HP's Back to School Laptops with B&O Audio: Hands-on

Bye-bye, Beats. HP's refreshed lineup of Pavilion and Envy laptops will all be getting a boost from Bang & Olufsen speakers and audio technology. Starting as low as $409, HP's notebooks--the Pavilion, Pavilion x360, and Envy x360--will be available starting May 13 online, and June 21 at select retailers. The new systems delivered rich and full sound during our hands-on preview.

In addition to tuning the notebooks to deliver the best sound possible, a Bang & Olufsen audio control panel will let you turn the B&O sound boosting technology on or off--who would want to do the latter?--as well as tweak settings using the graphics equalizer.

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In my brief time with a few of the notebooks, I liked what I heard. Music was more robust, with fuller tones across lows, mids, and highs. It will definitely appeal to those who listen to music or movies on their laptops. The B&O control panel looks a lot like the old Beats control panel, but I guess there's only so much you can do with a bunch of sliding adjustment bars. 

Otherwise, the updates to HP's notebooks are pretty by-the-board, mainly featuring new processors that promise increased performance and longer battery life. The one exception is the redesigned Pavilion line, which is getting a welcome splash of color.

The Pavilion line (available in 14, 15, and 17-inch screen sizes) is getting a more refined unibody design, and will be available in a variety of whimsically named colors: Natural Silver, Blizzard White, Sunset Red, Cobalt Blue, Violet Purple, Peachy Pink and Twinkle Black. I like how the colors carry over from the lid to the sides and bottom.

The new Pavilion notebooks will get 5th-generation Intel Core i3, 15, and i7 CPUs, as well as AMD 6th generation A-series processors. The systems will be available on May 20, and start at $499.  

Like other low-cost diminutive convertibles, the 11-inch HP Pavilion x360 will be offered with an Intel Core M processor, and should get a bit over 8 hours on a charge, according to HP. That would be a huge improvement over the original x360, which lasted less than 4 hours on the Laptop Mag battery test.

The Core M version, which will also have 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive, will cost $499, and will be available online on May 13. It too will come in a Crayola starter-pack worth of colors: Natural silver, Sunset Red, Violet Purple and Minty Green. 

The more premium 15-inch HP Envy x360 will be upgraded to 5th generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, and will also have the option for discrete graphics. Available on June 13, the starting model will cost $679, and have a Core i5 processor, HD (1366 x 768) touchscreen, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive.

LAPTOP Reviews Editor