HP Envy 13 review: Redefining mid-range laptops in 2017

A mid-range Windows laptop this good probably should cost more. (But I'm not complaining.)

HP Envy 13

HP's Envy line isn't exactly known for pretending to be something it's not. It's seated below the Spectre line, and it should be. But the latest incarnation of Envy means even fewer compromises and a resulting computer that's going to give you a lot for what you'll be paying.

Top-shelf? Maybe not quite. But damn near close.

This is the HP Envy 13 for 2017.

What you'll love about the HP Envy 13.3

This isn't your father's Envy. The aluminum/magnesium chassis gives a premium feel. The specs give you near-premium performance. And the options give you a price point that'll fit your wallet.

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Form factorClamshell.
Display13.3-inch FHD touch (1080x1920).
ProcessorIntel Core i7-8550U.
Storage256GB SSD.
Battery53.6 Whr.
Size12 x 8.5 x 0.55 inches (304.8 x 215.9 x 13.97 mm).
Weight2.91 pounds (1.32 kilograms).

Envy remains a pretty wide range for HP. The bottom end runs $879, and you can jack things all the way up to $2,129 if you want to get a little silly about storage space.

We tested the second of the Five Tiers of Envy, which lands at a perfectly resonable $1,049. And, actually, that top price is a bit of an outlier because of a 1TB SSD. So you're really looking at a $500 swing between models.

Here's how it all breaks down:

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ProcessorCore i5Core i7Core i7Core i7Core i7
DisplayFHD non-touchFHD touchFHD touchUHD touchUHD touch
GraphicsIntel UHD 620Intel UHD 620Intel UHD 620NVIDIA GeForce MX150Intel UHD 620

The 2017 Envy 13 is an iterative step from last year's model, and pretty much in all the right directions. The chassis is a mix of stamped aluminum and die-cast magnesium, and it looks and feels great. The keys have a good 1.3mm of travel, so you can really pound on them. HP's also added a home row on the right edge of the keyboard.

Everything's slimmed down, too. Smaller bezels on the display as well as the chassis, and the whole thing has a smaller footprint from last year by about a full centimeter. It's comfortable to use on a table (I love the slight angle the keyboard sits at when the display is opened, along with the rubber foot (leg?) that runs the width of the body. Everything stays where it should. A weight of just under 3 pounds is about what you'd expect for this sort of thing, too.

The FHD touch display I'm testing is good enough in the resolution department, and remember you can jump up to UHD if you want. Ports for days — a couple of USB 3.0, two USB-C, 3.5mm audio, and microSD card reader. That's not bad at all in something that's 13.95mm thin. Battery life is quoted as being around 14 hours, and if you're not pushing things to the limit that's not a bad estimate at all. The speakers are good. Not quite as bass-heavy as you might like, but it has a decent mix to it and gets plenty loud.

In a word? It's a solid laptop.

What you'll loathe about the Envy 13

There's not a lot here to gripe about. (That's a bad thing for a writer, and a good thing for you.) I'm not in love with the trackpad, I guess. That's often a matter of taste, and what you're used to. And proper typing posture helps, but I've found it to be just a little hesitant to get going. But once it does, it's pretty accurate.

I'm also missing the fingerprint reader. But HP had to leave something else for Spectre, and at the end of the day, you can only cram so many things into such a small space at such a good price point.

There's a smattering of bloatware preloads on the software side. That's not unexpected, though I am obligated to gripe about it.

Bottom line on the HP Envy 13

If I were looking at an everyday laptop, this one would be high on my list, if not at the top. It's the sort of thing you can pull out of a laptop bag without feeling bad about.

And, actually, that's maybe selling it short. It looks really good. It feels really good. It works great, and you've got options that all fall within a $500 window.

This is a very good thousand-dollar laptop. It'll be even better at $1,300.

See at HP

Phil Nickinson

Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days. Subscribe to the Modern Dad newsletter!