Being one of the first to enter the 3D gaming market, HP is no stranger to the new technology, having released several versions of the Envy 17 3D. Though they started with the first generation of Intel Core processors, HP now sells an Envy 17-3200 version with the latest Ivy Bridge CPUs and AMD Radeon graphics to power the big, bright 3D display. Starting at $1,599.99 on HP’s website, the Envy 17 3D can be configured with up to an Intel Core i7-3280QM processor, Radeon HD 7850M graphics, 16GB 1600MHz RAM, and 2TB of drive space. With those kind of specs, the HP Envy 17 3D vies to become your one-stop shop for a home entertainment machine.
Before we go any further, we’d like to thank the HP Academy program for sending us the Envy 17t-3200 to evaluate. Those students looking for a dorm room entertainment machine to replace a bulky TV, Blu-Ray and video game console setup will probably find this notebook of interest. Engineering students might also find the dedicated graphics a real boon for 3D design work along with a productivity boost due to the generous Full HD screen that allows you to fit multiple windows at once. You can get a discount on the ENVY 17 via the HP APP (Academic Purchase Program).
The Envy 17-3200 3D under review comes with the following specs:
Processor: Intel Core i7-3612QM
Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 7850M with 1GB GDDR5 memory
Display: 17.3" 1920 x 1080 resolution, glossy finish, 3D
Ports: Ethernet, HDMI, DisplayPort (x2), USB 3.0 (x4), headphone jack (x2), microphone jack, SHDC media card reader
Optical Drive: Blu-Ray/DVD/CD reader
Dimensions: 16.37 x 10.66 x 1.28 in (W x D x H)
Weight: 7.37lbs (3.34kg)
Warranty: Standard 2 year depot
Build and Design
At just over seven pounds, the Envy 17 3D is nearly half a pound heavier than the dv7t-7000 that we’ve previously reviewed. This is for the most part due to the extra metal used in the laptop, with the whole body being covered in a smooth, black metal finish on the lid and bottom, and light grey on the inside. There is no design pattern on the back like other HP laptops, just the glowing HP logo. Once a user starts using it though, the lid picks up fingerprints and smudges easily, so regular cleaning will be required to keep it looking new. Quality-wise, the Envy 17 3D is built like a tank when comparing it to other consumer-class laptops. There’s absolutely no flex on the palm rest and keyboard, the display will only flex by a millimeter or two when pressing between the hinges, and twisting the corners of the display only result in a few millimeters of distortion.
Just like other Envy laptops, HP has a clear and simple design for the current Envy 17t-3200 3D. There are only two stickers on the palm rest, those being Windows and Intel. There are no separate media buttons to crowd the area between the keyboard and the display, and the touchpad is only slightly recessed — there’s a very slight rise between the touch surface and the rest of the palm rest. HP has turned back to older laptop designs with the use of a volume dial located on the right edge of the laptop, this allows for finer control of the audio volume compared to rocker bar or up/down buttons for volume other laptops use.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Sporting a light blue backlight, the Envy 17 3D is ready for use night and day. It’s bright enough to easily find your way around the keys, but not so bright as to blind the user. The keyboard is not too bad for one that has flat keys, and the number pad is sure to please users that work with numbers often (such as in Excel). One interesting feature of the backlit keyboard is that when not in use, it will turn off the lights in cascading order; the top two rows turn off, and then middle two, and finally the bottom two. The same happens in reverse when the backlight is turned back on. The Envy 17 3D uses the same keyboard as the Pavilion dv7t-7000, so many of the points made in that review will apply here as well.
What differentiates the Envy keyboard from the Pavilion the most is the touchpad. Unlike the mentioned Pavilion, the Envy 17 3D comes with no physical buttons to speak of. Instead, the whole touchpad is clickable, with the top portion being one giant left-click, the bottom-left corner also being left-click, and the bottom right being right-click. At the top left of the trackpad is a neat feature to turn off the touchpad. Double tap on this corner and an orange light turns on next to the touchpad to indicate that the touchpad is turned off; double tap again and it turns back on. Along with that, the touchpad supports several finger gestures, including two-finger scrolling (both vertical and horizontal), pinch zoom in/out, and three-finger, picture rotation, and more. They can be adjusted by going to Start, enter “mouse" in the search field, selecting the Mouse control panel > Device Settings > Synaptic ClickPad and then clicking on Settings.
All Envy 17 3D laptops come with a Full HD 1080p display that gives the user plenty of desktop real estate to work with. Images are crisp and colors pop out. Tilting the display as far back as it goes (120 degrees) means the display darkens slightly but colors do not invert. Tilt it forward and glare from the backlit keyboard and any surrounding light sources will make the display hard to see. Aside from glare from lights in a room, viewing from either side doesn’t suffer from any issues common on most laptops, which is good since HP intends this to be an entertainment laptop for not only the user, but as well as any friends around (as indicated by the dual headphone jacks). While the screen is not IPS quality, it’s better than the TN panels found in less expensive laptops.
