HP Pavilion Aero 13 review: budget Envy

The Pavilion label on the HP Pavilion Aero 13 is misleading.

The rule of thumb with consumer laptops from HP is this: Pavilions are cheap, Envys are mid-range, Specters are expensive. But the Pavilion Aero 13 is a lot nicer (and a bit more expensive) than your typical budget laptop, with plenty of features – like a 16:10 screen, 10 hours of battery life, and an incredibly light chassis – that are generally reserved for premium Windows devices.

While testing this device, I had flashbacks to my review of the Envy x360 13 last summer. I noticed that it looked a lot more like a Specter than an Envy, and many of the best features of the Specter seemed to have spread. The same seems to have happened here. This pavilion looks like an Envy – and its price is, with models starting at $ 749.99 ($ ​​999.99 according to testing). Looks like HP released the first premium Pavilion, and it’s surprisingly awesome.

Perhaps the biggest contributor to the excellence of the Aero is its processor. My model has AMD’s eight-core Ryzen 7 5800U, which is one of the fastest U-series processors (those in thin and light laptops) you can buy. Models with this processor start at $ 869.99. This makes the Aero one of the lightest laptops you can buy with eight cores. (My review unit also has 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.) The 5800U is well positioned to compete with the flagship Intel Core i7-1165G7 (which is available in the much more expensive Specter x360 14). ), but it has proven itself. much faster in multicore performance. The Aero is also available with a six-core Ryzen 5 5600U, which we wouldn’t expect performance to drop significantly. The entire Ryzen 5000 line is fast.

Having praised the Specter x360 14 powered by 1165G7 not too long ago, I think the Aero was about on par with this machine in everyday use. It exceeded my typical workload of a dozen Chrome tabs with Slacking, Spotify streaming, and Zoom without any issues. But battery life – AMD’s real strength – is the real star here. I worked an average of 10 hours and 49 minutes with the screen at medium brightness. It’s much longer than what we saw from last year’s Envy x360 13, and even a bit better than the Specter x360 14. I didn’t see a difference in quality on the profile either. Battery Saver – most people should use it for a bit more juice.

The HP Pavilion Aero 13 seen from the right, half open, on a red picnic table.

USB-A ports have small covers at the bottom.

The HP Pavilion Aero 13 webcam.

No privacy shutter or on / off switch for the camera.

AMD’s Radeon graphics have done a decent job with gaming as well, although the company isn’t as dominant over Intel in this area. I was able to run Monitoring, at native resolution, averages 66fps on average and 52fps high at native screen resolution, or 80fps and 58fps respectively at 1080p. These results are fairly comparable to what we saw of last year’s Envy x360 13 with a Ryzen 4000 processor. This is to be expected, as there has not been a significant integrated graphics update between these. generations.

If you use a lot of creative software, you might be better served with Intel machines, which take advantage of Intel’s Quick Sync feature for faster encoding and decoding. The Aero took 15 minutes and 44 seconds to export a five minute and 33 second 4K video into Premiere Pro. It’s certainly better than last year’s Envy, which took over an hour, but it’s not a good result among recent machines I’ve used. The latest Core i7 devices we ran this test on finished the task in under nine minutes, and even the ZenBook 13 OLED, powered by the same 5800U processor, was over a minute faster.

The Aero also scored 147 on the Puget Systems benchmark for Premiere Pro, which tests live playback and export performance at 4K and 8K (and the program crashed several times before I could even get a result). This is good for a low budget laptop (beating, for example, the Acer swift 3), but not exceptional in all areas – the tastes of the Specter x360 14 and the XPS 13 score better (and it does not approach Apple MacBook Air).

The cooling was impressive, however. The Aero’s keyboard has never been uncomfortably hot, and I’ve never seen the processor jump up close when it comes to temperatures during gaming or benchmarking. The fans were generally not audible, even under heavy loads.

The closed HP Pavilion Aero 13 seen from left on a red picnic table.

Wi-Fi 6 is optional.

It’s not just the number of cores that makes this laptop exciting, it’s the cores per pound. The HP Aero 13 is the lightest consumer laptop, weighing 2.1 pounds. While that means it’s not the lightest Windows laptop you can buy – as far as I know that honor still belongs to the Asus ExpertBook – it’s definitely one of the lightest around. this price. I usually describe lodges as clunky, so it’s a pleasant surprise.

