Review: HP Envy 13

Now that the hungry maw of Hewlett-Packard has devoured Voodoo, the company has been hard at work splicing “Voodoo DNA” into its mainstream products. Here’s one result: A laptop that looks a lot like an HP Pavilion but carries the high price of a boutique notebook.

HP’s $1,800, 13-inch Envy 13 flies in the same rarefied air as the Dell Adamo and Apple MacBook Air, and the approach here is the same: Thin and sleek, with (ostensibly) hot performance.

And for the most part, the Envy delivers. Among 13-inch machines, it’s one of the best performers around, delivering blistering business benchmarks and, shockingly, exceptional gaming performance too. Credit HP for squeezing high-end components into a less-than-inch-thin, 3.8-pound chassis: A 2.13-GHz Core 2 Duo, 250-GB hard drive, and ATI Radeon HD 4330 graphics impressed us — though why HP skimped on the fourth gig of RAM with a mere 3-GB package is a little baffling in a machine this luxe.

Designwise, the Envy is a real head-turner. With its minimal frills and sleek curves, it draws a lot of its cues from the Air. Even the oversized multitouch touchpad recalls Apple, though the lack of discrete buttons (you click the bottom of the pad) can be frustrating. The Envy freaks out if you leave one finger on the middle part of the pad while clicking with another digit.

Still, $1,800 is a bit hard to swallow, despite the Envy’s many charms. It’s a comparison we keep circling back to with machines like this, but it’s still the one to beat: The 13-inch MacBook Pro may weigh 0.7 pounds more, but it’s faster, cheaper and has a brighter LCD. Apple even throws in the street cred for free.

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