The major reason for buying this laptop is the 3D qualities of the display, so how does that perform? HP ships the Envy 17 3D with two 3D demos in CyberLink PowerDVD, one being the trailer for Madagascar 3 and the other being a video of wildlife in 3D, and also includes a pair of 3D shutter glasses with the laptop (separately, they cost $100). Watching the trailer with the laptop on my lap for the first time, the effects had hurt my eyes slightly due to vergence-accomodation (your eyes have to constantly adjust to both the distance of the screen itself as well as to 3D content that “flies" at you), though I haven’t used any 3D laptops or TVs personally, so I had to get use to the shutter. The second time around, there was no discomfort experienced. Ignoring that issue, the picture itself was great; multiple layers of 3D were in the trailer (especially evident in the pillow fight scene), words popped from the display, and the “circus afro" scene gave a good demonstration of the differences between character bodies in 2D and in 3D. To sum it up, the Envy 17 3D is a sort of personal IMAX Theater for the home.
The only negative I can think of about the laptop is that HP shipped the Envy 17 3D with no way to use Intel’s WiDi features, despite HP advertising that feature. However, that’s not the only outstanding flaw in this laptop.
The Envy 17 3D uses the same Beats Audio system as most other HP laptops today, including the Pavilion dv7t-7000. Built with six regular laptop speakers and HP’s “Triple Bass Reflex" subwoofer, the Envy 17 3D pumps out sound like no regular laptop sound system, only facing competition with other branded speaker systems such as JBL. There’s a sound bar bordering the entire top side of the keyboard as well as two grills at the front edge of the laptop, which give off an experience that will impress all but the most demanding audiophiles. One odd feature of the Envy 17 3D is how many audio drivers are present in Computer Management: AMD High Definition Audio Device, Bluetooth Hands-free Audio, CyberLink WebCam Virtual Driver, HP Wireless Audio Adpater, and IDT High Definition Audio CODEC (which controls the speakers and bass). Why not have just one or two drivers to control audio? Even the Pavilion dv7t-7000 had two, despite also being a Beats-branded laptop.
Anyway, the audio experience on the HP Envy 17 3D is above standard for a laptop. Typical laptop speakers can sound shallow, weak, and don’t have much range, whereas the sound system on this laptop is the opposite. On top of that, if a user pushes down on the volume dial, a control center for sound appears on screen, where there are options to control master volume, set sound profiles (or use three pre-made ones), and microphone settings. For the most part, the default sound profile is sufficient for most uses, but for those that are bass lovers will want to adjust the sound profile to make the subwoofer really stand out. No matter what profile is used though, the Envy 17 3D can get loud when pumped up to full volume.
There are a myriad of ports located on this generation’s Envy 17-3200 3D. All USB ports found here are of the newer USB 3.0 SuperSpeed spec, a good move from HP as more and more USB 3.0 devices hit the mainstream market. What surprised me, however, is the lack of a VGA port; yes, it’s dated but it’s also extremely common and would have been useful for people who still own VGA monitors. HP did make up for it by giving the Envy 17 3D the ability to run up to four displays at once, thanks to the 7850M, HDMI port, and two DisplayPort connectors.
On the left, we have the slot-loading Blu-Ray player, two USB 3.0 ports, a microphone jack, two headphone jacks, and a Kensington lock.
The right side houses the power connector, Ethernet port, the other two USB 3.0 ports, two DisplayPort connectors, HDMI port, and the card reader. Also on this side are the hard drive activity, power on, and battery level lights. The last one will glow orange when plugged in and the battery has a low charge and white when it’s nearly full.
The front contains nothing but two speaker grills and a Beats logo. The back of the laptop is the same, due to the lid covering it up when the laptop is in use.
Heat and Noise
After several hours of use which involved mostly Internet surfing, as well as YouTube and 3D video viewing, the Envy idles at around 46 degrees C, with the processor sitting at an average of 50 degrees C. The Samsung hard drive is at a cool 35 degrees C, and measurements for the Intel mSATA drive are absent since almost all SSDs come with no temperature sensor. During benchmarking, the highest temperature reached was 77 degrees C for the motherboard and 82 degrees C for the processor. Ambient temperature was 72 degrees F during testing.
For the most part, noise isn’t an issue with the Envy 17 3D. However, when booting up or when resuming from sleep, the optical drive (HP BDDVDRW CA30P, as named in Computer Management) becomes loud for a few moments as it powers up, becoming very annoying after a few boots and resumes as it’s not an isolated incident.
Besides the 3D Demo and the usual Norton Internet Security trial, HP bundles several free and trial pieces of software with the computer. CyberLink software includes with the Envy 17 3D include PowerDVD, YouCam, and Power2Go. HP ships their laptop with the HP Proximity Sensor (adjust when the backlit keyboard should activate based on your distance to the computer), HP Wireless Audio Manager, a link to HP Communities – The Next Bench (a discussion forum slash HP advertisement), and a trial of HP MyRoom (video conference software), as well as HP’s Help and Support folder in the Start menu (includes HP Documentation, HP Support Assistant, and HP Recovery Manager). Under the Intel folder, we have Smart Connect Technology (similar in function to Windows Update), Control Center, and Rapid Storage Technology, which allows a user to manage their Intel mSATA and the Samsung HDD). The last piece of trial software included with the Envy 17 3D is TriDef 3D Ignition, which “enables popular PC games to be played in stereoscopic 3D", according to their website. From their website, they state that it works with a wide range of DirectX 9 through 11 games, using information that DirectX stores about the game to product 3D images, while Auto Focus manages the locations of objects in 3D space. One common issue of this software is that the gun sights in first-person shooters can be inaccurate in 3D space, so the TriDef software includes an optional laser sight to improve accuracy.
