As desktop replacements are becoming more the purview of gamers and creative professionals, it's getting harder to find a 17-inch laptop for mainstream consumers. The HP Envy 17 ($999 starting, $1609.99 as reviewed) is one of the few desktop replacements on the market with the everyday user in mind. Equipped with a powerful Intel Core i7 processor, discrete Nvidia graphics and a 4K panel, the Envy 17 can handle all your productivity and light editing needs, and look good doing it.
The 17-inch Envy is an elegant desktop replacement with an aluminum chassis that matches the all-metal minimalism that Apple popularized several years back. Updated for 2017, the laptop chassis has seen some minor changes since we reviewed the previous version, including a slimmer, lighter chassis. The laptop isn't made entirely of aluminum, but the silver finish on the plastic underside matches the bare-metal look of the lid and palm rest so well that you'd be forgiven for thinking it was. The laptop isn't small by any stretch of the imagination, measuring 16.4 x 11.1 x 0.92 inches and weighing 6.4 pounds. But it is thinner and lighter than the previous version of the Envy 17 (1.0 inch thick, 6.6 pounds) and closer in weight to the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 (16.2 x 10.9 x 0.9 inches, 6.2 pounds), albeit without the convertible design. The less expensive Dell Inspiron 17 5000 measures 16.7 x 11 x 1 inches and weighs 6 pounds, largely due to its all-plastic construction.
The Envy uses a drop-hinge design that raises the back end of the laptop when the display is open, promoting better airflow for cooling and raising the keyboard to a comfortable angle for typing. Instead of an attached foot running along the back of the lid, the updated design incorporates the drop hinge into the lid, as a single piece. The hinge is highlighted with a polished-metal stripe that looks quite nice against the brushed finish of the rest of the lid. The drop hinge makes the Envy a bit uncomfortable to use on your lap. But because of their size, 17-inch systems tend to be used on tables and desks more frequently, so it shouldn't be much of an issue.
The larger chassis provides plenty of room for ports and other features, including a tray-loading DVD optical drive on the right-hand side of the machine. It's joined by a single USB 3.0 port on the right. On the left, you'll find a Kensington lock slot, a compact RJ45 port for Gigabit Ethernet, a full-size HDMI port, two additional USB 3.0 ports (one with sleep and charge), a USB Type-C port with USB 3.1 support and an integrated SD card slot. An audio jack lets you plug in headphones or a headset.
Display and Audio
The Envy also boasts a lovely 17.3-inch 4K display that offers bright, vibrant color and crisp detail. When I watched the full-HD trailer for Atomic Blonde, the neon-drenched visuals glowed with shades of blue and pink, while a creatively used high-heeled shoe popped in bright red against the gray background of Berlin.
The panel produces an impressive 209 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is much better than other desktop replacements that hover around 100 percent, like the previous model of the Envy 17 (111 percent), as well as the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 (112 percent) and the affordable Dell Inspiron 17 5000 (98 percent).
Brightness was also top-notch, averaging 276 nits as measured with our lab equipment. That's brighter than the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 (246 nits) and the previous model of HP Envy 17 (252 nits), but not dramatically so.
A stylish speaker grille runs across the top of the keyboard with a checkered triangle design. The soundbar houses two Bang & Olufsen speakers, and they produced plenty of sound -- enough to fill one of the smaller rooms in our testing lab. While I listened to Broken Social Scene's "Hug of Thunder," I could hear everything clearly, from the softly sung intro to the multilayered climax. Using the included Bang & Olufsen Audio Control software, I could cycle through presets for music, movies and dialogue, as well as adjust the bass, treble and audio quality levels. But aside from letting me turn up the bass, the adjustments didn't do much to improve the overall audio quality.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Envy's keyboard has a silver-on-silver color scheme that looks nice, but the square tile keys are a little mushy despite measuring 1.6 millimeters of key travel and requiring 78 grams of force (1.5 mm and 60 grams are the acceptable minimums) to press each key. On the 10FastFingers.com typing test, I hit 77 words per minute, which is close to my 80-wpm average. And aside from the mushiness I mentioned, it was fairly comfortable to type on the keyboard.
My only other complaint with the keyboard stems from the adjustable backlighting. The keyboard has a lot of light leakage around the edges of the square keys. I also found the lettering hard to read on lower settings, particularly in lighting conditions that were dim but not dark.
The 4.7 x 2.3-inch touchpad is a little wider than you see on most laptops; for example,the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1's pad measures just 4.2 inches wide. That extra space did make it feel more spacious as I swiped and tapped. Gesture support was accurate and responsive, and the clickable surface had no problems differentiating between right and left clicks.
Our review configuration of the Envy 17 came with a 2.7-GHz Intel Core i7-7500U processor and 16GB of RAM, with a 256GB solid-state drive for the operating system and a 1TB, 7,200-rpm hard-disk drive for mass storage. While running 20 browser tabs, I was still able to stream video and audio, with no slowdown.
On Geekbench 4, our general performance test, it scored 8,175, which puts it right alongside its similarly equipped predecessor (8,367; Intel Core i7-7500U) and ahead of the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 (7,610; Intel Core i7-7500). It also outperformed the less-expensive Dell Inspiron 17 5000 (6,825; Intel Core i5-7200U), but that's no surprise, given the Dell's Core i5 processor and smaller allotment of RAM.
The Envy finished our OpenOffice Spreadsheet macro in an average time, taking 3 minutes and 35 seconds to pair 20,000 names and addresses. That time ties the score from the older HP Envy 17 (3:35) and beats the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 (3:38), but it's a few seconds behind the category average of 3:24.
The 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 29 seconds, for a rate of 175 megabytes per second. That's a massive improvement over the HDD-only version of the Envy 17 we reviewed last spring (1:45, 48.5 MBps), as well as the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 (1:23, 61 MBps).
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The Envy 17 has a dedicated graphics card, but the Nvidia GeForce 940MX and 2GB of VRAM it comes with won't do much for gaming. It's far better suited to nongaming uses, like photo editing. It scored 96,451 on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, which is right in line with the prior-gen HP Envy 17 and the Dell Inspiron 17 7000, which had the same graphics hardware and scored 95,701 and 97,422, respectively. It played the Dirt 3 benchmark at an unplayable 17 frames per second.
The Envy 17 lasted 5 hours and 6 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which consists of continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. That's not bad for a 17-inch system; it's better than the category average of 4 hours and 30 minutes. It's actually an improvement over the previous model's 4 hours and 48 minutes, and not far behind the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 (6:27). It's surprising that the battery life is that good, given that the 17-inch 4K panel would be expected to draw more power for all of those pixels.
The Envy's integrated webcam is actually one of the nicer cameras we've seen on a laptop, with full-HD resolution and a wider angle than most webcams. The result is a mostly clear image that captures more of your surroundings. The camera caught details, such as the stripes of my shirt, pretty well, and colors looked pretty accurate, but the image is a bit hazy. The Envy also has an IR camera for simple, secure login using Windows Hello.
After streaming HD video for 15 minutes, we measured the surface temperature of both the touchpad and the keyboard using an infrared thermometer. The touchpad stayed cool, at 77 degrees Fahrenheit; the keyboard was a bit warmer, at 84 degrees; and the underside of the laptop reached 89 degrees. We consider temperatures below 95 degrees to be comfortable.
Software and Warranty
As on most Windows 10 notebooks, we saw some unnecessary software preloaded onto the Envy 17. For example, there are a few games, like Candy Crush Soda Saga and March of Empires, as well as other apps, like Netflix, Amazon and Priceline.com. Less intrusive apps include CyberLink media player and Drawboard PDF. HP included a few of its own apps as well, like HP JumpStart, which walks you through shortcuts and personalization settings in Windows 10, and HP Orbit, an app for sharing content between your laptop and smartphone.
HP has several versions of the Envy 17. Our review model ($1609.99 as configured) came with a 2.7-GHz Intel Core i7-7500U processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, an Nvidia GeForce 940MX GPU with 2GB of VRAM and a 4K display (a $240 option).
The $999 base model also has an Intel Core i7-7500U and an Nvidia GeForce 940MX GPU with 2GB of VRAM. However, it has only half the RAM; a slower, 1TB hard drive; and a 1080p panel instead of a 4K display.
The top configuration of the Envy 17 bumps the video memory up to 4GB of VRAM and switches from a traditional hard drive to a full 1TB SSD for a grand total of $2019.99
There's no doubt about it: The HP Envy is a premium laptop. Thanks to its sleek aluminum design, brilliant 4K display, excellent audio and strong performance, the HP Envy 17 stands out in an already crowded market. While I prefer a firmer keyboard and a touch screen, those drawbacks are not enough to diminish the notebook's finer touches.
If you want something a little more versatile, consider the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1, which combines a similar 17-inch design with a convertible hinge and a full-HD touch screen but otherwise offers very similar performance. However, if you want a premium desktop replacement with 4K resolution and a well-polished design, the HP Envy 17 is a solid choice.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag