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.
It would be silly to expect the HP Pavilion dv7-3165dx to have a great battery life; it's a monster laptop with a 17-inch LED-backlit LCD, 7,200rpm hard drive, and a discrete graphics chip. Still, with battery lives getting longer and longer, this dv7 does come up short on time away from a power outlet. The older AMD processor in the dv7 seems power hungry without providing a competitive multitasking performance kick. However, its spacious display is nice, and it has an ample port assortment as well Blu-ray disc playback support--all at a reasonable price. If you're in need of a big-screen mainstream laptop and don't mind being plugged in and aren't a heavy multitasker, the dv7-3165dx is a good option.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$779.99|
|Processor||2.5GHz AMD Turion II Ultra Dual-Core M620|
|Memory||4GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||500GB 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4200 (128MB)|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||16.2x10.9 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7/7.9 pounds|
Featuring HP's Espresso Black Imprint finish, the 3165dx looks good for a case made almost entirely of plastic. Everything but the bottom of the case is glossy, so you'll probably want to keep a cleaning cloth handy to keep it looking pristine. On the lower left of the lid is a smallish HP logo; otherwise, HP kept its branding 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 pin-striping, silver bubbles, and circular shapes. Of course, we can't really recommend this for regular travel since it's big and fairly heavy (though we've transported heavier).
At the top of the keyboard is a touch-sensitive strip for controlling volume as well as other icons for muting audio, play/pause, stop, forward, and rewind, and turning on and off the Wi-Fi radio. The function keys are labeled for media control, too, and HP includes a small remote control that can be stowed in the ExpressCard slot. The keyboard is large with a full number pad on the right side and it's reasonably comfortable (at least for medium-to-large hands). However, 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, though a good size, has a chrome finish; it, too, collects fingerprints and doesn't allow your fingers to glide easily. A small button above the touch pad lets you quickly shut off the pad if you're not using it.
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 of this size. Watching HD videos is great on the big display and the extra viewing area will be appreciated by anyone using this as a full-time display instead of connecting to an external monitor. The Altec Lansing-branded stereo speakers sound OK, though a little muffled and distorted at higher volumes. They aren't exactly bass heavy, but music and movies were pleasing to listen to. Lastly, located above the screen is a usable Webcam and microphone.
|HP Pavilion dv7-3165dx||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||3 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/Blu-ray player||DVD burner|
The 3165dx has a solid assortment of ports and connections, but thanks to some sealed-up ports on the sides, we can see it's missing some options like a modem, TV tuner, and mini-FireWire port. The inclusion of an eSATA/USB combo port and an HDMI out port are welcome, especially the latter since the 3165dx has a Blu-ray combo drive. There's also a proprietary HP expansion port (for connecting to an HP docking station). The laptop has integrated 10/100 Ethernet and 802.11n Wi-Fi; however, it lacks Bluetooth--about the only real let down with its connection options.
Various incarnations of the Pavilion dv7 exist, but 3165dx is a retail configuration that can't be tweaked prior to purchase. If you like the body, but want different components, you can customize and order one via HP's Web site. The price-to-component ratio is very good on the 3165dx, 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.
The dv7-3165dx underperforms similarly configured notebooks powered by Intel's Core i3 M330 processor, particularly when multitasking. Some of this can be attributed to its slower DDR2 memory. Will you notice a significant difference? That really depends on what you're doing and how you like to work. In our regular use, the laptop handled doing a couple tasks at once, such as streaming audio and some light photo editing, with a Web browser and instant-messenger client running in the background. 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, though. We wouldn't try anything more than casual gaming, and streaming Flash-based video at 480p resolution was stutter-rific. Also, a combination like Web surfing, ripping a CD, and running a few background applications made the system noticeably sluggish. But, if you're the type to do only a couple things at once it shouldn't have a problem keeping up with you.
|HP Pavilion dv7-3165dx||Average watts per hour|
|Raw kWh Number||65.7|
|Annual power consumption cost||$7.45|
We don't expect great battery life from desktop replacements like the Pavilion dv7-3165dx, but its battery life was even shorter than anticipated given its eight-cell battery. It lasted only only 2 hours and 58 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, leading us to conclude that the AMD components seem a bit too power hungry. 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 a lot of couch time without plugging in won't happen.