HP Envy x360 13: An affordable laptop with Ryzen 4000 and other perks

HP's Envy x360 13 might just be the best deal in thin-and-lights right now.

Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

HP’s Ryzen 4000-powered Envy x360 13 proves that you can get first-class features for coach pricing. Don’t believe me? Here are some of the goodies included: 

  • Decent 13.3-inch IPS panel with good off-axis viewing, touch and optional pen support
  • Solid all-aluminum body with 360-convertible hinges
  • Speakers that actually sound better than the ones on a lot of larger 15.6-inch gaming laptops
  • And the crown jewel, a mid-priced Ryzen 4000 CPU with high-end CPU performance

In fact, the HP Envy x360 13 we tested is so good, yet so affordable (despite a few corners cut to save cost), that you might not be able to get it. At the time of this writing, our exact, $799 configuration was sold out. 

There are alternatives. A nearly identical model with a smaller 128GB SSD is $730 on HP.com. For $820 at Walmart you can get another nearly identical version, the difference being a higher-end Ryzen 7 4700U CPU. You can find another Ryzen 7 4700U-based model (Envy x360 13-ay-0021nr), with a heftier 16GB of memory and 512GB SSD, for $1,000 on HP.com. If you're a Costco member, the best alternative deal is there: A Ryzen 7 4700U with 8GB of RAM and 512GB SSD, for $750 through August 30 (discounted from $900 list). 

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.

hp envy x360 2 Gordon Mah Ung

HP Envy x360 13 Specs and Features

As one of the first handful of Ryzen 4000 laptops we’ve tested, we were interested to see what was under the hood. Other than the new CPU it’s largely like any other budget laptop, with an adequate configuration—though we did notice and appreciate the Wi-Fi 6 and tote-able 2.8-pound weight.

CPU: 6-core, 6-thread AMD Ryzen 5 4500U

GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics

RAM: 8GB DDR4/3200

Display: 13.3-inch, 1920x1080 IPS touch screen with MPP pen support using an optional pen

Storage: 256GB Kioxia NVMe PCIe 3.0 x2  SSD

Wireless: Intel Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0

Dimensions: 12.1 x 7.6 x 0.6 inches

Weight: 2.8 pounds, 3.4 total with AC adapter

Battery: 50 Watt-hour

In build quality, the Envy x360 13’s aluminum body feels very rigid. Holding it by one corner with the lid open exhibits minimal body flexing. The SSD is a in a slot, and while not intended to be user-upgradeable, obviously it could be.

Ports

We’ll let the pictures for the Envy x360 13 speak for themselves. First up is the left side with an analog combo jack, SuperSpeed USB Type-A (5Gbps) and SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps Type-C. The USB-A port uses a “dropjaw” latch that can be expanded when you insert a USB key, keyboard or other standard USB-A device. The USB-C port supports USB data transfer and can output DisplayPort or HDMI if you have the right dongle.

There is no Thunderbolt 3, which opens up opportunities for fast external storage or external GPUs, or single-cable displays. That’s an expensive port to implement and is more common on pricier machines. (Psst: We just saw one on the Acer Spin 3 ($650 at Costco.) 

hp envy x360 7 Gordon Mah Ung

The left side of the HP Envy gives you an analog combo jack, USB-A 5GBps port and USB-C 10Gbps port.

The right side of the HP Envy x360 includes a microSD reader, and a second SuperSpeed USB Type-A (5Gbps) port that can charge a phone even when the laptop is off. There’s also a port for the 65-watt barrel charger.

hp envy x360 4 Gordon Mah Ung

A microSD reader, SuperSpeed USB-A (5Gbps) and barrel charger populate the right side of the HP Envy x360 13.

Yes, you heard us right: a barrel charger. If your eyes are rolling because you thought old-school round laptop plugs could be found only in $150 Chromebooks and $250 budget Windows laptops, that’s not true.

The reason HP included the barrel charger is likely cost. A USB-C charger is a pricey add. The power brick is at least rounded rather than a truly old-school brick, but the cloth braid you get on the fancy HP Spectre x360 isn’t used either. 

hp envy x360 8 Gordon Mah Ung

A 65-watt barrel charger definitely tells you this isn’t a luxury laptop.

HP does, at least, build USB Power Delivery into the USB-C port, so you could pick up a tiny 60-watt GAN charger and go on the road with that instead. Of course with just a single USB-C port, you would have to juggle any other USB-C devices. We’re in this middle age where some of us cling to our USB-A ports, while others yearn for USB-C, and it’s hard to please everyone. 

