The HP Envy 14 Beats Edition is another take on the premium Envy 14 laptop, with style and sound tuning from Dr Dre

Adding to HP’s range of upmarket consumer notebooks is the Beats Edition of the HP Envy 14. It’s a subtle facelift of the standard HP Envy 14 that we reviewed recently, adding a new paint finish, some Beats badges – and a pair of DJ headphones.

Before we look at the add-ons for the HP Envy 14 Beats Edition, lets compare the computing spec. This model has the same complement of memory and storage, namely 4GB and 500GB respectively, as well as the same ATI Mobility Radeon 5650 graphics card with 1GB of dedicated memory.

The only internal change is in the Intel processor. Out goes the relatively efficient intel Core i5-450M, a dual-core chip clocked at 2.4GHz; in comes the hungrier Core i7-720QM, a quad-core processor clocked at just 1.6GHz.

The standard HP Envy 14 had a reasonably decent battery life of around five hours (307 mins), while this four-cored edition ran to just 3 hrs 25 mins (205 mins) in the same MobileMark 2007 Productivity test.

That change in processor affects real-world performance, although results may depend on your usage.

In our WorldBench 6 benchmark test, the HP Envy 14 Beats Edition scored 98 points, not far behind the 102 points of the Core i5 version. Since the Intel Core i5 incorporates Hyperthreading to create a virtual quad-core setup, it should juggle four threads well, even if the similarly Hyperthreaded Core i7 can take on eight.

With the same ATI graphics card as before, graphics performance was the same as we saw on the Core i5 HP Envy 14, recording a 67fps average in our FEAR gaming test.

Satin Black

But it’s the face of the notebook that’s most obviously been lifted. Replacing the natural metallic look on the lid is a satin black paint finish, with large red ‘b’ logo in the centre as a hallmark of the Beats branding.

Under the lid on the palm-rest area is a soft matt black finish, almost rubbery in texture. And the tablety keyboard keys are also in satin black, with red lettering that backlights in warm red in the dark.

HP has also pimped up the Windows desktop experience of the HP Envy 14 Beats Edition using Stardock’s theme manager to create an interface that's a little bit more dark and edgy.

There are no software install discs provided with the HP Envy 14-1195ea. HP expects the customer to burn their own recovery discs using the slot-load DVD±RW drive after first setting up the Envy 14 Beats Edition.

And beware that the original software cannot be easily replaced in the event that you don't make your own backup, and you need to perform a clean install.

We had to reinstall Windows for our benchmarking, then discovered that the notebook could not be restored from the hard disk’s pre-installed hidden partition using the advertised system of pressing Esc then F11 at boot.

Extra third-party software such as Adobe Photoshop Elements, Stardock themes and the Beats audio drivers are not listed as available from the HP support website. A premium laptop at this price especially really ought to include all the required extra software in the box - preferably in the form of restore DVDs.

We did find a restore disc offered by HP partner best2serve.com, which can be ordered online for £32.98.

Unchanged since the previous model are the intractably shiny glass-fronted screen, 1366x768-pixel resolution, and a Synaptics one-piece trackpad. This remains effectively impossible to click using the classic thumb-edge action.

Like Apple's glass multi-touch device, this pivoted Clickpad is hinged at the rear and can perform left and right physical clicks, but its action is rather stiff while the surface can be a little rattly when tapped. You can double-tap the top-left corner of the trackpad to switch it off, which brings on an amber notification light.

The final touch of sombre bling is a dark nickel-plated finish on the metal band that encircles the HP Envy 14 Beats Edition notebook.

Beats real talent

The Beats Solo folding headphones bundled in the large, impressive packing box are worthy of note, if only for the sheer chutzpah that the Beats marketing team has built up for them.

The Beats brand, we’re told, is a collaboration between rapper/producer Dr Dre (aka, Andre Romelle Young), record producer and Interscope-Geffen chairman Jimmy Iovine, and US hi-fi wire brand Monster Cable. The result is an urban-music image slant, and a sound that veers somewhat from tonal accuracy.

"With Beats™, people are going to hear what the artists hear, and listen to the music the way they should: the way I do" says Dr Dre™, the man behind the badge.

The Beats Solo headphones sit comfortably on the head and cover the ears with soft padded muffs.

HP Envy 14 Beats Edition

HP Envy 14 Beats Edition includes a pair of Beats Solo headphones

Two detachable cables are included, one a standard type terminated with 3.5mm stereo jack; the second has a built-in mic and control button to turn the headphones into a headset.

Available separately, the sturdily built Beats Solo headphones sell for £150.

Our listening tests suggest these headphones have been tuned for the low-res internet-audio generation. The bass is jacked up high, which compensates well for the anaemic sound of low-bitrate MP3 and similar compressed music.

Meanwhile, the top end is rolled off, accentuating the sense of bass drive while filtering off the worst of the treble clutter and edginess of digital audio.

In short, these are headphones that try to recreate the warmth and depth of analogue vinyl or tape reproduction, yet will throw out some of the baby with the digital bath water. High frequencies are rolled off, giving a rather muffled sound short in detail, high in boom.

Also packed with the HP Envy 14 Beats Edition is a usefully small battery charger unit, a compact item with extra USB socket for charging portable devices like iPods and mobile phones.

NEXT PAGE: Our expert verdict >>

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HP Envy 14-1195ea Beats Edition: Specs

  • 1.6GHz Intel Core i7-720QM
  • 14.5in (1366 x 768) glossy LCD display
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • ATI Mobility Radeon 5650 with 1GB DDR3 memory
  • 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM
  • 500GB 7200rpm 2.5in SATA HDD
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth
  • slot-load DVD±RW DL with LightScribe
  • 2 x USB 2.0, 1x eSATA/USB 2.0
  • Mini DisplayPort, HDMI
  • SD card slot
  • webacam, mic
  • stereo speakers
  • backlit keyboard
  • Beats Solo headphones
  • 59Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 237 x 356 x 28 mm
  • 2554 g
  • 1.6GHz Intel Core i7-720QM
  • 14.5in (1366 x 768) glossy LCD display
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • ATI Mobility Radeon 5650 with 1GB DDR3 memory
  • 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM
  • 500GB 7200rpm 2.5in SATA HDD
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth
  • slot-load DVD±RW DL with LightScribe
  • 2 x USB 2.0, 1x eSATA/USB 2.0
  • Mini DisplayPort, HDMI
  • SD card slot
  • webacam, mic
  • stereo speakers
  • backlit keyboard
  • Beats Solo headphones
  • 59Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 237 x 356 x 28 mm
  • 2554 g

OUR VERDICT

The HP Envy 14 Beats Edition is a solid enough 14.5in notebook, spruced up here to appeal to a younger audience. Yet we can't help feeling that Hewlett Packard is playing the trendy dad, not really understanding the youth generation so instead buying in credibility with the heavily trademarked Dr Dre name. As a laptop, the HP Envy 14 Beats Edition has reasonably quick performance and good gaming credentials, but the quad-core processor means it gets warmer than brethren with newer Core i5 chips, and battery life suffers.

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