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Maximum PC Staff Jan 18, 2011

HP Envy 17

At A Glance

SEVEN SEAS

Handsome and well-built; good performance/portability ratio; Eyefinity.

SEVEN SINS

Somewhat limited for games; weak battery life; gets hot under graphics load.

The Envy 17 is the biggest and most powerful model in HP’s top-end line of laptops, which are known for their sex appeal and solid build quality. The Envy 17’s 11x16.5x1.5-inch chassis is constructed of magnesium alloy with an aluminum wrapping that’s decoratively etched on the lid and palm rest. The chiclet keyboard is large, with a dedicated number pad, and the keys feel pleasant to type on. The keyboard’s backlight can be turned on and off with a key press. The Envy 17 also features a ClickPad, an enlarged touchpad that incorporates the right and left buttons under the same roof. The pad supports multitouch gestures, which can be a mixed bag—two-finger scrolling just never seems as responsive as one-finger edge motion. Two solid metal hinges connect the body to a 17.3-inch, 1920x1080 screen featuring edge-to-edge glass. It all makes for a handsome package.

The Envy 17’s attention to design and detail make it the PC equivalent to an Apple MacBook.

While the Envy 17 boasts a slender profile, it’s not dainty in terms of weight—it’s 7 pounds, 8 ounces without the power brick—or in terms of computing power.  The 1.6GHz Core i7-720QM processor features four distinct cores, along with HyperThreading and Turbo capability up to 2.8GHz in lightly threaded apps. That’s sufficient might to overtake our zero-point rig’s 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo in the content-creation benchmarks, most by significant margins.

In games, the Envy 17’s AMD Radeon Mobility HD 5850 stands up to the GTX 260M in our zero-point rig, with comparable scores in both Far Cry 2 and Call of Duty 4. The HD 5850, however, has the distinction of supporting AMD’s Eyefinity multi-display technology, allowing us to connect three external monitors to the notebook’s HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, and VGA connectors. We tested the feature running the Dirt 2 demo benchmark across three 1920x1080 monitors, with a combined resolution of 5760x1080. We kept all settings at High and achieved an average frame rate of 17.3fps. That’s a playable frame rate for a game of this type, and three screens certainly adds drama to the racing action, but results will no doubt vary among titles.

Another trick up the Envy 17’s sleeve is Beats Audio—a digital music playback profile developed by HP and Interscope Records. The difference in sound quality with and without Beats enabled is dramatic—although the “without” state is particularly anemic. Still, we’ll admit that Beats Audio makes music sound pretty damn good on a notebook, especially through an external set of speakers or headphones.

The Envy 17 also features an especially nice screen, which is bright, produces vivid colors, and has good off-axis visibility. It’s a nice complement to the notebook’s Blu-ray reader. But don’t count on watching even standard-def DVDs on the notebook’s battery. We only got 58 minutes of runtime in our battery-life test using the Power Saver mode. It should also be noted that in both games and movie playback, the notebook gets pretty hot.

But even with its few shortcomings, there’s an awful lot to like about the Envy 17. It’s good-looking, well built, and capable of performing the gamut of desktop functions to varying degrees of satisfaction, while remaining reasonably portable.

Specifications
CPU 1.6GHz Intel Core i7-720QM
RAM
8GB DDR3/1333MHz
Chipset Intel HM55
Drives
Samsung 640GB 7,200rpm HDD, Intel 160GB SSD
Optical
Blu-ray ROM / DVD+/-RW
GPUATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850
Ports

HDMI, VGA, Mini DisplayPort, Ethernet, one USB 2.0/eSATA, two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, headphone out, mic, 5-in-1 media reader, webcam, Bluetooth, 802.11g

Lap/Carry
 7 lbs, 8 oz / 9 lbs, 2 oz
BENCHMARKS

Zero Point
HP ENVY 17
Premiere Pro CS3 (sec) 1,320 953
Photoshop CS3 (sec)
153
142
Proshow Producer
1,524
967
MainConcept
2,695 2,023
Far Cry (fps)
32.7
32.6 (-.2%)
Call of Duty 4 (fps) 58.2 57.8 (-.7%)
Battery Life (min)
100 58 (-42%)

Our zero-point notebook is an iBuypower M865TU with a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo T9900, 4GB DDR3/1066, a 500GB Seagate hard drive, a GeForce GTX 260M, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional. Far Cry 2 tested at 1680x1050 with 4x AA; Call of Duty tested at 1680x1050 with 4x AA and 4x anisotropic filtering.

THE VERDICT

HP Envy 17

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