Help Me, LAPTOP: I Need a Portable Multimedia Machine

Just because you know what you want and what you like doesn't mean picking the right machine is that simple. There are a lot of factors that go into narrowing the field, including design, battery life, portability, and performance. Wyn, a self-described avid reader, has been able to get his array of choices down to three: HP Envy 14 Beats Edition, Dell XPS 14, and the Dell XPS 15. But then he got stuck, and came to us for help.

"I can't seem to decide which one to get. I want [a notebook] that's great on the gaming and multimedia side, but at the same time is great for portability. The speakers of these machines are made by independent manufacturers such as Beats and JBL. And I can configure each of these to about $1,400, which matches my budget."

Each system has its own pros and cons, but our choice would be the HP Envy 14 Beats Edition. Its stylish black and red design is striking. You get great audio quality, a bright and vidid 14.5-inch screen with 1366 x 768-pixel resolution. The Envy 14 weighs a portable 5.6 pounds, and comes with a Core i5 processor and a 7,200-rpm 500GB hard drive. It lasted 4 hours and 20 minutes on our battery test. Plus, this $1,149 system (which earned 4 stars from us) can shave a few bucks off your budget.

While the Dell XPS 15 also earned 4 stars, and it offers strong performance and great audio, the bulky design runs a bit hot and the battery life of 3 hours and 55 minutes isn't great. The Dell XPS 14 isn't bad either, although we only gave it 3.5 stars, but it took the 9-cell extended battery to get decent battery life. Also the performance wasn't as stellar as your other two choices and it's a bit heavier and not as good looking.

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Anna Attkisson
Managing Editor
A lover of lists and deadlines, Anna Attkisson heads up features and special projects for, in addition to covering social networking and accessories. She joined the LAPTOP staff in 2007, after working at Time Inc. Content Solutions where she created custom publications for companies from American Express to National Parks Foundation.