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Lifewire / Jonno Hill
Not too expensive
Good build quality
Better than average sound
middling battery life
The HP Envy 17t gives users ample screen real estate and an attractive grouping of specs across the board for a fairly reasonable price.
There are no two ways about it: the HP Envy 17t is a decidedly large laptop. It’s not particularly shy about this fact, and doesn’t make any attempts to hide it. It’s also heavy. And did we mention how large it is?
Snark aside, the HP Envy 17t does put a lot of interesting features into one chassis to make it very compelling offering for a likely small subset of shoppers that have the need for them. This includes things like a full-size, no-compromise keyboard that doesn’t cram any oblong, squished keys anywhere. It also features plenty of ports and connectivity, enough to actually use it in this day and age without a dongle (hold your gasps). And the coup-de-grace, this behemoth of a laptop has the sheer audacity to include a DVD drive, making it the ultimate computer of choice for the “they sure don’t make ‘em like they used to” crowd.
Let’s unpack this sometimes peculiar and sometimes admirable laptop and take a look at all it has to offer.
Let’s get all the gawk-worthy specs out of the way before anything else. The HP Envy 17t has a display measuring 17.3 inches across, and weighs in at a whopping 8.6 pounds. To put this in perspective, that’s more than two of Apple’s most recent 15-inch MacBook Pros, and nearly as much as three of LG’s featherweight 17-inch Gram laptops. All this is to say that the HP Envy 17t is certainly not the most portable laptop on the market today. Despite this, we were still able to fit it in a not-too-big backpack without much trouble.
The body of the device itself feels very substantial and premium, aided in part by its sheer weight. Opening the device reveals a ventilation strip running most of the length of the space between the screen and the body. If you look from the side, you will also notice that this laptop features a lifted hinge, which acts to promote better air circulation and also elevate the keyboard for a more natural typing position.
The body of the device itself feels very substantial and premium, aided in part by its sheer weight.
The keyboard is large and spacious, featuring nice, solid keys with even spacing throughout. Going from our usual desktop keyboard to this laptop keyboard was a fairly natural transition, not requiring a lot of getting used to. The only design decision we weren’t in love with was the backlighting on the keys. Since the keycaps themselves are silver, set against a silver background, the white under-key lighting made the keys actually harder to see in anything but very dark conditions.
The touchpad is mostly fine, but requires a little bit more force than we were used to in order to register a click. As a result, we found ourselves using tap to click instead of a full click whenever possible. And as for the fingerprint reader, we noticed it struggling a lot to recognize our fingerprint when we initially set it up, but this issue managed to correct itself without any intervention after a couple hours of use. It definitely seems to be a bit more temperamental than readers on other laptops we’ve tested.
The keyboard is large and spacious, featuring nice solid keys with even spacing throughout.
Ports and connectivity are where the HP Envy 17t really starts to shine. The left of the device features an Ethernet port, two full-size USB-A 3.1 ports, an HDMI port, a USB-C 3.1 port, headphone jack, and an SD card reader. Meanwhile, the right side features the AC power port, 1 additional USB-A 3.1 port, and the DVD writer. Also on the right is a dedicated switch to enable or disable the function of the webcam, for security purposes. Overall, this is a very comprehensive array of ports and connectivity.
The HP Envy 17t doesn’t require much fuss to set up. Unpacking the laptop and plugging in the charger occurred without much fanfare, and getting set up with Windows didn’t take any longer than on any other device. HP does include a few applications pre-installed, but nothing too intrusive.
The 1920 x 1080 LED featured on the HP Envy 17t is certainly suitable for most everyday use, but we can’t say it’s the best display we’ve tested. Part of the issue is that the 1080p resolution is not quite sufficient for a display this size, and as a result, it appears less crisp than many modern laptops. The screen does become fairly bright at maximum brightness, but at the expense of overall contrast, making reading text and discerning small details on white/grey elements somewhat difficult. There is also a rather drastic jump in brightness between the maximum brightness and one step down, which makes it hard to calibrate.
The 1920 x 1080 LED featured on the HP Envy 17t is certainly suitable for most everyday use, but we can’t say it’s the best display we’ve tested.
The display loses brightness and contrast fairly quickly when viewed from the top or bottom, which means that you need to orient the display directly at your face in order to see properly. This issue is not as pronounced from the sides, interestingly enough. Glare is a bit of an issue too due to the glossy coating over the display.
Viewing video content on this display was actually pretty decent, provided you aren’t viewing from off vertical angles. The 1080p screen is, after all, the same resolution as most of the media you’re going to be watching, so you won’t be missing out on any additional resolution in these cases.
The HP Envy 17t is reasonably well equipped in the hardware department, featuring an 8th generation Intel i7-8565U processor, 12GB of RAM, and an Nvidia MX250 graphics card. For a laptop of this price, this is a decent offering. The performance is somewhat marred, however, by the lack of an SSD in the configuration we tested. We noticed that the laptop was particularly sluggish to wake after having been closed, and would frequently hang on the log-in screen after we used our fingerprint to sign in.
HP does offer configurations with SSDs and even one with a 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD. If you intend to make this your main computer, we strongly recommend springing for one of these options instead of the default 1TB SATA plus 16GB Intel Optane memory configuration.
