HP Envy 17 3D Review
- Well built and looks good despite its bulk
- Good components, and a fast graphic solution in the Radeon HD 5850
- 3D display, with bundled glasses
- Good value for money if you're up to spending close to a lakh on a laptop
- Not for everyone with its high-spec components
- Heavy and bulky - not exactly something you want to lug around
- The HD 5850 can get very hot
High-end gaming notebooks are a rare breed with few takers. If you are one such person, the HP Envy 3D 17 is a good package - strong graphics, Blu-ray playback and a stereoscopic 3D display with bundled glasses. It's expensive, but a good buy for the discerning gamer who needs a notebook. Of course, you could buy a similar performing desktop for half, if that's your game...
It's been awhile since we've had a large, powerful notebook - the kind that make our arms and backs ache just looking at them. And no - our hearts don't often jump in glee at the thought of a powerful (read gaming) configuration, for no gaming notebook, irrespective of its price, can hold its own with even a desktop priced 40,000 bucks lower, let alone one at the same price. Its tough to shoehorn 200-watt graphic cards into the confined environs that are notebook chassis, and honestly this is a physical limitation rather than a manufacturer's mistake.
However, our little disclaimer notwithstanding, there are those who are aware of the tradeoffs, and still need something portable, (well not really, but at least it weighs under 5 kilos!), to carry around to a LAN party. And such gaming events typically revolve around Counter Strike, UT, Quake 3, or even DoTA (a popular Warcraft 3 mod) - not exactly demanding titles. For such people, HP presents the Envy - a large beast of a notebook, with good components under the boot, and despite our usual derision for "gaming notebooks", we must admit the Envy was quite a package and it seems like Alienware finally has some worthwhile competition. Sure, it's not a desktop with a Core i7 980 Extreme and dual GTX 580s, but heck - it's a notebook and at least someone's trying...
Look and feel
A huge box, completely black in colour, opens up to reveal a rather large notebook, with neatly packaged accessories, including a pair of 3D glasses, powered by a flat battery - the same ones that power BIOS'. With a 17-inch display, the Envy is a large notebook, but it's also handsome looking. A lot of metal has been used on the body, giving it a somewhat more rigid feel, although an Apple unibody it is not! The lid is completely aluminium. The body is quite thick, a result of cramming more powerful components than what most notebooks have, into a relatively smaller chassis than desktops.
You get a nice patterned lid with a rough texture on the outside, and the inside follows a satin-finish - a welcome relief from the piano-glossy finishes that HP uses a lot. A resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels will please gamers, but the glossy display is a major bummer in our opinion, especially for a gaming notebook; a pity matte displays are becoming extinct.
The keypad is well laid out, and nicely spaced, although we feel the keys could have been a bit larger. The smaller keys also mean there's a bit more spacing between them then what most users will be used to, which is good for a gaming notebook, but not so intuitive for fast typing. The trackpad is also larger than most HP notebooks, a point of interest to gamers. It's also quite accurate, although you will pretty much need to use a mouse, as we're yet to see a notebook gamer who doesn't use one. The power adapter is a brick, and a far cry from the sleek units Apple provides. However, it is smaller than some of the previous HP notebooks we've seen, yet will add close to a kilo with its cable to your package.
One of the most talked about features of the model we're looking at is the presence of 3D support. The display on the Envy supports up to 120 Hertz and that was enough to give us a hint, in case the blatant bundling of 3D stereovision glasses wasn't enough. Then there's the high resolution display, which at 1920 x 1080 pixels is something gamers will like. For the 17" notebook, we were a little surprised to find only 3 USB ports though. Generally gamers who connect such notebooks to larger monitors will definitely use at least 2 ports - one each for an additional mouse and keyboard. One of the USB ports doubles as an E-SATA port. An HDMI port supporting the latest 1.4 version of HDMI and a Mini-Display Port for connecting to HDTVs and the like. We received this powerhouse with a 9-cell battery, although a lighter 6-cell one is also available.
[RELATED_ARTICLE]The model we received came with a 640 GB hard drive, although HP allows the user to configure up to 2 hard drives, which gamers will salivate at, for speedy RAID 0 becomes a possibility. Alternatively for even more speed, you could consider an SSD and a hard drive for space. Incidentally, the Blu-ray drive that ships with the Envy 17" 3D is also a drive that supports 3D Blu-ray playback - kind of obvious, but essentially making this notebook an expensive, but high quality 3D Blu-ray playback device if you would like to use it thus. We tried a 3D copy of Avatar and needless to say this works pretty well. In fact, the colours are better than we've seen on some TVs, which doesn't mean the display on the Envy is better, but merely that it is implementing 3D better. While such a small display is not cinematic for viewing movies in 3D, it's a good display for the purpose.
Sadly, we couldn't get this to work with most games that we tried. AMD obviously has a few kinks in their 3D component to iron out given that NVIDIA has been doing 3D for awhile now. We tried games like Arcania: A Gothic Tale, Dragon Age 2, Call Of Pripyat, Lost Planet 2 and even Crysis 2, and none of these games worked in 3D! However, we don't blame HP for this, rather AMD is the culprit. If only the Envy 3D 17 came with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570...
The configuration we received was also one of the lower end ones. The Envy 3D 17 is available with a Core i7 quad core processor, 8 GB of RAM and two 750 GB hard drives, but we received one with a dual core processor, 4 GB of RAM and a single 640 GB hard drive. Given this, we found the stated MRP price a little on the higher side, but as we discovered later on, the Envy sells for a lot less on the street.
Click next to read on about its performance and our verdict