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As I was going to University I needed a laptop and I had coped with an old desktop PC running Windows XP for the last 5 years and my Grand-mother said she would pay for it, whatever the price. I was in for something special. At first I looked at MacBooks, but I disliked the keyboard and wasn't sure whether I wanted to use Mac OS. They are also very expensive and so I thought I'd stick to a Windows. I then looked at the Dell XPS 17 as the offer online was really good. However I had a problem with the payment being processed and their customer service was very unhelpful and rude especially as I was going to spend over £1000. That's how I turned to HP. I found the newest HP Envy 17 on their website and was very impressed so I went for that. I do not regret it one bit!
I ordered it online and the Hewlett-Packard website was nice and clear. It had a Three-page PDF document with all the details and specifications. Paying for it was easy, and postage was included. I also found you could use discount coupons for this product. I did a Google search for 'HP coupon' and came across a lot of results. The one I found entitled me to a 10% discount so I was very happy. I paid £1200 pounds for the laptop, minus £120 with the coupon - therefore £1080; and the laptop is worth every penny. It arrived two days later via DHL and it was very well packed. It came in a big cardboard box with bubble wrap to reduce the chance of it being damaged if dropped. Inside this, there was a beautiful big black box with 'HP Envy 17' written on it, with polystyrene around it for added protection. I opened this black box and found the laptop in a lovely thin black material sleeve, again with 'HP Envy 17' on it. I took it out the sleeve, opened it up removed the black screen protector and there it was. It looked amazing. I honestly haven't seen a laptop with such a nice finish. Inside the box there were also a couple of leaflets, installation guides and the power cable. A 3D version of the laptop is also available but I didn't need it and didn't want to pay an extra £300 for it.
Before buying it I had read many reviews. A lot of people were saying that at last HP had come up with a laptop to challenge the Apple MacBook. It has the looks and more processing power for a similar if not cheaper price. The grey aluminium and carbon relic finish on it is really amazing. It has patterns engraved on the back and below the keyboard. They are very simple but look quite nice. The keyboard is very good. The keys are black and there's a small space between each one. There's also a number pad and even enough space to have an extra inch of aluminium on either side. Most of the keys are square, except, obviously, for the space bar, the Enter key, the Shift keys, the Tab key, the Caps Lock key, and a couple of others. Another good thing about the keyboard is that it is backlit. This works very well, isn't too bright and can be turned on and off via the F5 key. One small thing which takes a little getting used to with this keyboard is that you need to use 'fn' to use the F keys at the top. It seems HP have decided that it is more useful to be able to change the volume, the brightness of the screen, turn the wireless on and off, or connect your laptop to a projector, than using the F keys. I think they are probably right, but if you are used to using shortcuts (such as F5 to refresh your browser) then just be aware you'll have to use fn+F5. But it honestly doesn't take long to get used to. Adding to the clean and simple design, there is only one 'button' on the laptop and that's the power button. It's about 1cm long by 2mm large and is silver. I think it looks very nice. The power button and a few of the keys (Caps lock, F9, F10) have a small white circle LED on them which tells you whether certain functions are active or not. F10 lets you turn the WiFi on or off. When it's on, the light is white and when it's off it turns orange. Same happens with F9 except this key controls sound. Finally on the front there's the black touch pad. It's a nice design and is fairly easy to use. There is only one button, the pad being separated by a white line in the shape of a T to tell you which side is right or left click. You can deactivate the pad by tapping the little LED in the top left. If it is off, the LED will be orange and if it's on the LED will simply be off. It is very smooth and fits in to the rest of the design nicely. There are no edges to the mouse pad; it fits in perfectly with the aluminium meaning the front of the laptop is completely smooth. On the back of the laptop there's the HP logo (bottom left if you're looking at it from the back). This lights up when the laptop is on.
Now let's talk about the specs of the Envy 17. It comes with the latest Windows 7 Home Premium installed. It has a 2.0 GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM, which reaches 2.9 GHz with Turbo Boost, and a 6 MB L3 cache. This makes the Envy a seriously fast laptop and is well worth the investment. It also comes with 6 GB DDR3 of RAM, which means you can run lots of programs at the same time without everything becoming slow. If you need more RAM, it can be expanded to 8GB. It has a fast (7200 rpm) 750GB SATA hard drive which is loads to store all your music, pictures and documents. The 17.3 inch (43.9 cm) screen is available as either HD+ (1600×900 resolution) or full HD 1080p (1920×1080 resolution). I chose the Full HD resolution and do not regret it at all. It makes things look slightly smaller but therefore gives you more space on the desktop. It takes a few days to get used to the font size but now I find it hard going back to smaller resolutions: the writing looks so big! The AMD Radeon HD 6850M graphics are very good and help get the most out of the Full HD screen. It comes with Bluetooth which can always be useful for transferring things from a mobile device for example. The Envy also has a 2 megapixel HD webcam which you can play about with using the CyberLink YouCam software installed on the laptop or use to chat to your friends and family on Skype, MSN, etc... It is very good quality and is a nice addition to the high specs of the Envy and works well even in low light. I have a 6-cell battery and the battery life isn't bad I think; better than other laptops I have used but by no means the best. You can watch an average-length film (2 hours) on it without having to plug it in half-way through. With a 9-cell battery you will get a much better battery life, so get it if you can. However, I don't usually use the laptop without it being connected to the mains and I don't think this is the laptop for you if you want to carry it around all the time.
The HP Envy comes with many different ports for memory cards, etc. This includes, on the left: a headphone-output, headphone-out/microphone-in, a USB 3.0 port (for very fast file transfer, although you need compatible devices), an eSATA port/USB 2.0 port, an HDMI port (so you can connect your laptop to your HD TV, or Blu-Ray player), a Mini display port, an RJ45 (Ethernet) port (for your internet connection if you don't use WiFi), a VGA port. On the right hand side there are 2 USB2.0 ports, an SD.MS/Pro.MMC.XD port (a single slot for 5 different types of memory card) and a CD/DVD/Optional Blu-Ray player. I opted for the Blu-Ray player and I am satisfied with it. It is very nicely designed and doesn't pop out like a lot of CD drives do. It is simply a slot where you put the disk in. The eject button is at the top right of the number pad and just looks like a regular key. The power cable plugs into the right hand side of the laptop. The front side has two speakers (one on the left, one on the right) and two LEDs.
Performance-wise it is fantastic and isn't noisy at all. The boot-up speed is relatively fast. It usually takes 30 to 35 seconds to fully boot up (from when I press the power button, to when I can actually use it). I can run lots of memory-demanding programs such as Firefox, Photoshop, iTunes, iPlayer and Skype all at the same time without any problem at all. This is a big change after having used a PC with an Intel Pentium 4 with 2 GB or RAM. If you are still wondering whether to pay the extra money for an Intel i7 processor with 6 or 8 GB of RAM whatever the laptop, don't hesitate any longer. It is definitely worth the money. The graphics are very good. The 1080p screen does its job very well. It is a shiny LCD which I think gives a little more depth to certain colours. It is surrounded by a half-inch shiny black margin left, right and bottom (with the HP logo), and a one inch margin at the top (with the Beats audio and Envy 17 logos). Blu-Ray discs look amazing on it. You really notice the difference compared to a DVD and if you haven't watched a Blu-Ray before, then I strongly suggest you do. HP do however recommend you close all other programs and connect the laptop to a power supply before watching a Blu-Ray, so bear that in mind. The graphics card is good and you can play high specs-demanding games on the Envy without any problem, although this isn't really what I use it for. HP is very proud of its 'Beats audio' system developed Dr. Dre and HP engineers, and has the logo at the top left of the screen, and next to the left speaker. It isn't bad at all for a laptop. It's the best quality I've heard for sure, but nothing like real speakers. You get a good depth of sound, with the bass coming through better than you would expect. With headphones it is good. Personally I connect an amplifier to the laptop and run a pair of AKG K240 Sextett headphones through that, and it is simply amazing. The integrated microphone is surprisingly good and I use it to talk to my family on Skype.
I found the installation process very easy. I just followed the guide and backed up Windows 7 on my external hard drive. I was then guided through the configuration of Microsoft Security Essentials anti-virus software, which was pre-installed. I am happy with it, as it doesn't pop up every couple of hours like many other anti-virus programs. The Envy 17 also came with other programs such as Adobe Photoshop (and Premiere) Elements. Of course these are not match for the real Photoshop, but will do most of the things you need to do unless you use Photoshop for a living. It also has CyberLink YouCam for the webcam and CyberLink PowerDVD 10, for playing DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. There are other HP programs which come installed but most of these aren't ones I use - and they don't get in my way at all, so that's good.
Portability wise, I guess it's what you would expect from a 17 inch laptop: not great and heavy. It is about 3.5 kilograms. But I didn't buy the laptop to carry it around. If I wanted to do that, I'd have bought a 13 inch which is probably the best you'll get if you want both portability and usability. However, I have used it to watch iPlayer in bed and it wasn't a problem.
I have noticed a few minor issues. One day the drivers for the CD/DVD drive stopped working and it took me a while to get the issue sorted. In the end I found a help page on the Microsoft website and it worked a treat. I haven't had the problem since. Another thing is that sometimes the laptop gets quite hot, especially on the left where the fan is. It is fine when the fan isn't obstructed though. I use a couple of polystyrene squares to elevate the laptop at the back and let air flow underneath it. You could also put a book or piece of plastic or wood underneath it.
Overall I think this laptop is well worth the investment and is one of the best around available to the public. Really top-notch quality and a great desktop replacement!