When we first saw the 12-inch HP Pavilion dv2 at CES 2009, we noted that, "at first glance, another glossy HP laptop with an AMD processor may induce yawns, but when we learned this was the first system to use AMD's new Netbook-like Athlon Neo platform, our ears perked up."
AMD sees room for systems with slightly bigger screens than Netbooks, and that cost slightly more. The Neo is intended to be a kind of step-up from Netbook CPUs, such as the Intel Atom and Via Nano, offering a little more processing power for a little more money, and is targeted at slightly larger systems: 12-inch laptops instead of 9- and 10-inch ones.
In practice, the 1.6GHz Neo handles many tasks better than the Intel Atom does, and it comes paired with ATI Radeon graphics (it's also restricted to Windows Vista--sorry, no XP option). But, at $749, there's a big psychological leap to the HP dv2 from a $499 10-inch Netbook or even the $549 12-inch Samsung NC20, which has Via's new Nano processor. Once you hit that price range, plenty of mainstream laptop choices come into play, as illustrated in our recent retail laptop review roundup.
HP's own Pavilion dv4-1275mx (also $749) has a 14-inch screen, but also features a dual-core Turion X2 CPU, while Sony's 14-inch Vaio CS215J/W ($799) has a 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400--both of which handily outperform the HP dv2.
While we're not convinced that laptop shoppers are looking for some middle ground between a traditional Netbook and a cheap mainstream dual-core laptop, the HP Pavilion dv2 at least gets to carve out a niche (for the moment) as the overall-best, inexpensive, 12-inch laptop available.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$749|
|Processor||1.6GHz AMD Athlon Neo MV-40|
|Memory||4GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3410|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WD)||11.5 x 9.6 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||12.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.8/4.6 pounds|
Taking some design cues from the rest of HP's current Pavilion lineup, the dv2 has a mirrored touch pad, imprinted swirly design on the keyboard tray, and a high-gloss finish. But unlike other Pavilions we've seen recently, this model trades the traditional tapered-key keyboard for one with flatter, more closely spaced keys--similar to what you'd see on Apple and Sony laptops, or HP's Mini 1000 Netbook.
That keyboard is comfortable and easy to use, but the narrower overall width (as in the case of Netbook keyboards as well) takes a little getting used to for touch typists. As in other current HP laptops, the touch pad's mirrored surface isn't quite slick enough for our tastes--there's a little too much drag on the finger, forcing us to dial up the pointer speed in the system settings.
The slim Pavilion dv2 is thinner than other low-cost 12-inch laptops we've seen--the Samsung NC20 and Dell Mini 12 (powered by the Intel Atom and Via Nano processors, respectively)--and is only slightly thicker than a high-end ultraportable like the Lenovo IdeaPad U110. The end result is that the HP dv2 looks like a more expensive machine than it is.
The 12.1-inch wide-screen LED display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for most screens between 12 and 15 inches in size. It displays Web pages and documents better than a Netbook's typical 1,024x600 resolution can, and is also well-suited for watching 720p HD video content.
|HP Pavilion dv2||Average for category [ultraportable]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, mini-HDMI or Mini-DVI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 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||External DVD burner||None, or DVD burner|
But the big story of the HP Pavilion dv2 is its AMD Athlon Neo CPU, and this is the first system we've seen with that processor. AMD calls it a "platform for ultrathin notebooks," and wants to use systems such as the HP dv2 to create a new laptop category. As we noted after talking to AMD at CES 2009, the company sees Netbooks as occupying the space between 7- and 11-inch displays with prices under $499, while traditional ultraportrable laptops run from 11 to 13 inches and cost $1,499 or more. Somewhere in there, AMD reckons, there's room for systems with slightly bigger screens than Netbooks, and that cost slightly more.
The 1.6 GHz Neo CPU MV-40 has enough processing power to run Windows Vista smoothly, something that has tripped up Intel-Atom-powered systems, including Sony's Vaio P and Dell's Mini 12. In our benchmark tests, the HP dv2 was significantly faster than Netbooks with either Intel's Atom or Via's new Nano CPU at individual tasks such as iTunes encoding or Photoshop image processing. However, when running multiple apps simultaneously, none of these low-power, single-core CPUs were particularly impressive, and the Neo and Atom were essentially tied in our multitasking test. By way of comparison, a standard Intel Core 2 Duo ULV (ultralow voltage) processor, as found in more expensive 12-inch laptops, easily beats them all.
While far from a gaming platform, the HP dv2 does include discrete graphics in the form of a 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3140 GPU. In Unreal Tournament III, we were able to get a very playable 34.3 frames per second at a 1,280x800 resolution.
The HP Pavilion dv2 ran for 2 hours and 29 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. That's well short of what we'd expect from an ultraportable 12-inch laptop clearly designed to be used on the road.