Desktop-replacement laptops are typically big and heavy, but they usually make up for their lack of portability with roomy 17-inch screens, upgraded CPU and graphics performance, and plenty of ports to connect all of your peripherals. All of this is true of the HP Envy 17 (starts at $899.99; $1,439.99 as tested). It’s a desktop-replacement design that’s been around for several years, but it has been updated for 2020 with several leading-edge features, notably some minimalist styling and an optional 4K display. But not everything about it is an evolution: The laptop is quite heavy by today’s standards for a 17-incher that isn’t a gaming machine, and it suffers from some build-quality issues, making it suitable only for buyers who will rarely move it from their desks.
A Good-Looking 17.3-Inch 4K Screen
The Envy 17’s star attraction is its 17.3-inch LED-backlit display, available in either full-HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) or 4K (UHD) native resolutions. Our review configuration has the latter, with dimensions of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels. It’s gorgeous, with razor-sharp text and not a hint of pixelation anywhere when your eyes are at a comfortable viewing distance of a few feet. Such a large screen deserves a high resolution, and while it lacks support for high-dynamic range (HDR) color or OLED technology, it’s still an upgrade we’d highly recommend for the Envy 17. Unfortunately, the panel lacks touch support, a feature that is only available on the full-HD model.
Most mainstream laptops these days have screen sizes between 13 and 15 inches, and the 17-inch class is increasingly uncommon outside of gaming machines. You’d expect such a large display to require an equally large and heavy chassis, and in the Envy 17’s case, you’d be right. The laptop measures 0.76 by 15.7 by 10.2 inches (HWD) and weighs a startling 6.02 pounds. I started to feel my wrists strain after less than a minute of holding our test unit.
Tipping the scales at more than 6 pounds isn’t unheard of, especially for gaming laptops, but it’s becoming increasingly rare. Even some 17-inch gaming rigs weigh significantly less, including the 5.02-pound MSI GS75 Stealth. You can even find a non-gaming 17-incher that qualifies for ultraportable-laptop (under-4-pound) status: the LG Gram 17.
So the Envy 17’s weight is a bit of a throwback, and it becomes even more anachronistic when you consider the laptop’s internal components, which ought to require very little in the way of bulky cooling equipment. The configuration I tested includes a 10th Generation, quad-core Intel Core i7-1065G7 with a base clock speed of 1.3GHz, and a low-end Nvidia GeForce MX330 graphics card with 2GB of video memory. Even though the MSI GS75 Stealth is far more expensive, it manages to fit a far more powerful Core i7-8750H and a GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q into its thinner and lighter chassis. Consider this, and you really begin to question the need for the Envy 17’s weight and girth.
Perhaps a bigger concern, though: The lower portion of the Envy 17’s case isn’t particularly well-engineered. The laptop’s base feels quite sturdy, but I noted some oddly behaved flex when you lift the laptop in certain spots: It forces the touchpad to click by itself when you hold it near the edges with one hand. Any laptop this large and heavy is going to have at least a small amount of flex, to be sure, so the touchpad design itself is likely responsible for the unwanted clicking. It’s particularly annoying if you happen to move the laptop to another location in the middle of a task—a movie could resume playing, or—much worse—you could make an unwanted edit to a document. I felt the touchpad click every time I picked the Envy 17 up with a single hand grasping the lower left corner. This shouldn’t be a concern on a laptop that costs nearly $1,500.
An Enviable Minimalist Aesthetic
Despite the weight and the build-quality issues, the Envy 17 is undeniably good-looking. HP has endowed it with a minimalist aesthetic, which means it will blend in with virtually any modern decor. The clean lines and squared edges complement the silver color scheme, and thoughtful design flourishes include hiding the cooling vents in the display lid so as not to mar the otherwise uncluttered surfaces.
I also appreciate the design of the backlit keyboard. The key switches aren’t particularly sturdy, so the key caps wobble a bit, but there’s satisfying travel distance and the labels use a simple, large font that makes them easy to see. The keyboard includes a numeric keypad, an essential feature for desktop-replacement laptops, and one that spreadsheet jockeys will especially appreciate.
Nearly all of the Envy 17’s ancillary buttons and status lights are integrated into the keyboard as well, further enhancing the laptop’s clean aesthetic. These include run-of-the-mill controls like the power button and audio controls, as well as the fingerprint reader to enable passwordless logins to your Windows account. There’s even a nifty button that activates an automatic webcam privacy door. Press it and the door immediately clicks into place, shielding you from hackers and snoops.
The automatic camera privacy door is probably the Envy 17’s most innovative feature, and it feels fancier than sliding the door closed yourself—as is common on Lenovo laptops—and more reassuring than the power kill switch on other some HP laptops, which disconnects power to the camera but doesn’t physically block the lens. The buttons for the webcam door, the audio mute, the microphone mute, and the power button all have built-in LED indicators to helpfully let you know when they’re activated.
Check This Indicator Before Moving the Envy 17
There is one indicator that is rarely seen on laptops anymore, located all by itself on the laptop’s left edge: a drive access LED. It tells you when the Envy 17 is reading or writing data to the boot drive. This indicator could come in handy if you configure the laptop with a platter-style hard drive (which is still an option here), so that you can verify it’s not in use before you move the Envy 17. With the SSD-only configuration of our review unit, it’s less useful, since an SSD has no moving parts that can be damaged in transit by thumps and bumps.
In addition to the drive access light, the Envy 17’s left flank also includes a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, an HDMI 2.0 output, a combo headphone/microphone connector, and a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port that supports DisplayPort video output. On the right edge, you’ll find a full-size SD card reader, two more USB Type-A ports, and a power port to accept the barrel-style AC adapter. The port selection is generous by general laptop standards, though about average for such a large laptop. Support for Thunderbolt 3 is noticeably absent.
