If you want a powerful, premium laptop that's not a Macbook Pro 15in, HP's Envy line is an interesting alternative, generally offering sharp styling, high-end build materials, excellent ergonomics and loads of features. After checking out the 17in 3D model (the aptly named HP Envy 17 3D), we now thought we'd take a look at the smaller and lighter Envy 14, which as its name suggests is a 14.5in powerhouse. However, this isn't the 'regular' 14-1190e with its silver aluminium finish, but rather the 14-1195ea 'Beats' Edition.
Paired with a set of Monster Beats Solo headphones certified by Dr. Dre, the 1195ea comes in a sexy combination of red and black to match. The lid is now a matt black affair with the HP logo attractively highlighted in glossy black, though the massive red 'b' (for 'Beats') is a bit overbearing and could have done with being either more subtle or backlit. Fingerprints are also a bit of an issue, but not nearly as much as they would have been with a glossy black plastic finish.
Opening the laptop up, its insides are even more attractive. Along with Apple, HP realizes the value of minimalism, and very little breaks the 1195ea's sleek black lines. The screen is of the 'borderless' variety, meaning a single sheet of glass across the screen and bezel makes it appear seamless – though it also ups the reflections to frankly distracting levels.
Thankfully, unlike with the Samsung Series 9, HP's finish is more consistent, and the entire keyboard surround is a single piece. It sports a lovely soft-touch finish (similar to the feel of the lid on Lenovos such as the ThinkPad X220t) that makes it a delight to rest your palms on yet doesn't suffer too much from grease marks or fingerprints.
Adding further to the laptop's appeal is a band of gunmetal trim surrounding the ports. Even the power adapter is sleek and curved, allows you to detach its cables at both ends, and offers a USB port for charging your devices without needing the laptop. These features make it our favourite power adapter on a laptop yet, and we hope other manufacturers will take note.
Also on hand to increase the 14-1195ea's premium feel is a felt cloth slipcase, which is a far more useful addition than the cardboard carrying bag for the Samsung 900X3A, and in another nice touch the manual is found on an Envy-branded SD card!
Of course, the star addition to the show is those Monster Beats Solo headphones, which are worth around £150 on their own. That's quite a value-add, but then we are talking about a laptop that costs over £1,000. If you want the full low-down, go and have a read of our review. Otherwise, here's a quick summary.
Sporting a matt black, almost soft outer finish and grey headband padding with leatherette on-ear cups, the Beats Solo look and feel just as premium as the laptop. Build quality is excellent, with an adjustable metal inner frame and metal hinges that allow the phones to fold flat for transport.
There's an extensive range of accessories too, including a thickly padded carrying pouch, cleaning cloth, and two thick red cables (one plain, the other with a 'control centre' offering volume controls, a call-answer button and microphone).
Unfortunately the headphones' sound quality doesn't live up to their build and presentation, as they are so bass heavy as to almost completely ruin the vast majority of the music we used to test them with.