As one of the biggest computer manufacturers in the world, HP certainly knows how to put together an attractive laptop, and since its conception, looks have been one of the major raisons d'être for its Envy line. Unlike some rivals, HP combines this with high-end specifications and cutting-edge connectivity. In the case of this HP Envy 17, it has also thrown 3D into the mix. Essential ingredients include a 17.3in, Full HD, 120Hz display, premium wireless active shutter glasses and a Blu-ray drive with 3D compatible software.
Even ignoring its 3D credentials, the Envy 17 3D is an impressive beast in almost every regard. Starting off with its design, the aluminium-finished lid features a 'Carbon Relic' pattern imprint that's far more durable than the usual shiny plastic and won't pick up even a hint of fingerprints. Visually we prefer our metal brushed, but the pattern is still very easy on the eye and is nicely offset by the HP logo backlit in white in the lid's lower corner. The laptop also comes with a black velvet carrying pouch, which helps to protect it while on the move and adds considerably to the premium feel.
Opening the machine up, it incorporates a MacBook-like sense of minimalism with the keyboard area unbroken by anything aside from the sleek power button. The black keyboard is matched by the screen's bezel of the same colour. Again, the mixture of black plastics and aluminium gives a quality look and feel, with subtle white-backlit status indicators for power and hard drive activity. The mute shortcut on the keyboard and touchpad de-activation indicator are both backlit in orange.
Build quality is good throughout. The centre of the lid flexes, but this does not impact the screen and is a flexibility feature rather than a negative. There's also some flex in the keyboard, but it's so minor that it's not an issue. Nowhere else on the body of the Envy 17 3D did we find the slightest hint of creak or flex, and it makes a very solid impression.
Specifications are good, though you wouldn't expect any less from a machine costing over £1,500. For processing duties we have an Intel Core i7 720QM. This 1.6GHz quad-core will turbo-clock up to 2.8GHz, and until the recent arrival of Sandy Bridge (as found in the MSI GT680) was one of the top mobile CPUs available.
It's backed by a fairly standard 4GB of RAM, though if you're buying in the US you can configure this up to 8GB. There's also a 500GB hard drive, thankfully of the speedier 7,200rpm variety, which we're seeing as standard ever more often these days. In the US, you can get up to 2TB or storage for a mere $200, or go for a 160GB SSD and 640GB, 7,200rpm data drive combo for $310. We really wish HP would follow Dell in making its UK laptops customisable, and stop treating us like second-class consumers.
Graphics are handled by an AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5850 with 1GB of RAM, which is just about adequate to classify this laptop as a light gaming machine. After the rather disappointing ViewSonic 'Fuzhion' V3D241wm though, we were interested to see how this AMD-based system as a whole would cope with 3D. A high definition webcam and attractive, slot-loading Blu-ray drive round out the Envy 17 3D's high-end appeal.