HP's Envy line gets a red racing-stripe makeover

The new look is quite a departure from previous Envys, which have been among our favorite high-end Windows laptops.

Scott Stein/CNET

The subtle dark-gray look of HP's Envy line of laptops is getting a serious makeover, with new 15- and 17-inch models that offset a matte black lid and chrome interior with a racing-stripe-style red line surrounding the sunken keyboard.

The new look is quite a departure from previous Envys, which have been among our favorite high-end Windows laptops. The older models, originally in 14-, 15-, and 17-inch versions, were nearly monochromatic. Made of aluminum and magnesium, in a dark gunmetal gray with a black base, they had a subtle pattern of imprinted squares covering the wrist rest and the back of the lid, creating an overall unique look.

The new version is also striking, but the two-tone color scheme doesn't hit our aesthetic sensibilities the same way. We did, however, like the sunken keyboard, surrounded by a bold red stripe--it's a unique look.

That keyboard is called the Radiance Backlit keyboard, and it uses individual LEDs under each key. A proximity sensor turns the backlight on when you're about to start typing, and turns it off when you're away.

The volume knob on the HP Envy 15. Scott Stein/CNET

The six-speaker audio system is again branded by Beats Audio, and includes a subwoofer. Further emphasizing the audio capabilities, a physical volume control wheel sits along the right side of the body--a feature we always appreciate, but rarely find.

Both use current quad-core Intel Core i-series CPUs and AMD Radeon graphics, while the 17-inch model is also available in a 3D version. The 3D, however, is not provided by Nvidia's 3D Vision platform, and the 3D performance on the previous HP 17was disappointing.

The new HP Envy 15 and Envy 17 laptops will be available starting December 7. The Envy 15 starts at $1,099 and the Envy 17 starts at $1,249 ($1,599 for the 3D version). HP has no current plans to update the 14-inch version of the Envy.

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