Up until just recently, it would have been difficult to convince me to play a PC game on anything but my lovingly hand-built tower PC. I am not talking about casual games or older games. But if you wanted to see your latest PC blockbuster FPS or Strategy title in the best light, I would have advised a tower system immediately.
But so-called “desktop replacement” laptops have been around for a while now. These are the machines that look like laptops, but are so heavy and have such poor battery life that they can by no means be considered as mobile. The inability to upgrade the important components of these machines, the processor and the graphics card, make them kind of pointless, especially when the lack of mobility is considered. Or, at least, that is what I thought…
This all changed when I had the chance to spend some time with the gorgeous looking Envy 17 from Hewlett Packard. The higher end desktop replacement laptops have always been somewhat out of my price range and, as previously explained, kind of pointless. But after spending two weeks with the Envy 17, I think I may have been converted.
The specs of the machine that I had to test were pretty impressive, and frankly put my desktop PC to shame. Packing an Intel Core i7-720QM CPU, running at 1.60GHz, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 dedicated graphics card, there is certainly no lack of power. The dedicated graphics is a big deal for any gamer considering one of these machines, as so many laptops and netbooks fall short in the graphics department.
What else does the Envy 17 come with? Well, how about a stonkingly impressive 17.3 inch screen with a maximum resolution of 1920×1080? This high-resolution display makes all forms of multimedia a joy on the Envy 17, games included. It also includes a decent sized 500GB hard drive, a slot-loading Blu-Ray drive and connections for pretty much anything you could possibly want.
As a gamer, touchpads are not really something I ever consider using, and the Envy 17’s touchpad did nothing to change that. It is impressively oversized, which is a good thing and makes it easier to move around the large screen. But the decision to incorporate the left and right click buttons into the lower edge of the pad caused me to break out the mouse again. I am sure it would only be a matter of getting used to them, but they just didn’t feel comfortable. Still, it does look good.
Let us, for a few moments, consider the aesthetics of the Envy 17. Looks are quite important to me, something that I realised after spending far too much money on a new case for my tower PC. But the Envy 17 is in a whole other league. The cover and where your wrists sit are all embossed with an almost pixelated pattern that can be seen to be floral when taking a step back. The HP symbol, which is discretely tucked away in the corner of the lid, lights up when the machine is in use, which is pleasing (I am a sucker for lights). The business part of the machine has a nice solid metal surround, displaying both quality and a sense of security, whilst adding to the overall impression that you are not going to want to take this out for long train journeys. That being said, the Envy 17 is both powerful and distinctive enough to prove very popular for LAN parties, where PC gamers think nothing of lugging a huge tower and monitor around.
Pretty or not, if it can’t play my games then I am not interested. Fortunately, the Envy 17 managed to deal with everything that I threw at it. Running Virtua Tennis 4 to start with, simply because I was settling into reviewing the title at the time, there was absolutely nothing to be concerned about. Switching up the pressure slightly, I then tried out The Witcher 2 and again was impressed with the performance. Everything that could be was pumped to the max and it still had room to move. It was then that I came across a problem…
The Envy 17 is an impressive piece of kit and is filled to the brim with powerful components. The side effect of this is that the machine runs hot. For gamers who are looking for extended gaming sessions, and without some kind of external cooling, these machines run incredibly hot, worrying so. I am sure that for the standard every day use, there is very little to worry about. But gamers tend to push any settings that they can to the max, which results in the machine working very hard and heating up to the point that I was worried something would start melting. I have absolutely no concerns that the Envy 17 can run all modern games to a high standard, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I am, however, concerned that the machine may melt my desk, or itself.
Let’s get one thing straight – The Envy 17 is in no way mobile. But it is incredibly pleasing to the eye, built to a very high standard and capable of dealing with pretty much any game or other task you care to give it. If HP can only sort out the overheating issue, which I am sure they will in later revisions, then you have a very desirable desktop replacement gaming machine.
Looking around the Internet, HP Envy Notebooks seem to range in price from around £800 to over £1,200, depending on the specs. The current range of HP laptops can be seen here.