If you want a touch-screen notebook with a large display, HP's Envy 17 is made for you. Starting at $729 ($1,049 as tested), the 17-inch Envy packs a zippy 7th-Gen Intel CPU with plenty of storage and strong audio performance. However, this machine also suffers from a mushy keyboard and a dim display panel that has a subtle, but unsightly pattern in the background. If you can live with these trade-offs, the Envy is a serviceable choice, but competitors may suit you better.
The Envy 17's silver, aluminum body and metallic-hinge lip give it an elegant look. The notebook measures 1-inch thick and weighs 6.6 pounds, which is actually rather light for a laptop this size. HP's laptop is similar to the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 (0.9 inches, 6.4 pounds). It's noticeably thicker and lighter than the 15-inch Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 (0.7 inches, 4.6 pounds), but with the HP's larger screen, that's to be expected.
The Envy 17's large chassis leaves plenty of room for ports. HP placed an Ethernet jack, two USB 3.0 ports and a Super Multi Drive DVD player on the Envy 17's left side, while its third USB 3.0 port, HDMI port, USB Type-C port, SD memory reader and headphone jack sit on the right side. Neither of the Dell laptops offers an Ethernet port or an optical drive.
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The Envy 17's 1920 x 1080-pixel display may be sharp, but it's plagued by dimness and a subtle grid pattern in the background. Not everyone will notice the grid, as it's most visible on stark-white backgrounds and you have to stare pretty close to see it, but once you've found the pattern, it's hard not to see it. To confirm that our review unit was not defective, we went to our local Best Buy, where the display model had the exact same issue.
If you can't detect the pattern (as was true for a colorblind co-worker), you will be pleased with the rich colors and sharp images. When I watched a trailer for The Fate of the Furious, icy blue arctic tundras and orange car explosions really popped.
According to our colorimeter, the Envy reproduces a strong 111 percent of the sRGB spectrum. That beats the 62-percent showing by the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 and edges out the 106-percent score from the Inspiron 17 7000, but it's still below the 125 percent average for desktop replacements.
Unfortunately, the HP Envy 17 doesn't get that bright, emitting a maximum of 252 nits (a measurement of brightness). That's slightly above the 244-nit Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1, but it's significantly worse than the 313-nit Inspiron 17 7000 and the 295-nit average for desktop-replacement notebooks. That dim, glossy display leads to poor viewing angles with the color gaining a dark cast when you move 45 degrees to the left or right.
The Envy's 17.3-inch touch screen accurately tracked my fingers as I tapped through the desktop and scrolled through web pages. The display also responded quickly to the pinch and pull gestures I used to adjust sites.
Keyboard, Touch Screen, Touchpad
The Envy 17's keyboard has solid travel, but its weak resistance led me to "bottom out," uncomfortably mashing the base as I typed. When I tested it out on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I clicked my way to 79 words per minute, just a word off my 80-wpm average. We found that the island-style keys deliver 1.5 millimeters of key travel, which is in our target range (1.5mm-2mm is ideal), but the 50-gram actuation force was short of our minimum of 60 g. That explains why my fingers hit the deck so easily.
The notebook's 4.7 x 2.5-inch, buttonless touchpad was a breeze to use, accepting two-finger page-scrolling and three-finger navigation gestures smoothly. The surface offers a solid feel to each click.
The Envy 17's massive speaker bar, located above the keyboard, pumped enough sound to fill our large conference room with a solid rendition of Migos' "T-Shirt." The track's bass kicked well, vocals sounded clear and drums hit crisply.
The notebook comes with a pre-loaded Bang & Olufsen Audio utility, which allows you to switch presets from the default Music to Movie or Voice. I didn't hear any discernable differences with Movie or Voice, so stick with Music.
Armed with a 7th-Gen Intel Core i7-7500U processor and 16GB of RAM, this configuration of the Envy 17 had no problem multitasking. I saw smooth, zippy performance after splitting my screen among a dozen Chrome tabs (including ones for TweetDeck, Slack and Google Docs) and a 1080p YouTube video. Adding a full-system scan in Windows Defender couldn't slow the machine either.
That 7th-Gen Core i7 CPU pushed the Envy 17 to a solid score of 7,747 on the Geekbench 3 general performance test. Due to their less-powerful, last-gen CPUs, the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 (Intel Core i5-6200U; 6,499) and Inspiron 17 7000 (Core i7-6500U; 7,029) earned lower scores. The average for desktop-replacement notebooks (17,619) is much higher. Keep in mind that this category also features gaming laptops, some of which utilize desktop CPUS.
