Pull up a chaise lounge and let us pour you a cognac, because today CNET UK is feeling luxurious. We suspect it's something to do with the HP Envy 17-1050ea that's just arrived in our office, a decidedly classy machine that'll set you back around £1,300.
To look at, you'd be mistaken for thinking the Envy 17 was an ornamental piece of art rather than a laptop. The lid and wrist rest are embossed with a slightly abstract, metallic floral print -- up close, the pattern consists of tiny squares, and it's only when you move further away that the flowers become obvious.
On the inside, things are fairly minimalist. Few flashing lights and a relatively small keyboard compared with its massive chassis make for a stylish and modern interior. The trackpad, however, is incredibly big -- one of the largest we've seen. But more on that later.
Metal edging means the chassis feels substantial, and the machine's overall build quality is high. As a consequence, this machine is heavy. Weighing in at 3.41kg and measuring 275 by 416 by 317mm, it's hardly portable. This laptop definitely falls into the 'desktop replacement' category. We can see it staying at home, possibly as part of your home media set-up, rather than accompanying you on a long train journey.
As you'd expect with a larger machine, connectivity is comprehensive. Around the edges you'll find VGA and HDMI outputs, ethernet and eSATA/USB ports, three extra USB ports, 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a mic, a multi-format card reader and a Blu-ray drive thrown in for good measure. At this sort of price point, hefty connectivity is exactly what we'd expect and, thankfully, we're not disappointed.
The display is impressive. 17.3 inches on the diagonal, the screen boasts a resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, which makes for a display so sharp it could slice your eyeballs open. It also offers excellent horizontal viewing. Colours stay vivid with no warping even when you're watching the screen from an extreme angle, so you'll have no trouble crowding the whole family around to check out the latest bear-on-a-bungee video.
The high-res display really makes a difference in terms of viewing quality, and Web pages, photos and 1080p video all look magnificent. If we're being really nit-picky, our only complaint in terms of display is that we've seen brighter, but the Envy 17's display is still a real selling point.
Before we go snorkelling around the Envy 17's innards, let's talk about usability. The keyboard is comfortable and, even if the keys don't offer much travel, you won't find typing for extended periods unpleasant in the least. The only issue we had was with the oddly laid-out arrow keys. With so much space to play with, we expected something more than the tiny up and down arrow buttons on show here.
The trackpad is obscenely huge, one of the largest we've ever seen, which is great. The only downside is the button areas are also touch-sensitive, so if you're hovering over the click buttons with your thumb while moving the cursor with a forefinger, you might find yourself accidentally twitching the mouse when you only want to click. This didn't cause us to blow a blood vessel, however, because the tracking surface is so sensitive that tapping-to-click is actually more effective than using the buttons.
We found this machine ran extremely hot. Think twice before setting this bad boy down on your lap, because you might find it melts your luxurious smoking jacket to your legs. On the other hand, we never found it noisy, and the fan was quiet indeed (which might explain the machine's mercury-raising heat levels).
The Envy 17-1050ea runs on an Intel Core i7-720QM CPU, clocked at 1.60GHz. For those not in the know, that's a truly prodigious processor, and no less than we'd expect at this price. You'll also be treated to 4GB of DDR3 RAM and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 dedicated graphics card.
With all the puzzle pieces in place, the Envy 17 scored an impressive 7201 in our PCMark05 benchmark test, and a staggering 10,200 when we ran our 3DMark06 graphics benchmark test at a resolution of 1,280x1,024 pixels. Cranking the resolution up to the supported maximum of 1,920x1,080 pixels, the Envy 17 still racked up a sock-rocking score of 9,286.
With scores like these, we'd expect this laptop to handle pretty much anything you choose to throw at it, cutting-edge games included.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to run our battery life benchmarks, as our review model wouldn't recognise the battery that was plugged in. Still, we'd be amazed if you managed to squeeze anything more than a few hours out of this machine -- as mentioned earlier, portability is not the Envy 17's strength.
The Envy 17 has a 500GB hard drive stowed away in its underbelly and comes with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.
Despite a few design flaws, such as the oddly shaped arrow keys, there's very little to dislike about this machine. It looks great, has a truckload of computing power and is highly usable. As with any product, a high price tag affords equally high expectations. HP set out to create a luxury laptop in the Envy 17-1050ea and, by Jove, we think it succeeded.
If you fancy shaving a few quid off the price and you're not fussed about the design, check out the Toshiba Qosmio X500.
Edited by Emma Bayly