HP ENVY 23xt Beats Special Edition review

'Beats Edition' means more than a red coat of paint for HP's vibrant Envy 23xt

The HP Envy Beats delivers a solid media experience, but its price tag is hard to justify.
The HP Envy Beats delivers a solid media experience, but its price tag is hard to justify.
The HP Envy Beats delivers a solid media experience, but its price tag is hard to justify.

Highs

  • Bold, red exterior
  • Impressive 1080p touchscreen
  • Loud, clear Beats speakers
  • Numerous media connectivity options

Lows

  • Display is too reflective
  • Wired keyboard and mouse come standard
  • Lackluster gaming and hard drive performance
  • Expensive compared to competition

DT Editors' Rating

When the first all-in-one desktops starting hitting the market, they sparked a minor revolution. Consumers suddenly had a sleek, attractive, compact alternative to the boring box-based PCs that they had grown accustomed to.

Eventually, anything that’s new and exciting can eventually become stale, and most all-in-ones no longer stand out. HP is trying to inject some new life into this category with its HP Envy 23xt Beats Special Edition AIO desktop, which is a 23-inch system that aims to offer a premium audio-video experience, and is slathered in a brilliant shade of red.

The HP Envy Beats isn’t all about eye-catching looks, though. Our review unit arrived with an Intel Core i5-4460T CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB mechanical hard drive. That’s a solid roster of specs for a 23-inch AIO, but the system’s $1,050 MSRP is a bit steep. Several competitors offer similar or better hardware for $100 to $200 less.

Is the HP Envy Beats AIO a premium alternative, or just over-priced?

Red alert!

This AIO is very, very red. We hope you’re OK with that, because that’s the only color which is available with this system.

While we’re not sure that the youth market which HP is trying to court here cares enough about PCs to spend more than $1,000 on one, we appreciate the effort that was put into this system’s aesthetics. The paint job, along with the built-in speakers and Beats logo (which glows when the system is on), all stand out.

This AIO is very, very red. We hope you’re okay with that, because that’s the only color which is available with this system.

Like many other small AIOs, the HP Envy Beats is propped up by a simple kickstand that supports the computer similar to the way a picture frame’s stand works. You can only adjust the system’s height by sticking some books under it. In fairness to HP, most competing AIOs don’t offer height adjustment either, but a few (like the Dell Inspiron One and Lenovo C560) ship with a stand that holds the display in a more upright position.

The HP’s port selection is limited. Four USB 2.0 ports reside on the back of the system, and two USB 3.0 ports nest on the PC’s left flank for a total of six. That’s not bad, but HP includes a wired keyboard and mouse, so once you plug those in, only four USB ports are vacant.

You can plug media devices into the HP Envy Beats via its HDMI-in port. On the right flank, you’ll find a DVD burner, which can be upgraded to a Blu-Ray player, and you can add a TV tuner as well. Ethernet, a 3-in-1 SD card reader, and an audio jack round out the physical connections that are available.

802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi is standard, but 802.11ac is an option which you can grab for an extra $10. Plus, the upgrade also comes with Bluetooth. We highly recommend that you pony up the additional $10 for this boost.

Eye (and ear) candy

All versions of the HP Envy 23xt Beats Edition come with a 1080p touchscreen. We were surprised to find that it offers excellent image quality out of the box. A quick scan using our calibration tool revealed why we found it to be so solid from the get go.

The HP’s color gamut spans 97 percent of sRGB, and 74 percent of AdobeRGB. These are the best results we’ve seen from an AIO this year. Even better, the display’s average color difference is a deltaE of only 1.49. Anything less than one is generally unnoticeable. This beats most monitors we’ve reviewed, including the $800 Acer XB280HK. Photos, games, and movies look both vibrant and accurate on this Envy’s display.

The screen does have some faults, however. We recorded a maximum brightness of 177 lux, which isn’t enough to overcome the glossy panel’s reflective coat. The contrast ratio of 370:1 is low as well, which indicates that the display’s depth is less than ideal. In the scenes of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug which feature the dragon Smaug while he’s in his lair, the HP’s display shrouds some of the beast’s details, including scales which are visible on better screens.

This Envy’s Beats speakers offer beefy, bass-heavy audio that won’t disturb the neighbors, but can easily rock your house. The focus on bass adds oomph to action scenes in movies and games, and also helps the mid-range remain clear when playing music. Maximum volume is high, so music can be enjoyed from across a large room, and over significant background noise as well.

