Hands On: HP Envy Leap Motion 17″

The market for big, powerful laptops has been growing as the demand for a portable, desktop spec equivalent has increased. Recently we’ve seen competitive offerings from the likes of Acer, Asus and now HP.

The market for big, powerful laptops has been growing as the demand for a portable, desktop spec equivalent has increased. Recently we’ve seen competitive offerings from the likes of Acer, Asus and now HP.

The Envy Leap Motion 17” is certainly a big unit – coming in at 4.9 kg’s, it’s honestly hard to see how it could really be marketed as portable. This is also reflected in its battery life, clocking in at the 3 hour mark during our testing.

What does this all mean?

The HP Envy Leap Motion 17” is fundamentally desktop replacement unit, designed to only leave the desk when you really need it. It’s got one very exciting feature that might become the norm, leap motion, but we will get to that later.

So how does it hold up?

It’s a big aluminium form factor, it feels solid and you’re not left wanting for more expansion ports with 4 x USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, RJ45 and a headphone out, microphone in combo port.

The big body also allows for an impressive speaker unit right across the top of the keyboard panel, powered by none other than Beats audio. The quad speakers and subwoofer deliver comparable sound quality to the Bang & Olufssen speakers installed in the Asus.

The keyboard is solid, it’s great response times with no sign of lag and in a design sense has strong echoes of a MacBook Pro with a dark typeface surrounded by quality backlighting.

As on most 17” laptops, the display should be a real winner. The Full HD Envy doesn’t disappoint with a 1920 x 1080 display that’s as clear as any other Full HD LED Backlit screen I’ve come across, for mid to high end gaming applications this will more than suffice.

I wouldn’t recommend the lower end model with 1600 x 900 displays as this is not enough pixels for a screen this size.

The big screen is also handy for dealing with the reasonably powered NviDia GeForce GT 740M DD3 Vram graphics card. Again, as a multimedia unit this laptop relies heavily on its graphics capability being top notch and the NviDia performs admirably.

The top of the range processor on this unit is an impressive 4th generation Intel Core i7 2.8 Ghz with turbo boost up to 3.8Ghz. The lower end models come with a 3rd generation Intel Core i5 2.9 Ghz. If you want to use this as a future proof gaming laptop then the latter is probably for you, if your needs are more multimedia orientated then the former should suffice.

In terms of storage there are a few options depending on the price point from 500GB to a dual 2TB hard drive, again with a multimedia desktop replacement unit like this one – you probably want to go with the higher end of the scale.

They’ve also included an optional 24GB solid state drive expansion with smart response technology, but at such a low capacity I can’t see much of a point in bundling it.

Leap Motion

The big ‘wow’ factor with this device is the inbuilt leap motion capability. This allows the laptop to sense natural hand and finger movements in the air which you can then use to control various apps without touching any part of the computer. Think Minority Report but on a laptop.

The leap motion strip is positioned below the keyboard and uses three LED’s and two cameras to track your movements.

Does it work?

As with most things grounded in touch less technology I can’t help but feel that it is a bit gimmicky.

The precision just isn’t quite there yet, particularly in desktop mode, swiping between browsers or scrolling down windows was more laborious than just using the touchpad.

On the other hand, apps in the Leap store that comes pre-installed with the Envy show a little more promise. Fruit Ninja works brilliantly, principally I believe, because of the simplicity of the movements required.

Google Earth was another highlight; the ability to tilt and push your hand towards any particular destination as if you were flying definitely had me enjoying myself.

I suspect the continued success of this technology is going to depend on the development of apps specifically tailored to it, as it stands, integrating and using it with a standard desktop may be more trouble than it’s worth.

That being said, if the touchless functionality is improved and the precision of movements being recorded becomes more accurate who’s to say touch less PC’s won’t replace touch screens in the next decade. It’s just not quite there yet.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t buy this laptop just for the Leap motion functionality. Further development of apps and desktop integration needs to happen before I can justify a purchase on those grounds alone.

But if you’re after a desktop replacement that has some serious specs under the hood then it is a solid option with more than enough guts to satisfy gamers and multimedia users.

The HP Envy is available in Australia now for $2,499.

 

 

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