Editors' note: This review is part of our Holiday 2008 Retail Laptop Roundup, covering specific new configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
If you can find a more feature-packed laptop for $800 on store shelves, I'd like to see it. The HP Pavilion dv4-1125nr separates itself from its retail competition by including 64-bit Vista and 4GB of memory while also serving up multimedia-friendly features such as an HDMI port, dual headphone jacks, and a remote control. The Pavilion dv4-1125nr uses the same Core 2 Duo T5800 CPU found on other retail models selling this quarter, including the Sony Vaio VGN-NS140E/W and Toshiba Satellite A305-S6872, but its use of 64-bit Windows Vista and an extra gigabyte of memory gives it an edge in performance, which is most evident with graphics-intensive tasks such as Photoshop. It features a 14-inch screen, which I find preferable to 15-inch models such as the aforementioned Sony and Toshiba laptops because it provides the same 1,280x800-pixel screen resolution but saves you about a pound of travel weight. Unfortunately, its portability is curtailed by substandard battery life. If you can live with roughly two hours of battery life, the HP Pavilion dv4-1125nr makes a well-rounded and affordable laptop.
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5800|
|Memory||4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz|
|Hard drive||250GB, 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium 64-bit|
|Dimensions (width x height)||13.2x9.5 inches|
|Thickness||1.4 to 1.6 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.3 / 6.1 pounds|
The Pavilion dv4-1125nr is a solid machine. The plastic chassis feels very well built; the lid and wrist rest possess little of the flex found on some mainstream laptops. The laptop's single, long hinge keeps the display firmly rooted in place. It features the same look as the Pavilion dv5 and dv7 models we saw earlier this year, with a glossy black lid, silver keyboard deck, and chrome edging. The lid and wrist rest feature a subtle, pleasing crosshatch design. Unlike some Pavilion models, such as the dv5-1015nr, the dv4-1125nr does not feature HP's "frameless" bezel design.
Weighing 5.3 pounds, it is more than a pound lighter than HP's Pavilion dv5 models and the Toshiba Satellite A305, each of which weighs in at 6.4 pounds. The 15-inch Sony Vaio NS140E comes a little closer at 6.1 pounds, but the Pavilion dv4 feels much more portable because the Sony is an inch wider and an inch deeper.
What I like most about 14-inch laptops is that they save you size and weight while serving up the same screen real estate. While some 15-inch models deliver a 1,440x900-pixel resolution, most provide a pedestrian 1,280x800-pixel resolution, including the Sony Vaio NS140E and Toshiba A305, which is the same native resolution found on the Pavilion dv4-1124nr. Icons and text aren't made too small and remain very legible. The display features a glossy screen coating, which makes movies and photos looks smooth and vibrant. Many laptop users, including myself, are quite sensitive to glossy screens, but the dv4-1125nr is far from an egregious offender when it comes to glare and reflections. A 1.3-megapixel Webcam above the display lets users conduct video chats.
The Altec Lansing stereo speakers are adequate, but they can't match the Sony Vaio NS140E, which produced a better sound--louder and clear and max volume. The Pavilion dv4's audio output will suffice for movie dialogue and effects, but you'll want to use the headphone jacks (there are two) for music. The most eye-catching design note of the Pavilion dv4 is the strip of lighted, touch-sensitive media controls above the keyboard. In addition to the standard media transport buttons, there is a volume slider, a mute button, a Wi-Fi power switch, and a QuickPlay button. The buttons glow a pleasing white, and the mute and Wi-Fi buttons turn orange when you cut the volume or Wi-Fi signal. Though attractive and modern looking, we still prefer a volume dial, as found on the Toshiba Satellite L305, because on more than one occasion the touch-sensitive volume control failed to respond to our touch. And don't mistake the QuickPlay button for an instant-on feature that bypasses Windows; it merely calls up a screen when Windows is running that provides shortcuts for playing DVDs, music, videos, photos, games, or TV from your Slingbox (should you own one). Like most applications of its ilk, QuickPlay is of dubious value; you'll likely find it more efficient to access your preferred media applications direct from the Windows desktop or Start menu.
As with past Pavilion laptops, I don't enjoy the glossy finish on the dv4's touch pad. Sure, it improves the overall design of the laptop, lending it yet another chrome accent, but most laptop touch pads feature matte finish material, which allows your finger to move across the surface with little friction. The glossy finish here feels "grabby." The touch pad is also very narrow, top to bottom, measuring only 1.5 inches tall by 3 inches wide. In the plus column for the touch pad are the wide and quiet mouse buttons below it, the vertical scroll area along its right edge, and a tiny power button above it.
Unlike the odd dimension of the touch pad, the keyboard looks and feels like a natural fit on the Pavilion dv4's 14-inch chassis. The keys have a glossy finish that aids the overall look but detracts from the actual typing experience somewhat. To these fingertips, the keys felt a bit too slick, though they do feature good travel and are very quiet, as opposed to clacky, this reviewer's favorite keyboard remains the one found on the Sony Vaio NS140. Prior to purchase, take a few minutes in the laptop aisle of your local electronics retailer to get a sense for the keyboard and touch pad of any laptop you're considering.
|HP Pavilion dv4-1125nr||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI, Webcam||VGA-out, S-Video, Webcam|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, two headphone jacks and one microphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, eSATA, multiformat card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Larger Pavilion dv5 models serve up an extra USB port and a FireWire connection, but the more compact dv4-1125nr boasts an impressive array of ports, which includes HDMI, eSATA. Other than FireWire, the only connections missing are Bluetooth and Draft N Wi-Fi. You'll also have to make do with 10/100 Ethernet; Gigabit Ethernet is not offered.
In CNET Labs tests, the HP Pavilion dv4-1125nr used its extra dollop of memory to finish at or near the top of our charts for five retail laptops in the $700 to $800 price range. The three Intel-based laptops on the charts clearly outclassed the two AMD-based models. However, among the three similarly configured Intel systems, the Pavilion dv4 is the only one to feature 64-bit Windows, which allows the system to use its full compliment of 4GB of RAM; 32-bit Windows can use roughly 3GB at maximum. While the three Intel systems finished within 3 percent of one another on CNET Labs' multitasking test and within 6 percent of one another on our iTunes benchmark, the Pavilion dv4-1125nr outclassed its 32-bit competition on our memory-intensive Photoshop CS3 benchmark. The HP system finished 20 percent faster than the next closest machine.
We're starting to notice a trend: HP's Pavilion laptops do not deliver great battery life. Like previous dv5 laptops and the older 14-inch dv2945se, the Pavilion dv4 turned in a very pedestrian score, lasting only 2 hours 14 minutes. That's far short of the 3 hours or more you can get from competing models. The Satellite A305 used a large nine-cell battery, which allowed it to run for more than 4 hours, but the Sony Vaio NS140E used a standard six-cell battery like this Pavilion dv4 and ran for 1 hour, 23 minutes longer.