If you read our review of the HP Envy 14 and thought to yourself, "Hmm. I like it, but it looks like a laptop for fusty old losers with no appreciation for skull-exploding bass," then we have a real treat for you. This is the Envy 14 Beats Edition, which offers some ravishing extra features, including a bundled pair of Beats by Dr. Dre Solo headphones
It also comes, however, with an RRP of £1,400, which is a huge wedge of wonga, even for superstar producers. Is it worth the cash?
Paint it black
In terms of construction, the Envy 14 Beats laptop is very similar to the regular Envy 14. With this version, however, you get a matte-black finish on the lid and wrist rest, and an attractive chrome trim around the chassis. We're not sold on the huge Beats logo that adorns the lid itself, but the more subtle design touches, such as the Beats 'B' on the keyboard and the red accent colours elsewhere look great.
That matte finish does have a tendency to attract fingerprints and smudges, so beware if you're the kind of compulsive polisher who needs their tech to remain pristine at all times.
The 14.5-inch display has a maximum resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, and while we've seen brighter panels before, this screen is clear and sharp.
This is a really chunky laptop -- the metal casing means it weighs quite a lot, and at 2.58kg it's hardly the most portable laptop we've ever picked up. It's quite thick too, so if you're looking for something slender to slide sensually into a satchel, keep looking.
This laptop is definitely more of a desktop replacement -- portable in principle, but primarily to squat on a desk providing all manner of multimedia delights through a multitude of ports.
Brace for marketing speech...
So, how well will this machine fit into your life? (Saying that made us feel a bit dirty.) Around the edges you'll find an Ethernet port, a mini DisplayPort, an HDMI output, three USB ports, one of which doubles up as an eSATA port, a DVD rewritable drive (not Blu-ray) and 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a microphone. There's also a webcam stuck on the bezel just above the display.
The lack of Blu-ray is disappointing, especially considering how much you're shelling out for the privilege. There's also no VGA on board, which limits your video-output options.
As far as usability goes, this laptop keeps all the same problems that the standard Envy 14 suffered from, namely a trackpad that's lovely and big, but like so many HP laptops extends the touch-sensitive area to the click buttons themselves, so you might find yourself accidentally nudging the cursor when all you want to do is click. That's so annoying you might just end up administering some beats yourself.
The keyboard, on the other hand, is comfy enough, and apart from a curiously small enter key, is sensibly laid out. There's a red backlight too, which will look good if you're typing or gaming in the dark, but it's quite dim so you might not notice it in the cold light of day.
Just Beat it
This laptop features some rather tasty speakers on the front. They sound better than most laptop speakers, but we want to stress that these won't sound as good as proper speakers. If you're just kicking back with some YouTube video it'll enhance your experience, but for proper audio enjoyment you'll want something better. Lucky, then, that this laptop comes packaged with the totally tubular Beats by Dr Dre Solo headphones, which will definitely bring the house down as you're getting jiggly with it.
On the inside, this machine is packing some rather corking hardware. There's an Intel Core i7-Q820 CPU, which is a powerful processor, backed up by 4GB of DDR3 RAM. That's serious voodoo, especially when you complete the unholy triumvirate with an ATI Mobility Radeon HD5650 graphics card. This laptop scored 6,813 in our PCMark05 benchmark test, and 7,129 in our 3DMark06 benchmark test, which tests the laptop's ability to chuck polygons around.
Those are impressive scores, and mean this laptop will be capable of handling things like HD video and most current-generation gaming, so long as you're not concerned with turning every graphical setting up to maximum.
There's a 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive on board too, which unless you're a crazy file hoarder will prove more than enough space. One more thing -- this laptop runs Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, with a trendy grey theme pre-loaded. You can turn that off if you prefer the normal Windows look and feel.
As for battery life, this laptop lasted for one hour and 15 minutes when we ran the CPU at a constant 100 per cent using our Battery Eater Classic test. You'll get longer life with more moderate use, but don't expect this laptop to manage for too long away from the precious power supply.
There are a few annoying design flaws like that twitchy trackpad, and we bemoan the lack of a Blu-ray player, but all things considered this is a good-looking machine that offers powerful performance. If you can find it cheap, this Beats beast is well worth a look.
If it's a stylish desktop replacement you're after, for a similar price you could acquire yourself the bigger HP Envy 17-1050ea, a laptop we were very fond of.
Edited by Nick Hide