HP Envy Beats Edition £1899
4th Nov 2010 | 15:05
HP employs the help of Dr Dre for this special edition
HP Envy Beats Edition: Overview
It's currently the done thing in the laptop world to be kitting your machines out with high-end speaker systems. Asus was one of the first with their Bang & Olufsen NX90 notebook, and MSi followed shortly with the GX660R, a machine that boasts a Dynaudio system embedded in the chassis.
HP has gone another route with the HP Beats Edition, and employed the help and expertise of legendary Hip Hop producer Dr Dre and his Beats brand, that manufacturers high-end headphones.
Built around the chassis of a standard Envy 14, but £400 pounds more expensive, the HP Envy 14 Beats Edition features a number of audio upgrades.
These include specially designed Beats speakers and clever positioning of the notebook's sound card, allowing for impressive sound quality when using the bundled Beats Solo headphones.
Aside from the audio upgrades, the Envy 14 Beats Edition boasts a new black rubberised chassis that we rate very highly, and a series of cutting-edge components that make this a very powerful machine.
HP Envy Beats Edition: Specification
As the Envy 14 Beats Edition is a jazzed up version of the standard Envy 14, let's take a look at what you get for the extra £400.
The notebook is built for those looking for a premium sound from their machine, and the Envy 14 Beats Edition delivers nicely. Two front-mounted premium speakers provide excellent sound quality, and are controlled by an intuitive piece of Beats software that helps you tweak the audio to your exact specification.
Once you've got the settings just right, it's simply a case of hitting the [Shift] and [b] key to activate the Beats software and effect. Without Beats, sound quality is good enough, but when it's activated, music tracks take on a fullness and depth we've rarely heard from notebook speakers.
The effect is even more pronounced when using headphones. The HP Envy 14 Beats Edition comes with a pair of Beats Solo travel headphones that retail for about £150. They're very comfortable to wear, and fold at the hinges, which make them great for tucking into a bag or pocket.
As mentioned above, HP has located the notebook's sound card right next to the headphone jack, and this reduces the amount of audio degradation you experience compared to if, say, the card was located on the other side of the chassis.
The combination of headphones and Beats software is excellent, and especially suits bass heavy tunes – as you might expect with the Dr Dre heritage. We were especially impressed by how loud the laptop goes while showing next to no bass distortion, which is a real achievement.
The Envy 14 Beats Edition features a black rubber finish to the chassis, which looks and feels great. Not only is it easy to grip, but the material is nigh on impossible to scratch, and so easy to keep clean.
The Envy 14 Beats Edition's chiclet-style keyboard is large and spacious. The travel is decent, the action relatively firm, and those after a notebook for regular typing will find a lot to like here. There's no dedicated numberpad, however, which might put off those who regularly input data.
The keyboard is backlit, and the subdued red light that shines up through the board both enhances usability in low light conditions and looks great, giving the laptop a pleasingly sinister appearance.
A spacious touchpad is included below the keypad, but proves a frustrating affair. It's irritatingly easy to brush while typing, which means that when you're writing your text will often jump all over the shop.
Along the right side of the Envy 14 Beats Edition's chassis sit a USB/eSATA port, an HDMI interface, Gigabit Ethernet and Firewire mini. Down the left side you'll find a further two USB ports and the slot-loading optical drive.
It's worth noting that there's no VGA out, which might put off those looking to hook up TVs or monitors that don't feature an HDMI port.
The black screen lid doesn't feature the rubber finish of the chassis, but has got the large Beats logo spread up the back. Some might light this, but we think that it would be overkill, ruining the understated design of the notebook.
The 14.5-inch display within features a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution. It's sharp and detailed enough to enjoy films and photos on, but a shiny screen coating makes the Envy 14 Beats edition an irritating laptop to use in very bright light.
HP Envy Beats Edition: Performance
Whereas the standard Envy 14 sports an Intel Core i5 processor, the Beats Edition boasts a Core i7 720QM. Not only does this boast Intel's latest hyper threading and turbo boost technologies (for maximum multitasking and power efficiency), but the processor has four cores, providing some serious power.
This combined with the 4GB of memory helped the Envy 14 Beats Edition breeze through all our benchmarking tests, and there's no doubt this is one of the most powerful 14-inch notebooks we've come across.
Similarly, the ATi Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics card is very high-end. There's 1GB of dedicated video memory also included, and this gives the Envy 14 Beats edition the sort of graphical firepower we'd expect from a large multimedia desktop replacement system such as the Acer Aspire Ethos.
As a result you'll have no problem playing the latest gaming titles, and will be able to carry out resource-intensive multimedia tasks, including photo and HD video editing, with no problem at all. Considering the small form factor of the Envy 14 Beats Edition, this makes the notebook a very powerful and versatile option.
A 500GB hard drive is included to home all your files and folders and, unless you have a serious appetite for movie, music and photo libraries, should provide plenty of storage for a good few years.
It's also worth noting that the drive spins at 7200 rpm, rather than the standard 5400rpm. This allows the processor especially quick access to your data, enhancing performance.
The Envy 14 Beats Edition features a Tri-Format DVD dual layer reader and writer for reading or backing up data but, unlike many HP drives, doesn't feature LightScribe technology, which lets you burn labels onto the surface of a disk.
With the wealth of powerful components on board you'd think the Envy 14 Beats Edition would offer terrible portability, but that's not the case. The 209-minute battery life is perfectly serviceable and will last you the commute, while the 2.6kg makes this a notebook that's no trouble to carry around all day long.
The notebook features the standard one-year collect and return warranty, with a range of options available for upgrading or extending the service from HP direct.
HP Envy Beats Edition: Verdict
With many of us now storing our multimedia libraries on our computers, notebook manufacturers are finally confronting the age-old issue of poor sound quality.
While Asus and MSi were slightly quicker, there was never any doubt that the world's number one manufacturer would come out of the gates firing, and HP has done exactly that.
The Envy 14 Beats Edition creates great sound quality that knocks the socks off your average notebook and, although expensive, we feel the price is justified – especially with the inclusion of the Beats Solo headphones.
But there's a lot more to the Envy 14 Beats Edition than just good sound quality. This is an extremely powerful notebook, both in terms of everyday and graphical performance, and it provides the sort of power we'd expect from a much larger desktop replacement machine.
The notebook is also portable, making it a genuine option as a travelling companion.
There's a serious amount to like about the Envy 14 Beats Edition. Yes, the notebook is roughly £400 more expensive than the standard Envy 14 – but the extras justify the price hike.
With that in mind, highlights include the excellent sound quality, courtesy of the Beats technology imbedded in the notebook and, of course the Beats Solo bundled headphones.
Everyday and graphical performance are also aggressive, making this a notebook that'll provide plenty of power and future proofing – it'll be ticking system requirement boxes for quite a few years to come.
Portability is another strong point with battery life, weight and strong build quality all impressing. The Envy 14 Beats Edition is also a great looking notebook, and one we took great pleasure in reviewing simply because it is such a usable and attractive machine.
There's not a lot that we disliked about the notebook. It's a shame the Envy 14 Beats Edition screen resolution isn't a bit higher, but that's to be expected with such a small panel.
The lack of a VGA out does seem like a bit of an omission, however, and those with TV screens and monitors with no HDMI will be a little stuck.
Usability is generally excellent, but the touchpad is an irritant. Having to repeatedly shift text around a document because brushing the touchpad while typing has shot it to the other end of the page gets boring very quickly.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview