It's no longer a rarity to find good audio performance on a high-end laptop, with the Dell XPS 17 and MSI GT680 being but two recent examples. HP continues this trend in its Envy 17 3D, with a Dr. Dre-certified Beats 2.1 setup. The speakers make up in finesse what they lack in volume, while the integrated 'Triple-bass Reflex' subwoofer ensures decent oomph at the bass end.
Thankfully, once you get past the reflections caused by its seamless glass front, the Ultra BrightView 17.3in display does little to let the side down either. With a glorious Full HD resolution, this 120Hz panel is definitely among the better TN-based screens we've seen on a laptop.
Colours are bright and punchy and contrast is good, for while there's the usual lack of distinction in the lightest tones, there's plenty of dark detail. Backlighting is consistent and there's little sign of banding or other artefacts, while horizontal viewing angles are also decent.
True graphics enthusiasts will still want a superior solution such as a rare (in laptops) IPS-panel or the more common high-end solution of RGB-LED backlighting (as found most recently in the praise-worthy Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds), but for general entertainment this does the job admirably.
In 2D mode, then, the Envy 17 3D holds up very well indeed - but what about 3D? On the hardware side of things, HP provides one own-brand pair of wireless stereoscopic glasses with its laptop. These come in a silver velvet carrying case and include three different sized, interchangeable nosepieces.
Unfortunately, the glasses run off a single CR2032 cell battery rather than being rechargeable. There's no on/off button either, as the glasses activate automatically when in range of the IR sensor, though this does mean less hassle is involved than usual: just put them on and they work. The glasses are also well built, reasonably stylish and very comfortable.
Inevitably, the Envy's display suffers from some crosstalk in 3D, but the glasses don't darken things too much and the screen's vivid colours and deep blacks help to make the overall experience a pleasant one.
Unlike the disastrous ViewSonic 'Fuzhion' V3D241wm, HP has opted for the far more polished Tri-Def 3D software to turn everything into stereoscopic goodness. Upon installing the software (only necessary if working from a fresh Windows installation, as it's preinstalled), it automatically detects it's on an Envy laptop and activates for free, rather than requiring the usual $49 fee.
A trailer of Dreamworks' Megamind 3D comes pre-installed to check out the effect, and shows this Envy off impressively. Every game we tried to run in 3D also worked beautifully, with the only limitation being the Radeon Mobility HD 5850's power – or lack thereof. In fact, anything more demanding than TrackMania Nations Forever just isn't worth trying, as at a lowly resolution of 1,280 x 768, it dropped from 80 frames per second (fps) down to 34.6fps with stereoscopy enabled, though admittedly that was with anti-aliasing turned on.
While it's slightly disappointing that its 3D gaming capabilities aren't a little more advanced considering the £1600 asking price, at least 3D Blu-rays and casual or undemanding games are as good as we've experienced on a laptop.