HP Envy 13 (2020, Wood Edition) review

The HP Envy 13 (2020, Wood Edition) review. HP leads the industry in laptop design, employing new materials, features and form factors in its latest models. The latest risk? Adding genuine wood to the deck of the Envy 13 (reviewed at $1,099). Visually, the laptop is a success, beautifully blending a natural walnut surface with dark-toned aluminum. Along with its head-turning chassis, the Envy 13 delivers a bright and vivid 13.3-inch, 4K display and a comfortable keyboard.

I just wish HP hadn’t extended the wood inlay across the touchpad, because the coarse surface isn’t comfortable to use over long periods. Moreover, the 4K Envy 13 did poorly on our battery test, which compromises the laptop’s portability. I’m also annoyed by all the bloatware HP installed on such a premium notebook. For these reasons, the Envy 13 Wood Edition falls just short of being HP’s latest success story.

The HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition) price and configuration options

There is currently only one configuration of the Envy 13 available on HP.com. That $1,099 model, the one we reviewed, comes with a Core i7-1065G7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD with 32GBs of Intel Optane memory.

HP Envy 13 (Wood edition) specs

Price: $1,099
CPU: Intel Core i7-1065G7
GPU: Intel Iris Plus
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 512GB
Display: 13.3-inch, 4K
Battery: 6:31
Size: 12.1 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.8 pounds

Let’s hope HP adds a model with 16GB of RAM in the near future; 8GB just doesn’t cut it for power users.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition) design

If I didn’t work in a concrete jungle where driving is akin to playing bumper cars, then I’d buy myself a Jeep Wagoneer, an iconic station wagon more affectionately known as the “Woody.” The wood panelling on this beloved vehicle makes it one of the most recognizable cars ever built.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition)
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Now, HP is using the same aesthetic on the Envy 13 laptop, and I’m all about it. Running across the Envy 13’s palm rest and touchpad is a genuine wood inlay. Our review unit features a dark brown walnut panel, which matches well with the laptop’s earthen “Nightfall” black aluminum deck and lid. Centered on that lid is HP’s stylish chrome logo, while the deck flaunts a slim, illuminated power button and an attractive triangle-patterned speaker grill.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition)
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The dark natural tones make the Envy 13 a good fit for a buttoned-up business meeting, but don’t be surprised when the person next to you leans in to marvel at the timber. The only knock I have on the design of this wooden notebook is that the fingerprint sensor, a solid-brown plastic piece, looks cheap against the wood grain.

HP showed us ceramic white and silver models with a pale birch-wood inlay. Unfortunately, there is no word yet on if or when these lighter options will be available.

At 12.1 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches and 2.8 pounds, the Envy 13 Wood Edition is the same size and weight as the previous, metal edition and predictably more portable than the 14-inch Lenovo Yoga C940 (12.6 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches, 3 pounds). The Samsung Notebook 9 Pro (12.1 x 8.1 x 0.6 inches) is a tad lighter and smaller than the HP.

The HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition) ports

The Envy 13 employs a clever “drop-jaw” hinge that allows for two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, one on each side of the laptop.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition)
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Along with those two USB-A inputs, the Envy 13 has a Thunderbolt 3 port and a headphone jack on the left side, along with a microSD card slot on the right.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition)
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition) display

The 13.3-inch, 4K (3840 x 2160-pixel) panel on our review unit gets bright and has fairly saturated colors.

Splurging on those extra pixels gets you an incredibly detailed screen that is so sharp I could see individual petals in a floating sunflower moments before it crashed against pavement in a trailer for Artemis Fowl.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition)
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

In a scene with hundreds of bikers driving down a ramp, each of their helmets popped with a different color, from ruby pink to baby blue. The Envy’s nontouch panel doesn’t have the same burst as others I’ve tested, especially those with HDR support, but I was happy with the vibrance of the colors. Best of all, the screen gets very bright — bright enough that I could focus on the screen despite my reflection bouncing off the glossy finish.

