HP Envy x360 (2020) review: AMD wins again

This 12 months’s HP Envy x360 is an enormous deal.

Traditionally, the Envy line has been HP’s midrange choice; it’s a rung above the funds Pavilion, however a rung under the flagship Spectre. This mannequin, which begins at $699, actually blurs the latter line. It’s simply the perfect laptop computer below $1,000 that you may purchase proper now. Not solely does the 2020 Envy x360 look as good and carry out in addition to final 12 months’s Spectre x360 (which begins at $1,099), however utilizing it additionally feels fairly much like utilizing HP’s $1,500 Elite Dragonfly, the most effective enterprise notebooks in the marketplace.

A giant a part of that’s its processor. The new Envy can include a couple of totally different AMD Ryzen 4000 chips. My $799 evaluate unit has the Ryzen 5-4500U, together with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. (It’s additionally outfitted with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.)

The six-core 4500U is meant to compete with Intel’s U-series Core i5, however its efficiency is corresponding to that of an i7. It flies. Throughout my on a regular basis shopping and streaming, in addition to my pretty heavy load of workplace work that features round a dozen apps and Chrome tabs with occasional downloads, Zoom calls, enhancing photographs, and copying recordsdata, every little thing was easy with no signal of slowdown.

Even extra spectacular are AMD’s built-in Radeon graphics, which might deal with some gaming. I used to be capable of run Overwatch at 1080p at a mean of 70fps on Medium and 62fps on High — each have been fairly playable. (The keyboard did get uncomfortably sizzling, although). Those outcomes are corresponding to what you’ll be able to count on from a lower-powered discrete GPU like a 10W GeForce MX150. It’s spectacular stuff for built-in graphics.

The system didn’t show as well-optimized for video enhancing, sadly. I tried to run our routine video check (which entails exporting a five-minute, 33-second 4K video) a number of instances utilizing {hardware} acceleration, and Adobe Premiere Pro persistently crashed in the course of the export. Disabling the {hardware} acceleration in Premiere and relying solely on software program acquired the job carried out, nevertheless it took an hour and 15 minutes. So in case you’ll have to be working with Premiere Pro for video on the go, don’t purchase this (a minimum of till Adobe fixes that drawback).

It’s not simply the Envy’s chip that stands out; it’s the mix of the chip and the chassis. AMD processors have largely been fodder for funds and midrange laptops for the previous few years. It’s been unusual to seek out an AMD chip in a premium choice (within the vein of Lenovo’s Thinkpad Carbon, the HP Spectre, or Acer’s Swift 5). That’s what’s so thrilling about this laptop computer: It pairs the Ryzen 4500U with a high-end design that appears and feels premium.

This is the nicest-looking Envy I’ve ever seen. Next to final 12 months’s mannequin, this one has a sleeker and chicer vibe. A giant a part of that’s the show: the 2020 Envy has an 88 % screen-to-body ratio, in comparison with 79 % on final 12 months’s mannequin. Twenty-four % has been shaved off the highest bezel’s measurement, and whereas HP hasn’t absolutely eradicated its backside bezel (as Dell just about did with the newest XPS 13), it has sliced off over 13mm. The result’s that HP has been capable of cram a 13-inch show into a way more compact footprint: the chassis is over 17mm shorter.

The shows on HP’s midrange laptops have knocked it out of the park in the previous couple of years, and this Envy isn’t any exception. The 13.3-inch 1080p show doesn’t have the distinction that you just’ll see on higher-end laptops just like the Spectre, nevertheless it’s definitely higher than I’d count on from an $800 machine.

HP sells 300-nit, 400-nit, and 1000-nit choices, which all have 1080p decision. You might want the brightest configuration in case you plan on doing work outdoor, however the 400-nit model, which I examined, is simply nice for indoor use. Colors are glorious, particulars are crisp, and I by no means had issues with glare, regardless of the panel’s shiny texture. The display screen additionally helps HP’s MPP2.Zero pen, although there’s no place on the laptop computer itself to retailer it when not in use. One factor to notice: it’s a 16:9 display screen, so that you gained’t have as a lot vertical house for internet shopping and doc work as you’d with a 16:10 machine just like the Dell XPS 13 or a 3:2 laptop computer just like the Surface Book 3. It’s maybe the one demerit I could make towards this show.

