Touring the HP Envy 17

My initial take on the HP Envy 17's styling was that they were cribbing liberally from Apple's MacBook Pro series, and earlier Envy notebooks definitely lived up to this. As the series has matured, though, it's acquired a lot of its own identity. So for those of you who thought otherwise stellar notebooks like Dell's refreshed XPS lineup were too pug ugly to actually use on a daily basis, HP's Envy is for you.

The happy news to report is that barring one terrible location, the Envy is gloss free. The lid has a nice, textured finish and a glowing HP logo, and it's all fairly well understated. It's not a fingerprint magnet, and is actually remarkably easy to keep clean, boding well for the notebook's longevity.

Of course, once you flip it open you see gloss where you hate to see it, but at least HP has an excuse: the glossy finish of the screen extends from edge to edge in HP's "Ultra BrightView Infinity" display. It looks nice enough but I'm still not entirely sure it's worth the trade-off, since the screen bezel (and all this does, really, is mask the bezel) is one of the major places a notebook is liable to pick up fingerprints. Still, it's attractive and hard to harp on too much.

HP claims the body of the Envy 17 is "laser-etched aluminum" and I believe it: the inside is just as attractive as the lid, and just as comfortable to use. To look at all of it, the Envy 17 is at least a beautiful piece of industrial design, but it's here where HP screws the pooch (or at least takes it to second base.) The keyboard is comfortable with a minimal amount of flex, but the layout is questionable. HP and Dell have recently elected to switch the function keys to being shortcuts and toggles instead of F1-F12. That in itself isn't a huge crime, but the difference is that I can pop into the BIOS on my Studio 17 and switch them back to what they're supposed to do. HP doesn't make it that easy on you. The arrow keys are also a poor design; the up and down arrows are half-sized while the left and right are full-sized. I can understand not wanting to leave negative space in the keyboard design, but this wasn't the right way to do it. There's also no Num Lock, with HP squeezing document navigation keys in that way. Losing the Num Lock isn't a major sacrifice for most users, but I get the feeling there are going to be at least a couple users pulling their hair out over this.

And then there's the touchpad. Once again we have PC designers following Apple's lead without bothering to really understand it (though to be fair, I'm in the minority that hates Apple's unified touchpad to begin with). On a Mac where there's really only the one big mouse button, making the whole touchpad depress makes more sense, but PC users are used to being able to right-click. We need two buttons, and the unified design here feels awkward to use. It's a better implementation than I've seen elsewhere but it still doesn't improve on just having a touchpad and two buttons.

The rest of the body has an aluminum trim around the sides and back that's attractive and houses the Beats Audio speakers. Credit where credit is due, these are among the better notebook speakers I've heard and certainly beat how hollow the otherwise quality Dell Studio 17 speakers are, but I found when cranking up the volume that the music began to distort. It's something I've heard on other notebooks, even through the speaker jack, where it seems like the notebook is trying to boost the bass in software. When you hit the threshold of how high the system's volume can go, the whole thing distorts because the system was just selectively raising the volume at the low end. At a reasonable volume the Envy 17 sounds great if a little hollow and tinny (don't know what to tell you, they're notebook speakers), but don't push it.

Finally, the bottom is decked in the typical black matte plastic, and that's fine. What's a little frustrating is the fact that in order to get to the memory bay, you have to remove the hard drive cover first: the two plastic panels are actually layered. A minor nuisance but a nuisance nonetheless.

Introducing the HP Envy 17 Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • gomakeit - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    agreed - same here
  • Finite Loop - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    When I reached page 42 of the article, I started getting this distinct feeling that I had read this article before.
  • ciparis - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    The last page seems to be missing; it just redirects to the first page.

    I'd like to read the conclusion :)
  • mrmbmh - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    Thanks for your nice review.
    when I click on the "conclusion page" it leads me to the first page... fix it please.
  • janwuyts - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    With that title for the article, why not include an actual macbook pro in the comparison?
  • tarunactivity - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    Yes. . Doesn't the ENVY have a right to face its accuser?

    Funny that the MBP does not feature in any of the charts!
  • retnuh - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    Agreed, there should have been some attempt to compare where applicable, screen, weight, battery tests, jury rig win 7 bootcamp & newer drivers to test 3d even or starcraft2 (Win7) vs starcraft 2 (OSX), portal. But to use a headline like that and not include data from a MBP is lame. OR EVEN LINK to a review of the MBP inside the article so we can easily look up what was forgotten is even worse.

    Next time try,
    title: "HP Envy 17 review"
    somewhere in the first two paragraphs: "we've gotten a lot of requests to compare this to an apple mbp 17, here's a link to our previous review for comparison"

    Then its a side note, for the curious, not a slap in the face.
  • retnuh - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    There doesn't seem to be a 17" MBP review, but here's the link to the 15" for those interested.
  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    "HP Envy 17: HP's MacBook Pro Killer?"

    Please, PLEASE, stop referencing damn apple products. You're instantly referencing another product and possibly removing sales by the headline alone, which, HP should be pretty annoyed at.

    P.s. I own a HP Envy 13... fantastic machine (Once you slap an intel 1.8" SSD in there
  • takumsawsherman - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    This is perhaps unintentionally hilarious. The article sort of reads like an apology for HP. It's not supposed to be an HP advertisement, so therefore Anandtech shouldn't be worried that HP will be "annoyed". If HP didn't want to be annoyed, maybe they should have maybe created a product that was actually a credible threat to even the base MacBook, never mind the MacBook Pro. The battery life at *idle* is a complete laugh, and you cannot even watch a 90 minute movie!

    From the actual data of the review, and some salient points from the text, no one should ever buy this laptop. Of course, considering that HP just made me send in a customer's laptop in as opposed to sending me a replacement hard drive (in-warranty failure) unless I pre-paid for the hard drive (refund would be issued when they received the return part). This is on a laptop that is 10 months old and HP diagnosed the hard drive failure (after I already gave them info from another diagnostic tool - another 30 minutes on the phone so that they could verify).

    Then there was the firmware update that was supposed to fix a problem with 4 laserjets on a network. These laserjets had this quirk since they were purchased a few years ago. Installed the updates, and one failed and borked the printer. HP's response? Not our problem, pay $40 for us to even chat with you. Problem - bad formatter board as a result of failed firmware upgrade, not our problem, though.

    That is one of the many reasons why HP won't have a product that is a "killer" anything. They have no concern for the customer's view of them. There is no reason for anyone to be a "repeat" customer of HP.

    (except ProCurve switches - never had a problem with that support or the products)

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