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HP Envy 17 review: HP Envy 17

HP Envy 17

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
6 min read

In an era where truly upscale laptops seem like an endangered species, it's always nice to run across a well-built system with few compromises, such as the HP Envy 17. We've always liked the Envy line in general, and the two most-recent models, the 14-inch Envy 14 and this 17-inch Envy 17, manage to surpass last year's original 13- and 15-inch versions by coming in at much more reasonable prices.


HP Envy 17

The Good

Slim, attractive design; full-HD 1080p display; USB 3.0 port.

The Bad

Only one GPU option; clickpad still isn't perfect; short battery life.

The Bottom Line

Though it's still in the upper ranges of current laptop prices, HP's upscale-feeling Envy 17 offers great hardware at a decent price.

The feature-packed Envy 17 includes a Blu-ray drive, both HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, and a USB 3.0 port (although very little current hardware can take advantage of it). As the slim (for its size) Envy 17 is one of the only laptops that looks and feels like a real alternative to Apple's 17-inch MacBook Pro, its $1,399 starting price is even more attractive, as the 17-inch MacBook goes for $2,299 and up.

Price as reviewed $1,399
Processor 1.6GHz Intel Core i7 720QM
Memory 4GB, 1066MHz DDR3
Hard drive 500GB 7,200rpm
Chipset Mobile Intel PM55 Express Chipset
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 16.4 x 10.8 inches
Height 1.3 - 1.5 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 17.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 7.2/8.8 pounds
Category Desktop replacement

With a not-too-thick (but slightly too heavy) aluminum and magnesium chassis, the Envy 17 is less of a desk-hogging system than many of its 17- or 18-inch counterparts, hence our comparison to the (still slimmer) 17-inch MacBook Pro. The similarities extend to the backlit keyboard and oversize clickpad (the preferred term used for touch pads that integrate the mouse buttons into the pad itself), which both feel very Mac-like.

The same subtle pattern of imprinted squares covers the wrist rest and back of the lid as we've seen on other Envy laptops, and the construction feels rock solid and durable. Even better, this is one of the few truly fingerprint-proof laptops we've ever run across.

The flat-topped, widely spaced island-style keys are standard across most of the laptop industry at this point, and this example is generally comfortable and easy to use. But even with a full number pad included on the right side, there's still plenty of room in the keyboard tray, and the keyboard feels undersized relative to the system's overall dimensions. We also ran into a mysterious, but faint, noise while typing, which we eventually traced to a slightly squeaky space bar. In the four Envy 17 laptops we've tested, this is the first such problem we found, but it's distracting nonetheless.

The large clickpad evokes Apple's version, with the left and right mouse buttons built right into the clickable surface. The size is decent, but could easily be even larger, and the multitouch functionality can't hold a candle to Apple's (which is something that can currently be said of any non-Mac laptop). We especially missed handy Mac gestures such as two-finger right-click tapping and the four-finger swipe for hiding all open windows.

On of the system's highlights is its big 1,920x1,080-pixel display. Under edge-to-edge glass, the full-HD screen looks great, and is exactly the right resolution for Blu-ray and other HD video content. As in the other Envy laptops, HP has teamed with Beats Audio to include special bass-boosting software and hardware that purportedly works especially well with Beats-branded headphones, but certainly also sounds clear and hefty with other headphones or through the system speakers. It won't fill the room for your next house party, but it certainly sounds very good for laptop speakers.

HP Envy 17 Average for category [desktop replacement]
Video VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks. Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks.
Data 4 USB (1 USB 3.0, 1 USB/eSATA), SD card reader 4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA
Expansion None ExpressCard/54
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive Blu-ray player/DVD burner DVD burner, optional Blu-ray player

The biggest selling point for the Envy's ports and connections collection may be the inclusion of a still-rare USB 3.0 jack. Though there are a handful of USB 3.0 portable hard drives out there, most of your hardware won't be able to take advantage of the faster data transfer speeds right now. In fact, one of our most-often-used USB devices, Avid's ProTools Mbox, just got a hardware refresh that moved it from USB 1.1 to USB 2.0 support.

The Envy 17's performance was on-par with other high-end Intel Core 17 laptops, even though this configuration had the lowest-end processor option available, a 1.6GHz Intel Core i7 720QM. Upgrades to the Core i7-740QM and Core i7-840QM are available for $100 and $400, respectively. It is possible to find a faster laptop, such as the most recent Alienware M15x we reviewed, which had a more powerful 2GHz Intel Core i7-920XM, but for practical purposes, it's hard to imagine any multitasking situation where the Envy 17 would run into much slowdown or stuttering.

There's only one GPU option available, and that's the ATI Radeon HD5850. It's more than fine for mid-to-high-end gaming, even with resolutions cranked up to 1,920x1,080 pixels. Our only real knock is that without Nvidia's Optimus system, the GPU can't turn itself off automatically to save battery life. Playing Unreal Tournament 3 at the full 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, we got 86.2 frames per second.

Juice box
HP Envy 17 Average watts per hour
Off (60%) 0.46
Sleep (10%) 0.86
Idle (25%) 35.15
Load (05%) 90.5
Raw kWh Number 168.28
Annual power consumption cost $19.10

Annual power consumption cost
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Envy 17-1003
Asus G73jh-A1
Origin EON18

Unfortunately, all this power doesn't come without cost. In our video playback battery drain test, the HP Envy 17 ran for just 1 hour and 20 minutes with the included six-cell battery, well short of our preference for 2 to 3 hours for a desktop replacement laptop. With a fairly slim body, there isn't as much room for a gigantic battery as on other 17-inch laptops, although a larger nine-cell option is available for an extra $75.

HP includes an industry-standard, one-year, parts and labor warranty with the system. Upgrading to a three-year plan starts at $399, but includes accidental damage protection and onsite service. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, and a well-maintained online knowledge base and driver downloads.

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Envy 17-1003

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Envy 17-1003

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Envy 17-1003

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Envy 17-1003

Unreal Tournament 3 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,280x800, 0X AA, 0X AF*  
1,440x900, 4X AA, 8X AF*  
1,920x1,200, 4X AA, 8X AF*  
Origin EON18 @ 16x9 / @19x10
HP Envy 17-1003 @ 1,280x768 / 16x9 / @19x10

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

HP Envy 17-1003
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i7 720QM; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850; 500GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

Asus G73jh-A1
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i7 720QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870; 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm (x2)

Alienware M15x
Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core i7-920XM; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M; 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Origin EON18
Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core i7-920XM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; (x2)1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 285M; 80GB Intel SSD + 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm


HP Envy 17

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 9Performance 8Battery 6Support 7