The latest HP Envy x360 13 is a mid-range thin notebook that works quite well, but what got me most interested about it is that it runs on an AMD Ryzen 4000 mobile CPU. Over the past few years, AMD has had to play catch up when it comes to CPU power and battery life, but based on my experiences with the Envy x360 13, it has caught up.
The basic system is notably thin and looks even thinner, with the edges on the bottom tapering up, giving the machine a svelte look. It measures 12.07 x 7.66 x 0.65 inches and weighs 2.92 pounds, with notably smaller bezels surrounding the top and bottom of the screen than last year’s model, so it’s less deep and therefore easy to carry or pack in a bag. It’s not quite as compact as the higher-end HP Elite Dragonfly but does have a 13.3-inch display.
Of course, the real story is performance. The unit I tried had a Ryzen 5-4500U, with 6 cores and a base speed of 2.3 GHz, but with a boost clock of 4.0 GHz. This does not offer SMT (Simultaneous multithreading), so you have 6 threads as well. It also has Radeon Graphics with 6 cores at 1500MHz. Other models are available with a Ryzen 3-4300U or a Ryzen 7-4700U, with the U signifying a 15-watt processor TDP, similar to the power envelope used in most thin laptops today.
Compared with recent consumer machines with the latest Intel 10th Generation mobile processors, such as the four-core/eight-thread Ice Lake-based Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 or the six-core/twelve-thread Comet Lake-based Dell XPS 13, the Ryzen 4500-based Envy x360 13 did quite well. On most benchmarks tests, the results were close, sometimes with the Ryzen winning, sometimes one of the Intel ones. One major difference: The Ryzen system did much better on Cinebench R20. On an internal test that uses MatLab, the Ryzen took 63 minutes compared with 46 minutes on the Comet Lake system and about 50 minutes on most of last year’s Whiskey Lake-based systems. But the Ryzen was faster than the Ice Lake system. (Note that the AMD processor required an updated version of MatLab to run.)
But it does depend on how you use the machine. One interesting part of the system is a function key that directly pulls up a Command Center screen (above) that lets you quickly switch among modes. I used the performance mode, and as I said the numbers looked quite good. Using the more standard Recommended mode, the numbers were about 10 percent less, and in “quiet” mode (which shuts off the fan), about 20 percent less. There’s a good reason that most people won’t run in “Performance mode”—it’s incredibly noisy. But in the recommended mode, the machine seemed quiet enough, only rarely turning on the fan.
The last generation of AMD Ryzen mobile chips had decent performance but didn’t match Intel on battery life. This time, things are different. On PCMark 10’s “Modern Office” battery test, I got 13 hours of battery life using the “recommended” setting, one of the best scores I’ve seen.
Bottom line: For just about any consumer, AMD has now bridged the gap, enabling machines that can compare favorably on performance or battery life with Intel-based machines.
As far as the rest of the machine goes, it’s quite nice. It’s not HP’s highest-end line—that would be the Spectre x360 family—but it does include all of the features you would want. It’s a x360, meaning it’s a 2-in-1 that includes a touch screen so you could theoretically turn the screen over and use it as a tablet, or put it in a “tent” mode for presentation. HP offers an optional pen with USB charging, and you can use pen and touch simultaneously. The model I used had an FHD 1920-by-1080 display with 300 nits of brightness. (Display upgrades include a brighter model and one with a privacy screen.)
Other interesting features include fast charging, an HD camera with a privacy shutter, and a dual-array microphone. It worked quite well in video conferencing, with the camera taking bright, wide-angle video.
The backlit keyboard is adequate, not the most comfortable I’ve used but not bad, with a good-sized touchpad that is responsive. The function keys are small but include special keys with lights to indicate when you’ve turned off the camera or the internal microphone. The power button is on the keyboard, which is great when using it as a laptop. On the right-hand side of the keyboard, where you might normally expect a second control key (as usual, there’s one on the left side), HP has placed a fingerprint reader.
The machine has HP specific-power port (which is beginning to be unusual), two full-size USB-A ports (which pop down a bit when you plug a USB cable or card into them), a microSD card reader, and a single USB-C port, which can be used for power, but that I mostly used with a Slimport USB-C-to-HDMI adapter for connecting an external monitor. I would have liked a separate HDMI port, but this worked. Other features include support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
The model I used was well priced at $799.99 list, with a Ryzen 5-4500U, 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 256 GB SSD. You can find other machines with smaller bezels or more high-end materials, but the Envy x360 13 covers almost everything I’d like in a consumer laptop—it’s thin and light, with good performance and great battery life.