The Envy isn’t the lightest 13-inch laptop computer round at 2.9 kilos — I wouldn’t have needed to hold it round with one hand or use it as a pill for lengthy intervals of time — however the plus facet is that it’s fairly well-built and durable. There’s nearly no flex within the display screen or deck, and the entire aluminum chassis feels polished {and professional}. Holding it feels extra like holding the Dragonfly than many midrange opponents. To nitpick, the hinge is a bit free; often, after I was attempting to make use of the Envy with the display screen tilted far again, it might inadvertently slip into pill mode. This is much from a deal-breaking drawback, after all.

The firm has added a couple of hotkeys to the keyboard. There are kill switches for the microphone and webcam. F1 brings up Windows 10 on-line help, F4 toggles the keyboard’s backlighting, and F12 conjures the HP Command Center the place you’ll be able to modify the Envy’s thermal profile (extra on that later). There’s a studying curve right here — I unintentionally bricked the mic a pair instances — however every key has an LED indicator to assist observe what’s on and off.

The keys themselves are each agency and quiet, with a easy and cozy texture. It’s a wonderful keyboard. At the danger of sounding like a damaged document, typing on it appears like typing on the Dragonfly.

For ports, there’s a microSD slot, two USB-A, and a USB-C (no Thunderbolt 3, sadly). High-end laptops this skinny usually remove USB-A ports, however HP has managed to squeeze them in with trapdoor hinges that cowl the underside half. I like this choice as a result of loads of folks nonetheless personal older peripherals that use USB-A. In an ideal world, given the shortage of Thunderbolt, HDMI could be on my wishlist.

The Envy comes with stereo audio system and a Bang & Olufsen audio management middle. There, you’ll be able to swap between presets for Music, Movie, and Voice, in addition to equalizer settings for various tunes. The audio system sounded good (as laptop computer audio system go), and I didn’t thoughts watching movies or enjoying Spotify with out something exterior plugged in. The Voice profile even helped mitigate some background noise throughout Zoom calls.

As talked about earlier, the Envy was usually heat however by no means noticeably sizzling throughout my each day workplace work. Only throughout gaming was it uncomfortable to the contact. In HP’s Command Center, you’ll be able to change the Thermal Profile. There’s HP’s Recommended preset, Comfort (to maintain issues cool), and Quiet (to maintain the followers down). I largely used HP’s Recommended setting for my each day duties, and whereas I may often hear a little bit of a boring whine if I listened for it, the followers weren’t audible from a couple of toes away. (They’re fairly loud on Performance, after all, which you’ll wish to use for the perfect gaming outcomes.)

Battery life can also be good. With brightness round 200 nits, and with energy and followers on HP’s advisable profile, I averaged about eight hours on a cost. That ought to get you thru a workday and is longer than we acquired with the newest Spectre x360. (Of course, mileage will fluctuate with extra demanding duties.)

Finally, bloatware is typically a priority on sub-$1,000 laptops. The machine does include some preinstalled, together with McAfee, ExpressVPN, and Candy Crush, which you’ll wish to dump to liberate storage. But refreshingly, I didn’t encounter intrusive pop-ups or every other annoying stuff.

Reviews of funds and midrange laptops are sometimes a query of what you’re buying and selling off for that cheaper price level. I’ve identified some locations the place the Envy doesn’t fairly measure as much as the perfect laptops in the marketplace (the dimmer display screen, the wobblier hinge, the side ratio, the video enhancing troubles), however the one purpose we’re even having that dialogue is that this laptop computer feels prefer it’s competing with the highest of the road. Between the Envy x360 and different $800 laptops, there’s no contest. This is aiming on the large leagues; it is a Spectre.

The thesis of this evaluate is that I’ve nearly no complaints. This is an outstanding pc, and it’s frankly weird that it’s solely $800. Don’t purchase final 12 months’s Spectre. Buy this.

Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge

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