Review: My New HP ENVY 17″ Laptop

I often write reviews when I get new hardware, because well I enjoy doing it and I often find as a huge nerd/geek (proudly so I might add) many here who are not nerds are thinking about buying something but not sure what and they seem to get something from what I have to say.

Now to my HP Envy. Specs: 17.3 display, full keyboard, TB HD, 256 GB solid state drive running the OS, 24 MB RAM, Windows 10, backlit keyboard, DVD drive, and touchscreen capability running on a triple monitor set-up*

*This is not the optimal way to run a multi-monitor set-up. If you are interested in doing something like this ask in the comments and I’ll attempt to help/explain.

I was kind of flush with cash, because my parents are very generous with a New Year’s check to my brother and me so I also got**:

**I will talk about these at the end of the laptop review.

Before I get to the review, I need to explain a few things.

For my primary computer, I’ve never had a laptop. I’ve always felt if you use the computer for work, which I do, a desktop is the only way to go. Plus two of the three laptops I had I consider some of the worse hardware purchases I’ve ever made.

I’ve had the first Apple Powerbook, a Sony Vaio about 8 years ago, and my current Samsung Chromebook. The first two epic fails.

The Chromebook, which I wouldn’t really call a laptop computer in the “traditional” sense, it is a surfboard that only runs the Chrome browser, would actually rank as one of the best hardware purchases I’ve made. I still use it daily. I am a huge suggester of a Chromebook for people that just need to surf the web, check Yahoo! Mail or Gmail, and do some social media stuff. But that is another Diary.

Several factors moved me to a laptop as my primary computer:

  • When I started to work for myself almost eight years ago, I told myself I would travel a ton, since I can work from anyplace in the world with an Internet connection. I have rarely done that. This year that will change or that is my sole New Years resolution.
  • Everything is moving to the cloud, which again makes being mobile even easier. I have 2 TB of storage online (1 TB OneDrive [comes w/ Microsoft Office 365] and 1 TB Google Drive [came w/ my Chromebook]). Sure not hard for me to just travel with my Western Digital external drive, but this is even easier. Also, lets me roam around my household and get away from my desk and home office. Backporch. Dinning room. Bed. You get the point.
  • This might sound strange, but as somebody that a little OCD and where clutter makes me freak out, it is important. I how only have two cables into my computer. Power and one cord from the Targus. I can now “hide” all the other cables and the not see them. And my desk has a lot less stuff on it, just one laptop. You’ll note in the above pic not zip tied the cables yet, not sure if this is the exact layout I’ll go with. Need to “live” with it for awhile before I make that decision. Also not using the external keyboard or monitor stand, so even less clutter.

If you want a top level rating after two weeks, I’d give it a 7.5. 

Positives

It is a flatout workhorse of a computer. I’ve had Photoshop, Dreamweaver, two Chrome windows open with more than 20 tabs in each, using FTP to send a ton of files to my server, and streaming video across three monitors and to my HDTV in my office. I was actually trying to make the computer freeze up. It didn’t. Never would I need my computer to do anything like this for a client project, so it is just a win!!!! It does everything and more than I’d need it to be my primary/work computer.

At least for me this is about all I care about. This alone gets the computer a 7 out of ten ranking and a pretty solid thumbs up.

Much of the rest of this stuff is secondary, but not unimportant either.

The display is wonderful. I’ve had or been on computers that said they are HD but always felt that was debatable. Not here. I find it impressive.

Backlit keyboard so welcome.

The Bang & Olufsen sound is pretty amazing for a laptop. I’ll never use it unless I am out of my office without my far too expensive Bluetooth headphones or even at home, since I have Bluetooth speakers everywhere. But I know for many this might be important and the sound is impressive. I mean you are not going to hold a rave, but if you want to stream something or listen to some music on YouTube and have it above a whisper, I’d think the speakers would work well.

One of my pet peeves about getting a new computer is getting all the junk/trial software that comes preinstalled, well uninstalled. There was still more than a few programs to remove, but compared to the Dell desktops I’ve had in the past not nearly as many as I would have thought. I consider this a plus. My mom just got a Dell after Thanksgiving, I helped her set it up, and there were 5-7 large programs, all with pop-ups trying to get her to buy them, I had to remove. Why do hardware companies do this crap?

The computer has what they call a “lifted hinge.” This allows you, if you are seated like I am now in a chair with the computer on a lapboard, to have a little lift at the back to make typing easier.

I am not totally sure what to make of the touchscreen. Really not used it much.

Not that long ago if you would have touched one of my monitors I would have slapped your hand. But after years with smartphones and tablets, I’ve gotten more used to actually touching a computer screen. I still clean them like 3-5 times a day, but not all of us are borderline OCD and semi-freak out about stuff like this :).

This is something I intend to play with more and I’d say HP considers it a huge selling point with these line of laptops.

With that said, I have used it more than a little to scroll through posts here with a ton of comments and it works so well/smooth. Now I use a Logitech: MX Master Wireless Laser Mouse. I bet many don’t want to pay $70 for a mouse, but it makes the task of scrolling almost fun it works so well. Using the screen to scroll is almost the exact same as the mouse. That is impressive I’d say.

The Not So Positive

Okay, as with every estimate of battery life I’ve ever read in the specs, this one is a total lie. Maybe the worse ever. On their HP’s site they say, even with HD video playback, 11 hours +. I was streaming video yesterday and just on Daily Kos. Nothing else running. Very unofficial scoring of course, but battery life around 5.75 hours. I don’t think I have to say anything else about that, other than it would be pretty rare for me to be without a power outlet for that long so it isn’t a big deal for me. If it was my rating for this product would take a huge hit.

