Review: HP Envy 17 3D

First they came for our 2-D televisions. Now they want our laptops.

If you thought 3-D was a tough sell for the living room, now imagine if you had to lug the technology around with you. That, in fact, is the big sell of the HP Envy 17 3D, and any other 3-D-equipped laptop: It gives you the world of three dimensions on the go. Can you feel the excitement? No? Well, ahem.

Let’s cut to the chase. You are not going to buy a 3-D laptop for the same reason that you have not bought a 3-D television: You simply do not care.

On paper, a 3-D laptop sounds like it makes sense. After all, if the Cineplex is showing the same movie in 2-D and 3-D format at the same time, you pay the extra buck and go to the 3-D version. So if your laptop can do the same, well, you’ll shell out a little extra for it, right?

Wrong. If the HP Envy 17 3D was just an Envy 17 plus 3-D tech, that’d be one thing. But it’s clear HP has had to make many compromises to squeeze 3-D into this form factor — compromises made at the expense of everything else inside.

There’s nothing really wrong with the specs: 17.3-inch, 1920×1080-pixel screen, 640-GB hard drive, 6 GB of RAM, 1.6-GHz Core i7 CPU, and an ATI Radeon HD 5850 graphics card. These aren’t ultra-highend specs — the usual stomping ground of the Envy line — and it shows on the benchmarks. The Envy 3-D performed about in line with older, smaller machines we’ve tested that cost hundreds of dollars less. Not bad, but hardly memorable.

The 3-D experience isn’t much to write home about, either. Relatively still scenes look good through the included active shutter glasses, but once the action starts, the image quickly gets blurry and fuzzy. Compared to a theater, or even a decent 3-D TV, where 3-D suffers partly because of the limitations of the human brain, the experience is pretty pathetic.

And suffice it to say, we just can’t imagine a lot of people sitting at their desk, wearing goofy glasses so they can watch Alice in Wonderland in 3-D on their computer. (No, you can’t turn a standard 2-D source into 3-D on the fly, and 3-D PowerPoint is right out.)

Now factor in a $1,600 price tag — $300 more than the non-3-D Envy 17 — and the picture grows murkier.

The ultimate value proposition, I guess, is this: Not only do I have to lug this giant computer and enormous power brick around with me (plugging in is recommended in 3-D mode, as battery life hits a whopping 39 minutes), but I have to haul around glasses, too? Pffhhhhhhhttttt.

See also:

  • Computer of the Year: HP Envy 14
  • High-Powered, Highfalutin HP Notebook Hampered by High Price
  • What You Need to Know When Buying a 3-D TV

Photos by Jonathan Snyder/

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