HP's been improving its design game for years, starting first with the high-end Spectre and Elite series. These laptops have been getting thinner, lighter, and using more premium materials like aluminum. HP has been slowly trickling those features down to its mid-range "Envy" models, and this new 2020 model is easily the best one yet.
The most obvious change? A new display that gives it an 88% screen-to-body ratio, meaning there's hardly any wasted space along the edges. The result? A smaller, lighter laptop. The Envy doesn't give up anything in the performance department to get there, either, though you'll have to read on to find out just how well it held up in our tests.
About the HP Envy x360 13 (2020)
The HP Envy x360 13 (2020) is a portable 2-in-1 laptop. It has roughly a 13-inch screen that is connected to the body with a 2-in-1 hinge that lets you flip the display around so that it can be used as a tablet, easel, or propped up like a tent. It's a mid-range model, sitting above HP's entry-level laptops but below the more premium Spectre models. Here are the specs for our review unit from HP:
- Processor: 6-core AMD Ryzen 5 (4500U as reviewed, Ryzen 3 and 7 available)
- Memory: 8GB DDR4-3200 (up to 16GB available, not user-upgradeable)
- Storage: 256GB SSD (up to 1TB available)
- Display: 13.3-inch 1080p WLED display (300, 400, and 1000-nit display upgrades available)
- Ports: 1 USB 3.2 Type-A, 1 USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 1 Mini DisplayPort, 1 HDMI 2.0, headphone jack, microSD
- Touchpad: Precision Touchpad
- Graphics: AMD Radeon GPU
- Wireless: Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5
- Battery: 4-cell, 51WHr rechargeable battery
- Charger: 65W Smart AC Power Adapter
- Weight: 2.92lbs
- Dimensions: 12.07 x 7.66 x 0.65 in (W x H x D)
- Warranty: 1-year limited warranty, 90 days phone support
The 2020 Envy x360 13 comes in a wide variety of configurations, and there are also 15- and 17-inch models that are slightly different, including similar models that lack the 2-in-1 hinge. The model we reviewed offers the best mix of power, performance, and portability, especially for the $799 MSRP. You can step down to a slower Ryzen 3 processor for $699, but it has a smaller 128GB SSD. You can also jump up to Ryzen 7 processors, though this bumps the MSRP to around $1,000—though we've already seen deals pushing that down to around $800 as well.
One thing we do recommend is upgrading to 16GB of RAM if you can, since it's not user-upgradeable after the fact. You may need to jump up to the Ryzen 7 processor to do this, though configurations will vary from retailer to retailer. You can upgrade the SSD yourself after the fact, though HP doesn't consider it something most users should do on their own.
What We Like
A sleek design, with a beautiful display
The 13-inch 1080p display on the Envy isn't the most beautiful laptop display I've ever seen, but it's glorious for the money. Though I wasn't blown away by the color fidelity or brightness—both are good, if not great—the slim bezels on the outside of the screen are nearly unheard of at this price point. Though Dell has had similar displays in its XPS laptops for years, those are high-end machines that only dip to this price point if you're picking up a refurbished or "Scratch & Dent" model.
On the Envy, it's just part of the package, even on the entry-level $699 version. Though we think this $799 model is well worth the extra money, it's a testament to the fact that these nearly bezel-free displays are increasingly becoming expected even at entry-level price points.
The keyboard is excellent
HP's keyboards have been excellent for awhile, and this one is no exception. I recently reviewed HP's Elite Dragonfly business-class laptop and my advice was to just steal that design and put it in everything. It appears HP has the same idea, because this feels almost exactly like that keyboard. The travel, key spacing, and feel of the keys is nearly identical.
The one hangup here is that with a smaller overall footprint than other 13-inch laptops, there's less space available for the keyboard and trackpad deck. HP has stuck with a full-size keyboard here, but it does mean the trackpad has shrunk a little bit (more on that below). I think that's the right choice, since the Envy is a dream to type on.
In my tests I averaged between 92-94 words per minute with minimal errors. Whether you're a hunt-and-peck typist or someone that can knock out a 4-page paper in an hour, the Envy should be able to keep up with you.
AMD Ryzen with Vega graphics makes this a pint-sized powerhouse
Though Intel processors have been found in nearly every high-end laptop for the past decade, it has real competition again in the form of AMD. HP has opted for AMD's Ryzen processors for this new line of Envy 2-in-1s, and it seems to have paid off. Our test unit has the Ryzen 5 (4500U) six-core processor, and in our benchmarks it holds up extremely well—even compared to Intel's high-end i5 and i7 processors.
For example, we recently tested the $1,200 HP Spectre x360 13t (effectively the "luxury" edition of this laptop) and even with its 10th-gen i7 processor it only barely beat out the Ryzen 5 in our benchmark tests. In the benchmarking software Geekbench 5, the Intel i7 managed a single core score of 1314 and a multi-core score of 4646. The Ryzen 5 in the Envy posted single-core scores of 1110 and multi-core scores of 4568. That's remarkably similar given the Spectre costs 50% more, and the Ryzen offers six cores to the i7's four.
