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HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook review: HP's Star Wars laptop takes you to the Dark Side, for less.

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The galleries include a lot of cool-looking concept and production art, film stills, posters and more. Click on one, and they simply open up in the Windows Photo Viewer app, where you can flip through them. I have no doubt all the images here can be found elsewhere online, but a few of the galleries are fun to dive into, especially the collection of foreign-language theatrical posters.

The 15.6-inch display has a native resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels. Standard Pavilion laptops start with a 1,366x768 display, but in the Star Wars version, 1080p is the default, with a touch display as part of a set of upgrades you can get for $999. The screen has a matte finish, which may make your videos pop a little less, but we generally prefer it to an overly glossy, reflective display. For a midprice laptop, it has surprisingly good off-axis viewing angles.

Ports and connections

Video HDMI
Audio Combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0 SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive DVD burner

Connections and performance

As a full-size 15-inch laptop, you get a generous collection of ports and connections, the same as you'd find on a standard 15-inch HP Pavilion, including an Ethernet jack, SD card slot, three USB ports and even a DVD drive.

The basic $699 configuration includes a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U low-voltage processor (part of Intel's current sixth-generation of Core i-series chips), along with 6GB of RAM and a large 1TB hard drive. For $749, you can bump the RAM to 8GB and add a basic Nvidia GeForce 940M graphics card, which is OK for very basic gaming, but doesn't make this a gaming machine. A high-end configuration gives you a small processor bump (to a Core i5-6500U) and adds a touch display, for $999.

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In benchmark testing, our $699 configuration performed admirably for a midprice Core i5 laptop. A recent Dell Inspiron 15 with a faster Core i5-6300HQ (a quad-core CPU, versus the dual-core one in the HP) performed better, while Microsoft's Atom-powered Surface 3, which would cost around $620 if you included the keyboard cover, was much slower.

The configuration reviewed here has only Intel's built-in basic graphics capabilities, while the upgraded models include a separate video card from Nvidia. But, that entry level GeForce 940M card isn't what mainstream gamers will want if they wish to play new games at 1,920x1,080 resolution and medium-to-high detail settings (look for a laptop with an Nvidia 960M GPU instead).

Aside from a lack of gamer-level graphics, the Force is also not strong with this laptop's battery life. Running for just 5 hours, 58 minutes on our offline video playback test and 4 hours, 46 minutes in our online streaming video test, it's near the bottom of the barrel for current mainstream laptops, where hitting 6 hours is the absolute minimum one should expect.

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Conclusion

HP has taken a standard-issue 15-inch Pavilion laptop, one of the most middle-of-the-road, midprice laptops you can find, and dressed it up with some very nice Star Wars graphics and digital content. Since there's little or no price premium between this and the standard 15-inch Pavilion (depending on the exact configuration and periodic sales), it's a fun collection of extras for Star Wars aficionados that doesn't demand a "fan tax."

A truly premium Star Wars laptop, with a slim, metal body and higher-end components, would be a real collectors item, but aside from that, the HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook was both fun to use and functional, and reminded me that sometimes a $699 laptop is all you need for everyday computing.

Multimedia Multitasking Test 3.0

Dell Inspiron 15-7559
290
HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook 15-an050nr
564
Microsoft Surface 3
1585

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test

Dell Inspiron 15-7559
214
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch)
238
HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook 15-an050nr
251
Dell XPS 13 (non touch)
263
Microsoft Surface 3
617

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Apple iTunes encoding test

Dell Inspiron 15-7559
98
HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook 15-an050nr
112
Dell XPS 13 (non touch)
112
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch)
113
Microsoft Surface 3
300

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Video playback battery drain test

Dell XPS 13 (non touch)
726
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch)
485
Microsoft Surface 3
461
Dell Inspiron 15-7559
383
HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook 15-an050nr
358

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

Online video streaming battery test

Microsoft Surface 3
402
Dell Inspiron 15-7559
323
HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook 15-an050nr
286

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System Configurations

HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook 15-an050nr Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 1TB 5,400rpm HDD
Microsoft Surface 3 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z8700; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 128GB SSD
Dell XPS 13 (non touch) Microsoft Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHZ Intel Core i5-5200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 2000MB (shared) Intel HD 5500 Graphics; 128GB SSD
Dell Inspiron 15-7559 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6300HQ; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 4096MB Nvidia Geforce GTX 960M; 1TB 5,400rpm HDD
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch) Microsoft Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 3839MB Intel HD Graphics 5500; 256GB SSD

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