MacBook Pro 13 vs HP Envy 13: Student laptop showdown

MacBook Pro 13 vs HP Envy 13
(Image credit: Apple / HP)

For similar laptops, there are a number of stark differences when you compare the MacBook Pro 13 vs the HP Envy 13, two of the best laptops for students on the market right now. HP’s offering is a versatile 2-in-1 with otherwise traditional PC architecture (and, naturally, running Windows out of the box), while Apple’s latest “budget Pro” boasts their shiny second generation M2 SoC and proprietary OS. 

At a glance, contrasting the MacBook Pro 13 vs the HP Envy 13 doesn’t reveal a clear cut winner in the battle for students' precious dollars. Regardless of major, there are certain features virtually all students expect from their laptops—they need to be capable, portable, and affordable, the three pillars that represent the “crumb” of the laptop cake for students. But the icing is important as well, the bells and whistles that wow in display cases and review videos and are often the determining factor when it’s time to actually commit to one machine or another. 

So which machine best balances substance and flash with that vital third ingredient, value? Read on to find out. 

Oh, and if you want to see what else Apple has to offer for students, we also have our guide to the best MacBooks for students and advice on how to get the Apple student discount too.

MacBook Pro 13 vs HP Envy 13: Design

HP Envy 13

(Image credit: HP)

It may come as a surprise to the Cupertino faithful who celebrate Apple’s legendary understated aesthetic, but the design of the 2022 MacBook Pro 13 is largely a miss. The newest 13-inch model doesn’t benefit from the streamlined redesign with which last year’s high end MacBook Pros were blessed, but instead look identical to the chassis from previous models with new hardware stuffed inside. With virtually identical dimensions to HP’s competitor, the only real standout design feature on the Apple side is the divisive Touch Bar which, personally, I’ve always found more of an irritant than a boon.

HP has also done little on the design side to update the Envy, but it benefits from an “if it ain’t broke” legacy that continues to pay dividends. The convertible 2-in-1 chassis edges out Apple’s traditional clamshell purely on the strength of its flexibility and versatility, continuing to admirably fill the nebulous space between tablet and desktop, with some of the most appealing features of both.

Winner: HP Envy 13

MacBook Pro 13 vs HP Envy 13: Specs & performance

MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2)

(Image credit: Apple)

This year’s Pro 13 comes with Apple’s much touted new M2 SoC, which (according to the manufacturer) boasts an 18% faster CPU and 35% faster GPU compared to the previous generation. It’s also possible to bump the RAM up to 24GB from the base 16, but that upgrade will tag another $400 onto the price tag, a dubious value proposition for a mere 8GB of memory. 

The M2 is a very capable platform and undoubtedly represents the biggest upgrade in this year’s model, but it still falls short in terms of consistent, high load processing. That said, for most students it should be more than sufficient for classroom tasks or tackling homework assignments, and in GPU terms it handily outperforms the Intel SoC powering the Envy. 

The standout spec on the HP side is that 12th Gen Intel processor in this year’s model, either a core i7-1250U or core i5-1230U, both extremely efficient and powerful SoCs. The Envy also proudly wears the third edition of the Intel’s Evo badge, which means it hits a certain number of key performance marks defined by Intel. These include things like consistent responsiveness on battery, waking from sleep in less than one second, and support for features like Wi-Fi 6E (Gig+) and dynamic background noise suppression. 

There’s also the Envy’s 2.8K OLED touchscreen, which may seem like a downgrade from the previous model’s 4K option but which puts significantly less stress on the battery, while being almost indistinguishable from a visual clarity perspective. Combined with the responsiveness and broader feature set provided by HP, it means the Envy just barely ekes out a win in a pure specs comparison.

If you're looking for a more specialized and powerful laptop then check out our guide to the best laptops for coding & programming.

Winner: HP Envy 13

MacBook Pro 13 vs HP Envy 13: Battery life

MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2)

(Image credit: Apple)

Both of these machines claim an impressive 20+ hours of battery life based largely on power efficiency improvements in the M2 and Intel 12th Gen SoCs. As we haven't tested both of these models here at the site yet to corroborate those claims, the battery life showdown remains a draw based on manufacturer specs. 

Winner: Draw

MacBook Pro 13 vs HP Envy 13: Price

HP Envy 13

(Image credit: HP)

A cursory glance at the base models of both machines would indicate a clear winner in this category, with the HP Envy 13 starting at a very reasonable $899, while the MacBook Pro’s cheapest iteration will run you a hefty $1,299. However, the Envy’s starting price is slightly deceptive, as that sub-$900 model includes the lower tier core i5 processor and a mere 8GB of RAM, which in the current landscape is quite spare, especially if you plan on doing any gaming or multitasking even moderately memory-intensive applications. 

Jumping up to the core i7 model and a more reasonable 16GB of RAM, and selecting the 2.8K resolution display in lieu of the 1920 x 1200 default, and the Envy’s price tag increases to $1,179. However, securing the same 16GB of RAM on the MacBook Pro 13 will tack $200 onto Apple’s base price, or $400 for 24GB, and so the edge still goes to the folks at Hewlett Packard.

Winner: HP Envy 13 

MacBook Pro 13 vs HP Envy 13: Verdict

While both of these machines are fine choices for a student on the go, the Envy 13 gets our nod by a slight margin due largely to its potential as a multirole device and its flexible pricing. While you need to bolt several hundred dollars on to the starting price to get a machine that goes round for round with Apple’s counterpart, there is a significantly cheaper model available that’s still a very capable machine, whereas Apple doesn’t offer a base model anywhere near the sub-$900 range. 

Even in areas where the MacBook Pro might be a superior option based on the hardware under the hood, it comes with caveats that make it a tough sell. The superior onboard GPU, for instance, would seem to recommend the Pro 13 for gaming, but Apple will always be hamstrung in terms of game libraries when compared to the offerings on PC. 

Ultimately, though, it comes down to the Envy’s versatility as a tablet stand-in or desktop alternative that secures it the win. It matches the MacBook almost evenly for traditional applications, but also offers a crisp 2.8K touchscreen that expands its functionality into realms the MacBook simply can’t reach.

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Freelance contributor

Alan is a freelance tech & entertainment journalist who specializes in computers, laptops, and video games. He's previously written for sites like PC Gamer, GamesRadar, and Rolling Stone. If you need advice on tech, or help finding the best tech deals, Alan is your man.