Editors' note: This review is part of our Winter 2009 Retail Roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
HP's Pavilion dv line of multimedia laptops, available in 14-, 15-, and 17-inch versions, are all attractive systems aimed at mainstream consumers with a heavy diet of videos, music, and other forms of media. To this end, they share features such as Altec Lansing speakers, HDMI outputs, and touch-sensitive media control buttons, along with mirror-finish accents.
The $699 HP Pavilion dv5-1245dx is one of the least expensive 17-inch desktop replacements we've seen, but that comes with trade-offs in other areas; this system's AMD CPU turned in one of the slower performances in the budget category of our current retail laptop review roundup, and the 1,440x900 screen resolution is low for a 17-inch display. For $50 less, the 15-inch HP dv5-1235dx has a faster Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 CPU, better battery life, and the same 320GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM.
For a budget 17-inch with the same Intel CPU, you might also check out the Dell S17-162B, but the bump in processing power may not be worth the $150 price premium.
|Price as reviewed||$699|
|Processor||2.1GHz AMD Turion X2 Dual-Core RM-72|
|Memory||4GB, 667MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.6x11.2 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.3/8.1 pounds|
The design of the dv7-1245dx is very similar to the smaller 15-inch dv5-1235dx. HP wisely makes the current dv line of laptops stand out from the crowd, skipping the typical glossy gray-and-black designs for a subtle cross-hatch pattern with a bronze tint, which is more likely to fit into your post-dorm-room decor. We also like the laptop's single, long hinge, which keeps the display from wobbling.
The touch pad (which has wide-screen-like dimensions) and mouse buttons have a highly reflective mirrored finish. It shows fingerprints and smudges easily, but also offsets the bronze chassis color nicely. One other complaint: the mirrored finish on the touch pad glides less easily against the finger than a traditional touch-pad finish, causing a little bit of finger drag.
For a budget system, the series of lighted, touch-sensitive media controls above the keyboard look especially nice, glowing either white or orange depending on status (Wi-Fi on vs. off, for example). There's also a volume slider, but for sensitive volume tweaks we still prefer a physical wheel; touch-controlled volume sliders are finicky and lack the ability to do very fine adjustments. When the system is off or asleep, the button labels literally vanish into the mirrored strip above the keyboard.
The 17-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,440x900 native resolution, which is typical in less expensive desktop replacements, but the more common 1,600x1,200 screens are better for watching HD video content. The glossy screen makes video content pop, but can cause distracting glare while trying to read or type, depending on the lighting in the room.
|HP Pavilion dv7-1245dx||Average for category [desktop replacement]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone (x2)/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, 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 Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||Lightscribe DVD burner||DVD burner|
The 17-inch dv7 has essentially the same ports and connections as its smaller 15-inch dv5 cousin, which include some high-end choices, such as a combo USB/eSATA port, and a Lightscribe DVD burner, which can use specially coated blank optical media to burn grayscale text and images on your discs.
Most of the systems in the Budget section of our Winter 2009 Retail Roundup (covering laptops from $600 to $899), have Intel's 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T6400 CPU, but the HP dv7-1245dx was one of the few to use a 2.1GHz AMD Turion X2 Dual-Core RM-72. While we were able to use the dv7 for normal multitasking and media playback, the two AMD-powered systems in our lineup fell behind the pack in our benchmark tests. In real-world terms, the slower AMD performance won't affect everyday work unless you're doing something like serious video editing (and a comparable 17-inch with an Intel CPU we tested was $150 more).
The HP Pavilion dv7-1245dx ran for 3 hours and 21 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, which is an impressive performance for a desktop replacement, especially one without a giant extending battery sticking out awkwardly from the bottom. The Dell Studio 17 ran for an additional hour, but at the cost of a bulky 9-cell battery.
HP backs the Pavilion dv7 with an industry-standard, one-year warranty. Toll-free telephone support is available 24-7, and the HP support Web site includes real-time chat with a technical support representative and a detailed FAQ database. Retail stores offer a variety of extended warranty plans with your laptop purchase, but they're generally expensive and hard to use, so we do not recommend them.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)