Overpriced brand tie-ins are nothing new to laptops - I still shudder when I remember the idiot estate agent I met who was richly proud of his shiny red Ferrari laptop, as we all crammed into his Peugot 305… but this Star Wars Special Edition laptop is a bit different.
First, HP isn't pretending this is a top-spec machine - this is a simple, cheap modern laptop. It has solid components and a distinct graphics card, but doesn't have any claims to power beyond that. It's to laptops what Count Dooku was to the Sith, what Stormtroopers are to normal soldiers, what Kit Fisto is to Jedi, and what General Grievous was to villains. Something that looks really good, but with totally average performance.
Secondly, they've shown some love to the Star Wars movies beyond the machine's design, cramming in all sorts of extras, ranging from the tacky to the silly. This thing has tweaks galore, from the recycle bin being turned into a miniature Death Star (which turns into the partially built Death Star 2 when it's emptied) to a huge range of media add-ons.
The model we're testing is the only version available in the UK - it's based on the low end version in the US, with an added Nvidia graphics card, while Australia has the US mid-tier version. It's quite confusing about which model is available where, so definitely check the specifications on your model carefully before buying.
The best thing about this laptop is undoubtedly its design. It doesn't scream Star Wars at you, but has a deliberately roughed-up finish that speaks of many battles. The top surface features a black and gray Imperial style, with the HP logo at its centre, and Darth Vader sitting in a black and red large window, looking serious. The top corner has been scarified, as from much use or having been dropped - which bodes well for how this look will age.
The choice to go with a Galactic Empire design rather than a Jedi design or a straight Star Wars design works well on the inside too. The keyboard backing continues that black / grey-silver look, with a pair of stormtroopers at the bottom right, barely visible behind dirt, and the death star in silverpoint at the bottom left. Imperial text - also installed as a font on the computer, amazingly - is dotted around the surface and appears on the laptop hinge. The only downside are the Intel and Nvidia stickers, which are small but totally out of place.
The keyboard itself glows with a threatening red backlight - and can be toggled off easily, which is welcome. Without it, it's too hard to see the keys, so we'd recommend mostly leaving it on in dim light. As for the laptop shape, it's fairly slim (3cm) and pleasant to look at, without being an ultrabook or cutting edge - the design hides how plastic it actually is nicely.
Another nice touch is the touchpad, which has gloss markings that are oddly spiderman-like - until you realise it's the targeting reticule and overlay from a rebel spaceship making a run on the Death Star core.
It's worth pausing for a second to talk about the actual box the laptop comes in, because the design of that is as good as the laptop. It comes in a supercool deep red and black casing, featuring the face of Kylo Ren on the front, and Stormtrooper heads serried along the top. Inside, the power cable is trapped inside another box emblazoned with a very nice Darth Vader decal. And most impressive of all, the laptop foam itself is sculpted to look like two Tie Bombers. It's probably the most sympathetic packaging I've ever seen on any product, full stop.