Editors' note: This review is part of our Spring 2010 Retail Laptop and Desktop roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
The HP Pavilion dv4-2155dx makes good use of Intel's Core i3 processor's impressive multitasking capability. Combined with a fast hard drive and 4GB of DDR3 memory, it was one of the best performing mainstream laptops we tested in our Spring 2010 Retail Laptop roundup. It's pricier than the similarly strong Asus U50F-RBBAG05, but that's mainly because the HP gives you mobile broadband support should you choose to activate it. However, though the Asus doesn't have the greatest battery life, the dv4-2155dx's is downright bad. HP claims up to 3 hours and 30 minutes of battery time; our results were far below this, even in casual testing. So, if you like the idea of anywhere Web access without being tethered to a wall socket you should either skip this HP or add in the cost--and weight--of another battery. But, anyone after a compact, well-rounded, entertainment-friendly laptop with excellent computing performance should be pleased with this Pavilion.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$749.99|
|Processor||2.1GHz Intel Core i3 M330|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||320GB 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD HM55|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.2 x 9.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.3/6.1 pounds|
Featuring HP's Espresso Black Imprint finish, the 2155dx looks good for a body that's almost entirely made of plastic. Everything but the bottom of the case is glossy, so you'll probably want to have a cleaning cloth handy to keep it looking pristine. On the lower left of the lid is a backlit HP logo that looks like a small LCD; branding is otherwise minimal. Opening the lid reveals a shiny black LCD bezel and the display hinges. Perforated black metal surrounds the keyboard and the palm rests match the lid. The sides are covered in chrome, as are the touch pad and accompanying buttons. Overall, it's a nice-looking design with a touch of whimsy courtesy of some faint pinstriping, silver bubbles, and circular shapes. Lastly, while the travel weight is decent at 6 pounds, it might still be too heavy for some frequent travelers. Plus, it's kind of thick at 1.6 inches.
At the top of the keyboard is a touch-sensitive strip for controlling volume as well as icons for muting audio and turning on and off the Wi-Fi radio. There are no other dedicated media controls; however, the function keys are labeled for play/pause, stop, forward, and rewind, and HP includes a small remote control that can be stowed in the ExpressCard slot. The keyboard is reasonably comfortable for a laptop this size, though the keys feel a little mushy. They are glossy, black plastic, too, so you'll probably want to give them a quick wipe down when you're cleaning fingerprints off the rest of the body. Also, the touch pad is short and wide, which is only upsetting if you're accustomed to a larger one. More of an issue is its chrome finish; it, too, collects fingerprints and creates drag. A small button above the touch pad lets you quickly shut off the pad if you're not using it.
The 14.1-inch wide-screen LCD offers a 1,280x800-pixel native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size. The display gets sufficiently bright; movies look good on it; and text and icons are highly readable. Viewing off to the sides is also pretty good--especially compared with the competition--but you'll have to adjust the screen angle to get the contrast just right. The Altec Lansing-branded stereo speakers sound very good and get reasonably loud, without distortion. They aren't exactly bass-heavy, but music and movies were pleasing to listen to. Lastly, located above the screen is a serviceable Webcam and microphone.
|HP Pavilion dv4-2155dx||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, 2 headphone and 1 microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, USB 2.0/eSATA combo, multiformat card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, mobile broadband||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The port and connection assortment on the 2155dx is solid for a notebook of its size; there's really no wasted space on either side. The inclusion of an eSATA/USB combo port and an HDMI out port are welcome. There's also an HP proprietary expansion port (for connecting to an HP docking station); it probably comes at the cost of a USB port, but you can always expand through the ExpressCard slot if you need more. Networking comes by way of 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and mobile broadband using the built-in Qualcomm Gobi antenna. Using the mobile broadband requires a plan with AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon, nevertheless it's a nice addition for people wanting anywhere Internet access on a mainstream laptop. No integrated Bluetooth is about the only real let down here.
Various incarnations of the Pavilion dv4 exist, but the 2155dx is a fixed retail configuration that can't be tweaked prior to purchase. If you like the body but want different components, it can be customized and ordered on HP's Web site. We were pleased with the components HP offered in the retail configuration for the money, but should you want to add more memory (it's upgradeable to 8GB) or swap out a hard drive, it can easily be done after purchase.
If you're the type of person to have several applications running at once, you'll be happy with the dv4-2155dx's performance. For the money, its Core i3 processor, 4GB of memory, and speedy hard drive proved themselves more than worthy at multitasking on our lab tests. In regular use, the laptop handled streaming audio and video well even as we simultaneously did basic office tasks, some light photo editing, Web browsing, and ran e-mail and IM clients. We had no problems playing back AVCHD high-def movies at full screen, either. That's not to say you can't overtax the system (we wouldn't try anything more than casual gaming, for example), but it shouldn't have a problem keeping up with most home and office use.
|Mainstream (Avg watts/hour)||HP Pavilion dv4-2155dx|
|Raw kWh Number||49|
|Annual Energy Cost||$5.56|
The most disappointing aspect of the Pavilion dv4-2155dx's performance was its battery life. At only 2 hours and 7 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, the included six-cell battery doesn't provide much uptime away from an outlet. Our test keeps the 7,200rpm hard drive constantly in use, which is pretty taxing on the battery. You can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use, but long flights are probably still out of the question. Also, the mobile broadband technology won't do battery life any favors should you opt to use it.