- Solid build
- Ryzen 5 4500U performs on par or better than comparable Core i7
- Decent speakers
- SSD is disappointingly slow
- Screen could be brighter
Best Prices Today: HP Envy x360 13
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. However, you can customize it into being by upgrading components on this nearly-identical model (with a smaller 128GB SSD by default), currently $700 on HP.comRemove non-product link. For $820 at WalmartRemove non-product link 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.comRemove non-product link. 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 30Remove non-product link (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 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, 1920×1080 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.
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.)
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.
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 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
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.
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.)
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.
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 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.
Keep reading for performance—Ryzen 4000 continues to impress!
HP Envy x360 13 Performance
For testing, we ran the Envy x360 13 using its out-of-box default setting of “HP recommended,” as well as the laptop’s Performance setting via the HP Command Center.
Our first test for the Ryzen 5 4500U is the CPU-focused Cinebench R15. It’s a test built on an older version of Maxon’s Cinema4D rendering engine and measures performance of a CPU rendering a 3D model. While 3D modelling on a 13.3-inch laptop isn’t what most people are doing, the test is a good stand-in for how well a laptop will perform at multi-threaded tasks.
The Ryzen 5 4500U is built on AMD’s game-changing Zen 2 cores and features six cores, but it doesn’t have Symmetrical Multi-Threading turned on. Based on the price of the Envy x360 13, you really should expect to get mid-range to budget performance. But the Envy x360 and its Ryzen 5 deliver better—basically premium performance that runs right up against Intel’s newest and most powerful 10th-gen chips.
In multi-core performance, only Intel’s 10th-gen Core i7-10710U, with its six cores and 12 threads, outruns the Ryzen 5 4500U. That mid-range Ryzen 5 even holds its own against the four-core, eight-thread Core i7-1065G7 found in so many premium laptops.
While Cinebench R15 performance might be good way to represent how well a CPU can run highly multi-threaded tasks, most mainstream applications are single-threaded, so we run Cinebench R15 again using a single CPU thread. The single-threaded performance of the Envy x360 13 is solidly in the middle of the pack, but in real life it would be very hard to tell the difference.
Modern laptops are mostly limited by how well they manage heat. The less heat from the CPU or GPU (or ambient temperature), the higher and longer they can boost clock speeds and finish a task quickly. To simulate a heavier load we run the free utility HandBrake to encode a 30GB, 1080p file using the Android Tablet preset. Shorter times are better.
While the performance preset hasn’t yielded great dividends with other laptops we’ve tested, when we tried it with the Envy 360 13 we saw a very decent 11-percent decrease in how long it takes to convert the file. We also see just how potent the cooler running Ryzen 5 4500U is: The only laptops in its class that outperform the Envy 13 x360 are the MSI Prestige 14 set to its performance setting, and the Acer Swift 3—no surprise given its 8-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 4700U CPU. (We include for reference Dell’s older and larger XPS 15 7590 laptop, though that’s really a different class of computer.)
To get a feel for how it performs in mundane everyday tasks, we also run PCMark 8’s Work test, using the CPU rather than GPU acceleration. The Envy x360 13 gives up ground to the more premium laptops (plus Acer’s cheaper, yet gutsier, Swift 3) due to its lower clock speeds, but the results are so close that you probably can’t tell the difference. The lesson is that if all you do is sit in a browser, or work in Office while watching a Youtube stream in the background, then picking a laptop should probably focus more on screen, keyboard, trackpad, speakers and even color, rather than on the fancy CPU or GPU specs.
For those who seek some graphics performance for light-duty games, we run UL’s 3DMark Sky Diver test. For the most part, the Ryzen 5 4500U delivers performance similar to that of Intel’s current premium 10th-gen Core i7-1065G7. In other words, a midrange chip that’s supposed to compete with a Core i5-1035G1 or Intel’s UHD graphics is punching above its weight class, delivering premium graphics performance at a mainstream price.
Our last test is likely the most important for anyone who buys this class of laptop: battery life. We charge the laptop’s battery to full, set display brightness to 250 to 260 nits, enable airplane mode set, and plug in earbuds at midrange volume. Then we loop a 4K video file using Windows’ Movies & TV app, until the laptop shuts down.
While the Envy x360 13’s 1-watt display surely helps battery life, the use of DDR4 memory probably doesn’t. A more advanced laptop might have LPDDR4X memory, which is more energy-efficient but also more expensive. The older DDR4 in the Envy x360 13 somewhat limits graphics performance, and it also consumes more power than LPDDR4X.
The battery capacity is a fair 51 Watt-hours, and the Envy x360 13 gets a very respectable 10-plus hours of run time in our test. While that doesn’t touch the 14-hour range of its Intel-based rivals, it’s closer than AMD-based laptops have reached in prior generations.
The HP Envy x360 13 is one of only a handful of Ryzen 4000-based laptops we’ve reviewed, but it reinforces a sea change we’re seeing in performance available to consumers.
You are literally getting premium CPU and graphics performance that would typically cost you two to three hundred dollars more with an Intel CPU. For example, last year’s Intel-based Envy x360 13 with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage cost roughly the same $800 as this current Ryzen-based model, but the newer model far outstrips the older in CPU performance. You’re also getting a laptop that hits many right notes in fit and finish. It’s not perfect by far, but this is overall an impressive laptop at a great price.