Two very useful pieces of software included with the HP Envy 17 3D are Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 10 and Premiere Elements 10. Both are somewhat stripped down versions of Photoshop and Premiere, and their goals are much the same (advance photo editing and advance video editing/DVD burning, respectively). Considering that full retail versions for both sell for $149 together, this is a great value to Envy purchasers that plan on using the laptop for A/V hobby or freelancing.
This is the Envy 17 3D’s Achilles’ heel. While there is supposed to be an ability to switch to the Intel HD 4000 graphics to extend battery life, there is no option to do so in either the BIOS or within the operating system as of the writing of this review (August 12th, 2012). Using Window’s Power Saver settings, dimming the display to half brightness, and using the laptop for lightweight tasks (Office, visiting websites, and one or two YouTube videos), the Envy 17 3D will only last 2 hours and 31 minutes before you need to find an outlet. Even giving the laptop a best-case battery scenario (just letting it sit at the desktop), it will only last for an extra 22 minutes at 50% screen brightness (and lower and the display is barely visible). Since the Envy 17 3D doesn’t currently ship with any way to switch the graphics, the 7850M is allowed to drain power from the battery, thus making this laptop a terrible choice if you need to use it anywhere outside the home.
The lack of Wi-Di in a high-end consumer laptop is due to the Intel GPU being locked out of the BIOS (WiDi depends on the Intel HD series of integrated GPUs to function). Maybe, just maybe this would have been excusable if this was the first generation of Envy 17 3D, but it’s not. Furthermore, the previous generation of the 3D version (HD 3000 + Radeon HD 7650M XT) has functioning graphics switching and WiDi, and both the Sandy Bridge and the current Ivy Bridge Envy 17 (non-3D) have said features as well. So why doesn’t the current Envy 17 3D have switching graphics and WiDi, HP?
Thanks to the powerful Radeon HD 7850M GPU and quad-core Ivy Bridge processor, the HP Envy 17 3D scored an impressive 3868 in PCMark 7.
In 3DMark 11, it scores P2495 3DMarks, along with a high physics score (no surprise, considering it’s a laptop meant for 3D).
Windows Index Experience scores, while not as rigorous as stand-alone benchmarking software, gives a decent, generalized ballpark of how well a computer performs. The overall score for the HP Envy 17 3D is 7.3 (graphics), with the highest individual score coming from the laptop’s memory.
Since there are two different drives in the review laptop (Intel mSATA SSD and a Seagate HDD), HD Tune was run twice, once for each drive. The solid-state drive performed fairly well, reaching a peak transfer rate of 184.1MB/s, though what users will notice the most is the extremely short access time that SSDs provide. In contrast, the mechanical drive is not as fast at transferring files and has an access time 181 times slower than the SSD. However, the HDD is meant to be a mass storage device in this sort of setup, with Windows and program installations going on the faster SSD.
Intel SSD HD Tune Results
Seagate HD HD Tune Results
3D is looking as if it will have a bright future ahead, with not only TV manufacturers but also computer OEMs releasing 3D-capable products to the masses. The HP Envy 17 3D certainly delivers in this regard, providing a stunning 3D experience right in the comfort of your own home. With included software, it’s even possible to create your own 3D experience by converting your games to use the extra dimension. Even in 2D gaming, the Envy 17 3D promises to be powerful enough to handle all the latest games with the Radeon HD 7850M. Combined with a quad-core Intel Core processor and 8GB of RAM, a user can throw just about anything at this laptop and it wouldn’t break a sweat – except when traveling. While it is a 17" laptop and not exactly meant for traveling in the first place, users today expect at least several hours of battery life from their laptops. While the “lesser" Pavilion dv7t-7000 we reviewed manages to last six and a half hours on a single charge, the premium Envy 17 3D can’t even touch half that under the very best conditions. For whatever reason, HP doesn’t allow users to use graphics switching to turn off the AMD GPU and use the Intel integrated graphics for when long battery life is required. Not only does this leave Envy 17 3D customers glued to an outlet most of the time, but it also kills any chance of wirelessly displaying content to a WiDi-enabled TV or monitor, since the Intel HD 4000 seems to be disabled completely. So not only would watching 2D or 3D content be difficult when the user is comfortably in bed or anywhere else not close to a power source, but anyone thinking about using this laptop to host movie night on a larger television will be disappointed by this shortfall. So in conclusion, the HP Envy 17 3D makes for a great home entertainment laptop, just so long as you don’t use it as a laptop.
Bright, 3D-enabled display
Powerful AMD graphics
Photoshop Elements 10 and Premier Elements 10 bundle