As a high-end gaming laptop, it's hard to fault HP's 17inch En. Not only does it have one of the fastest mobile quad-core processors underneath its sleek aluminium skin, it's thinner than competitively powered 15in machines like the Asus G53 3D.
By comparison to a similarly sized MacBook Pro, it's a half a centimetre thicker and the plastic underside makes it less attractive, but it absolutely overpowers it in terms of raw computing speeds for three quarters of the cost.
That's because unlike the MacBook, the Envy has a high-spec Mobility Radeon HD5850 graphics chip, which means that games fly on its sharp and evenly coloured 1080p screen, and GPU-accelerated video and photo editing apps run at full desktop speeds. To cap it, a Blu-ray drive and HDMI output make it a powerful portable media centre at home or on the go.
Setting up for 3D
For all its charms, however, the reason we're interested in the latest Envy 17 is that it comes with a fast 120Hz screen and a pair of active shutter glasses for stereoscopic 3D movies, games and photos. The glasses are battery powered, but can be recharged by a mini-USB cable, and they sync the vision of each eye with alternate frames on screen using an infra-red link built into the laptop lid, next to the webcam.
Set-up should be as simple as pointing the glasses at the screen and hitting play, but confusingly the 3D driver isn't pre-installed on the Envy. You'll have to download a program called TriDef 3D from DDD.
Review continues after the break…
Once you have the TriDef driver installed, the process of getting 3D working is straightforward. A control panel allows you to select which programs you'd like to add 3D effects to, and you can set the depth of the effect with a simple slider. When watching a 3D Blu-ray, you can switch between 3D and 2D mode during playback, which is useful if you want to share the experience as there's only one pair of glasses and no obvious way to get hold of a second set. There’s a huge number of games supported, too.
Thanks to the fact that in-game scenes are already composed of 3D information, nearly every current PC game can be displayed in stereoscopic mode. The problem, however, is that rendering out graphics information twice carries a hefty performance penalty. Even on the high-end components of the Envy 17, you won't be able to play at full resolution in 3D mode without a lot of slowdown and stuttering.
But even with that drawback, the Envy 17 is an outstandingly well built and designed laptop at a reasonable price. Add those 3D features and you’ve got a portable entertainment machine that’s going to be very hard to beat.