HP's surprising partnership with hip-hop producer Dr Dre has bumped it up in the cool stakes, and brought some much-needed quality to the beleaguered world of laptop speakers. While HP's mid-range multimedia DV7-6103ea isn't quite as sleek as the company's Envy range, it has pilfered the same design finesse and also comes with the superior Beats Audio experience.

Taking a leaf from the Envy range, this laptop is solidly built and looks great. The burnished gunmetal finish gives a great streaky effect, adorning the top of the lid and surrounding the chiclet keyboard. Shame it's only plastic but, at 3kg, it feels sturdy enough.

In terms of portability, it's never gong to be light on a 17.3-inch chassis, but at 416 x 275 x 36mm, the DV7-6103ea is svelte.

The keyboard is a mixed blessing. Typing for long periods is fine, thanks to the sturdy travel on the keys, while number-crunchers will appreciate the full numeric keypad. However, the arrow keys are crushed into a single row and are difficult to find.

We were also disappointed with the multi-touch pad, which is a little compact.

Audio goodness

Opening up the DV7-6103ea reveals the enormous sub-woofer. This sits above the board to deliver sound out and up rather than underneath, where it would be more muffled.

As we expected, the laptop produces more powerful sound than most other laptops, though it's never going to beat the throw of external speakers. Of course, most laptop users sit near their hardware and will enjoy listening to music as they work, while movies played with a rich sonic feed.

The Blu-ray player sits on the right hand side and ports are standard fare, with two fast USB 3.0 ports, two standard USB 2.0s, a VGA out and a HDMI out so you can connect to other HD devices. There's even a multi-card reader and internal USB remote.

While HP provides too much bloatware pre-installed on the hard drive, you do get an finger print reader for added security. The 1600 x 900-pixel LED HP BrightView display is impressively vibrant, although the gloss sheen does make it harder to view in strong natural light.

The low lighting in The Dark Knight meant we lost a lot of detail in natural light, but the stunning details with the lights off impressed - even though it's not full HD.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater '05: 181 minutes
Cinebench: 6480
3DMark 2006: 1533

The DV7-6103ea has AMD's Quad-Core A6-3410MX fusion GPU and CPU, which is great mobile tech for enhancing battery life. With a generous 6GB of memory, we had no lag or stutter on video playback or when multi-tasking. The latest games will struggle, however.

There's an enormous 1.5TB of storage for all of your applications and media.

If you're looking for a smart new multimedia machine for movies and music, the DV7-6103ea is a great choice that won't break the bank.

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