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HP Envy 23xt Beats Special Edition review: Loud design, louder speakers

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Do you like red? Because that's what you're getting here. The 23xt Beats Special Edition is available exclusively in a red so bright and bold it's a bit flabbergasting, though right in line with Beats headphones' signature style. The lack of alternate colors strikes me as a bit of a missed opportunity here, though. But don't get me wrong: I like red. And maybe you'll like the bright, aggressive stance this all-in-one takes -- many of the passersby here at CNET's offices certainly did.

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7.7

HP Envy 23xt Beats Special Edition

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The HP Envy 23xt Special Edition serves up rich, clear audio and has an attractive design that stands out.

The Bad

A glossy coating makes the display very reflective in direct light, and the lack of discrete graphics limits gaming potential.

The Bottom Line

This 23-inch all-in-one is built for entertainment, offering great speakers and a striking look. But the glossy, reflective display throws a wrench in the works.

On sale in the US for $1,049, this exact model isn't available in the UK or Australia. The equivalent models, with the same screen and similar specs, are the HP Beats Edition 23-n011na, which sells for a base £799 in the UK, and the HP Beats All-In-One 23-n100a, which will set Australians back AU$1,698.

If you miss this model, there may not be another. Following Apple's purchase of the Beats brand earlier this year, HP can only develop new products with Beats branding and technology through the end of 2014, and can continue to sell existing products, such as this one, through the end of 2015.

Take a closer look at the HP Envy 23xt Beats Special Edition (pictures)

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Its attractive display is soured by a glossy coating that makes it overly reflective, and integrated graphics rather than a discrete card means you can rule out high-end games. But good looks are coupled with decent performance for casual games and streaming media. For music lovers, its 23-inch HD screen sits on a great set of speakers, and HP includes a few custom music and mixing apps for amateur DJs.

Specs Compared

HP Envy 23xt Beats Special EditionAcer Aspire AU5-620-UB10Apple iMac (21-inch, 2014)
US price as reviewed $1,049$999$1,099
Display size/resolution 23-inch, 1,920x1,080 touchscreen23-inch, 1,920x1,080 touchscreen21.5-inch 1,920x1,080 non-touchscreen
PC CPU 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-4460T2.5GHz Intel Core i5-4200M1.4GHz Intel Core i5-4260U
PC memory 8GB 1,600MHZ DDR3 SDRAM8GB 1,600MHZ DDR3 SDRAM8GB 1,600MHZ DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1,792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 46001,792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 46001,792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5000
Storage 1TB, 5,400rpm HDD1TB, 5,400rpm HDD500GB, 5,400rpm HDD
Optical drive DVD-RWDVD-RWNone
Networking 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0802.11a/c wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 8 (64-bit)Windows 8 (64-bit)OSX 10.9.3 Mavericks

Design and features

This all-in-one sits on an easel-like stand, and can lean back a fair amount to give you a more comfortable surface for gaming and doodling. It can't lie completely flat, and the hinge is a bit stiffer than one I saw on the Acer Aspire U5-620 , but it's still fairly easy to shift about.

You'll run into no compromises with the four speakers and subwoofers running along the bottom of the display. Beats headphones have a bit of a reputation for being overpriced and gaudy, but I'm going to leave that discussion to the style mavens. I rather like the bold, almost aggressive grille, and these speakers sound as impressive as they look, pumping out clear, rich audio that will easily fill a room with sound. In typical Beats-style they're a little bass-heavy, but there is a Beats Audio configuration tool buried among the pre-installed apps that offers an equalizer you can tweak to your liking.

Josh Miller/CNET

This PC is otherwise relatively light on bloatware. McAfee Antivirus rears its head, but that can be silenced if you like your virus protection a little less naggy. The WildTangent Games portal that seems to turn up on every new PC purchase is here too. A Vevo app serves up music videos from the Web, and there are a few pre-installed music apps, including Edjing, which loads up music files on your PC and turns the display into a pair of faux turntables. Real DJs will probably turn up their noses at it, but I think it's cute. All told, the preloaded apps are relatively unobtrusive -- except for McAfee, which is still pestering me to register something -- and are easily uninstalled.

That leaves plenty of room on the 1TB storage drive. It's a relatively slow 5,400rpm model, however. For an extra $35 on HP's US site you can get a model with a 1TB solid state hybrid drive (SSHD), and that'll be worth the upgrade. You can also spend a bit more to replace the DVD burner with a Blu-Ray drive. I'd recommend bringing your own keyboard and mouse though. The bundled pair are wired, and while not bad, not very good either -- just your standard, generic pack-ins.