Since the keycaps themselves are silver, set against a silver background, the white under-key lighting made the keys actually harder to see in anything but very dark conditions.
From a numbers perspective, our HP Envy 17t registered a 4,063 overall score in PCMark 10. For the price, this is not a bad result, and is certainly aided by the discrete graphics card. In GFXBench, the Envy managed 59.37fps in the Car Chase test, and 59.98fps in the T-Rex test.
The HP Envy 17t will be able to handle some light gaming, but don’t expect any miracles. The Nvidia MX250 graphics card is a step up from Intel’s onboard graphics solution, but only about half as powerful as Nvidia’s GTX 1050 mobile GPU, which is a typical entry point for gaming uses in laptops marketed for gaming currently.
The sound on the HP Envy 17t is better than average, thanks to the Bang & Olufsen speakers at the front. This was also one of the few 17-inch laptops we tested that bucked the rather unfortunate trend of putting the speakers on the bottom. Despite passing this very low bar, don’t expect amazing results—the sound is still somewhat tinny, and lacks much of anything on the low end.
The sound on the HP Envy 17t is better than average, thanks to the Bang & Olufsen speakers at the front.
Bang & Olufsen also provides an app (Bang & Olufsen Audio Control) which can be used to tune the sound to favor music, movies, or voice, as well as select from or create equalizer presets using the 10-band equalizer. The main difference between the “Bang & Olufsen Experience” tuning and the default tuning of the speakers was that the default tuning felt very stagnant and muffled. If you’re an audiophile who knows your way around EQ settings, you might be able to bump up sound capabilities.
Like most laptops we’ve seen recently, the HP Envy 17t uses Intel’s Wireless-AC 9560 solution to provide Wi-Fi. This 802.11ac certified chip uses a 2x2 stream configuration to enable up to 1.73Gbps max speeds. We never had any trouble using laptops featuring this chip, and it will likely remain the best option until manufacturers begin to integrate the newer Intel Wi-FI 6 AX200 series chips, supporting up to 2.4Gbps.
The HP Envy 17t uses the same underperforming 720p/30 fps webcam we’ve seen in most of the laptops that we’ve tested in this category. It’s not really built for much more than simple video conferencing, and it doesn’t really make an effort to deliver more than that. Webcam quality usually doesn’t rank very highly on customers’ list of needs, or we’d likely see better cameras in them.
The HP Envy 17t does have one trick up its sleeve that is rather nice, and that’s the inclusion of a dedicated privacy button on the side of the laptop. Once switched, access to the webcam is disabled entirely. Firing up the camera app in windows will simply return an error message stating “we can’t find your camera” as soon as this switch is activated. The real question is, will privacy-conscious consumers really be satisfied with a solution like this, or will they still want to put a physical camera block on their webcam anyway?
The HP Envy 17t could use a little help in the battery department. The battery is the same capacity as the one found in the 13-inch variant of the Envy, which translates to great results in that tiny laptop but less than stellar results in this behemoth. Expect around 6 hours of general web browsing before it kicks the bucket, and a little under 2 hours (1 hour, 45 minutes) when running the laptop battery benchmarking tool Battery Eater at full steam.
These aren’t the worst results we’ve seen from a laptop in this class, but we’ve definitely seen better performance as well. LG’s Gram 17, for example, featured a much more substantial battery despite having no dedicated graphics card to drain the battery faster.
HP includes a limited amount of pre-installed software on the Envy 17t, such as the aforementioned Bang & Olufsen audio control center. You will also find McAfee LiveSafe installed with a 30-day trial that begins when you first set up the device. HP also includes the HP Smart application that helps you connect a supported HP printer, HP Support Assistant for managing your warranty and accessing support when needed, and something called HP JumpStarts.
HP JumpStarts contains a rather random collection of articles, videos, and promotions to educate users about functions on their laptop. There isn’t a lot of content here, and HP could have probably done without its inclusion.
Overall, we didn’t find there to be an overly obnoxious amount of pre-installed software, and certainly nothing that would detract from our overall opinion of the device.
At a price of between $700 to $1,000, the HP Envy 17t is neither a steal nor a ripoff. You do get a fairly reasonable baseline of components across the board with a lot of unique features, but the Envy doesn’t necessarily excel at anything either. If it cost much more, it might be tricky to recommend, but as it stands, this is a pretty decent offering for the price.
The ASUS VivoBook Pro 17 is another laptop to consider in or around this price tier. At $1,099, it’s definitely a little more costly, but for that price you get 16GB of RAM (up from 12GB), an SSD alongside the slower hard drive, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card, which will be significantly more capable for gaming.
It’s not all upside though—we liked the overall build quality of the HP Envy 17t more. It also has better sound and more attractive design choices all around. On specs alone though, the VivoBook definitely won out.
A heavyweight contender if your back can bear it.
The HP Envy 17t might have a notable number of drawbacks, but it manages to offer enough to potential buyers to make it an attractive offering for the price. Shoppers who want a bigger laptop with a bigger keyboard and solid construction will definitely like what they unbox. Those concerned solely with the latest and greatest specs across the board might need to keep shopping.
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