The HP Envy 17 Leap Motion Special Edition is the first notebook on the market to come equipped with a Leap Motion sensor. It gives the 17in touchscreen notebook yet another option for navigation, and is a clear differentiation point against other desktop replacement models.
The technology is integrated on the palm rest (HP got the module down to a 3mm thickness), and when you see it for the first time from a distance, it looks like it could be an oversized fingerprint reader — a palm reader perhaps.
The Leap Motion sensor is embedded in the same plastic strip as the fingerprint sensor and sits to its left. HP said the Leap Motion technology in the Envy 17 is for those who like to adopt technology early, and that it has a number of potential uses in education, gaming, and navigation, depending on the application that's being used.
The most obvious application to take advantage of the technology is Google Earth, in which you can move around with minimal movements of the hand. HP said it included the technology due to the ease with which it can be used, claiming that it responds to natural movement and "understands you". After spending some time with the Leap Motion notebook at its Sydney launch, we think it will take a few sessions before you can be consistently successful in your movements.
To use the Leap Motion controller, you have to hover your hand a good height above the sensor (about two-thirds the way up the screen), and make subtle turn and tilting movements in order to get a response. However, the placement of your hands will also depend on the type of application that's being used. A racing game, for example, will require you to have your fists closed as if you are holding a steering wheel and moving in a wheel-turning motion.
Because the sensor sits on the right side of the notebook, rather than in the middle, it would seem that left-handers are at a disadvantage. When we asked HP about this, the response was that the sensor has a wide view and can actually be used capably with the left hand. In fact, the sensor supports motion from two hands and up to ten fingers.
When you're using the notebook regularly for typing, the sensor won't register any inputs. It will only work when your hand has some altitude over it. This means you won't have to disable Leap Motion before working on a document, but the option for turning it off is present via a function key combination.
Apart from Google Earth and racing games, HP said users will be able to take advantage of over a 100 applications in Airspace, which is the store for Leap Motion apps. It features games, educational tools, and even applications that can work within the Windows 8 shell to allow for the operating system to be controlled. When a navigational app is used, the Leap Motion technology can theoretically allow you to perform Windows tasks without touching the notebook at all, which can be of benefit when your hands are dirty, for example.
Leap Motion is the standout feature of the Envy 17 Leap Motion Special Edition notebook. Other features include a 17in, Full HD touchscreen, Intel Core i7 processing (up to a 2.8GHz Core i7-4900MQ), NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M graphics with 2GB of memory, up to 16GB of RAM, a Blu-ray drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet, 4 x USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, and various storage configurations (up to dual 1TB hard drives and 24GB Intel Smart Response technology). You also get Beats audio processing, and four speakers and a sub-woofer.
It's available to buy now in Australia for AU$2499, though we're not yet sure exactly which configuration this price represents. We'll bring you a full review of this notebook as soon as we can.