The Envy 17 we tested may cost $1,049, but it packs a relatively slow, 7,200-rpm, 1TB drive, which you'd normally find in more affordable machines, rather than a speedier SSD. As a result, the Envy 17 needed 1 minute and 45 seconds to finish our file-transfer test, for a speed of 48.5MBps. That may beat the 1TB, 5,400rpm drive (35.1MBps) in the Dell Inspiron 17 7000, but it's outpaced by the 256GB SSD (122.6 MBps drive) in the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 and the 510.6MBps average for desktop replacements (laptops in this category often have multiple SSDs).
In terms of productivity, the Envy 17 turned in a completely average time on our OpenOffice spreadsheet macro test, finishing in 3 minutes and 35 seconds, tying the category average. The Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 and Inspiron 17 7000 took longer, at 4:47 and 4:07, respectively, but the Envy 17 tied the average for desktop-replacement notebooks (3:35).
Powered by an Nvidia GeForce 940MX GPU with 2GB of memory, the HP Envy 17 achieved 95,701 on the Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test. However, the Inspiron 17 7000, which has the same GPU, notched a better score, at 97,422. Meanwhile, the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 (Intel HD 520 Graphics) netted a measly 64,067. None of the three laptops matched the 128,911 average.
The Envy 17 can game (albeit modestly), running the racer Dirt 3 (set to 1920 x 1080 pixels and Medium graphics) at 38 frames per second, clearing our 30-fps playability threshold. The average for desktop-replacement notebooks (62 fps) is significantly greater.
We're not surprised that the Envy 17 offers only OK battery life for its class, as machines this large typically stay plugged in most of the time. The notebook lasted 4 hours and 48 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing at 100 nits), longer than the 4:20 average for desktop-replacement laptops, but shorter than the times for the Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1 (6:55) and the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 (7:28).
The Envy 17's 0.9-megapixel webcam shoots fuzzy images that capture accurate color. When I shot a selfie in our office, the camera correctly captured the green and yellow of my hat and the red of a wall. However, the image's graininess stripped out most of the details.
This HP notebook keeps things cool. After the Envy 17 streamed 15 minutes of full-screen HD video, our heat gun captured temperatures of 81 degrees Fahrenheit on the laptop's touchpad, 85 degrees on the G and H keys, and 91 degrees along the machine's underside. Those temperatures are well beneath our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Most Windows 10 notebooks come with preloaded bloatware, such as Candy Crush Saga and Netflix, but HP throws in links for the PicsArt app, Priceline.com and the Amazon shopping app. This is the kind of thing you might get used to when buying a new PC, but it shouldn't be that way.
HP also tosses in a few proprietary apps, including JumpStart, which explains Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts and system customization. There's also Recovery Manager, which provides maintenance options, and Audio Switch for managing audio output through multiple monitors.
HP sells three customizable configurations of the Envy 17, starting with the $729 model that packs a last-generation Core i7-6700HQ CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB and 7,200-rpm hard drive, a 1920 x 1080-pixel nontouch screen, and integrated Intel HD 530 graphics. An upgrade to a touch-screen panel costs $50.
You'll need to spend at least $949 to get an Envy with a 7th-Gen CPU. For that price, you get a system with a Core i7-7500U CPU, 16GB of memory, a 512GB SSD, a 1920 x 1080-pixel touch screen and a 2GB Nvidia GeForce graphics card. The unit we tested is a $1,049 Best Buy exclusive that is identical to the $949 model, but it has a slower, more-spacious 1TB and 7,200-rpm hard drive. I'm hard-pressed to recommend the Best Buy configuration, unless your work demands a lot of local storage.
The Envy 17's zippy performance, metallic design, vibrant colors and rich audio make it a laptop that's worth considering. However, the low brightness, awkward grid pattern on the screen and weak keyboard really hold this machine back.
If you're looking for a 17-inch touch-screen notebook, you'll probably prefer the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1, which offers longer battery life and a bright, vibrant display. Just make sure you purchase that laptop with the latest, 7th Generation Intel processor on board. However, if you're willing to live with its compromises, the Envy 17 is worth considering.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Lips/Laptop Mag