Even though the Envy 17’s four-cell, 55-watt-hour battery can be charged via the USB Type-C port, HP only includes the older barrel-style power adapter in the box. Ditching the dedicated power port and adding a second USB Type-C port would make more sense as more and more devices move to USB Type-C for both data connections and power delivery.
Wireless connectivity on the Envy 17 includes Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.0.
The Envy 17 has plenty of room for a decent sound system, with its dual speakers projecting sound up through a generously sized horizontal grille located between the keyboard and the hinge. As on most midrange and premium HP laptops, the Envy 17 bears Bang & Olufsen branding. While the audio quality isn’t particularly nuanced, it’s plenty loud enough to fill a large family room with volume to spare.
Entry-Level Configuration: Not Bad for $899
The entry-level Envy 17 configuration features an Intel Core i5-1035G1, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD, which isn’t bad for $899. In addition to the upgraded Core i7 and 4K display, our review unit also features 16GB of RAM. Further upgrades include 32GB of RAM (overkill for most users), and a doubling of the video memory available to the GeForce MX330 from 2GB to 4GB. You can also configure an Envy 17 with a 1TB SSD or a combination of a 1TB hard drive and a 256GB SSD.
Thanks to its discrete graphics card, the Envy 17 is better-equipped to handle 3D graphics and video editing than are most other mainstream laptops, which feature Intel’s integrated graphics solutions. While the GeForce MX330 doesn’t qualify the Envy 17 as a gaming laptop, you should be able to comfortably enjoy some demanding AAA titles as long as you play at lower quality settings and screen resolutions.
To evaluate the Envy 17’s performance, I pitted it against a few other comparably-priced systems with large displays on our benchmark tests. In addition to the 17-inch Gram 17, I’m also comparing the 17-inch HP Omen 17 gaming laptop, the 15-inch Lenovo Yoga C940 2-in-1 convertible, and the 15-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 3.
While I noticed no lag or sluggishness during ordinary productivity tasks and installing apps, the Envy 17 did perform slightly lower on the PCMark 10 benchmark than its competitors did. PCMark 10 assesses overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and videoconferencing. (See how we test laptops.)
Thanks to its fast PCI Express NVMe SSD, the Envy 17 was more competitive on the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark.
When it comes to multimedia editing, the Envy 17 should perform similarly to other laptops equipped with Intel’s 10th Generation “Ice Lake” processors, including the LG Gram 17, but significantly slower than those with upgraded H-series 9th Generation processors like those in the Omen 17 and the Yoga C940. The results of our multimedia editing tests bear this out, including rendering a 3D image in Maxon’s Cinebench, applying a series of filters and effects to an image in Adobe Photoshop, and converting a 4K video file to 1080p using Handbrake.
Our 3DMark and Superposition gaming benchmarks confirm the Envy 17’s mid-level gaming status. These benchmarks render and pan through detailed 3D scenes, measuring results in a proprietary score (for 3DMark) or in frames per second (for Superposition). As expected, the Envy 17 performed slightly ahead of the Gram 17 and the Surface Laptop 3, but significantly behind the Omen 17 and the Yoga C940, with their peppier (Yoga) or gaming-class (Omen) GPUs.
During many of these performance tests, the Envy 17’s fan spooled up, becoming clearly audible in a quiet room. I hardly noticed the fan at all while browsing the web or performing other basic tasks, though. Via a pre-installed HP app, you can set the laptop to Comfort mode, which will slow down the fans and throttle the CPU, but could also affect performance. I left the laptop in the default Recommended mode during testing.
Lasting for nearly 9 hours on our battery rundown test, the Envy 17 offers admirable battery life for a laptop equipped with a power-hungry, 17.3-inch 4K display. But since you’re unlikely to travel much with this hefty laptop, or at least use it for long periods while in transit due to its size, it shouldn’t stray far from a power outlet for too long, rendering its battery life a secondary consideration.
A Decent Replacement for Your Desktop
The Envy 17 is a decent desktop replacement laptop. Our key quibbles with it (its bulk and its build quality) shouldn’t be issues if it spends most of its time on your desk. It also offers typing comfort, an excellent optional 4K display, and adequate performance and connectivity options. Once upon a time, all of this would have made the Envy 17 a no-brainer for fans of big-screen machines.
In 2020, however, you have better options than desktop-replacement shoppers of yesteryear did. If big-screen performance is what you’re after, you can get more bang for your buck by choosing a 17-inch gaming laptop, some of which are thinner and lighter than the Envy 17 (and a few of which will be even cheaper than our test model, albeit minus the 4K display; take for example the 17-inch version of the Acer Nitro 5). Meanwhile, if you want a really big screen but don’t want to sacrifice portability, the comparably priced Gram 17 offers roughly the same size display at about half the carry weight.
Finally, if money’s no object and you’re after the ultimate large laptop, our current top pick for high-end desktop-replacement machines is the 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro. Its screen is slightly smaller, and it’s considerably more expensive than the Envy 17, but it’s also far more capable, and the build is much more solid.
HP Envy 17 (2020) Specs
|Laptop Class||Desktop Replacement|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-1065G7|
|Processor Speed||1.3 GHz|
|RAM (as Tested)||16 GB|
|Boot Drive Type||SSD|
|Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested)||512 GB|
|Screen Size||17.3 inches|
|Native Display Resolution||3,840 by 2,160|
|Variable Refresh Support||None|
|Screen Refresh Rate||60 Hz|
|Graphics Processor||Nvidia GeForce MX330|
|Graphics Memory||2 GB|
|Wireless Networking||802.11ax, Bluetooth|
|Dimensions (HWD)||0.76 by 15.71 by 10.2 inches|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 10|
|Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes)||8:52|