Keyboard and Trackpad

hp envy x360 9 Gordon Mah Ung

The keyboard has a sensible layout, very defined two-level backlight, and good key travel. HP features a dedicated power button as well as keys for a camera cut-off, mic-off, and a key to launch HP’s Command Center.

The Command Center gives you instant access to the Thermal Profile settings, where you can boost performance or put the laptop into a near-fanless quiet mode. Most consumers would never know they could make these changes, so more exposure is better. It does, however, sacrifice the dedicated print screen button, which some people might miss.

The trackpad supports Microsoft’s Precision drivers. Despite its wider aspect ratio, it has good palm rejection. The surface, however, is one of the rougher ones we’ve fingered in some time. Moving from a butter-smooth trackpad such as the one in MSI’s GS66 Stealth to the HP’s feels like you’re putting your fingers on fine sandpaper. That could be a matter of personal preference.

hp envy x360 6 Gordon Mah Ung

The back of the Envy x360 features one set of real vents and one set of fake vents.

Display

The HP Envy x360 13 has an interesting display. It’s a “1-watt” display, which means it can draw as low as 1 watt of power under some conditions. (We had thought this technology was exclusive to Intel platforms, but it appears not to be.) 

But as with many lower-cost laptops, the brightness is sacrificed to save cost. HP rates the Envy x360 13 at 300 nits’ maximum brightness, but we measured ours below that. Most premium laptops will hit a minimum of 300 nits, with many pushing 400 to 500 nits.

The unusually good speakers

We approach most laptop speakers with low expectations, but the Envy x360 13 surprised us. Like most small-bodied laptops, the Envy x360 13’s are down-firing. A comparable laptop with top-firing speakers, such as the premium HP Elite Dragonfly, sounds louder, with less distortion. The Elite Dragonfly’s premium Bang & Olufsen-tuned speakers also outshine the Envy x360 13 in mid-range and bass response. 

Still, the Envy x360 13 is surprisingly loud—actually richer and louder than many larger gaming laptops. The XPG Xenia 15’s speakers, for example, sound appallingly thin compared to the Envy x360’s. (That pretty much tells you about the state of audio quality in most gaming laptops these days, when a 13-inch mid-range ultrabook sounds better.)

Storage performance

The laptop features a microSD slot that lets you easily add semi-permanent storage to the laptop. The card protrudes a little less than a millimeter when inserted. Our pro tip is to put tape over the card to prevent it from falling out, should you brush up against it.

The performance of the actual card reader is fair. Using a SanDisk Extreme 256GB card, we logged about 73MBps writes and 94MBps reads. The card is rated for about 90MBps writes and 160MBps read speeds—but the latter is only when using SanDisk’s proprietary USB reader.

One of the less impressive features in the Envy x360 13 is its storage. The Toshiba/Kioxa SSD is M.2 NVMe and PCIe Gen 3, but oddly it uses only two PCIe lanes. In most higher-end laptops, the SSD will use four PCIe lanes. In CrystalDisk Mark 7, that means the drive will hit about 1.5GBps reads and 1GBps writes. A x4 drive in a higher-end laptop might push 2.5GBps read speeds and closer to 2GBps writes. This difference matters little in everyday use, but you’ll notice when copying very large files to the laptop.

hp envy x360 webcam vs hp dragonfly elite x360 IDG

HP’s Ryzen-powered Envy x360 on the left and HP’s Elite Dragonfly on the right.

Webcam design and quality

Webcams matter now, when the pandemic has forced may of us to work remotely. Most are 720p resolution, including the one on the Envy x360 13. While it’s not a spiffy Windows Hello-enabled biometric camera, its image quality appears to be comparable to that of its corporate cousin, the HP Elite Dragonfly. We still favor the warmer rendering the Elite Dragonfly’s camera gives. For biometrics, HP integrates a finger pad reader where the right Control button would normally go. 

hp envy x360 14 Gordon Mah Ung

An automatic cover slides over the webcam when the privacy shutter button is pushed.

HP has been pushing cut-off circuits and sliding covers for webcams for the last few years, but this is the first we’ve seen from the company with an automated shutter. Push the dedicated camera-off button, and a physical shutter inside the bezel will slide over the camera lens. The shutter is white, so you can see fairly easily that it’s closed. HP also removes the camera from Windows Device Manager. When the webcam is switched on, but not actually activated, HP even notifies you with a Windows pop-up. With this webcam, there’s little chance that the Internet will glimpse you eating a Sloppy Joe while sitting in front of your computer in a stained t-shirt.

hp envy x360 12 Gordon Mah Ung

At the push of a button, you can instantly block the camera and remove it from Windows 10.

Keep reading for performance—Ryzen 4000 continues to impress!

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Gordon Mah Ung

Gordon Mah Ung

PC World (US online)
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