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Introducing the HP Envy 17

HP's Envy line-up has been so often requested around here that actually having one on the test bench feels like both a major win and a kind of letdown. These notebooks (particularly the 14, for which a review is forthcoming) are so well regarded by their user communities that it's kind of hard not to expect the most out of HP's prize series.

There's some merit to that. The Envy 17 is a stylish, powerful piece of kit. Unlike a lot of consumer notebooks, HP's Envy series are understated and clearly designed to be both attractive and functional. So now that we've finally got one in hand, let's pop the hood and see what makes this bad boy hum.

HP Envy 17 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-720QM
(4x1.6GHz + HTT, 45nm, 6MB L3, Turbo to 2.8GHz, 45W)
Chipset Intel HM55
Memory 1x4GB DDR3-1333 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5850 1GB GDDR5
(800 Stream Processors, 500MHz core clock, 3600MHz effective memory clock)
Display 17" LED Glossy 16:9 1920x1080
(LG LGD0283 Panel)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200 RPM
(Seagate Momentus 7200.4, one spare drive bay)
Optical Drive Slot-loading Blu-ray Reader/DVD+/-RW Drive
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
Broadcom 43224AG 802.11a/b/g/n Wireless
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Audio IDT 92HD81B1X HD Audio
Beats audio stereo speakers with subwoofer
Headphone and microphone jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 62Wh battery
Front Side Speakers
Left Side Exhaust vent
D-SUB
Ethernet jack
Mini-DisplayPort
HDMI
USB 2.0/eSATA combo port
USB 3.0
Microphone jack
Headphone jack
Right Side 2x USB 2.0
Card reader
Optical drive
AC adapter
Kensington lock
Back Side Exhaust vent
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 16.3" x 10.83" x 1.25"-1.52" (WxDxH)
Weight 7.51 lbs
Extras HD Webcam
Backlit keyboard with dedicated 10-key
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo, xD)
Dual drive bays
Warranty 2-year limited warranty
Pricing Starting at $1,299
Priced as configured: $1,699

With Sandy Bridge not terribly far away, the specifications for the HP Envy 17 we have on hand are going to seem a little pedestrian, but make no mistake: it's still a powerful notebook. At 1.6GHz the Intel Core i7-720QM may be the slowest quad-core in Intel's mobile line-up, but it can still outpace their fastest dual-core in properly threaded tasks, and it can turbo up to 2.4GHz on two cores to make up a lot of the difference (or 2.8GHz on a single core).

The other major selling point of the Envy 17 is the AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5850 graphics part. Given the relatively svelte profile of the Envy compared to other 17"-class notebooks, the 5850 is fairly powerful by laptop graphics standards. 800 of AMD's stream processors purr away at 500MHz, and unlike NVIDIA, AMD is able to coax some halfway decent speeds out of its mobile GDDR5, running at an effective 3.6GHz. Still, the 5850 can be considered something of a disappointment: this is AMD's second best mobile part, but it's still a substantially underclocked desktop Radeon HD 5770, a card that goes for around $130. Worse, the 5850 in the Envy 17 appears to be underclocked even by Mobility 5850 standards, running about 125MHz below spec on the core and 400MHz below spec on the memory. It's probably reasonable to assume this is to assuage concerns about heat, but it still takes a healthy bite out of potential gaming performance.

The remainder of the Envy 17 is pretty by-the-book, with the increasingly common Seagate Momentus 7200.4 hard drive pulling storage duties along with an attractive slot-loading blu-ray reader/DVDRW drive. The card reader is accounted for, and there's USB 3.0 and eSATA, but sadly no ExpressCard or FireWire. What's odd is HP's decision to ship the review unit with a single 4GB DDR3 DIMM instead of a pair of 2GB or 4GB sticks, but that's neither here nor there: when you go to order the Envy 17, it actually starts at 6GB of DDR3 these days.

Touring the HP Envy 17
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  • truk007 - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    "...we've been sitting at "adequate" for entirely too long. Here's hoping that the mobile variants of AMD's 6800/6900 series can leverage features such as PowerTune to give mobile gaming a shot in the arm."

    I've been waiting a very long time to buy a new laptop with the hopes that I can play the games I love at settings better than native. I want my laptop to be able to do most of the things my desktop does, especially gaming.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    I think we all are waiting for that day. The ability to truly replace my desktop with a laptop and docking station is approaching, especially with USB3.0 and eSATA performance increases.

    I'm curious if the GPU in this laptop was clocked down for heat, or if battery life also played a role - I'd believe either.

    What would be nice is if there was an interface that enabled me to use my desktop GPU on the laptop. I've seen mods where a guy set his desktop GPU and PSU on his desk and used it for his laptop (actual high-detail gaming). - If only there was a port on the laptop and an apparatus that you could sit your GPU into (with a high-data cable that connected to that port) that would serve as a more conventional way to do the same thing. Less modding and more standard.
    Reply
  • Tros - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    I used to think the same thing, seriously.

    A SFF desktop will blow any desktop-replacement laptop out of the water though, and let you get a laptop for what it's made for (mobility). I used to have an Inspiron 9300 (17 in, GeForce 6800 Ultra), and it was fantastic. But then a couple years passed by and it wasn't good for gaming anymore, heavy, and didn't last long on a charge.

    Now I have a shuttle-equivalent though, and LAN parties are better.
    Reply
  • tyke - Friday, December 17, 2010 - link

    "at settings better than native"

    I don't think your comment really means anything.
    Reply
  • Great_Scott - Monday, December 20, 2010 - link

    So I guess you're not familiar with docking stations? Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Sunday, December 26, 2010 - link

    We've also been sitting staring at our own reflections for too long. The continued fraud of glossy screens is just pathetic at this point. Even in the commercials and glamour shots for these computers, the screen is obscured by a white sheen, ruining the "deep blacks" and "rich colors" promised by third-tier vendors at Best Buy. And who's taking their cues from these purveyors of fake-chromed plastic laptops? Apple. HP. What an embarrassment for the companies and slap in the face to users. Reply
  • dagamer34 - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    I think calling anything a XXX killer dooms it to failure, and comparing this laptop to a MacBook Pro is a bit disingenuous. The only thing similar to this laptop and a MacBook Pro is the screen size, the price range, performance, and intended use cases are completely different!

    Anyway, outside of the few people that would rather not use suitcases to carry their PC to a LAN party, I see these laptops as being rather niche, even in a gamer's world.
    Reply
  • quiksilvr - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    Agreed. You can get 16" laptops with similar (if not better performance) and a smaller weight and footprint.

    To me, you can hit all markets with simply three laptop sizes: 12", 14", 16"
    Reply
  • gc_ - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    Screen size is not the same either --
    MacBookPro 17 has a 1920x1200 screen 16:10, case is 39.3 x 26.7 x 2.5 cm
    Envy 17 has a 1080p (1920x1080) screen 16:9, case is 41.6 x 27.5 x 3.87 cm

    Similarities include thinnish aluminum case, no-button pad, glass-to-edge display.
    Reply
  • OneArmedScissorB - Thursday, December 16, 2010 - link

    "I think calling anything a XXX killer dooms it to failure"

    But it guarantees people will click on the article and even reply. We're all being professionally trolled! :p
    Reply

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