with 1.5mm throw, 60g actuation and no key bounce. In typing tests, I achieved 89% of the accuracy of a Logitech G610 mechanical keyboard and that is good.

The trackpad allows almost a full sweep to move the cursor from top right to bottom left – not as good as the x2 Spectre, but not too bad. Note there is no fingerprint reader as shown in the image below.

HP Envy 13 keys speaker

Performance

The i5-7200U is an older 7th generation Intel Core CPU launched Q3, 2016. It features in so many notebooks and all they perform the same – Passmark is 4695 for i5-7200U and 5239 for the i7-7500U.

Intel HD Graphics 620 is fine for office, browsing and movies but it is not a gaming machine.

Wi-Fi AC is via an entry-level Intel 7265 dual band chip that supports up to 867Mbps in 2 x 2 MIMO. In tests, I achieved from 170Mbps to 260MBps from a D-Link AC5300 MU-MIMO router approximately 20 metres away through a cement floor. This is lower than expected so let's put it downt to early drivers.

The SSD is a Toshiba THNSN5256GPUK 256GB M.2 2280 SSD NVMe PCIe. Read/write was about 400/300Mbps although the technical specs suggest it Is capable of 1500/980Mbps. External read to a Samsung T3 SSD via USB-C 5Gbps 447Mbps. Again competent but could be higher.

Overall it is above the performance of 2016 models and commensurate with the price paid.

Battery

HP variously claims somewhere between 10 and 14 hours depending on use, processor etc.

In an HD video loop at 50% screen brightness (aircraft/night time viewing), it lasted 10 hours. In general office use at 75% screen is lasted about eight hours.

Recharging was slow – I suspect the 45W charger trying to charge a 53.6WHr battery is the issue. It took nearly three hours from 0 to 100% and during the hard work parts of the test it was flat out keeping up with battery drain.

Pros

  • If you like a clamshell this is very nice but I am leaning to the Envy or Spectre x360° design.
  • Reasonably light at 1.3kg – a 13.3” screen in a 12” chassis.
  • Premium finishes – exudes quality and metal chassis is a bonus.
  • Good keyboard and average trackpad.

Cons

  • Web cam shows too much noise even in office lighting.
  • While usign a 7th generation CPU these are earlier models – later models have more power.
  • Battery life is OK but charge time is a little long.
  • Unable to charge with a standard USB-C 5V/3A charger (yet it has USB-C ports so these are for charging docks).

HP Envy 13 17

Summary

The Envy brand is for those who aspire to something a little better – they will buy the premium XL version of a “Camry” every time knowing they get a reliable car with a few extra bells and whistles.

That is how I feel about the Envy 13 – it has some better parts, but under the skin it is still a consumer grade notebook – a kind of premium economy and there is nothing wrong with that for short haul.

If you have the money, spring for the excellent HP Spectre x2 or x360 and then you will be flying business class – you get better, later processors, more performance and they are a delight to use.

But for what it is, it is totally competent and part of HP’s new breed of better-looking notebooks.

A good third-party video is below

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!