The PC's 23-inch touchscreen has a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, and image quality is rather good. Colors are reproduced faithfully, and look bright and vivid on the display. More importantly, I noticed no color shifting or contrast degradation as I looked at images on the display. Text looks crisp, which makes for a great reading experience. Video quality is similarly strong, and HD movies look sharp.

There is a problem here: the screen's glossy coating makes for a very reflective display. In brighter environments, you'll run into a lot of glare, and often be staring right back at your reflection. I found I could get around that by adjusting its position on my desk, but some might not have that luxury.

Ports and connections

HP Envy 23xt Beats Special Edition
Video HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Optical drive DVD burner

Connections and performance

The PC's port selection is relatively generous: a pair of USB 3.0 ports sit on the left side, joined by a multiformat media card reader and a headphone jack. There's also an HDMI input button, which you can press to toggle between the PC's display, and whatever's on a device you've connected with an HDMI cable. You'll find the HDMI port on the rear, accompanied by four USB 2.0 ports and the Gigabit Ethernet adapter. That's not a bad haul -- you'll have four ports remaining after you've factored in the wired keyboard and mouse. The PC also offers 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, though 802.11 ac Wi-Fi is available as an optional extra.

This is powered by a quad-core 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-4460T, with 8GB of RAM. The machine has no trouble dipping around apps and through the Web, and will handle less-demanding tasks like word processing and even photo editing with ease. It also performed well in casual games: my testing largely consisted of playing Halo Spartan Assault and Asphalt 8 Airborne. Both games are generally friendlier to weaker hardware, and the HP Envy 23xt shines there. The touchscreen is really responsive, and I didn't notice any lag as I swiped through menus or steered super soldiers and souped-up sports cars about. Fruit Ninja is probably a more sensible game to play on a touchscreen, and that works fine here, too.

The PC relies on Intel's integrated graphics, however, so you can't expect too much more. If you're really looking for a bit of extra oomph, you can outfit the PC with up to a quad-core 2.2GHz Core i7-4785T CPU, and add up to 16GB of RAM. There are no graphics upgrade options on HP's website, so your gaming performance remains bottlenecked there.

Conclusion

At $1,049, the HP Envy 23xt Beats Special Edition sits comfortably alongside similarly priced peers, such as the Acer Aspire AU5-620 I checked out a few months ago. Performance on CNET's tests is comparable, though the Acer's dual-core CPU is clocked a bit higher. But the speakers put HP's machine in the lead: this is an entertainment machine first and foremost, and having something that's pleasant to listen to and readily customized (once you've found the settings) is a nod in the right direction.

The great audio is enough to forgive to weak gaming performance, and the sluggish hard drive can be perked up if you spend a smidgen extra. But the glossy coating on the display is here to stay, and it's quite the sore point. If you've got a nook or a dark dorm room that could use a loud, bright PC, and you don't plan on doing much gaming, this HP Envy All-in-One will not disappoint. Provided, of course, that you're a fan of the paint job.

Handbrake Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)

Apple iMac (21-inch, 2014) 466Acer Aspire AU5 620 372HP Envy 23xt Beats Special Edition 283Dell Inspiron 23 173
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance.

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)

Apple iMac (21-inch, 2014) 270HP Envy 23xt Beats Special Edition 242Acer Aspire AU5 620 235Dell Inspiron 23 194
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)

HP Envy 23xt Beats Special Edition 121Acer Aspire AU5 620 104Dell Inspiron 23 96Apple iMac (21-inch, 2014) 78
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance

System configurations

Acer Aspire AU5-620-UB10

Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 4200M; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4600; 1TB 5,400rpm HDD

Apple iMac (21-inch, 2014)

Apple OS X 10.9.3 Mavericks ; 1.4GHz Intel Core i54260U; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5000; 500GB 5,400rpm HDD

HP Envy 23xt Beats Special Edition

Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i5 4460T; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4600; 1TB 5,400rpm HDD

Dell Inspiron 23

Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 4700MQ; 12GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB AMD 8690A Graphics; 1TB 5,400rpm HDD

hp-envy-23xt-beats-special-edition-8085-001.jpg
7.7

HP Envy 23xt Beats Special Edition

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7