HP Envy 13 is lavishly designed, but the trackpad frustrates

HP Envy 13 is lavishly designed, but the trackpad frustrates

Dell's Adamo gave it a shot and won a 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 expense from the get-go. The plain, dark aluminium exterior looks smart and business-like.

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, given that's the place most likely to build up dirt and grime.

Practical and aesthetic qualms aside, the Envy 13 feels worth every dollar of its $2354 price. Build quality is beyond reproach, with barely a hint of flex anywhere on its 21mm-thick chassis.

It's all the more impressive as, while it might not trouble Apple's anorexic MacBook Air, it weighs a creditably light 1.69kg.

Sturdy, portable, almost rather dashing, it's an impressive first showing, but there's more. It's a minor thing, but the glossy power supply fits the design, and it's practical too - a little rubber loop bundles the power leads together.
Far more interesting, though, is the battery slice.

This moulds neatly to the Envy's underside and swells battery life by some margin. Working alone, the Envy's integrated battery managed a creditable 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 a frugal, power-efficient Intel processor. The SL9400 is the same dual-core processor found in Apple's $1999 MacBook Air, and it's paired with 2GB of DDR3 memory to keep Windows 7 feeling snappy. A score of more than 1.02 in our benchmarks proves it has enough oomph for most tasks.

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 software providing the option to automatically default to the Intel chipset when on battery power.

Allow the ATI chipset to take the reins and gaming becomes a possibility, with 40fps in our least demanding Crysis test.

The display is excellent. Colour reproduction is superb and brightness levels are staggering; images positively burst forth. And with a 13.1in panel, even the 1366 x 768 resolution makes sense.

There's evidence of less favourable aspects to the Envy's personality, though. Hunt around the 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, you'll have to occupy one of the two USB sockets with the supplied adapter.

The keyboard shares the Envy 15's short-travel keys, but the layout is markedly more usable. It's the multitouch trackpad, however, that cripples this laptop's appeal. Its integrated buttons allow you to click anywhere on the left- or right-hand side of the pad, but they're just as stiff and unresponsive as those on the Envy 15.

If you're used to resting a thumb on the left mouse button while scrolling with a forefinger, you'll find the cursor jumping erratically across the screen.

It's frustrating to have to so criticise the Envy 13, as in many ways it's up there with the best. Build quality is excellent, battery life with the slice is unparalleled, it's nippy in use and the display is outstanding. But, at this price, we'd expect a complete performance, and the Envy 13 fails to provide that.

We hope HP issues drivers to fix the trackpad problems soon, but as it stands that seemingly small flaw is enough to bring it crashing down to earth.

HP Envy 13
4 6
It's taken a while, but PC manufacturers are increasingly seeking to recast the dowdy PC laptop as a stylish lifestyle accessory.
Features & Design
Value for money
• Price: 2354 • CPU model/brand: Intel Core 2 Duo • CPU speed: 1.86Ghz • Memory capacity: 2GB DDR3 • Hard drive capacity: 250GB • Screen resolution: 1366 x 768 • Weight: 1.69kg • Dimensions WDH: 321 x 216 x 21mm • Manufacturer: HP • Supplier: HP
This review appeared in the March, 2010 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
Copyright © Alphr, Dennis Publishing

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