Review: HP Pavilion dv7tse Notebook

Laptop Review from Our Very Own Logician1313:

HP Pavilion dv7tse 17.3″ Notebook w/ Core i5-520M (2.4GHz)

Pros: Sleek and rugged metal chassis, switchable graphics, Blu-ray drive & Beats audio.

Cons: Touchpad is very sensitive with multigesture enabled, lack of full HD native resolution, price.

The Pavilion dv7t select edition configuration I choose came loaded with HP TrueVision HD Webcam, gigabit ethernet, wireless N, Blu-ray drive, two hard drives, switchable graphics, HDMI, and a 2 year warranty for just over $1,100 after coupon. Base configuration start around $850, but upgrades will quickly add up. The free hard drive and 6GB of RAM upgrades were no brainers, but I do suggest spending the extra money for the 9 cell battery ($30) and bluetooth ($25). HP includes QuickWeb software for browsing the web, checking email, listening to music, and watching videos without having to boot into Windows. A good idea, but one that becomes less useful once you remove most of the pre-installed bloatware, therefore reducing boot time. Out of the box it took 51 seconds from power on, to Windows fully loaded with the pinwheel not spinning. I was able to cut the boot time to around 32 seconds. While QuickWeb loads quickly (about 8 seconds), it takes a few seconds more to actually be able to browse the web (about 27 seconds total) or check email.

Design & Styling:
Out of the box the acid etched stream argento design on the lid & palm-rest immediately stand out. The brushed aluminum chassis is reminiscent of a macbook. The bottom however is made of tough plastic. Overall the laptop feels solid and does not have any flex in the body or keyboard. The screen did not distort or flex even when I pressed down firmly on the lid. For those of you who are tied to your machines and carry them around on a regular basis HP includes ProtectSmart which detects when your laptop is falling and automatically locks the hard drive to prevent data loss. Compared to your typical 15.6″ midsize laptop, the dv7t select edition looks huge, but due to it’s sleek form (measuring only 1.25 inches at it’s thinnest point) it’s surprisingly portable. It weighs in around 8 pounds, but considering it comes loaded with two hard drive, two graphics cards, Blu-ray drive, and a large 17.3″ screen, this is to be expected. The back panel is very easy to remove making it a breeze to replace one of the hard drives with a solid state drive (SSD), when the time comes.

I am not normally particularly fond of the island style or “chicket” keys, but I found it to be much more comfortable on this model. I really like the full size numberpad, which does not compromise the size and position of the rest of the keys. Like many new laptops, the more commonly used media control keys (volume, brightness, play, pause, etc) are set as the default function. This means if you want to press “F4″ for example, you have to first press and hold the Fn key.

My biggest critique is what HP calls the “Clickpad”, a giant touchpad with the left & right mouse buttons built in. The idea behind the over-sized pad is to allow more room for performing multitouch gestures. However if you re like me and like to rest your thumb on the left button for two finger scrolling, you will quickly become frustrated; The mouse cursor tends to jump around and zoom in and out when trying to scroll. This bothered me so much that I had to disable the multitouch gestures altogether and enable vertical scrolling in the settings. The clickpad itself feels a little stiff, but I am sure it will break in with time.

Hardware & Performance:

  • Intel Core i5-520M (2.4GHz, 3MB L3 Cache)
  • 17.3″ (1600 x 900) LED Backlit Display
  • Integrated Intel GMA HD Graphics & 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650
  • 6 GB DDR3 1067 RAM
  • 2 x 320GB (640GB total) 7,200RPM Hard Drives
  • 6 Cell Lithium-Ion Battery
  • Windows 7 Professional 64-Bit

Aside from the styling, the switchable graphics really makes this desktop replacement shine. The integrated Intel GMA HD graphics are more then capable of streaming and encoding HD content, and when you need more power for 3D games or encoding video, you can switch over to the discrete ATI Radeon 5650 graphics. It takes about 6 seconds to switch between graphics and you must close any 3D games before doing so. It would be nice if there was hot-keys for switching between graphics, but this is easy to add using the hot-key manager. Using multiple displays via the HDMI port is only possible while running the Radeon 5650 graphics.

After using several budget laptops with built in speakers that are muffled or barely audible, I wanted to try out HP’s Beats Audio for this test model. While I did not use actual Beats headphones for testing, it did sound great on over-ear Sony headphones as well as the built in speakers. They are not exceptionally loud, but unlike most built in laptop speakers they still sound great with full input and volume. The most notable difference is in the bass and midrange due to the Triple Bass Reflex Subwoofer.

I chose the standard 6 cell lithium-ion battery for this test model. Hp lists up to 5+ hours of battery life, but this is under ideal conditions (wifi disabled, screen brightness turned way down, power saving mode, etc…). I tested the battery with full screen brightness, sleep and screen-savers disabled, wifi and touchpad on, while browsing the web. I was able to get up to 3 hours 29 minutes when using the power saving GMA HD graphics, and around 2 hour 10 minutes when using the high performance Radeon 5650 graphics. Both of these time exceeded my expectations and it’s good to know that with a little tweaking of the power setting, it can go even longer. Finally to get an idea of the low end of the battery life, I used the discrete ATI graphics with screen brightness at 70% while playing Quake 4, a graphic intensive game. Not surprisingly the battery life dropped to just under an hour, not allowing much time to game away from a socket.

The dv7t is very quiet when idling, however when switched to performance graphics the fan becomes much more noticeable. With the power saving graphics enabled, the dv7t is not too hot for your lap, but when switched to the Radeon 5650 there is a significant rise in temperature. I left the dv7t running for about and hour and took temperature readings from four places using an infrared thermometer: battery, keyboard, palm rest, and right in the middle of the bottom. The highest temperature that I recorded (120.8 F) was straight off the air vent while running Quake 4 with high details.

Intel GMA HD Graphics Enabled
Bottom Middle- 85 F
Battery- 113 F
Keyboard- 92 F
Palm Rest- 82 F

ATI Radeon 5650 Graphics Enabled
Bottom Middle- 91 F
Battery- 118 F
Keyboard- 98 F
Palm Rest- 88 F

Windows Experience Index

    w/ Intel GMA HD Graphics- overall 4.5

  • Processor: Calculations per second 6.8
  • Memory (RAM): Memory operations per second 6.8
  • Graphics: Desktop performance for Windows Aero 4.5
  • Gaming Graphics: 3D business and gaming graphics performance 5.1
  • Primary hard disk: Disk data transfer rate 5.9
    w/ ATI Radeon 5660 – overall 5.9

  • Processor: Calculations per second 6.8
  • Memory (RAM): Memory operations per second 6.8
  • Graphics: Desktop performance for Windows Aero 6.7
  • Gaming Graphics: 3D business and gaming graphics performance 6.7
  • Primary hard disk: Disk data transfer rate 5.9

Enter to win a Pavilion dv7t Select Edition Entertainment PC
Visit the giveaway topic in Hot Deals to learn how to enter to win. Hurry! Giveaway ends October 16, 11:30 a.m. CST.

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