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.
If you're looking for excellent performance and a long time away from a power cord, the HP Pavilion dv4-2165dx is right for you. It makes good use of Intel's Core i3 processor's impressive multitasking capability. Combined with a fast, large hard drive and 4GB of DDR3 memory, it performed well against its mainstream competition in our roundup. It also handily beat the battery lives of all the other notebooks we tested because of its double-size battery pack. Unfortunately, the larger pack adds weight and thickness to what's otherwise a compact, well-rounded, entertainment- and budget-friendly laptop that has excellent computing performance.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$729.99|
|Processor||2.1GHz Intel Core i3 M330|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD HM55|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.2x9.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.9/6.8 pounds|
Featuring HP's mocha Digital Plaid Imprint finish, the 2165dx looks good for a body that's almost entirely made of plastic. However, everything but the bottom of the case is glossy, so you'll want to keep a cleaning cloth handy to keep its pristine look. HP put a backlit logo on the lower left of the laptop's lid, but otherwise, the laptop's branding is minimal. Opening the lid reveals a shiny black LCD bezel and the display hinges. A bit of perforated brown metal surrounds the keyboard, while the palm rests match the lid. The sides of the laptop are covered in chrome as are the touch pad and accompanying buttons. Overall, it's well-designed and the subtle plaid pattern keeps the laptop from looking like everything else. Lastly, while the system's weight is tolerable at 6 pounds, its travel weight is about a pound more. That may make it too heavy for some frequent travelers. Plus, while the body is somewhat thick at 1.6 inches, the battery pack adds another inch to the thickness at the back of the laptop. Because of its total thickness, it might be a tight squeeze for smaller sleeves and bags. It also puts the keyboard at an angle that may be uncomfortable for some users (though we didn't mind).
A touch-sensitive strip at the top of the keyboard controls the volume and has icons for muting audio and turning on and off the Wi-Fi radio. However, there are no other dedicated media controls. 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 laptop's ExpressCard slot. The keyboard is reasonably comfortable for a laptop this size, though the keys feel a bit mushy. Its keys are glossy plastic, too, so you'll probably want to give them a quick wipe down when you're cleaning fingerprints off the rest of the laptop. The system's touch pad is short and wide, which is only upsetting if you're used to using a larger one. However, the touch pad's chrome finish is more of an issue as it collects fingerprints and doesn't let fingers glide smoothly. A small button above the touch pad lets you quickly shut it off the pad if you're not using it.
The 14.1-inch wide-screen LCD has 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. When viewing the display off angle, it still looks 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 dv4-2165dx||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||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The 2165dx has a solid port and connection assortment 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 bonuses. 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 add more ports by adding an ExpressCard. Two covered-up ports let you know what's missing: a modem and TV tuner. The laptop's networking comes by way of 10/100 Ethernet and 802.11n Wi-Fi. It lacks integrated Bluetooth, which is about the only real let down here. However, Bluetooth seems to be a feature being dropped from most mainstream notebooks.
Various incarnations of the Pavilion dv4 exist, but 2165dx 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 a multitasker, you'll be happy with the dv4-2165dx's performance. For the money, its Core i3 processor, 4GB of memory, and speedy hard drive prove 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 running e-mail and instant-messaging clients. We had no problems playing back AVCHD high-definition 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.
|HP Pavilion dv4-2165dx||Average watts per hour|
|Raw kWh Number||46.1|
|Annual energy consumption cost||$5.23|
Thanks to the included 12-cell battery pack (twice the capacity of its standard battery), the Pavilion dv4-2165dx's battery life was a lengthy 5 hours and 34 minutes on our video playback battery drain test. Our test keeps the 7,200rpm hard drive constantly in use, which is pretty taxing on the battery. You can expect even longer life from casual Web surfing and office use. If you want to lighten the load, and don't mind getting half the battery life, HP sells a six-cell battery for this model for about $100.