HP Envy 17 Review

on Wednesday, December 10, 2014
If there's one thing you need to understand about laptops, it's this: Portability will cost you. Want proof? Look no further than the HP Envy TouchSmart 17 (MSRP $999.99), a fully-loaded desktop replacement that costs less than an entry level MacBook Air.

This big guy comes with a smattering of excellent specs, including a quad-core Intel i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, 1TB of hard drive space, a CD/DVD drive, a full-HD touchscreen, and even a fingerprint scanner. For $999, this is a lot. In fact, for the same price, you can get HP's Spectre 13 ultrabook, which has a weaker processor, half the RAM, and a fraction of the storage space—but it's oh-so-portable.
The 17-inch Envy is an absolutely rock-solid machine, but you'll break quite a sweat if you try to lug it around with you. Yes, it's heavy and made from too much plastic. As an at-home computer for the whole family, though? You can't go wrong.

Look & Feel

A big-body laptop with all the fixings

HP's 17-inch Envy is the sport utility vehicle of laptops: It's big, and boy is it comfortable.
From a bird's-eye-view, the Envy looks like little more than a big hunk of plastic. HP chose not to dress this portable desktop in a full metal jacket. The cover has a chintzy plastic feel to it, although for $1,000, what'd you expect? The designers clearly cared more about specs than looks when making this Envy model—nothing like the class and solid design you'll find on the HP Spectre 13, for instance.

Lift the cover up and you're treated to a full-sized keyboard, which is a joy to type on. Keys are perfectly sized and offer a satisfying amount of travel, plus there's a number pad on the right side. My only complaint here comes back to quality: Whenever I pressed a key, the base would slightly cave in. I doubt I could break the keyboard from typing alone, but it's not reassuring to see your laptop bend so easily.
Below the keyboard is an ample-sized touchpad with one caveat: It doesn't lie flush with the Envy's base. You could stick a coin underneath the bottom of the touchpad and pry it off—an odd design choice to say the least. This may not mesh well with your kids and their graham cracker crumbs.

HP included a fingerprint scanner on the Envy, and it actually works.
Regardless, this pad works very well. While most companies try to make touchpads silky smooth, HP opted to employ a thinly ridged texture. The result is actually quite pleasant: Your finger can smoothly glide around the surface, but with added control thanks to the ridges. Unfortunately, I had to apply too much pressure when triggering a mouse click.
To the right of the touchpad is a thin black strip that looks like a light. HP included a fingerprint scanner on the Envy, and it actually works. It's a cool addition to any computer, but the software it comes with is confusing—more on that later.
Connectivity options are plentiful on the Envy. Want USB 3.0 ports? This PC has four of 'em. You'll also find a full-sized HDMI output, an SD card reader, and a headphone jack.

One enticing addition to the Envy is a CD/DVD player. While the world seems to be moving away from physical media, there are still plenty of consumers who buy CDs and DVDs. Sadly, this drive doesn't play Blu-rays, meaning you can't take full advantage of this HP's 1080p screen.

The only thing separating the keyboard from the screen is a Beats Audio speaker. Just like the Spectre 13, the sound quality on the Envy is indeed better than most other laptops. Bass frequencies are easier to hear and it's loud enough to fill a small room. While this Beats-branded speaker is no substitute for a decent 2.1 setup, it sounds good enough for most consumers' needs.
Finally, we have the Envy's 17-inch touchscreen. HP wisely gave this big display a 1080p resolution—you would notice a lack of sharpness if it were any lower. Coupled with a moderately bright screen, users will enjoy this laptop's visual output. Also, feel free to reach out and interact with the Envy's display: Touch controls are accurate and responsive.


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