The flipping keyboard. More than half of the points I took off in my 7.5 ranking was for this. Again it might seem minor, but I don’t think it is. This keyboard is how I interface with the machine. Anything that limits that is a big fucking deal.

Now I have forced myself not to use my wireless keyboard I know like the back of my hand. The reason is as soon as I go on a trip, I know I won’t have the muscle memory on this keyboard to type like a 100 WPM and use all the command keystrokes I need to and I will start to lose my mind.

I will admit I have gotten pretty used to it, but there are three little changes that could be made to this keyboard that I can’t imagine they let slip through to production.

The “ctrl” key is too small. Should be double the size it is or the same size as the shift key. I use that key non-stop. This just isn’t acceptable. Even more so since I am a small male and with the size it is, it is almost a stretch for me to easily reach it. I hit the “fn” next to it, which should be the right half of the “crtl” key more often than the “crtl” key itself.

The left and right arrow keys are half the size of the up and down arrow keys. WTF. As with the “ctrl” key I use them all the time. If you say you have a full keyboard, well then have a full keyboard. And the darn “delete” key, along with the Function keys are the smallest on the keyboard. I bet I am not the only person that uses the “delete” key a lot.

I am sorry HP. If you want to appeal to advance computer users, heck moderate computer users this shouldn’t be the case. All the points you get for a backlit keyboard, and even the ability to turn it on and off to save on memory or because you just don’t need it, that you can put it into “Airplane” mode like a phone, well that is lost because important keys are barely that in their size.

Support. HP has a “cool” feature I’ve never seen before. A “?” icon in the toolbar that when you click on it has all the basics. Your Product Number, Serial Number, Version of OS you are running and then a gateway for driver updates and every support option you could expect.

Well all but a 800 number to call. Now I almost NEVER call support so maybe this is industry standards, but phone support is only Monday-Friday. Not 24 hours. And by default when you call the number, they give you no actual option to talk to a human. I had to yell “Operator” into the phone I don’t know how many times to get to a person.

I was calling about such a minor issue, but one I needed to talk to somebody, it took longer to get a person on the phone them for them to fulfill my request. Sorry this is 2017. I think the company that picks up my trash has 24/7/365 phone support superior to you HP.

Final Thoughts Would I suggest you buy this computer, or the exact type I have? Yeah if you need a workhorse. I paid $1,249. I see you can get it at Best Buy, without the solid state drive and a little less RAM for $1,049. Who knows what pricing you will find, but a Dell with the same exact core specs when I priced it all out was $200 more. That $200 almost paid for the Targus docking station, which rocks I might add. Worth every penny.

Universal USB 3.0 DV4K Docking Station

I got this for one reason, and one reason only. It had both a HDTV input and a regular monitor input. Multiple USB 3.0 ports and CAT5. So everything plugs in and one cable goes to my computer. Simple and elegant. That allowed cable management but of course also the triple monitor set-up you see in the pic of my office at the top.

I admit I picked it up at the store, put it back, picked it up, you get the point. The $249 price tag seemed steep. Couldn’t be happier I got it. Oh and the software, take less than a minute to install. No configuration or anything. it just works.

Google Home

This was a pure impulse buy. I mean I was that sucker with the TV and docking station in my cart, waiting in a long line at the checkout, and it is on a table next to me, and it ends up in my cart.

Now there is a HUGE disclaimer here, if you don’t have streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Pandora (I have all three) DO NOT BUY this. Well I shouldn’t go that far. It is still neat. Let me try to explain.

The product/service is new. All the content, audio of course, is pretty much from NPR and the Washington Post (at least news — there is a lot of other content I don’t care about). I love NPR for content, and there is like everything they do, and I don’t mind The Post. But if you already get this the content elsewhere (my NPR station is so broke we get almost nothing not locally done, and it is pretty Mickey Mouse I am sad to say) is pretty lacking unless you have the streaming services.

I am still wrapping my mind around all it does. My parents were over when I got it. I showed it to my father, who thought it was just a “toy” and can at times gets confused about why his two sons would want this technology or that technology. He was stunned in a good way.

I can say, “Okay Google” (that is the prompt) how was my day? It says my name, where I live and the current weather. The weather forecast. If I didn’t work out of my house and drive to work, I could have it give me traffic and estimated drive times. And then into the top NPR stories. As a news story plays about Obama I say “Okay Google stop.” “Tell me about Barack Obama.” It goes into a detailed history of him. I forgot but they used a “big” word. I told said “Google stop” and then to “define” the word. It did.

Dad was impressed, which isn’t something that is easy to achieve.

I still think it is half a toy that is fun to play with and half something that is useful. But I assume with the power and money behind Google they will greatly expand the content and add other features to the point it is no longer a toy. But they are not there yet.

Oh and of course there is an app that lets you customize everything, including if you have Chromecast (I have three), and any of the Nest home management devices (I’ve been eying the Nest thermostat).

So all in all I am a happy camper. The customer support thing was Saturday. That shit show will fade from memory. And if the keyboard issues, well if I can get my muscle memory down, which I guess I will have to, I might give it a rating of an 8.5 in the future. And for those that know me, making me happy and me rating something a 8.5 out of 10 isn’t always the easiest thing :)!

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