With the Pavilion dv8000, HP has slimmed down its huge Pavilion zd8000 desktop replacement, moving it to the quieter and more efficient AMD processing platform. With the thin-and-light dv1000 and the midsize dv4000, the $1,600 dv8000 completes HP's solid troika of competent, competitively priced multimedia laptops, delivering enough performance and features for basic home use. Those looking for a Windows Media Center experience should check out the other, more expensive laptops mentioned later in this review.
Slightly slimmer and narrower than its predecessor, the zd8000, the 8.3-pound HP Pavilion dv8000 is more than a pound lighter, more in line with the streamlined $2,500 Inspiron 9300 than with bulkier desktop replacements such as the $2,450 LifeBook N6210, the $3,000 Qosmio G25, and the $2,800 VAIO VGN-A690. The dv8000's power brick is quite small, adding about a pound to the package, and the system runs relatively quietly and coolly.
With a layout extremely similar to the zd8000's, the dv8000 has an excellent keyboard and touch pad with vertical and horizontal scrolling capabilities, as well as a separate number pad. Gone is the touch pad's on/off button, one of our favorite features; alas, you get a button that calls up Windows' calculator instead. The few multimedia controls include ones for the laptop's Quick Play software (which plays CDs and DVDs when Windows isn't booted) as well as for volume up/down and mute.
The dv8000's wide-screen 17-inch display, with a WSXGA+ native resolution, isn't great. It's slightly brighter than the zd8000's but shows a pinkish tint and looks less clear; neither compares favorably to the excellent displays on the Sony, the Fujitsu, or the Toshiba--even the Dell's is superior. The dv8000's Altec Lansing speakers are reasonably loud and sound OK, but they lack the full bass sound we got from the zd8000's kick-ass Harman Kardons.
The dv8000 has a typical array of ports and connections for a desktop replacement, but they're particularly well distributed and clearly labeled. You get one four-pin-FireWire and four USB 2.0 connections, plus a VGA out, an S-Video out, a 6-in-1 media-card reader, one PCMCIA Card slot and one PCI-Express slot, and headphone and microphone jacks. For getting online, the dv8000 provides a 10/100 Ethernet LAN jack, a modem, and integrated Wi-Fi. Our $1,600 test unit had a double-layer DVD burner with HP's cool LightScribe technology, which etches labels directly onto a disc's surface. Sure, the Qosmio G25 has a built-in TV tuner, and the Inspiron 9300 has six USB 2.0 ports, but for the casual multimedia enthusiast, the dv8000 is well equipped. HP throws in a standard software package, including Microsoft Windows XP Professional, a few commonplace disc-burning apps, and HP's cool Quick Play multimedia utility.
Instead of the zd8000's Intel Pentium 4 desktop processor, the dv8000 features an AMD Turion 64 chip. As a result, the dv8000's scores in CNET Labs' benchmarks were significantly lower than the zd8000's but still very much in line with today's powerful desktop replacements; this machine can handle any common productivity or multimedia task you throw at it. Stocked with a 2.2GHz Turion 64 ML-40 processor, 1GB of DDR RAM, and a sluggish 4,200rpm, 100GB hard drive, the dv8000 mustered scores statistically equal to those of the LifeBook N6210, the VAIO VGN-A690, and the Inspiron 9300; only the Qosmio G25 came out clearly ahead. Things were less rosy in our gaming tests: using an ATI Radeon Xpress 200 GPU with 128MB of video memory, the zd8000 isn't going to cut the mustard for hard-core gaming. Though battery life isn't a crucial factor for a laptop this size, the dv8000 did last nearly four hours in CNET's battery-drain test--a good score for a desktop replacement.