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HP Envy 17t Laptop (K2Z69AV_1) Review

My old laptop, the Dell Studio 17 (Windows Vista), has been a real workhorse for me since 2009. But it was feeling slower and the low 4Gb of RAM caused freezing that lasted minutes making it unacceptable. It was finally time to get a new laptop.

My must have list for my new laptop: 17″ screen, backlit keyboard and at least 16Gb DRAM.

Since Sony no longer makes PCs, Samsung currently does not have a 17″ laptop, and my Alienware AM11X breaking, left me with Dell and HP as my viable choices. Although my last Dell lasted me a long time, after playing with the HP at my local Best Buy, I decided to go back to HP again.

Unfortunately, Best Buy doesn’t stock the high end version with a lot of memory, so I decided to customize and buy it on the HP website. HP was having a Presidents day sale, with $200 discount and free shipping, so I put my special order in on 2/16. As usual, I also ordered the HP 90W Slim with USB AC Adapter so that I can leave the extra one plugged in at home. My AC adapter got to me quickly on 2/24 but my laptop didn’t even leave Chongqing China until 3/2. Yes, that’s how long it takes to make a laptop in China. Exactly one week later on 3/9, I finally got it.

But I digress.

So the basic model (K2Z71AV_1) goes for $749.99, but after juicing it up (see checklist below), it blew up to $1583.99 (-$200 discount). The numbers in parenthesis show the added cost to the basic model.

Specs:

  • 17.3-inch diagonal Full HD WLED-backlit Display (1920 x 1080) (+$100) – *Must have
  • 5th generation Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-5500U Dual Core Processor (+$40)
  • 2GB NVIDIA GeForce 840M Graphics
  • 16GB DDR3L System Memory (+$70) – *Must have
  • 1TB 5400 rpm Hard Drive + 256GB Flash Solid State Drive (+$295)
  • Backlit Keyboard with Fingerprint Reader (+$30) – *Must have
  • Intel 802.11ac WLAN and Bluetooth [2×2] (+$30)
  • Windows 8.1 (64 bits)
  • HP TrueVision HD Webcam with Dual Digital Microphone
  • 4-cell 41WHr Lithium-ion Battery
  • Blu-ray writer and SuperMulti DVD burner (+$100)
  • BeatsAudio™ with 2 speakers and a subwoofer
  • Dimensions: 16.52 x 10.98 x 1.17 in
  • Weight: 6.33 lb

As you can see, I didn’t hold back on the features because I want this laptop to last me a while. However, when using the default setting for the screen at 1920 x 1080, the text was too small for me. Please realize that I’m getting old but I refuse to use reading glasses, so the high resolution is probably fine for normal visioned people. But for me, I lower it down to 1600 x 900.

Basically, all the programs are on the SSD for speed but I copied my music, video, pictures and other data files on to the 1TB HD.

Interestingly, although my HP Envy 700 Desktop came with the Pokki Start Menu pre-installed, my HP Envy 17t Laptop did not. That’s one of the first things I did so I could do the rest of my installation.

Bloatware:

Next, I checked for bloatware. Here’s a list of some of what I found on it so far.

  1. Avast SecureLine
  2. Dropbox
  3. McAfee Livesafe
  4. HP Connect
  5. HP Recovery Manager
  6. HP Support Assistant
  7. HP Simplepass
  8. Snapfish
  9. Beats Audio
  10. Cyberlink Power Media, PowerDirector, PhotoDirector

Of course, some on the list are hardware related (Beats, Cyberlink) and are needed, while others are nice to have (Dropbox, McAfee) but not required and the rest are real bloatware. HP Simplepass used with the fingerprint reader allows you to log into websites using your fingerprint (see pictured below the keyboard). I have not used this feature at all but some people may find this preferable to remembering passwords.

