Editors' note: This review is part of our, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
With its stylish, Imprint-finish chassis, excellent audio output, and remote control, the 14-inch HP Pavilion dv4-1555dx is best suited for students and others who might rank multimedia consumption above productivity pursuits. Detracting from its appeal as a general-purpose, workhorse laptop are its poor battery life, glossy display, clacky keyboard, and chrome-finish touch pad.
In contrast, the Toshiba Satellite E105-S1802 suffers from poor audio output but offers better battery life and a superior keyboard and touch pad. Based on a current Core 2 Duo processor, the $749 Pavilion dv4-1555dx delivers competitive application performance. Its use of integrated graphics means gaming isn't really an option, but most users will find themselves engaged in a pleasant Windows 7 experience. Lastly, the highly mobile set will appreciate the included WWAN module to stay connected with out of reach of a Wi-Fi hot spot or Ethernet jack.
|Processor||2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600|
|Memory||4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz|
|Hard drive||320GB at 7,200rpm|
|Chipset||Intel GM45 Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||13.2x9.5x1.6 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.4 / 6.2 pounds|
It wouldn't be a Pavilion these days without HP's Imprint Finish, which adds graphic elements to the glossy, plastic chassis. In this case, the design is a pattern of curved pinstripes that ends with a series of bubbles and other circular shapes on a black chassis. The Imprint Finish adds a few pieces of flair to the laptop without becoming distracting.
The Pavilion dv4-1555dx weighs in at 5.4 pounds--heavy for its size. The 14-inch Toshiba Satellite E105 weighs an average 5 pounds, and the 14-inch Dell Inspiron 1470-3282 weighs a trim 4.6 pounds. The Pavilion dv4-1555dx's extra heft lends it a solid feel, though we'd describe the build quality as only average. The chassis flexes and creaks a bit, and the keyboard is clacky. The glossy, keys feel lighter than a ThinkPad or an Inspiron keyboard, and they don't have as soft a feel.
The touch pad, too, doesn't provide the best feel; continuing a Pavilion trend, the touch pad features a chrome finish that creates drag against your fingertip when swiping to and fro. And like the rest of the glossy chassis, the touch pad is a magnet for fingerprints. It's also narrower than the norm, measuring 3 inches wide and only 1.5 inches tall, but it does feature a wide and responsive vertical scroll area along its right edge. Lastly, we experienced some unexpected cursor jumps when our hand or finger grazed the touch pad. We suggest disabling the "tapping" feature to eliminate this problem.
The 14.1-inch display features a standard 1,280x800-pixel native resolution. Text and desktop icons remain large and legible, and the desktop space doesn't feel cramped. The screen has a 16:10 aspect ratio, giving it more vertical space than a cinematic 16:9 display. Movies still look good on the Pavilion dv4-1555dx, showing deep blacks, vivid colors, and smooth movement.
More impressively, movies sound rich and lively. Most laptop speakers sound tinny and weak, with the occasional 17- or 18-inch desktop replacement providing acceptable audio output with the help of a small, integrated subwoofer. The dv4-1555dx doesn't have the help of a subwoofer, but its two Altec Lansing speakers surprised us with their booming sound (relatively speaking). We're not saying you'll rattle windows with the dv4-1555dx, but we found ourselves enjoying "War of the Worlds" without huddling close to the laptop, as we did with the Toshiba Satellite E105-S1802.
HP's MediaSmart software presents an attractive and easy-to-use interface for playing and managing your media, even if software such as Windows Media Player and iTunes are more universally used. Also helping is the small HP remote included in the box, which you can stow in the ExpressCard slot.
|HP Pavilion dv4-1555dx||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA, HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, 2 headphone and 1 microphone jack,||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, eSATA/USB port, multiformat memory card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-F, mobile broadband||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
There are no surprises with the Pavilion dv4-1555dx's expansion options. HDMI is present, which is now standard in all but entry-level models. An ExpressCard/54 slot and a multiformat SD card reader are also onboard, along with three USB ports (one doubles as an eSATA port). FireWire and Bluetooth are absent. Networking comes by way of 10/100 Ethernet, Draft N Wi-Fi, and mobile broadband. It requires a plan with AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon, but it's an option not found on many laptops this size. (You're more likely to find mobile broadband on smaller ultraportables.)
The HP Pavilion dv4-1555dx features a typical configuration--highlighted by an Intel Core 2 Duo and fast DDR3 memory--and finished as part the large pack of similar systems in its price range on CNET Labs' benchmarks. In anecdotal testing, multitasking in Windows 7 felt peppy, with no instances of lag. The system's integrated Intel graphics, however, will keep gamers on the sidelines.
|HP Pavilion dv4-1555dx||Mainstream (Avg watts/hour)|
|Raw kWh Number||55.08|
|Annual Energy Cost||$6.25|
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)