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HP Envy x360 13 (2020) and HP Stylus Pen review

A solid 2-in-1 laptop for home or office use

HP Envy x360 13 (2020)
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The HP Envy x360 is an excellent machine for everyday work and streaming entertainment. The screen and speakers give you excellent video resolution and audio quality, even at extreme viewing angles and full volume. Digital artists may find it awkward to work with, especially if they're left-handed.

For

  • Excellent battery life
  • Quick charging
  • Speakers sound great at full volume
  • HP MPP 2.0 pen comfortable and easy to use

Against

  • USB port cover hinges feel weak and awkward
  • Pen has limited pressure sensitivity and tilt recognition
  • No 4K display option

Two-minute review

If you've been wanting a 2-in-1 laptop, the HP Envy x360 13 (2020) may just be the excuse you need to upgrade from your current device. Between the excellent audio, full HD display, and the quick-charging battery, it's hard to find anything wrong with this laptop. 

Specs Sheet

Here is the HP Envy x360 13 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4500U (6-cores, 4.0GHz boost)
Graphics: Integrated Radeon Graphics
RAM: 8GB DDR4 RAM
Screen: 13.3-Inch FHD Touchscreen
Storage: 256GB SSD
Ports: 1 x USB Gen 3.2 Gen 2 Type C, 2 x USB Gen 3.2 Gen 2 Type A, 1 x 3.5mm Audio, 1 x MicroSD
Connectivity: Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX 200 (2x2) and Bluetooth 5
Camera: Widescreen HD (720p) webcam
Weight: 2.92 lb (1.32kg)
Size: 12.07 x 7.66 x 0.65 in (30.66 x 19.45 x 1.65cm; W x D x H)

The HP Envy x360 13 sells for $799 (£799, AU$1,799), putting it in the same price tier as the $799 (£679, AU$1,249) Microsoft Surface Pro 7 and the $739 (£559, AU$1021) HP Pavilion x360 13. For such an affordable 2-in-1, the Envy x360 13 still packs some impressive hardware, with an AMD Ryzen 5 CPU and Radeon integrated graphics, so it can handle it all, whether you're looking to stream your favorite movies and shows or you’re working with video and digital art.

While the HP Envy x360 sounds like a dream come true, it does have a few drawbacks. The RAM and SSD are soldered, which means you’re stuck with the configuration you buy. While this may not be a concern for anyone who is just looking for a streaming laptop or a versatile work computer, anyone who likes the idea of being able to upgrade individual components rather than buying a new laptop every three years will be sorely disappointed. This means that you may have to drop a considerable chunk of change up front. 

The top-tier version goes for around $1,350 (£1,799, AU$2,699), which puts it out of reach of many professionals and home users. This doesn’t make it the most expensive laptop out there, but there are some mid-range and higher- end Ultrabooks that aren't even that expensive while still giving you excellent processing power, memory, storage, and graphics. It's all about balancing your current and future needs with your budget, and fortunately, the HP Envy x360 can be configured to accommodate even the most finance-conscious customers. 

The model sent to us for review had 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, but you can configure the Envy x360 13  with up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage. So, if you need more processing power or space for raw video and photo files or documents, there's a configuration for that.

HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

The display features incredibly thin bezels, giving you a great screen-to-body ratio and allowing the Envy x360 13 to fit a 13-inch screen in an 11-inch chassis. With a 1080p resolution, movies and still images look amazing, even at extreme angles; even sitting nearly parallel with the screen, we still don't notice any washout of colors or polarizing effects. This means you won't have to worry about sharing presentation drafts or watching movies with friends and having someone miss details because of bad viewing angles. 

While watching a variety of videos from EmmyMadeInJapan on YouTube, and even when cringing at pork-and-gumdrop cakes or dirt cookies, colors are vibrant and rich. Even old, public domain Superman cartoons and Hollywood Golden Age films look fresh and exciting; the saturation and range of color is on par with 4K or AMOLED displays, though detailing isn't nearly as crisp as a UHD display would be. The display also supports touch-based inputs in both tablet and laptop modes. With multi-touch support, you can zoom in and out of images and maps, swipe, and select areas quickly and easily – you can also use any Windows-based stylus pen to hand write notes, draw, or make quick edits to photos, videos, and documents. 

HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

HP provided us with the new HP MPP 2.0 Pen to get the full experience of using the Envy x360 for work and hobby art. We use several digital art apps, including Sketchable (free on the Windows App Store) and Adobe Photoshop. The pen itself feels very nice in the hand, weighing no more than a moderately nice ink pen, and features two adaptive buttons that work well for both right and left-handed users; it comes packaged with a USB-C charging cable and two extra nibs to replace worn or damaged ends. When fully charged, it has a 30-day battery life, meaning you can work all month before needing to recharge. 

(Image credit: Future)

In both apps, we get smooth, quick responses to inputs, but there was still some lag that could prove frustrating when working for long hours on a project. It also doesn't support a huge range of tilt recognition, making for some awkward pen strokes. If you're left handed, the lack of a Windows Lock key or way to turn off palm or wrist detection is an incredibly disappointing experience. Unless you tilt your screen or canvas at an awkward angle, you'll constantly open the Start Menu or tab out of your program by accident. You can use the pen to draw in laptop mode, but it's far from comfortable or easy. 

HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Despite these setbacks, using the pen for handwritten input is surprisingly simple. Even if you have terrible handwriting, the Envy x360's ability to parse letters and text is impressive. It can quickly detect single letters and words, but takes a bit longer to translate longer notes into digitized text. If you're looking for a pen that is comfortable for taking notes during meetings, the HP MPP 2.0 is a good choice, but if you're an artist, you may want to choose a different stylus. Unfortunately, however, the HP MPP 2.0 is not included with the device, and is available for $85 (£70, about AU$120).

The 180-degree hinges on the laptop feels very sturdy while remaining easy to move with one hand. The body of the laptop is made of aluminum, which gives it a quality feel without being too heavy. The whole thing weighs around 4 lb, which makes it ideal for carrying around the house and office or slipping into a backpack for your commute. 

The body also features a matte finish that prevents fingerprints and dust from showing up, keeping your laptop looking great no matter how often it's handled. An aluminum body reduces flex when typing, and while it may feel stiff and awkward when typing at first, it's great for preventing wear and tear from daily use. The keyboard itself has chiclet keys that give you smooth, fast feedback, but also feel very small – if you're used to larger laptops, or are switching from a desktop to using a laptop full-time, it will take some getting used to. 

HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

With three levels of backlighting (bright, dim, and completely off), it's easy to see the keys in just about any environment. This is great for when you want to use the laptop in meetings and backlighting would be a distraction; or you're typing up your 100,000 word slow-burn, hurt/comfort Spideypool fic and didn't realize it got dark in your living room, so you turn on the brightest backlight setting before penning the wedding scene.

If you're like us and can't do household chores or day-to-day work without some sort of background music, or if you work with audio for a living, you'll be very happy with the integrated Bang & Olufsen sound system and HP Audio Boost 2.0 technology. Laptop speakers have developed something of a bad reputation for delivering tinny, distorted audio at higher volumes, but the HP Envy x360 still sounds clear and rich on full blast. While bass tones aren't as hard-hitting as some may like, mid and high-range sounds are incredibly clean at any volume. There is virtually zero "buzz" from the chassis or speaker housings, preventing muddy audio. Everything from coffee shop acoustic sets and future funk to old-school Emo rock and hard-hitting doom metal sounds amazing with and without a headset. We do wish there was some sort of custom equalization software included to boost bass notes or prioritize dialogue, but as it stands, this is still a great sounding laptop that both audio professionals and home users will be thrilled with.

For security, the keyboard has a built-in fingerprint reader for password-free logins to your computer and online accounts. It also comes with free, 30-day trials of Express VPN to protect your privacy online and LastPass to keep track of your passwords and protect your accounts from unauthorized access. We do wish the built-in camera used infrared for use with Windows Hello, but there are plenty of other, more expensive laptops available with that feature. The Envy x360 has integrated camera and microphone kill switch buttons that physically cut power to further ensure privacy. The camera kill switch also puts up a physical shutter to block anyone who may have accessed your webcam from viewing your office or location. We also would like to have seen integrated encryption for the SSD to keep both work documents and personal information safe, but it's easy to find affordable encryption software and plans if you need that extra layer of security. 

HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

If you're worried that all of these amazing features make the laptop a power-hungry monster, you don't need to be. The HP website boasts a 13 hour battery life during normal office and home use, but our PC Mark 10 test puts it closer to 11 hours; our video playback tests also recorded an impressive 8.5 hour battery life. So you can stream Netflix or work all day before you need to think about charging. 

The laptop supports HP Fast Charging, giving you 50 percent battery in just 30 minutes, so you can top up your battery on your lunch break or while you're in a meeting. The keyboard backlighting turns off after the keys sit idle for some time, further preserving battery life. 

The AMD processor means no Thunderbolt 3, but you can still take advantage of USB-C charging speeds. Unfortunately, the laptop only has one USB-C port, so you won't be able to charge your computer and transfer data at the same time that way unless you have a dock. It does have two USB 3.0 ports with hinged covers to protect them from dust and damage, so you can connect external hard drives, flash drives, mice, keyboards, and other hard wired peripherals or USB powered office equipment when you need to. The hinges on the port covers feel a bit flimsy,and can also make it difficult to quickly connect peripherals and devices, which can be a hassle when you're in a hurry. The USB-C port can also be used to connect an external 4K display when you need a multi-monitor setup for video or audio work or just more efficient multitasking, which is good news for artists and video editors.

With the HP Command Center app, you can choose from several different fan speed profiles to balance cooling and noise. The silent operation mode is perfect for giving presentations or taking notes during a meeting when laptop fans could cause a distraction or make it difficult for everyone to hear. A comfort setting is available for when the laptop feels hot to the touch, allowing the fans to go into overdrive and work extra hard to blow excess heat out of the computer. 

Benchmarks

PC MARK 10 Performance: 4770
GeekBench 5 Single Core: 1113; Multi-Core: 4597
CineBench 20: 1880
Timespy: 904; FireStrike: 2445; NightRaid: 9966
PC MARK 10 Battery: 11 hours 4 minutes
VLC Player Battery Test: 8 hours 25 minutes

The performance setting is meant for when you're using programs and apps that can be taxing on your CPU to keep temperatures down for better processing times. Unless you're working with video and audio or complicated art programs like Photoshop or Illustrator, you'll rarely have to change from the recommended settings. Fan noise is never really an issue, even the performance and comfort settings are still quiet enough to not distract from movies, music, or work. The laptop also never got hot enough to cause alarm or warrant switching to the comfort fan mode, which was a relief since the slim and compact form factor was a concern for airflow. 

As an all around work and entertainment computer, you'd be hard pressed to find a better choice than the HP Envy x360. The thin and lightweight body makes it a dream to take with you on your commute to and from work, as well as to a coffee shop to pretend to write a screenplay while you scroll through Twitter until your matcha latte is cool enough to drink.

HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You need a laptop for both the office and at home
With Gigabit Wi-Fi support, you'll get blazing fast internet speeds for virtual meetings and streaming your favorite movies.

You need a quiet laptop
The internal cooling fans can be controlled with the HP Command Center app; you can choose between silent, comfort, and performance modes when you need to balance airflow with noise so as not to disturb office or cubicle mates.

You work with audio
The Bang & Olufsen sound system is designed to give you clean, crisp audio that fills the room without sounding tinny or distorted, even at full volume; perfect for audio engineers and recording artists.

Don't buy it if...

You like upgrading a laptop yourself
The HP Envy x360 has integrated RAM, graphics, and storage, so you can't drop in new components when you want to upgrade.

You're a left-handed digital artist
Without a Windows Lock key, drawing on the tablet can be a frustrating experience; your wrist and arm will constantly open up the Start Menu or tab out of your art program.

You have a lot of wired peripherals
This laptop only has two USB ports and one USB-C input, limiting how many hard-wired peripherals or other equipment you can connect to the computer.