HP Pavilion Aero 13 Review: Budget Envy

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

The rule of thumb for HP consumer computers is: Pavilions are cheap, Envys are mid-range, Specters are expensive. But the Pavilion Aero 13 is much more comfortable (and slightly more expensive) than a standard budget laptop, with lots of features — like a 16:10 display, 10 hours of battery life, and an amazingly lightweight body — that’s usually reserved for premium Windows devices.

While testing this device, I have had backwards reviews Kateus x360 13 last summer. I found it felt a lot more than that Specter than envy, and that many of Spectre’s best features seemed to flow down. The same seems to have happened here. This pavilion feels jealous – and it’s priced with models starting at $ 749.99 ($ 999.99 tested). It looks like HP has released the first premium Pavilion, and it’s surprisingly good.

Perhaps the biggest contribution to Aero’s excellence is its processor. My model features AMD’s eight-core Ryzen 7 5800U, one of the fastest U-series processors (thin and light laptops). Models for this processor start at $ 869.99. That makes the Aero one of the lightest laptops you can buy with eight cores. (My reviewer also has 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.) The 5800U is competitive with Intel’s flagship Core i7-1165G7 (available at a much higher cost) Specter x360 14), but it has been proven much faster in multi-threaded performance. Aero is also available with the six-core Ryzen 5 5600U, which is not expected to be a big step down in performance. The entire Ryzen 5000 line is fast.

When I cleared the Specter x360 14 with the 1165G7 engine far too long ago, I think the Aero was about the same as the machine in everyday use. It blew through a typical workload of about a dozen Chrome tabs with Slacking, Spotify streaming, and Zoom calls without a hitch. But battery life – AMD’s real strength – is a real standout here. I did an average of 10 hours and 49 minutes of continuous work with the screen in medium brightness. It’s much longer than what we saw on last year’s Envy x360 13, and even slightly better than the Specter x360 14. I also didn’t notice a quality difference in the Battery Saver profile – most people should be okay to use it as extra juice.

HP Pavilion Aero 13 seen from the right, half open, with red picnic table.

There are small covers on the bottom of the USB-A ports.

HP Pavilion Aero 13 Webcam.

No privacy shutter or camera on / off switch.

AMD’s Radeon graphics also did a decent job with gaming, although the company isn’t as dominant over Intel in this area. I was able to run Overwatch, at native resolution, averaging 66 frames per second at medium level and 52 frames per second at high original screen resolution, or 80 frames per second and 58 frames per second at 1080p resolution. These results are quite comparable to what we saw in last year’s Envy x360 13 with the Ryzen 4000 processor. This is to be expected as there has been no significant integrated graphics upgrade between these generations.

However, if you use a lot of creative software, you may be better served by Intel machines that take advantage of Intel’s Quick Sync feature to speed up encoding and decoding. Aero took 15 minutes and 44 seconds to take five minutes of 33-second 4K video in the Premiere Pro. It’s certainly better than last year’s Envy, which lasted over an hour, but isn’t a good result among the machines I’ve used recently. The last few Core i7 devices we’ve tested have completed the task in less than nine minutes, and even the ZenBook 13 OLED with the same 5800U processor was more than a minute faster.

Aero also did 147 in a Puget Systems comparison for the Premiere Pro, which tests real-time playback and export performance with 4K and 8K resolution (and the program crashed a few times before I even got the result). It is suitable for an inexpensive laptop (e.g. Acer Swift 3), but not exceptional everywhere – such as Specter x360 14 and XPS 13 score better (and it does not approach Apple MacBook Air).

However, the cooling was impressive. The Aero keyboard never heard uncomfortably hot, and I never saw the processor jump close to temperature during gameplay or benchmarking. The fans were usually not heard, even if they were heavy.

The HP Pavilion Aero 13 was closed from the left with a red picnic table.

Wi-Fi 6 is optional.

Not only does the number of cores make this laptop exciting – it’s the cores per pound. Aero 13 HP’s lightest laptop weighing 2.1 pounds. While that means it’s not the lightest Windows laptop you can buy – as far as I know, this honor still belongs Asus ExpertBook – It is definitely one of the lightest at this price. I’m used to describing pavilions as clumsy, so it’s a pleasant surprise.