The Envy 13’s 4K panel reached 401 nits, which is brighter than the displays on the Notebook 9 Pro (254 nits), the Yoga C940 (394 nits) and the previous Envy 13 (397 nits). The premium laptop average is 358 nits.

According to our colorimeter, the Envy 13’s display covers 116% of the sRGB color gamut, which is a decent, but somewhat disappointing showing for a 4K display. The Yoga C940’s display (139%) is much more vivid, and the Notebook 9 Pro’s panel (118%) also topped the Envy 13’s. At least the new Envy 13 is an improvement over its predecessor (109%), even if it doesn’t quite hit the category average (122%).

The HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition) keyboard and touchpad

HP deserves props for resisting the impulse to use low-profile keys like those on Dell’s and Apple’s flagship laptops.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition)
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The satisfying travel on the Envy 13’s keys assisted my fingers as they bounced from one key to the next. Better yet, I rarely made an error while typing this review (grammatical excluded), thanks to the large size and generous spacing of the keys. I’m also a fan of the lifted hinge, which angles the keyboard downward for a more comfortable wrist-resting position.

That said, there is a stickiness to the keys that makes them feel a tad sluggish. I hope HP continues to tinker with the keyboard, because it’s a few tweaks away from perfection. Until then, the only laptop in this class with a better typing experience is the Surface Laptop 3.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition)
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I wrote at 125 words per minute with a 98% accuracy rate on the 10FastFingers.com typing test, which is faster and more precise than my usual 119-wpm at 95% accuracy averages.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition)
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Now, about the wooden touchpad. It’s not great, to put it bluntly. The problem isn’t that the touchpad doesn’t work properly — I had no problems browsing the web and executing Windows 10 gestures with it — it’s the wood finish itself.

The friction caused by what feels like unfinished wood is nowhere near as comfortable as a smooth, glass surface. I hope HP learns from this mistake and limits the wood detailing to the palm rests.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition) audio

These are some decent speakers. The Envy 13’s quad speaker — a pair on the deck and two more below — got loud enough to fill our medium-sized lab. I was impressed that the speakers didn’t distort or sound shrill when I played Anthony Green’s “A Little Death” at maximum volume. The singer’s soaring falsetto sounded clear throughout the song, even during the bridge and climax.

Bass-heavy songs, like Jay Z and Kayne West’s “No Church in the Wild,” suffer from anemic bass, and the treble in songs with electric guitar can sound overly bright. Overall, the Envy 13’s speakers sound solid for such a portable laptop, but the Yoga C940 is still the king of audio.

The HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition) performance

I used the Envy 13 Wood Edition as my work laptop for a week and didn’t run into any performance problems. I admit, I do a terrible job of cleaning up Google Chrome tabs and often have dozens open at one time. But the HP didn’t seem to mind; there weren’t any slowdowns with 32 tabs opened simultaneously and four 1080p YouTube videos playing in the background.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition)
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Equipped with an Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor and 8GB of RAM, the Envy 13 Wood Edition did a decent job on our performance benchmarks. However, HP needs to add a 16GB of RAM option for power users.

The Envy 13 put in a score of 16,403 on the Geekbench 4.3 overall performance test, which lands between the scores of the previous Envy 13 (15,147; Core i7-8565U) and the Yoga C940 (17,199; Core i7-1065G7). The timber-trimmed laptop also topped the Notebook 9 Pro’s score (15,432; Core i7-8565U) and the category average (15,995)

MORE: Laptops with the best graphics performance

For whatever reason, Intel’s 10th Gen Ice Lake processors consistently tank in our video-transcoding test. The Envy 13 became the latest victim after it took a pedestrian 24 minutes and 56 seconds to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution using the HandBrake app. The 2019 model (23:38), the Notebook 9 Pro (24:36), the Yoga C940 (19:32) and the average premium laptop (19:37) were all quicker.

The 512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD inside of our Envy 13 isn’t very fast, needing 13 seconds to duplicate a 4.97GB multimedia file. That equates to a rate of 383 megabytes per second, which falls a hair short of the rates from the SSDs in the Notebook 9 Pro (391.5 MBps, 256GB SSD) and the Yoga C940 (391 MBps, 512GB PCIe SSD). The Envy 13 topped its predecessor (363.5 MBps, 512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD) but didn’t come close to reaching the category average (613.8 MBps).

The HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition) graphics

You don’t buy the Envy 13 to game. That said, the new Intel Iris Plus graphics inside the Envy 13 played Dirt 3 at 39 frames per second, above our 30-fps playability threshold. It’s a minor improvement over its predecessor (31 fps) and not anywhere near the Yoga C940’s showing (55 fps) and the average premium laptop (61 fps).

Proving the limitations of even the best integrated graphics, the Envy struggled to run Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, putting out just 13 fps.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition) battery life

If you’re looking for a laptop to use on the go, then it needs to deliver two things: a portable chassis and long battery life. The Envy 13 nails the first but falls frustratingly short on the latter. The notebook lasted for just 6 hours and 31 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits.

That’s better than last year’s version fared (4:36) but still poor, even for a laptop with a 4K screen. In comparison, the 4K Yoga C940 (7:27) stayed powered up for another hour, and the Notebook 9 Pro endured for 8 hours and 53 minutes, although that laptop has a 1080p display. The category average, which includes both 1080p and 4K laptops, is 8 hours and 39 minutes.

The HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition) webcam

The 720p webcam above the Envy 13’s display is decent. There was more visual noise than what you get from a smartphone, but colors were punchy and I could make out a good amount of detail in a selfie I snapped. This is one of few webcams I’ve used that captured the green in my eyes and the individual hairs in my unkempt beard.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

You’d still benefit from buying an external webcam, but I — and I don’t say this often — wouldn’t be embarrassed to use this built-in webcam for conference calling.

When you aren’t using the camera, a kill switch located on the right side of the laptop cuts power to the webcam, preventing creepers from snooping on you.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition) heat

Don’t worry, that wood inlay isn’t about to turn into kindling. The Envy 13 did a great job keeping its cool in our heat test. After playing a 15-minute, 1080p video, the laptop warmed to only 95 degrees Fahrenheit, which matches our comfort threshold. The wooden surface raised to only 80 degrees, and the center of the keyboard maxed out at 89 degrees.

The HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition) software and warranty

Come on, HP. How many times do I need to plead with you to package the nearly dozen apps you stuff onto the Start Menu into one neat program. Let me spell it out for you; the menu has: HP Command Switch, HP Audio Switch, HP Documentation, HP JumpStarts, HP PC Documentation Program, HP Privacy Settings, HP Smart, HP Support Assist and HP System Event Utility.

HP Envy 13 (Wood Edition)
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

It’s unacceptable. I don’t want to fumble through multiple apps to find a solution to my problem. Sigh. Anyway, I won’t fill this review with bloatware; just know that HP Support Assist is your go-to app for tech support.

It doesn’t end there, though. On top of the standard stock of Windows 10 bloat — Farm Heroes Saga, Simple Solitaire and more — are a bunch of third-party apps: McAfee Personal Security, Amazon and Booking, to name a few. I’d understand if this were a budget machine, but the Envy 13 costs more than $1,000.

The Envy 13 ships with a one-year hardware warranty. See how HP fared on our Best and worst brands and Tech support showdown special reports.

Bottom line

HP’s Envy 13 laptops have long been the best sub-$1,000 laptops on the market. While this pricier model doesn’t fall into that category, it still offers a lot for the money. For $1,099, you get a gorgeous 4K display, a premium and portable chassis, and one of the best keyboards in the thin and lightweight laptop class.

And yet, I’m finding it difficult to recommend the Envy 13 Wood Edition. Not only does the battery die after 6 and a half hours, but the wooden touchpad, for how elegant it looks, isn’t comfortable to use. If you’re going to spend more than $1,000 on an HP, go with the Spectre x360 13, the current best 2-in-1 laptop. And if you’re open to other brands, consider the Dell XPS 13, although you’ll spend a bit more. Or, you know, keep the trees in your wallet instead of your laptop and go with the regular Envy 13.

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