Editors' note: This review is part of our Back-to-School 2008 roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
As a back-to-school laptop, the HP Pavilion dv5-1015nr is overkill, unless, perhaps, you've managed to squeeze a large LCD in your dorm room or pooled funds with your suitemates to outfit your off-campus apartment with an HDTV. The main draw of this $1,249 15-inch laptop is its Blu-ray drive. Unless you plan to output Blu-ray movies, via the included HDMI port, to a larger display, it doesn't strike us as a good use of your funds. Viewed as a laptop that doubles as a Blu-ray player, however, the Pavilion dv5-1015nr holds greater appeal.
It boasts a very polished, modern design and is bursting with ports. In addition to the HDMI port, the system supplies FireWire and eSATA connections, dual headphone jacks, and even hides a small remote control in its ExpressCard slot. Based on a Penryn-class Core 2 Duo processor and running 64-bit Vista, the HP Pavilion dv5-1015nr turns in decent application performance, though its low-end GeForce graphics card shouldn't be mistaken for a gaming powerhouse. It's an attractive laptop for students who expect to do their fair share of media consumption during their course of study. If you don't want to pay for a Blu-ray drive, you'll get better performance from the $979 Dell Studio 1535-125B.
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350|
|Memory||4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz|
|Hard drive||320GB, 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Intel PM45 Express|
|Graphics||256MB Nvidia GeForce 9200M GS|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium 64-bit|
|Dimensions (width x height)||14.1 x 10.2 inches|
|Thickness||1.4 to 1.7 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.4 / 7.5 pounds|
The Pavilion dv5 is a solid machine. It 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. Weighing 6.4 pounds, the Pavilion dv5 is a bit on the portly side for a 15-inch, mainstream laptop; by comparison, the Dell Studio 1535 weighs 6.1 and the Sony VAIO NR430 weighs 6.2 pounds. A 14-inch model, like the Gateway T-6836 or the Sony VAIO CR510, which each weigh closer to 5 pounds, might make a better bet for daily campus travel. Should you be willing to lug the Pavilion dv5 around, you'll find a rich feature set at your disposal.
Unlike two lower-end Pavilion dv5 systems recently reviewed (and still sitting on my desk), the dv5-1015nr features HP's "frameless" display. Truthfully, upon first glance, I didn't notice it was any different than either Pavilion dv5 models I just reviewed that don't include this design feature. A closer glance revealed that the glass extends beyond the edges of the screen and nearly to the edge of the lid. A thin, black bezel still borders the screen, but it sits flush with the screen and below the glass. All in all, it makes for subtle, upscale look.
Unfortunately, the native resolution is the same--1,280x800--as the other two lower-end dv5 systems, which doesn't get you anywhere close to Blu-ray's 1080p output. We had hoped for a WSXGA resolution of 1,440x900, which is offered on some 15-inch laptops. The display features a glossy finish, which might cause you to suffer from distraction glare and reflections under the lights in the library, but lends a cinematic feel to movies, allowing for rich colors and a smooth image. A 1.3-megapixel Webcam above the display lets users conduct video chats.
The Altec Lansing stereo speakers won't fill a room, but we did find that they produced less muddied sound at higher volumes compared with other laptops in this price range. They'll suffice for movie dialogue and effects, but you'll want to use the headphone jacks (there are two) for music. HP also throws in a set of earbud headphones.
The most eye-catching design note of the Pavilion dv5 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 on/off 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.
Perhaps it's the humidity, but I don't enjoy the glossy finish on the 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," a sentiment my wife also shares (I asked her to use it to remove the possibility of me having sweaty palms or fingertips). 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 on/off button above it.
The keyboard is roomy, but similar to the touch pad, the keys feature a glossy finish that help the overall look but detract from actually typing. To these fingertips (and those of my wife), the keys felt a bit too slick (though they do feature good travel and are very quiet, as opposed to clacky). Still, this reviewer's favorite keyboard among 15-inch laptops remains that found on the Sony VAIO NR430 and NR498 models. 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 dv5-1015nr||Average for category [mainstream|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, two headphone jacks and one microphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, FireWire, eSATA, multiformat card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray drive/DVD burner||DVD burner|
In CNET Labs, the HP Pavilion dv5-1015nr turned in predictable performance, finishing our application benchmarks near the other Intel-based systems and ahead of its AMD-based competition. It trailed the Dell Studio 1535, which features a slightly more advanced Core 2 Duo chip. With a modern Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64-bit Windows Vista (which can take advantage of all that memory; 32-bit operating systems can't address more than 3GB of RAM), the Pavilion dv5-1015nr has more than enough muscle for the vast majority of students, including those that may want to pursue artistic endeavors and run demanding graphics applications.
Not all laptops in this price range feature dedicated graphics, but this Pavilion does by using a 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9200M GS card. It's an entry-level graphics card, however, and turned in a paltry 15 frames per second on Unreal Tournament 3 at a very modest 1,280x800 with no advanced settings enabled.
We're starting to notice a trend: HP's Pavilion dv5 laptops do not deliver great battery life. Though this config edged the other two on our video playback battery drain test, it turned in a very pedestrian 2 hours 15 minutes, far short of the 3 hours or more you can get from competing models.
HP backs the Pavilion dv5-1015nr with an industry-standard one-year warranty. Toll-free telephone support is available 24-7 during your warranty period, and the HP support Web site includes real-time chat with a tech representative. If you want to troubleshoot problems yourself, you can search through the site's thorough FAQ database.