Star Wars hype is everywhere, and the light and dark sides of the Force can be found emblazoned on everything from coffee mugs to clothing -- basically anything that can be imprinted with an image and sold in stores.
Add to this never-ending collection of sci-fi ephemera the new HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook, a 15-inch laptop covered head to toe in familiar images of Darth Vader and friends. Under the distinctive paint job and handful of digital extras, this is actually a fairly stock midlevel 15-inch HP laptop, similar to what you'd find in HP's Pavilion 15.
That means this isn't a high-end gaming system, carved from aluminum and with glossy edge-to-edge glass over a 4K display. But, it also means you can get a very cool piece of Star Wars memorabilia that also functions as an everyday mainstream laptop at a perfectly reasonable price of $699 in the US (£549 in the UK and AU $1,299 in Australia).
For that base price, you get a current-gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 6GB of RAM and a 1TB mechanical hard drive. Include the extras found here, such as a backlit keyboard, DVD drive and faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and a stock HP Pavilion 15-inch laptop configured as closely as possible is also just around $699, so there's not really a premium to pay for the Star Wars design and content. But, at various times during the holiday shopping season, I've seen some pretty steep discounts on the non-Star Wars version, as much as $150 less, so keep an eye out for sales.
Besides the Star Wars graphics covering the exterior, the system includes a healthy collection of digital extras for fans, including Windows background images and system sounds, galleries of Star Wars art, including behind-the-scenes photos and storyboards, as well as trailers, book excerpts and a digital version of the 1977 first issue of Marvel Comics' "Star Wars" adaptation.
Sure, I'd love to see a higher-end Star Wars laptop, constructed from premium materials and with better graphics options. But even on this very mainstream system, the Star Wars design elements, red backlit keyboard, and even the custom packing materials all make it look and feel like a more premium machine than it is. If you want to spend $700 or so on a midsize, midrange 15-inch laptop, there are many ways to do so. And if you're a Star Wars fan who isn't afraid to rock a Darth Vader laptop in public, this is a fun way to spend about the same and get something fun and unique.
HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook 15-an050nr
|Price as reviewed||$699|
|Display size/resolution||15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 screen|
|PC CPU||2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U|
|PC Memory||6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz|
|Graphics||128MB Intel HD Graphics 520|
|Storage||1TB 5,400rpm HDD|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)|
Design and features
This is certainly one of the most distinctive-looking laptops we've seen, as nearly every visible surface is covered with Star Wars graphics. Over the past decade, I've only seen a handful of PCs with this sort of branding, mostly limited to few performance laptops with Porsche or Ferrari logos.
In this case, the look is distinctive, but also subtle, with a black-on-gray design with red highlights. Rather than a big, bright Star Wars logo, you instead get muted monochromatic images of Darth Vader (on the back of the lid) and a Stormtrooper (on the keyboard tray), set against what HP calls a battle-worn design, with scratchy renditions of the Death Star and Imperial logos in the background. A line of Aurebesh writing sits along the hinge, spelling out "Galactic Empire" in the language of the Star Wars films.
The backlit keyboard is a deep Empire-like red, and the light shines through translucent letter shapes on each key. The touchpad is one of my favorite design elements. Its plastic surface is imprinted with an X-Wing's targeting computer view of the Death Star trench, which may be the only non-Empire touch on this otherwise Dark-Side-dominated laptop.
Besides the fancy paint job, the system comes with a sizable collection of preinstalled Star Wars digital content. Most is found in the Star Wars Command Center app, which gives you access to background image collections and photo galleries, as well as several collections of system sounds.
Most of the background collections have between 12 and 35 images, and they include ones built around movie locations such as Tatooine and Endor, characters like Darth Vader or behind-the-scenes images of storyboards and ship models. You can select which images from a particular collection to use, and set them to automatically rotate on a timer, which is set to 30 seconds by default.