One of the first laptops to sport AMD’s latest fourth-generation Ryzen U-series processors, the HP Envy x360 13 (starts at $679.99) combines above-average computing performance with a thin, light, and stylish chassis. It also includes a convenient automatic webcam privacy filter, a high-quality screen, and a comfortable keyboard. Ringing up at $889.99 in our Ryzen 5-based test model with all of these features, the Envy x360 13 is also a good value, clinching our Editors’ Choice award for best midrange 2-in-1 convertible laptop.
King of Midrange 2-in-1s
HP’s Envy line is a longtime favorite of ours. It’s the company’s midrange brand, positioned below the flagship Spectre lineup and above the entry-level Pavilion models. The 13-inch Envy laptop is available in either a conventional clamshell chassis or the x360 model (13z-ay000) reviewed here. The latter has a 360-degree hinge that lets you use it as a conventional laptop, prop it up as a tent or easel, or fold the keyboard flush with the display for use as a tablet.
All of this flexibility comes at the cost of a slightly thicker and heavier chassis, though one still compact enough to not be a burden when you’re carrying it in a backpack. The Envy x360 13 measures 0.65 by 12.1 by 7.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.92 pounds. In contrast, the wood-paneled Envy 13 clamshell that we reviewed earlier this year measures 0.57 by 12.1 by 8.3 inches and weighs 2.82 pounds.
The light and compact chassis is also quite pleasing to behold. I’m a fan of the Nightfall Black color scheme, which lends the laptop a sophisticated look. It’s not as whimsical or unusual as the walnut paneling that is an option on the non-convertible version of the Envy, but it’s a refreshing break from the sea of silver and gray machines that make up most of the premium ultraportable laptop market.
Inside, the Envy x360 13 offers a choice of AMD Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, or Ryzen 7 processors, 8GB or 16GB of memory, and up to 1TB of solid-state storage. All configurations use the AMD Radeon Graphics built into the Ryzen processor to handle graphics output. Our review unit is a mid-level configuration, with a six-core Ryzen 5 4500U, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB solid-state drive.
The Full HD Display
The Envy x360 13’s touch-screen display measures 13.3 inches diagonally, a common screen size for ultraportables. It’s available only in full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) resolution, which I find perfectly adequate for most tasks, though you may occasionally see slightly fuzzy text. The laptop doesn’t have the option of a 4K resolution or OLED display, both of which are available on the more expensive Spectre x360 13.
Our review unit’s display has an LED backlight with a rated brightness of 400 nits, which is perfectly viewable in most indoor situations. Entry-level models have a dimmer 300-nit panel. HP also offers the Envy x360 with a 1,000-nit display with integrated privacy filter, though I’ve found that while such screens do block adjacent-seat snoops, they’re harder to read and will likely only appeal to people who frequently access sensitive data in tight quarters.
The display extends almost completely to the edges of the laptop, making the bezels extremely thin on the sides. The top bezel is slightly thicker to accommodate one of the Envy x360 13’s niftiest features: a 720p webcam with a built-in privacy shutter. HP uses this automatic shutter on a few of its most recent laptop models, including the otherwise ho-hum Envy 17, and it’s the best solution I’ve seen yet to addressing the problem of accidentally leaving your camera on. When you’re not using the webcam, simply press the key to the right of the power button. You’ll hear a faint click and see the white cover snap shut almost instantaneously.
This is far better than placing a piece of tape over the webcam, and it’s more elegant than a physical slider that requires you to close it manually. The only minor downside is that the mechanism takes up enough space that there’s no room for IR sensors to let you log in to Windows 10 via face recognition. You can use the fingerprint reader mounted on the keyboard for password-less logins instead.
Cramped Touchpad, Unique I/O Ports
The Envy x360 13 offers a comfortable typing experience, with well-spaced keys that feel sturdy and make a satisfying thud when you press them. I especially appreciate the modern-looking, oversize font used for the key labels. The keyboard is backlit, and it features dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys along the right edge.
The cramped touchpad is far less comfortable than the keyboard is. It’s accurate enough, but I found my finger frequently slipping off the upper edge and striking the space bar above it. In fairness to HP, there simply isn’t enough room to make the touchpad bigger front-to-back without sacrificing keyboard space. Other 13.3-inch laptops with larger touchpads, like the Apple MacBook Air, have significantly larger chassis and more room to work with.
Of late, HP has been taking unorthodox approaches to the placement of input/output ports on its laptops. The Spectre x360 has ports embedded in the rear corners, an ingenious way to make sure that cords plugged into them stick out to the sides and don’t take up unnecessary desk space. All of the Envy x360 13’s ports are located along the edges of the laptop, but the USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports don’t quite fit. So HP uses jaw-style drop hinges for them, which is something typically only seen for much larger Ethernet jacks. It’s a different approach than simply omitting USB-A ports altogether, which Apple and Dell have done for their flagship laptops, though it’s not without risk. Since the drop hinges are moving parts, they could break or wear out.
In addition to the two USB Type-A ports, there’s also a single USB-C port, a headphone jack, a power port, and a microSD card reader. Wireless connections on our review unit include 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5, although the entry-level version supports the older 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard.
