When the new Pavilion landed in the PC Authority offices, its looks instantly set the team bickering. Its glossy black exterior doesn’t make any great departure from the laptop norm, but tilt back the lid and the striking new design for HP’s dv-series of laptops is revealed. Some thought it strikingly ugly, some stylish and alluring, but whether you love it or hate it, it’s certainly no shrinking violet.
The keyboard-surround is split horizontally: the lower half is light silver with a subtle white check pattern, and the upper half perforated silver plastic, allowing high-quality sound from the laptop’s Altec Lansing speakers to emerge.
Around the edge of the chassis, and running down the side where the ports are located, is a chrome-effect strip that shimmers with an alluring sparkle. While this isn’t subtle, the most eye-catching part is the trackpad, which has a mirror-like finish. Occasional glances down at the keyboard often surprise as you see yourself staring back.
Close the lid and the dv5 is more sombre, but still attractive. An expanse of glossy black is interrupted only by an illuminated blue-white HP logo in the corner of the lid. Few PC laptops can challenge Apple’s portables for sheer desirability, and the HP is more gaudy haute-couture than timeless style, but it’s a refreshing change.
Under that glittering veneer lies a laptop that’s a pleasure to use. The trackpad is large and accurate, and can be easily disabled by clicking a small button between it and the keyboard. This is extremely useful when working on long documents, letting you get down to some serious typing with no danger of bouncing the cursor around with a misplaced thumb.
The keyboard is spacious and comfortable to type on with large, slightly concave keys that have a good, positive action. There’s also a set of touch-sensitive media-control buttons above the keyboard, but unfortunately, these rely on a dedicated application that runs in the background. If you uninstall it in the quest for a clutter-free taskbar, they’ll stop working entirely.
As well as being good to use, the HP is extremely well built, with little creak or flex in the chassis. It isn’t the lightest laptop in the world, but for a machine with a 15.4in screen, 2.65kg isn’t bad.
The performance is solid, too. A 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 3GB of RAM saw the Pavilion reach a fine 0.99 in our 2D benchmarks, although the Nvidia GeForce 9200M GS graphics managed only 21fps in our Crysis 3D benchmarks, even at the lowest settings. Notching these upwards gave predictably sluggish results, leaving the latest games off-limits to the Pavilion.
As we go to print, a newer model has been released that contains a significantly faster GeForce 9600M GT. As a result 3D performance should be boosted to a level comparable to the MacBook Pro with a small battery trade-off as well.
Working with office applications is the HP’s forté, though, and the TFT is wonderfully crisp and clear. Its 1,280 x 800 resolution is standard fare for a 15.4in laptop, but the brightness and colour accuracy is a match for many pricier laptops. And, should you need them, HDMI and VGA ports allow for connecting to larger external monitors, although it’s worth noting there’s no Blu-ray drive for high-definition movie playback.
At $1669, the HP represents great value. And, compared with the $1799 Asus M51VA – our current A-List choice, the speakers, build quality and keyboard are noticeably better.
The HP does has the edge in terms of the battery life however – in our light-use test the HP lasted 3hrs and 23mins, a full hour longer Asus – however the HP we saw lacks in both 3D and 2D performance. But, if outright performance and gaming don’t matter to you, and the gaudy, glitzy styling suits, then the HP is a perfectly viable alternative.
|Benchmarks (click on image to enlarge)|