Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Back-to-School roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.
Few manufacturers have the art of making upscale-looking 17-inch (and even 18-inch) multimedia laptops down to a science like HP does. The formula apparently works, as the basic look and feel of this line hasn't changed much in the past several rounds of updates, and the HP's multimedia Pavilions still share notable features such as Altec Lansing speakers, HDMI outputs, and touch-sensitive media control buttons, along with mirror-finish accents.
The $1,299 HP Pavilion dv7- 2185dx is now considered a fairly expensive laptop, with average prices dropping across all categories, so it needs some high-end features to justify the price. To that end, it includes a quad-core 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000 CPU, 6GB of RAM (seemingly a new standard for $1,000-plus systems), and a fast 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Our main complaints are the lack of a Blu-ray drive (already available in systems under $1K), and the 1,600x900-pixel display, which is suboptimal for true 1080p HD content (downloaded in this case, you won't be watching Blu-ray movies).
|Price as reviewed||$1,299|
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Core Q9000|
|Memory||6GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||500GB 7,200rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel PM45 Express Chipset|
|Graphics||1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||16.2x10.9 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.4/9.1 pounds|
The physical design of the HP Pavilion dv7-2185DX is similar to that of the 1285DX model we looked at earlier in 2009, but the color scheme has shifted back to glossy black, this time with one of HP's swirly patterns--tiny circles over fine curved lines. The pattern is subtle, so from a distance it just looks black. Slightly tapered and slim-looking (for a desktop replacement), a single, long hinge, keeps the display from wobbling.
The touch pad and mouse buttons have a highly reflective mirrored finish that shows fingerprints easily, and we've never been a fan of how the mirrored finish glides less easily against the finger than a traditional touch pad finish, causing a little bit of finger drag. That said, it's a nice, large surface to work on, and we like having a demarcated scroll zone, as found along the far right edge.
As with all the 17-inch Pavilions we've seen in the past couple of years, there's a series of lighted, touch-sensitive media controls above the keyboard, plus a Wi-Fi button that glows either blue or orange depending on status. There's also a touch-sensitive volume slider, but for small volume tweaks we still prefer a physical wheel or buttons--touch-controlled volume sliders are finicky and lack the capability to do very fine adjustments.
The 17-inch wide-screen 16:9 LED display offers a 1,600x900-pixel native resolution, which is typical in less-expensive desktop replacements (and analogous to 1,440x900 for 16:10 displays), but for $1,299, we'd rather have a 1,920x1,080-pixel screen, which is better for watching 1080p HD video content. The glossy screen is inset in the lid, while some higher-end Pavilions have an edge-to-edge glass overlay.
|HP Pavilion dv7-2185DX||Average for category [desktop replacement]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA and HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone (x2)/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks.|
|Data||4 USB 2.0 (1 USB/eSATA), SD 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|
|Optical drive||Lightscribe DVD burner||DVD burner [high-end: Blu-Ray]|
The 17-inch dv7 has some high-end choices, such as a combo USB/eSATA port, and a Lightscribe DVD burner that uses specially coated blank optical media to burn grayscale text and images on discs, and dual headphone jacks can come in handy when sharing music or video files. The lack of Bluetooth is likely only an issue if you prefer a Bluetooth mouse, but it's the kind of feature we'd expect to see in a laptop this expensive.
Compared with a couple of other $1,000-plus laptops in our Back-to-School retail review roundup, the HP dv2 is the only one with a quad-core processor. While a nice addition from a marketing point of view, few applications can take advantage of that technology right now, and our Sony Vaio FW480J/T, with a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350, performed essentially just as fast. Both systems are impressively powerful, and more than enough for even intense computing tasks, such as video editing and working with large Photoshop files.
If you're interested in using the system for gaming, as well as media playback, the 1GB version of the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650 inside the HP dv7 is perfectly fine for mainstream gaming, and we topped 50 frames per second in Unreal Tournament 3 at a 1,440x900-pixel resolution. The Sony Vaio had a 512MB version of the same card, for a lower, but still reasonable, frame rate. Another retail laptop in the same price range, the Asus G71GX-RX05, has the newer, and more powerful, Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M, but also suffered from some heat-related issues that negatively affected long gaming sessions (According to Asus, a BIOS fix is coming soon).