The downside to the slim frame is that the Aero feels a little weak – which is still a significant difference between this device and the very sturdy Envy line. There was considerable flexibility in the display of my unit and its keyboard cover. The plus is that the magnesium-aluminum body did not scratch or fingerprint during the test period. The hinge is also sturdy, with no screen wobble visible, and is easy to lift and lower with one hand.

Looks wise, Aero is unobtrusive and minimalist. It’s less sophisticated than the Envy, due in part to the plastic frames around the screen. The silver finish on the test unit is a bit school-cart-y, but you can get a few beautiful shades — pink gold, warm gold, and ceramic white — $ 20 more.

It has a more modern look than previous pavilions, and part of it is display. This is HP’s first 13.3-inch laptop with a 16:10 aspect ratio. Its screen-to-body ratio is 90 percent, which is much more comparable to premium devices — the Envy x360 has a ratio of 88 percent. In other words, the Aero has taller, smaller frames than many more expensive devices, and offers more vertical display space without adding much size to the body.

The 1920 x 1200 screen is quite bright and easily exceeds 400 nits at maximum brightness. This makes the Aero screen one of the brightest I’ve tested this year. It’s surprising to see an affordable laptop – the Specter doesn’t even break the 300. I could use the device outdoors in bright sunlight and didn’t see any glare. The colors and contrast were also good. I would guess this is one of the brightest screens you can get from the Aero price point.

HP Pavilion Aero 13 with red picnic table open, top view.  The screen shows a black desktop background with a multicolored cloud in the center.

According to HP, ten percent more vertical viewing space than 16: 9 models.

Everything else in the frame is good, but not quite great. The touchpad – 23 percent larger than the touchpads in previous pavilions – isn’t my favorite, with a slightly rough texture and buttons that require a strong press, but it works. The keyboard is also good, although the backlight costs $ 20 extra. It’s good to type, but neither as comfortable nor as quiet as the Envy keyboard (which is one of my favorites on the market). As with other HP devices, the Aero has a row of keyboard shortcuts on the left, such as Home, Page Up, Page Down, and End.

Thunderbolt support — after all, there’s no AMD processor — but you get two USB Type-As, USB Type-C, HDMI, and a headphone / microphone combination. It is convenient to have a USB-A port on each side. The only thing I hope it was is the SD slot, a feature that appeared older Pavilion models.

I came across only one real disappointment during the test period, namely the speakers. The sound quality is not good and the bass is particularly poor. There were distortions that weren’t big problems – I only heard it if I leaned close to the laptop – but it also didn’t go away until the volume was below 50 percent. You can switch between the audio settings in the Bang & Olufsen Voice Control Center for music, movies, and audio, but there wasn’t much difference between them.

And one last note: there is bloatware. My unit came pre-installed with all sorts of junk, including several McAfee programs, ExpressVPN, and a variety of games. I got pepper from the pop-ups until I was able to remove everything. While bloatware isn’t as flashy on budget laptops as on premium devices (cough cough, Specter), I’m still frustrated to see it on a device that costs $ 1,000 (what my unit does).

Cover of the HP Pavilion Aero 13 with a red picnic table seen from above.

I would take the gold myself.

If I bought a device for less than $ 800, I would buy a basic Pavilion Aero 13. The main things I consider compromises are the quality of the body, poor sound, and the lack of a backlit keyboard at a base price. If these are problems for you, you can fix them for the same price (depending on discounts) if you are looking for envy.

But some of the Pavilion’s most exceptional features – brightness, weight and battery life – are hard to beat, even at much higher prices. Despite the disadvantages of Aero, these things alone make it look like a simple budget competitor Acer Swift 3, which has the same structural and sound problems without these advantages. And there are plenty of bonus features — a 16:10 display, surprisingly quiet fans, and a powerful 8-core processor for cake freezing. Overall, Pavilion Aero is an attractive package. Despite its name, it is much more envious than the Pavilion.

Photographer Monica Chin / The Verge

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