Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Holiday Roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
Any low-end desktop replacement must cut some corners on its way to providing a serviceable multimedia experience at an approachable price. At $729, the 17.3-inch HP Pavilion dv7-3065dx is such a laptop, but it includes a couple of extras to sweeten the deal.
For starters, it features an optical drive that can play Blu-ray Discs, in addition to its standard duties of reading and writing DVDs and CDs. Secondly, it has a dedicated (albeit entry-level) graphics card that allows for just a smidge of gaming capability.
It's these two features that give the Pavilion dv7-3065dx a leg up on the Dell Studio 1745-3691MBU, a 17.3-inch desktop replacement that costs $50 more, features integrated graphics and only a DVD burner, but offers superior audio output.
|Processor||2.4GHz AMD Turion II Ultra Dual-Core M600|
|Memory||4GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz|
|Hard drive||500GB at 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||320GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4200|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||16.2 x 10.9 x 1.7 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.1 / 8.0 pounds|
The Pavilion dv7-3065dx is a supersized version of the 15.6-inch Pavilion dv6-1375dx. The larger Pavilion dv7 provides a screen that's about 1.7 inches larger (measured on the diagonal) and a body about 1.3 inches wider, 0.7 inches deeper, and just a hair thicker. The dv7 weighs 1.3 pounds more. The added width allows for a spacious keyboard and dedicated number pad; both felt a bit cramped on the smaller dv6.
The only other design difference between the two: the dv7 features touch-sensitive media control keys in addition the mute, volume, and Wi-Fi on/off controls that compose the entirety of the dv6's touch-sensitive controls. HP also includes a Media Center remote control. The tiny remote gives you full control of the Media Center app (it also works with HP's MediaSmart software) and when not in use, it can be stored in the laptop's ExpressCard slot.
The case features the same Imprint Finish, which puts graphics on the plastic. The plastic used here is an espresso black, and a series of lines and circular shapes run across it, adding a little visual pop. All surfaces, from the keyboard deck and lid to the chrome edging and screen bezel, feature a glossy finish that reflects light and absorbs fingerprints. The touch pad, too, absorbs fingerprints with its chrome finish. It's not the most comfortable mousing surface, and the mouse buttons are loud and stiff.
The 17.3-inch display features LED backlighting and a cinematic 16:9 native resolution. Its 1,600x900-pixel native resolution is common in a laptop this size, and is a bump up from the 1,366x768 pixels on a 15.6-inch like the Pavilion dv6-1375dx. HD videos look great on the big display, though DVDs show artifacts more readily than they do on smaller laptops.
The laptop features Altec Lansing speakers with SRS Premium Sound--the same setup that impressed us on the Pavilion dv6-1375dx. We're less enthused about their implementation here. It sounds as if the speakers are being asked to do too much. Volume reaches a suitable level at max output, but the sound begins to break up and become distorted. We found ourselves listening at about 75 percent volume to get the best sound. The Dell Inspiron 1745-3691 may lack a Blu-ray drive, but its 2.1 JBL speakers are vastly superior to the dv7's Altec Lansing set.
|HP Pavilion dv7-3065dx||Average for category [desktop replacement]|
|Video||HDMI, VGA||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, two headphone and one microphone jack, FM antenna jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, eSATA/USB port, mulitformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray player / DVD burner||DVD burner|
You'll find no surprises with HP Pavilion dv7-3065dx's collection of ports. HDMI and eSATA highlight the video and data connections, respectively. The networking options, both wired and wireless, disappoint since neither Draft N nor Gigabit Ethernet make the cut.
The real star here is the Blu-ray drive. The optical drive can play Blu-ray Discs and can read and write to DVDs and CDs. Most laptops at this price feature a plain DVD burner. Two other exceptions to this rule are the $699 Sony Vaio VGN-NW270F/S and the $849 Toshiba Satellite P505-S8980.
In recent times, a consistent trend has developed where AMD's mobile processors have trailed their Intel competition in testing. The Pavilion dv7-3065dx uses a 2.4GHz AMD Turion II Ultra Dual-Core M600 processor and turned in a surprisingly good showing on CNET Labs' benchmarks. It trumped a large group of similarly priced Intel Core 2 Duo-based laptops on our multitasking benchmark, where the Athlon's edge in clockspeed over the 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T6600 and the 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo P7450 is the likely cause. The Pavilion dv7-3065dx, however, trailed just slightly behind the same Core 2 Duo pack on our Photoshop and iTunes test.
With a low-end ATI Radeon HD 4200 graphics card, the Pavilion dv7-3065dx is able to play older games at modest resolutions. We eked out a semi-playable 19 frames per second on Unreal Tournament 3 at 1,280x768 pixels with advanced settings turned off. Its gaming prowess may not be much, but the other laptops you'll find at this price point that use integrated Intel graphics are incapable of playing 3D games.
|HP Pavilion dv7-3065dx||Avg watts/hour|
|Raw kWh Number||68.33|
|Annual Energy Cost||$7.76|