September 9, 2010 5:08 pm

Rock the house with the Beats Audio-powered HP ENVY 14

If you love music, then you will love the HP ENVY 14 with Beats Audio. Not only is it a heck of a good PC in terms of design and performance, but it delivers some of the best sound I’ve ever heard out of a laptop.

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While I haven’t had a chance to put the ENVY 14 through my normal battery of performance, power and gaming tests, I can tell you just from the spec line (Core i3, 500GB 7200rpm drive, 4GB RAM and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 GPU) that it has more than enough horsepower to get you through a normal day’s worth of work and play most of today’s games, even intensive first-person shooters. The screen is beautiful – as it is with all HPs – and HP has done a nice job improving their clickpad. While 1st generations of the ENVY had a clickpad that was stiff to the point where you had to muscle the mouse around the screen, the new clickpad is responsive and smooth, and very intuitive for both regular mouse work and multi-touch gestures like two-finger scrolling. It’s a breeze to use.

Industrial design on the ENVY 14 is a refinement of earlier generations. The signature laser-etched aluminum is still prevalent on the lid and palm rest, but there’s a softness to the case lines that make the 14” chassis appear more diminutive than it actually is. HP also did a great job with the screen & lid; not only is the edge-to-edge glass rimmed entirely with a rubber bumper to avoid any “hotspots” when you close it, but they’ve done something that very few manufacturers are able to pull off – the ENVY is weighted & balanced so perfectly than when you lift the lid, the main PC body stays put on the table. Most PCs pull off the table when you open them, so you end up holding the PC down with one hand, and opening the lid with the other. The ENVY is true one-hand opening, and that shows an attention to detail that most PCs overlook. It’s a very thoughtful feature.

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Where the ENVY really shines, of course, is when you play music. The ENVY line is powered by Beats Audio, which I discussed in last week’s post about the ENVY 14 Beats Edition PC. The short version about Beats Audio is that it was co-designed by HP’s sound engineers and Dr. Dre in response to Dre’s complaint that most laptops simply aren’t capable to reproducing studio-quality sound. I’ve been trying Beats Audio with a set of Beats by Dre Solo on-ear headphones. These headphones (and the entire Beats by Dre lineup) are the other half of the music equation – Beats Audio generates studio-quality sound from a laptop, and the headphones deliver the sound beautifully to your ears. By putting them together, I have never heard music out of a computer sound so good. I tried a number of album – “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse, “The Mirror Conspiracy” by Thievery Corporation, Green Day’s “American Idiot”, the Decemberist’s “Picaresque”, Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”, “100 Days, 100 Nights” by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and “Revolution” by Miranda Lambert, and all of them were brilliant. Beyond the richness of the sound, I was most impressed by the clarity. There’s no distortion in this combo, and every instrument is clear, precise, and true. You hear everything.

Darek & the Envy

World famous KEXP DJ Darek Mazzone chilling in my office with the ENVY 14 and Beats by Dre Solo headphones

If you’re an audiophile like me, you can’t go wrong with the HP ENVY 14 – or any of HP’s Beats Audio laptops, for that matter. As an extra incentive to go get one, HP is offering $75 in free music to new Beats Audio laptop customers if you buy through 9/11/10. That’s a lot of dough to help you grow your music collection!

Have a question about this or any other PC?  Post a comment, hit me on Twitter or Ask Ben Anything via email.  Your question might appear in my monthly Ask Ben Anything Q&A column.