Ports:

So on the left side of the laptop, starting from the front are:

  • SD card slot
  • USB
  • USB (being used in picture)
  • HDMI
  • Air vent

hp17t left

Then to the left of the air vent are the Ethernet RJ-45 connector, laptop lock hole, and AC power (with small LED power indicator). Notice that the RJ-45 connector actually cuts below the laptop to save space (see below).

hp envy 17t left power

The right side of the laptop has another power LED indicator, HD LED usage indicator, headset output/microphone input, and USB. To the right of the USB is the Blu-ray writer/DVD (now shown). There are no connectors or indicators on the back of the laptop.

hp envy 17t right

Keyboard:

As for the backlit keyboard, the top row where the function keys normally would be, are hardware related keys (volume, brightness, mute) instead of the function keys. To access the function keys, you must press the “fn” or function key which is located ONLY on the left side of the keyboard.

hp17t kb

As usual, to protect my keyboard, I decided to purchase the CaseBuy keyboard protector via Amazon for $8.99 (MSRP $12.99). The description on Amazon does not include the HP Envy 17t but it fits. With the keyboard cover on (see below), the backlighting still works great and they keys almost feel the same. However, I noticed that the upper corners, especially the upper right corner, seemed to be a little past the edge of the sunken area of the keyboard. To fix it, I simply cut the corner using scissors. So far, no more problems.

hp17t kb cover

One a side note, the name “CaseBuy” is strange enough but take a look at the information that comes with the keyboard protector below. There’s a few grammatical errors but the best one is the typo in the lower right, “Inhibit bacteria regenemation.” I wonder if they used Google Translate to come up with these lines? Luckily, their keyboard cover is great, and is not represented by their included brochure (see below).

casebuy

Here is a birds-eye view of the HP 17t (see below), including the keyboard layout. You can see that it has a numeric keyboard area on the right, and the function keys at the top are half height. The power button is on the upper left. The large speakers with Beatsaudio is located at the top. The finger print reader is located at the lower left below the keyboard.

As you can see, the touchpad is very large and located towards the left. The HP 17t comes with the “HP Control Zone” pre-loaded, which allows the user to use two-finger scrolling, pinch zoom, and other similar features. Any of these features can be enabled or disabled individually.

hp envy 17t top view

Battery:

Although I normally keep my laptop plugged in while I use it, I decided to do some battery testing. By changing the power setting to keep the HP 17t screen on and stay awake, it took 5 hours and 45 minutes to go from 100% to 12%. I used it briefly to do some website browsing but I did not really use the laptop during this testing but just left it on. This seems reasonable but if you use it to watch Blu-ray movies, I’m sure the battery would drain quickly.

Summary:

The fast CPU and 16Gb of RAM makes this laptop fly and opening multiple programs simultaneously is a breeze. It almost makes Windows 8.1 usable. The big bright screen and speakers makes watching videos a pleasure. Considering that this laptop has a 17″ screen and a Blu-ray drive, it feels pretty light to me, especially compared to my old Dell.

Let’s face it. Apple has forced other PC makers to have to up their game. Laptops can no longer be ugly, large and heavy.

Now for a few of my complaints.

If you need to use the Function keys a lot, this keyboard layout is not for you. It’s bad enough that the keys are small but you have to also press the FN key to access them.

Every time you boot-up the laptop, the keyboard backlighting is turned off. I’m sure this is to save power but I prefer to have it on all the time so it’s a little annoying that I have to turn it on each time.

The touchpad is so large that it’s hard not to touch it while typing. Of course you can disable the touchpad and use a mouse but some people prefer not to have to carry around a mouse.

All-in-all, because I use it with it plugged in, and don’t need the function keys, and use a wireless mouse, the HP 17t is perfect. I’m very happy with my new laptop. HP has finally upped it’s game. The 17t is sexy, fast, light, and bright. Did I mention sexy?

Update September 21, 2015:
The BIOS updated fixes the keyboard backlighting problem which is now remembered properly.

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