The downside to the thin frame is that the Aero feels a bit flimsy – which is still a big differentiator between this device and the very rugged Envy line. There was noticeable flex on my unit’s screen and on its keyboard. On the plus side, the magnesium aluminum chassis did not take any scratches or fingerprints during my testing period. The hinge is also sturdy, with no visible screen wobble, and it’s easy to lift and lower with one hand.

From an aesthetic point of view, the Aero is discreet and minimalist. It’s less refined than an Envy, in part because of the plastic bezels around the screen. The silver finish on my test unit is a bit scholarly, but you can get a few pretty hues – pale rose gold, warm gold, and ceramic white – for an additional $ 20.

It has a more modern look than the previous pavilions, and part of that is the display. It is HP’s first 13.3-inch laptop with a 16:10 aspect ratio. It has a 90% screen-to-body ratio, which is on par with much higher-end devices – the Envy x360 has an 88% ratio. In other words, the Aero is taller, with smaller bezels, than many more expensive devices, and it offers more vertical screen space without adding much size to the chassis.

The 1920 x 1200 screen itself is quite bright, easily exceeding 400 nits at maximum brightness. This makes the Aero’s screen one of the brightest I’ve tested this year. It’s surprising to see on a budget laptop – the Specter doesn’t even break 300. I could use the device outdoors in direct sunlight and didn’t see any type of glare. Colors and contrast were also good. I’d bet this is one of the brightest displays you can get for the price of the Aero.

The HP Pavilion Aero 13 on an open red picnic table, seen from above.  The screen displays a black wallpaper with a multicolored cloud in the center.

Ten percent more vertical viewing space than 16: 9 models, according to HP.

Everything else about the chassis is good, but not quite great. The touchpad – 23% larger than the touchpads on previous pavilions – isn’t my favorite, with a bit of a coarse texture and buttons that require firm pressure, but it works. The keyboard is also great, although the backlight costs $ 20 more. It’s nice to type on it, but neither as comfortable nor as quiet as the Envy’s keyboard (which is one of my favorites in the market). Like other HP devices, the Aero has a row of shortcut keys on the left side, including Home, Previous Page, Next Page, and End.

There’s no Thunderbolt support – the AMD processor, after all – but you get two USB Type-A, one USB Type-C, one HDMI, and a headphone / microphone combo jack. It is convenient to have a USB-A port on each side. The only thing I wish I had was an SD slot, a feature that appeared on older Pavilion models.

I only encountered one real disappointment during my testing period, and that was the speakers. The sound quality is not great and the bass is particularly weak. There was some distortion which wasn’t a big deal – I could only hear it if I was leaning near the laptop – but didn’t go away until the volume was below 50 %. You can switch between audio presets in Bang & Olufsen’s audio control center for music, movies, and voice, but they didn’t make much of a difference.

And one last note: there is bloatware. My unit comes with all kinds of junk preinstalled, including several McAfee programs, ExpressVPN, and various games. I was getting strewn with popups until I could uninstall everything. While bloatware isn’t as blatant on budget laptops as it is on high-end devices (Cough, Cough, Specter), I’m still frustrated to see it on a device that costs $ 1,000 (which does my device).

The lid of the HP Pavilion Aero 13 on a red picnic table seen from above.

I would go for the gold, myself.

If I bought a device under $ 800, the base Pavilion Aero 13 is what I would buy. The main things I see as tradeoffs are the chassis quality, poor sound, and the lack of a backlit keyboard for the base price. If these are issues for you, you can upgrade them for a similar price (depending on discounts) if you go with an Envy instead.

But some of the Pavilion’s most outstanding features – brightness, weight, and battery life – are hard to beat, even at much higher prices. Despite the downsides of the Aero, these things alone make it seem like it’s a no-brainer compared to budget competitors like the Acer Swift 3, which has the same build and audio issues without these. exceptional benefits. And there are plenty of bonus features – the 16:10 screen, surprisingly quiet fans, and the powerful eight-core processor – to ice the cake. Overall, the Pavilion Aero is an attractive package. Despite its nickname, it’s much more Envy than Pavilion.

Photograph by Monica Chin / The Verge

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