It's even more impressive when you look at our gaming and graphics benchmarks. Ryzen's integrated Radeon graphics whoop Intel's integrated Iris GPUs by as much as 20%. The Iris Plus in the Spectre could handle minor tasks like video and photo editing, but the Radeon graphics in the Envy can actually be used for real gaming. We managed to achieve playable framerates in games like Minecraft, No Man's Sky, and even can play on "low" settings in some newer games. That's remarkable for an integrated graphics card, especially in a slim, lightweight laptop.
The Envy offers truly all-day battery life
Our in-house battery benchmark test simulates an average day of web browsing at moderate brightness (200 nits), automatically scrolling through 50 of the most popular websites in Chrome. Most laptops average around seven hours on this test, but the Envy x360 posted a remarkable 8 hours and 17 minutes before shutting down.
Though we routinely see laptops manage between 7:30 and 8 full hours on this test, few can exceed that. In our latest round of tests, it was pretty much only the Dell XPS 13 and HP's Elite Dragonfly that managed it, and neither of those has the graphics capability of this machine. That actually makes this among the most impressive results we've seen in a lightweight, portable laptop recently.
This is especially good news because the Envy laptops we tested from late 2019 were awful in this regard, hitting between 4 and 5 hours in our rundown test. With this new 2020 model you should be able to easily eke out a full workday without having to charge—and if you do, you can go from 0% to 50% in about 40 minutes using either the supplied charger or USB-C.
What We Don't Like
RAM isn't upgradeable
As with many thin-and-light laptops, you get what you get when it comes to system memory. There's no way to upgrade it after the fact. We're very pleased that HP has opted for faster DDR4-3200 memory by default—Apple is still putting DDR3 memory in its entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pros—but it'd be nice to be able to bump to 16GB down the road as prices continue to fall and system requirements grow.
Also, depending on where you purchase this machine you may have to upgrade to the Ryzen 7 processor to get the extra RAM. If you need the extra memory then you'll probably also benefit from the faster processor, but it'd be nice to have more choices to fit your needs.
The touchpad is relatively small
On older laptops, your keyboard often looked like little islands in a giant sea of plastic. As systems continue to shrink, there's less and less room to be had, especially if you want a full-size keyboard deck. On the Envy x360, that means the trackpad is fairly squat. It's wide, but chances are you do most of your scrolling from top to bottom, so you can run out of room fast. If this bugs you, too, we recommend going into the windows settings and increasing the amount of lines per scroll and the touchpad sensitivity.
No HDMI and only one USB-C port
HP worked miracles on its Dragonfly G2 laptop, squeezing in a full-size HDMI port into a laptop that was only a hair thicker than this Envy. Alas, HP isn't going that far this time around, as the Envy has just a single USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) port on the left side, trap-door style USB-A ports on either side, a headphone jack, and a microSD card slot.
We're happy to see the MicroSD card slot, since you can pick up a 256GB one for around $40 (less if you find a good deal), doubling the included storage without having to open up the laptop at all.
Full performance is locked behind software
As with other HP laptops we've tested recently, the Envy comes tuned for "balanced" performance while maximizing battery life. Though you can use the built-in Windows settings to shift it toward "better performance" or "better battery life," that still restricts what the Ryzen 5 processor is allowed to do.
If you want to see what the laptop can truly do, then you need to use the "Performance" mode in the HP Command Center app. With that enabled the Ryzen 5's multi-core performance isn't much different, but single core performance will nearly double—though only when plugged into the wall. It's annoying, but our advice is to turn this on right away and just plug the laptop in when you're doing something that needs a little more oomph.
Should You Buy It?
Oh, yes—especially if you have a strict sub-$1,000 budget but don't want to sacrifice
Having to buy a laptop on a budget can be a bummer. You browse through the "best laptop" guides and nearly everything you want is more than you want to spend. The HP Envy x360 13 (2020) changes all that. It's one of the most artfully crafted compromises we've ever seen, and the end result is a fantastic machine for $800 or less.
From the display, to the battery, to the processor, GPU, memory, and hard drive HP made all the right choices to deliver an excellent laptop at an extremely affordable price. From top to bottom, you aren't being asked to give up anything important.
The most overt example of this is the display. It's bright, colorful, comes with Full 1080p resolution, is fully touch compatible (including a stylus), and there's minimal wasted space around the edges. It's the kind of display that has only shown up on the best 13-inch laptops around, including HP's own Spectre x360. It's like getting an economy car with great gas mileage only to find out it comes standard with leather seats and an awesome speaker setup.
That metaphor is particularly apt because the Envy x360 also offers exceptional battery life. Though Intel processors have dominated among laptops for a decade, AMD is changing that. The Ryzen 5 (4500U) tears through everyday tasks with ease, while still offering a class-leading 8 hours and 17 minutes of battery life in our web browsing test. That's an amazing result, especially considering this model also features AMD's relatively powerful integrated Radeon graphics.
Frankly, it's weird that HP has done this. This is basically a low-cost version of HP's Spectre x360—except it's nearly as fast and costs way less money. It's a bold move from HP, but it's the right one; while the Spectre is just one of a handful of great premium laptops alongside the Dell XPS 13 and MacBook Air, the Envy x360 is hands down the best laptop under $1,000.
So yeah, HP is undercutting its best consumer laptop, but it's also undercutting all of its competitors, too. You don't have to agree with the move, but you do have to ahem envy their willingness to go there.
Meet the tester
TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.
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