HP – Envy 17 3D review

Heavyweight widescreen 3D laptop with ATI graphics
Photo of HP – Envy 17 3D

After Avatar kickstarted the current craze for 3D movies and games, it was almost inevitable that HP would devise something to rival NVIDIA’s 3D Vision technology. And the laptop computer they’ve chosen to showcase their 3D alternative is the HP Envy 17 3D.

Two words immediately sprang to mind when we first laid eyes on the HP Envy 17 3D laptop: “classy” and “massive”.

Let’s start with the “massive” aspect. We’re talking about a whopping 17.3in monster, measuring 275x416x387mm, and weighing a hefty 3.41kg.

Heavyweight perrformance
Desktop replacement’ is a term often bandied about with cavalier abandon – but the expression could have been coined especially for the Envy 17 3D. It will only just fit inside an executive briefcase, and is certainly not the kind of thing to be tossed casually into a rucksack.

Yet at the same time, the Envy 3D is sleek and sexy. Its solid chassis is made from its subtly patterned silver aluminium, and bears a backlit HP logo on the corner of the lid. Inside it has a deliberately minimalist look, with a single slender silver power button on the expansive work surface, and both the keyboard and (surprisingly less user-friendly than it should be) touchpad jet black and subtly recessed.

The Envy 17 3D is a thing of beauty, with carefully understated white backlights under the keyboard (the sturdy chiclet variety so beloved of the latest generation of notebooks, which comes with a complete number pad).

Bristling with ports
As you’d expect from a high-end laptop, the Envy 17 3D bristles with ports, including VGA, HDMI, one USB 3.0, 3 USB 2, eSATA, Ethernet, a 5-in-1 memory card slot and a mini-display port – in other words, everything a high-powered business executive (or an avid gamer) might desire.

Under the bonnet lurks an Intel Core i7-720QM CPU clocked at 1.6 GHz with 6 GB DDR3 RAM. Decent as the 500GB SATA hard drive is, we were slightly disappointed HP couldn’t stretch to a 1TB model. Graphics are supplied by an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 chipset with 1GB of built-in memory.

Total entertainment
Naturally, that ’3D’ tag betrays the ultimate aim of this machine – not just to look chic and perform plenty of multitasking (both of which it fulfils in spades), but to be an entertainment machine. Hence the inclusion of a Blu-ray optical drive and with a Full HD (1920×1080) native resolution 3D Ultra BrightView Infinity display that fairly leaps out at you, it’s so vibrant. Colour photos in particular are so rich you almost need shades to view them, and 2D videos really come alive.

Audio on this machine is superb by the standards of regular notebooks, thanks to the Beats sound system with its integrated subwoofer.

As for the heart of the matter, the 3D operation, HP makes use of a similar active-shutter style of 3D glasses as the NVIDIA system. It comes into its own when watching Blu-ray 3D films – we tried it on the Shrek movies, and slime never looked so appetizing!

Gaming options
As far as games are concerned, only a handful of titles (including World of Warcraft and Modern Warfare 2) are compatible with the ATI technology, and the jury’s still out about how much it improves gameplay – even though the depth of field is impressive.

One word of warning when playing conventional 2D FPS games on the Envy 17 3D, though – the base becomes almost scaldingly hot and if one of the air vents is covered, the game will crash out.

As you might expect, given the machine’s powerful spec, battery life isn’t brilliant – you’ll be lucky to manage two hours from each charge – but this baby wasn’t intended to be hauled about on rush-hour trains, so I doubt if that will prove significantly off-putting.

Company: HP

Contact: 0845 270 4142

If this is your first foray into 3D laptops, then you'll need deep pockets and a strong back. The HP Envy 17 3D is a sleek, powerful heavyweight that brings out the best in 3D movies, but still has a bit of catching up to do on its NVIDIA gaming rival.