The lid and palm rest are in metallic, light grey aluminium and the lower part of the chassis is in a granular black plastic. The whole is sufficiently well assembled and has a certain elegance to it.
The chiclet keyboard has nicely sized keys, but the stroke is too supple, not offering enough resistance to be perfectly comfortable. The keyboard doesn't feel like it's very solidly integrated into the palm rest, as any time you type with a bit of force, all of the keys push slightly into the chassis. It's backlit, which is nice, but you can't adjust the brightness, other turning it on or off. The touchpad is well sized and precise and recognises all of the standard Windows 8 touch gestures.
The connection possibilities are four USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet, HDMI, an audio in/out combo jack, an SD card reader and a DVD drive. The wireless connectivity consists of Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi b/g/n, which we measured at -47 dBm from 5 to 10 metres away and -55 dBm from 20 metres away.
During our stress test we found, quite naturally, that the highest temperatures were concentrated around the air vent; the rest of the chassis stayed perfectly cool. As a result, you'll want to constantly make sure nothing's blocking the vent. Fortunately, the fan stays quiet, as we never picked up any noises higher than 40 dB(A).
The Envy 17 has a glossy display with 1600 x 900 pixels and simply dreadful picture quality. The average contrast ratio is an unimaginably low 288:1 and the brightness is only marginally better at 294 cd/m².
Grey colour temperature
Our other measurements don't help matters, either, quite the contrary. The colour (in)fidelity is off the charts with a Delta E of 12.7, whereas 3 and below denotes accurate tones, and the 9,228 K colour temperature is far off indeed from the ideal 6,500 K.
The sound quality through the line in/out is just about average for the laptops we've tested. It has good spatialisation, sufficient power and no interference.
The speakers aren't as impressive, though. There's very little bass and highs saturate quickly. They're perfectly fine for video chats or the Windows system sounds, but not for music or films, for which you're better off using headphones.
Note: The model we were sent to review features an Intel Core i5-4200M processor, 4 GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GT 750M graphics card and a 750 GB hard drive. The comments above refer to all versions of the HP Envy 17 Leap Motion Edition, whereas the sections below apply only to the model we tested (see inset below). Available configurations may also vary depending on the country/region in which you live.
This is the first time we've tested the Intel Core i5-4200M. It's based on the same hardware as the Core i5-4200U, with which we are quite familiar, but the clock rates are almost a gigahertz higher and the thermal envelope has been upped from 15 W to 37 W.
Click for details
Even with its simple mechanical hard drive, the Envy 17 outperforms laptops equipped with a i5-4200U and a solid-state drive. It even follows close on the heels of laptops with a Core i7-4500U inside. It can handle complex tasks like photo and video editing with reasonable speeds.
But you do wish there were an SSD during startup and shutdown and while launching programmes, as they would all execute faster.
Like processor, like graphics card. The Nvidia GeForce GT 750M can handle many types of task and a good number of video games.
Only the most demanding games, like Crysis 3, will require you to lower the details and resolution to obtain quality gameplay.
MOBILITY / BATTERY LIFE
The battery does a respectable job for a laptop like this. It lasts for 4½ hours of video playback (in airplane mode with the brightness at 100 cd/m² and headphones plugged in). This is perfectly fine for a laptop that, due to its size, is the type of computer users will typically use at home.