This system crushed our ultraportable benchmarks, but for a price
It's called the Envy 13 for a reason. From its magnesium alloy frame, to its beautiful display and its laser etched hand-rest, HP's Envy 13 is sure to turn a few of your friends green. The only setback to this ultraportable? It's going to cost you a lot of green, too. The system starts out at $1,450, and as configured here, costs $1725.
The Envy 13 looks a lot like a MacBook Pro. It has a beautiful and large island-style keyboard that was easy to type on almost immediately. Below it is a multitouch trackpad that worked well for zooming in and out of websites and photos. If you've never used a multitouch trackpad, think of it like an iPhone screen: Simply pinch to zoom in and pull your two fingers apart to zoom out.
The notebook's 13-inch LED HP Radiance Infinity widescreen display, with a 1366x768 resolution, was stunning while viewing photos and movies during our tests. Colors, in comparison to a standard glossy display on a Gateway notebook, popped off the screen. To keep the system thin and light, HP ditched the DVD drive altogether. An external DVD RW drive will set you back $50, or you can purchase a $200 Blu-ray drive. For a rich audio multimedia experience, HP includes Beats Audio support. We noticed an audio improvement while listening to the new LCD Soundsystem album over headphones, but not so much through the device's speakers.
Powered by Windows 7 Home Premium, the 3.7-pound Envy 13 is equipped with a 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo L9600, 3GB of RAM, and a 160GB solid state hard drive (hence the price premium). The system also comes with a 2-in-1 card reader, two USB 2.0 ports, a 3.5mm audio jack, and an HDMI port for displaying video, photos, and more on an HD television.
The system smoked our zero-point ultraportable, a Toshiba Portege R600 with a 1.4GHz Intel Mobile Core 2 Duo, 3GB of RAM, a 160GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and Windows Vista business. The Envy 13 scored an average of 217 seconds in a Photoshop CS3 benchmark, making it 33.6 percent faster than the zero-point system. Similarly, it completed our Proshow Producer test in 2,109 seconds, which is 47.7 percent faster than the zero-point system. For everyday tasks, like surfing the web and streaming Hulu videos, it was clear that the system had more than enough power, and we didn't experience any hang-ups or issues in that arena.
The Envy 13 isn't a gaming machine, but it was able to hold its own in a light gaming test running a Quake 3 benchmark at 1024x768. In that test, it managed to score a stellar 170.8fps. That's considerably better than the R600's 86.7 frames per second.
Perhaps our biggest gripe with the HP Envy 13 was some of the software HP had preinstalled on it. We were constantly bothered by the HP Support Assistant software. While we're thankful it's there, we wish it just sat quietly in the background. We were also bugged to purchase Norton Internet Security after the trial ended. Sure you can uninstall this bloatware, but after spending just over $1,700 on a system, you shouldn't be bombarded with what feels like advertisements.
The Envy 13's standard 4-cell lithium-ion battery was able to run for three hours, 23 minutes with the power setting set to Power Saver during our video rundown benchmark. That's well below the four hours and 37 minutes that our zero-point system was able to achieve, and with the optional external DVD player running, we expect that number to be even lower. We suggest going with a larger 6-cell if you want the notebook to last longer.
The Envy 13 is the ultraportable to be beat in terms of performance. HP will soon begin offering two new versions of the system, 14-inch and 17-inch models. With an elegant design that will impress just as much in the boardroom as it will in coffee shops, and hardware power that's nothing to sneeze at, the Envy 13 is a first-class device. Still, it lacks an optical drive, which the Toshiba R600 manages to accommodate, weighs a pound more than the R600, and doesn't have as good of a battery life, all of which are important considerations in an ultraportable notebook.
HP Envy 13
Sylish, magnesium-alloy frame; excellent LED display; jet-fast benchmark performance.
Expensive; mediocre battery life; no optical drive.
HP Envy 13
Photoshop CS3 (sec)
ProShow Producer (sec)
Quake 3 (fps)
Our zero-point ultraportable is a Toshiba Portege R600; with a 1.4GHz Intel Mobile Core 2 Duo, 3GB of DDR2/667 RAM, integrated graphics, a 160GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and Windows Vista Business 32-bit.