Ears-on Review of the HP Envy Laptop with Dr. Dre's Beats Sound System
More than 84% of people between the ages of 18 to 24 listen to music on their computers, even though the sound quality they produce is hideous. An entire generation is missing the real impact of their tunes! To counter this disturbing trend, HP teamed up with Dr. Dre and Interscope Records co-founder Jimmy Iovine to design its Beats Sound System for Notebook computers, and audio quality was a top priority.
There are lots of ways that music gets mangled these days. MP3 files strip the depth out of recordings. Low-quality sound cards on computers introduce noise and interference. Cheap, plastic earbuds impose a "tin-can ambience" to everything that gets played through them. 80% of the world's computers are equipped with about 50 cents' worth of audio hardware. With its Beats notebook computers, HP is determined to bring importance back to sound quality.
I had the chance to give an HP Envy a test drive this week. I found it to be a powerful computer with professional connectivity and a design that pays close attention to fine details. The time I spent with this computer was casual, not an in-depth technical inspection to push the computer to its limits. I was mostly interested in listening to its Beats sound system.
If I had given this computer a real workout by using processor consumptive production software, I'm sure it could have taken the abuse in stride. If you're into gaming, video production and recording music, the HP Envy sets you up with a fast hard drive, a beefy video graphics card, a powerful processor and a host of useful ports. The model I used featured an eSATA port (sure to inspire envy in Apple notebook owners), a USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port and a multicard reader.
As far as the sound performance is concerned, to my ears the built-in speakers did indeed sound better than standard laptop speakers, however, they didn't sound radically better. When I plugged in my headphones, the sound was clean and punchy, just how I like it. Even though the soundcard on the HP Envy is integrated into the motherboard of the computer, I would have heard the tell-tale noise and interference if the audio components were the typical bottom-of-the-bucket junk.
There's a pretty neat Beats software application, which comes preloaded and which gives you extra control over the sound. You can tweak and save custom EQ curves, adjust the volume of the speakers and headphone jack independently, and get graphical information about the status of its input and output ports.
To really take advantage of the improved audio circuitry of a Beats computer, it's a good idea to plug in a pair of decent powered speakers or good headphones. I attached a pair of Technical Pro MRS-6 speakers to the HP Envy and then I was really cooking. The goal of the Beats computer sound system is for people to get more in touch with their music. Attaching nice speakers to your computer will make a world of difference compared to just using the built-in speakers, even with a computer like this.
All in all, I found the HP Envy to be a nicely outfitted Windows PC. The backlit keyboard felt good to type on, the screen was big and bright and the touchpad was pretty sensitive. The laser-etched aluminum body succeeded at looking cool, even though the overall weight of the computer was a bit on the heavy side. I enjoyed using some of the included software too. In particular, the HP MediaSmart application for the built-in webcam was fun to mess around with. It's similar to Photobooth on a Mac, but with a lot more interesting and creative effects.
Here's another good reason to take the plunge on a new HP notebook with Beats Sound. When you buy one of these computers, you get $75 worth of free music downloads. Choose anything you want from a library of 400,000 songs with artists like Lady Gaga, Fiest and the Black-Eyed Peas. How do ya like them apples?
These aren't just computers for people who are looking to produce music with audio software or make movies with editing software. The Beats notebook computers should appeal to anyone who enjoys a good-sounding piece of music and a nicely designed piece of hardware. The additional processing muscle and connectivity ports will outfit the casual user with enough firepower to easily carry them for several years.
Computers used to appeal exclusively to geeks, but with luminaries like Dr. Dre chiming in on computer design, it's clear that those days are over. If you're looking for a Windows PC notebook that has more personality and lots of power, a Beats notebook computer is a good choice. If you have any questions about these computers or the HP Beats sound system, we'd love to hear them in the Comments section of this post!