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HP Envy 17-1050ea review: HP Envy 17-1050ea

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The Good Great design; serious computing power; hi-res screen; high usability.

The Bad Runs very hot; peculiar arrow keys.

The Bottom Line HP says this laptop is the pinnacle of computing luxury, and we're inclined to agree. It'll cost you dearly, but the Envy 17 offers great design and performance

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8.8 Overall

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Pull up a chaise lounge and let us pour you a cognac, because today CNET UK is feeling luxurious. We suspect it's something to do with the HP Envy 17-1050ea that's just arrived in our office, a decidedly classy machine that'll set you back around £1,300.

Modern art

To look at, you'd be mistaken for thinking the Envy 17 was an ornamental piece of art rather than a laptop. The lid and wrist rest are embossed with a slightly abstract, metallic floral print -- up close, the pattern consists of tiny squares, and it's only when you move further away that the flowers become obvious.

On the inside, things are fairly minimalist. Few flashing lights and a relatively small keyboard compared with its massive chassis make for a stylish and modern interior. The trackpad, however, is incredibly big -- one of the largest we've seen. But more on that later.

The keyboard is comfortable to use, although the arrow keys are oddly laid out

Metal edging means the chassis feels substantial, and the machine's overall build quality is high. As a consequence, this machine is heavy. Weighing in at 3.41kg and measuring 275 by 416 by 317mm, it's hardly portable. This laptop definitely falls into the 'desktop replacement' category. We can see it staying at home, possibly as part of your home media set-up, rather than accompanying you on a long train journey.

As you'd expect with a larger machine, connectivity is comprehensive. Around the edges you'll find VGA and HDMI outputs, ethernet and eSATA/USB ports, three extra USB ports, 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a mic, a multi-format card reader and a Blu-ray drive thrown in for good measure. At this sort of price point, hefty connectivity is exactly what we'd expect and, thankfully, we're not disappointed.

Hi-res honey

The display is impressive. 17.3 inches on the diagonal, the screen boasts a resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, which makes for a display so sharp it could slice your eyeballs open. It also offers excellent horizontal viewing. Colours stay vivid with no warping even when you're watching the screen from an extreme angle, so you'll have no trouble crowding the whole family around to check out the latest bear-on-a-bungee video.

The high-res display really makes a difference in terms of viewing quality, and Web pages, photos and 1080p video all look magnificent. If we're being really nit-picky, our only complaint in terms of display is that we've seen brighter, but the Envy 17's display is still a real selling point.

Before we go snorkelling around the Envy 17's innards, let's talk about usability. The keyboard is comfortable and, even if the keys don't offer much travel, you won't find typing for extended periods unpleasant in the least. The only issue we had was with the oddly laid-out arrow keys. With so much space to play with, we expected something more than the tiny up and down arrow buttons on show here.

The obscenely huge trackpad is a marvellous feature.

The trackpad is obscenely huge, one of the largest we've ever seen, which is great. The only downside is the button areas are also touch-sensitive, so if you're hovering over the click buttons with your thumb while moving the cursor with a forefinger, you might find yourself accidentally twitching the mouse when you only want to click. This didn't cause us to blow a blood vessel, however, because the tracking surface is so sensitive that tapping-to-click is actually more effective than using the buttons.

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