The speakers are paired with an audio interface that offers customization options which are normally not available on an AIO. A software equalizer allows you to adjust the audio experience in many ways, and users can select from presets that target music, movies, and more. There are also microphone enhancement settings that aggressively remove unwanted noise, making the HP Envy Beats solid when it comes to tasks like Skype calls

Fast, but not a blazer

Intel’s Core i5-4460T CPU, which comes standard in all versions of this AIO, is a quad-core chip that has a Turbo Boost clock of 2.7GHz, but offers a base clock of only 1.9GHz. While it’s slower than a typical desktop quad-core processor, it delivered respectable performance in SiSoft Sandra’s Processor Arithmetic benchmark.

sisoftsandrahpenvybeats

The Gateway ZX4970 and the Lenovo IdeaCentre C560 both fall short of the Envy Beats AIO because they have less powerful (and less expensive) hardware. Dell’s Inspiron One 23 gets better results here, but the as-tested price of that system was $1,400.

7-Zip’s file compression test told a similar story. The Gateway ZX4970 and Lenovo C560 turned in scores of 6,263 and 7,436, respectively, putting them behind the HP’s grade of 9,865. The Dell Inspiron One 23, however, ran away from the pack with its score of 19,054.

The HP Envy Beats AIO can be used to play mainstream games, but it’s no quicker than competitors which sell for half the price.

We also tested the Envy Beats AIO using Geekbench. It produced a single-core score of 2,258, and a multi-core grade of 6,715. These numbers are strong enough beat the laptops we’ve recently tested with this software. HD Tune, which measures hard drive data transfer speeds, reported a mediocre read speed of 76.1MB/s, and an average access time of 18.5 milliseconds.

During our tests, we encountered occasional performance issues when loading applications. When the problem occurred, an app would take several seconds longer than normal to appear. The mechanical hard drive is undoubtedly the culprit. A solid state drive is not available as an option with the HP Envy Beats, unfortunately, but users can at least upgrade to a hybrid mechanical drive with a solid state cache in it. That should speed up performance considerably.

We also tested graphics performance with the HP Envy beats using 3DMark, which reported a Cloud Gate score of 4,742, and a Fire Strike mark of 577. Here, the HP fails to defeat one of its less expensive competitors.

3dmarkhpenvybeats-1

The Lenovo achieved slightly better results, despite its lower price tag. Meanwhile, the Dell Inspiron One 23 obliterates the field with its Fire Strike result of 1,092.

To test real-world gaming performance, we fired up League of Legends, and played it at 1080p resolution. At Medium detail, it ran at a playable average of 42 frames per second, with a maximum of 51, and a minimum of 15. Turning detail up to Very High lowered the average to 21FPS, with a maximum of 28, and a minimum of 5. The HP Envy Beats AIO can be used to play mainstream games like League of Legends, but it’s no quicker than competitors which sell for half the price. Plus, you might have to compromise when it comes to visual settings if you want to enjoy relatively high frame rates.

Peripheral vision

As we mentioned earlier, HP includes a wired keyboard and mouse with this system. Both are basic, though the keyboard offers volume and shortcut controls. We found the infrared mouse to be responsive.

We think wireless peripherals should be offered by default given this system’s price. Bluetooth was available on our review unit, but it’s an option, so many people who buy this PC will go without it. In such instances, you’ll be limited to wireless peripherals that work via a USB dongle. HP offers them as a $20 upgrade.

HP Envy 23xt Beats Special Edition keyboard mouse

While this system’s speakers make plenty of noise, the fan cooperates when you’re looking for peace and quiet. We recorded 36.8 decibels of fan-generated ruckus at idle, and no more than 40.3dB at load. The fan is loud enough to be noticed, but unlikely to annoy you.

Power draw is modest. The HP Envy Beats AIO needs an average of 60.5-watts at idle, and 83-watts at full load. The idle figure is much higher than the Lenovo IdeaCentre C560’s idle power consumption of 39-watts, but the load figure is identical. Neither PC will add more than a few dollars to your monthly power bill.

Conclusion

The HP Envy 23xt Beats Edition’s flashy aesthetics may give it a gimmicky feel, but it backs up its unusual looks with an excellent 1080p display, and a solid speaker setup. The visual and audio experience surpass what competing systems offer, and the wide variety of standard and optional media features can turn this PC into a competent do-it-all system.

However, the price is the problem. The system’s $1,050 MSRP is steep, and many buyers will likely lean towards a more affordable alternative like the Lenovo IdeaCentre C560, which is about as powerful, and  costs several hundred dollars less. Dell’s Inspiron One 23 is also a threat, as a strong quad-core variant can now be purchased for just $900. For these reasons, many shoppers will struggle to find a reason they should put down more money for the HP Envy 23xt Beats Edition all-in-one desktop PC.

Highs

  • Bold, red exterior
  • Impressive 1080p touchscreen
  • Loud, clear Beats speakers
  • Numerous media connectivity options

Lows

  • Display is too reflective
  • Wired keyboard and mouse come standard
  • Lackluster gaming and hard drive performance
  • Expensive compared to competition
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