The Envy x360 13’s dual speakers project through grilles at the bottom of the laptop, and offer the best sound quality when the laptop is propped up like a tent or easel with the bottom facing you.
Although HP, Dell, Asus, Acer, and Lenovo all compete in the crowded 2-in-1 convertible market, most of the newest models in the Envy x360 13’s price range that we’ve tested have come from Lenovo. They include the Yoga C640, the Yoga C740, and the IdeaPad Flex 5 14; the last is the only other 4th-generation Ryzen U-series laptop we’ve tested to date. The Yoga C740 and the IdeaPad Flex 5 both have 14-inch screens, while the Yoga C640’s screen size matches that of the Envy x360 13.
For the purposes of comparing computing performance, the Dell Inspiron 14 7000 is also worth mentioning. It’s a conventional clamshell laptop in the configuration we reviewed, but the Inspiron 7000 series is also available in 2-in-1 configurations with a 13-inch screen size.
Based on the performance of the IdeaPad Flex 5 14, which has the same processor as the Envy x360 13, I was expecting the HP to perform very well both in our benchmark tests and in everyday use, and I was not mistaken. Our PCMark 10 test measures overall performance in everyday computing tasks like web browsing, spreadsheet editing, and videoconferencing. The IdeaPad Flex 5 14 and the Envy x360 13 are grouped closely together on this test, with excellent scores (we consider anything over 4,000 points first-class) and a comfortable margin over the rest of the field.
We use PCMark 8 to measure storage performance. Laptops with SSDs all tend to finish in the same neighborhood, indicating a speedy storage drive.
The Envy x360 13’s performance advantage extends to multimedia editing tasks as well. On workflows like editing an image in Adobe Photoshop, rendering a 3D graphic in Maxon Cinebench, and transcoding a video with Handbrake, the Envy x360 13 commands a respectable performance improvement over the two Yogas and the Inspiron.
Note that in the Cinebench and Handbrake tests, there’s a small but noticeable difference between the IdeaPad Flex 5 14 and the Envy x360 13. Most of the IdeaPad’s superiority here likely comes from its increased 16GB of RAM, but the Lenovo’s larger physical size could also play a role by offering greater room for cooling under intense heat-generating workloads. (See how we test laptops.)
Our gaming simulation benchmarks tell a similar story. Thanks to the superior Radeon Graphics that come with the Ryzen processors, the IdeaPad Flex 5 and the Envy x360 13 both command a sizable lead over the two Yoga laptops in our 3DMark and Superposition tests. Both of these benchmarks render and pan through detailed 3D scenes of gaming-style 3D graphics and measure how the system copes. The Yoga laptops are equipped with humble Intel UHD integrated graphics and trail the field.
The advanced capabilities of the Radeon Graphics silicon suggest decent performance for casual gamers at low resolutions like 720p. The Superposition results show that the Envy x360 13 can achieve frame rates of around 40 frames per second under the right conditions. Still, that’s not quite as good as an entry-level discrete GPU such as the Nvidia GeForce MX250 in the Inspiron 14 7000.
Potential for All-Day Battery Life
To measure laptop battery life, we loop a locally stored 720p video with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system quits. The Envy x360 13’s three-cell, 51-watt-hour battery managed to last for 13 hours in this test. That’s on the low side for an ultraportable, as you can see from the 20-plus hours that the Inspiron and Yoga C640 endured in our rundown test.
However, 13 hours should more than get you through a day of intermittent casual work, and indeed during the multiple days I used the Envy x360 13, I only had to charge it overnight. HP also advertises a fast-charging capability for the laptop, which can bring the battery from empty to approximately half its capacity in 30 minutes.
Need 2-in-1 Flexibility? It’s an Enviable Choice
The Envy x360 13 offers everything we expect from HP’s Envy brand, including a solid blend of standard features, above-average computing performance, and a palatable price. This 2-in-1 convertible is among the vanguard of models equipped with AMD’s latest 4th-generation Ryzen U-series processors, which promise better computing muscle for CPU-intensive tasks than their Intel counterparts, without requiring significant negative changes to a laptop’s physical design, or too much impact on battery life.
While the Envy x360 13 is an excellent choice in the midrange 2-in-1 convertible ultraportable category, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 will tempt value seekers, offering slightly faster performance for several hundred dollars less. Its so-so display is inferior to the Envy’s sunny screen, however.
The Envy will soon face many challengers in its crowded field. Fourth-generation Ryzen U-series processors are already available in some Dell Inspiron models, and we expect them to appear in plenty more laptops this year. For now, however, the HP Envy x360 13 is the best midrange 2-in-1 laptop you can buy.
HP Envy x360 13 (2020) Specs
|Laptop Class||Convertible 2-in-1|
|Processor||AMD Ryzen 5 4500U|
|Processor Speed||2.3 GHz|
|RAM (as Tested)||8 GB|
|Boot Drive Type||SSD|
|Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested)||256 GB|
|Screen Size||13.3 inches|
|Variable Refresh Support||None|
|Screen Refresh Rate||60 Hz|
|Graphics Processor||AMD Radeon Graphics|
|Wireless Networking||802.11ax, Bluetooth|
|Dimensions (HWD)||0.65 by 12.07 by 7.66 inches|
|Operating System||Windows 10|
|Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes)||12:58|