A model from HP's Pavilion dv9000 series has spent months on our list of top laptops and with good reason. The sleekly designed laptop offers a bevy of entertainment features, including an HD DVD drive, at a price that, while high, is much more affordable than competitive systems, such as the Dell XPS M1710 and the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV660. And with the dv9000's update to Windows Vista Ultimate Edition, it remains firmly rooted on our list of favorites. We had a chance to put the Vista-based dv9000z (which runs on a Turion 64 X2 processor) through the performance paces, and we were generally pleased with what we found. For home users who want their laptop to double as an entertainment system, the HP Pavilion dv9000z remains a great choice.
A true desktop replacement, the HP Pavilion dv9000z measures 15.5 inches wide, 11 inches deep, 1.5 inches thick, and weighs 8.5 pounds. That's too bulky to carry around with you every day, but it is smaller than both the Dell XPS M1710 and the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV660.
Key features on the entertainment-oriented Pavilion dv9000z are the built-in HD DVD drive and the accompanying 17-inch wide-screen display, features that put it in direct competition with the XPS M1710 (Blu-ray) and Qosmio G35-AV660 (HD DVD). With a native resolution of 1,440 x 900, the Pavilion dv9000z's glossy screen is fairly good for watching high-def content, though we'd prefer a finer 1,920 x 1,200 resolution, as found on the Sony VAIO AR series. It's a small quibble, though: in our (ahem) extensive movie-watching tests, which included HD DVD movies, we found the screen produced rich colors and sharp details, and there's plenty of screen real estate for traditional computer work as well. Similar to all Pavilion laptops, the dv9000z includes a row of light-touch buttons above the keyboard that launch the media player and provide volume and playback controls; a somewhat annoying, high-pitched beep lets you know when you've pressed a button (the beep can be disabled in the system BIOS). Altec Lansing stereo speakers, located above those controls, deliver decent sound, though we prefer the depth and clarity of the sound produced by the speakers on the Qosmio G35. And while the pricier Qosmio G35 includes an integrated TV tuner, the Pavilion dv9000z lacks built-in TV capabilities--though HP sells an ExpressCard tuner module for $130.
For less cinematic pursuits, HP includes a built-in 1.3-megapixel Webcam above the display, and two built-in microphones on the display bezel eliminate the need for an external microphone while videoconferencing. Similar to almost all desktop replacements, the Pavilion dv9000z's keyboard is full sized and includes a 10-key numeric keypad. The somewhat compact touchpad includes a scroll zone, and we love the touch pad on/off button, which is handy when you want to use an external mouse.
The dv9000z has a typical array of ports and connections for a desktop replacement, and they're well distributed and clearly labeled. You get one four-pin-FireWire and four USB 2.0 connections, plus a VGA out, an S-Video out, a five-in-one media-card reader (Secure Digital, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, MultiMediaCard, and xD), and a slot for the latest ExpressCards. In addition to a microphone jack, there are two headphone jacks--great for sharing movies and music with friends--one of which supports S/PDIF output. Networking options include an Ethernet jack, a modem, and integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The aforementioned HD DVD drive also is a double-layer DVD burner with LightScribe, which lets you burn your own labels onto compatible discs. You can use your laptop as an HD DVD player by connecting it to your TV via the HDMI port.
The starting price for the Pavilion dv9000z is $1,099, but we tested a $2,832 configuration that features a 2.2GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile TL-64 processor, 2GB of fast 667MHz RAM, a 120GB, 5,400rpm hard drive, and an Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics card with 256MB of dedicated VRAM. The Pavilion dv9000z performed well on CNET Labs' application benchmarks, besting both a similarly configured Gateway NX860XL ($2,084) and a $3,374 MacBook Pro on our Photoshop benchmark; it came within 4 percent of competitive systems on our iTunes encoding test. And while the Pavilion dv9000z isn't a gaming machine per se, its 47.4 frames per second on our 3D gaming tests promises excellent display of video and other graphics. In practical terms, the HP Pavilion dv9000z has plenty of power and will provide desktop-like performance for multimedia tasks.
On our DVD drain tests, the Pavilion dv9000z's battery couldn't top the two-hour mark, meaning you'll need to be anchored to a wall outlet to get through most mainstream flicks. Though that is slightly discouraging, we're not convinced it's a deal breaker for such a large laptop that's unlikely to spend much time away from a wall socket. For the sake of comparison, the slimmer MacBook Pro's battery lasted an hour longer.