Laptop makers are going to great lengths these days to differ themselves from one another. Let's face it, the interiors by and large are mostly the same bits, so they need something to stand apart, and so warranty, service and design become large factors.
The dv2600 series Special Edition (known as "The Verve") does just that, with a bronze-like colouring and etched tribal designs, with some piano black thrown into the mix. It's a subtle effect that really adds an extra modicum of class to an ordinarily bland landscape.
It does, of course, attract fingerprints like the proverbial buggery (even the keyboard!), however we've resigned ourselves to the fact that this super shiny fad won't be over soon, so we may as well roll with it.
Adding to the shininess is a very glossy 14.1-inch, 1,280x800 LED screen, so if you're a fan of matte, stay away -- there doesn't seem to be an option to switch in such a screen. Unlike most LED screen chassis that we've seen, this one is pretty strong, as are the hinges. Two microphones and a Webcam are mounted at the top of the screen, and a bar-like speaker grill packing sound cones by Altec Lansing curves from the body into the screen hinge like a wave.
The trackpad can only be described as silken, it really is quite smooth -- enough so that some may take exception to it, but for us completely hit the spot. The finger reader is separated from the trackpad buttons and featured on the right hand side -- a configuration we much prefer.
The keyboard is large and easy to use, and above it are touch sensitive buttons -- where one of the few design flaws come in for the Verve -- the volume bar (on which you can either tap the + or - buttons, or swipe your finger to alter the volume) has a tick-like sound indicator, but no visual indication of what the volume is set to.
The Verve is a bit stingy on USB ports, only supplying two, but this is because there is, quite frankly, a load of other ports.
On the right, the power port (which glows blue when plugged in, a nice touch), modem, and the previously mentioned two USB ports, while on the left, S-Video, VGA, the HP docking port, Ethernet, HDMI, Firewire, SD/MS/MMC/xD reader and Express Card 54 slot. The front of course sports a microphone jack, dual headphone jacks and the infrared port.
We'd have ultimately preferred the HP docking port to be shifted so more USB ports could be squeezed in, but it's not a deal breaker. The rear is completely void of ports, used purely to vent hot air -- which means no one's hand gets toasted when using an external mouse. Bravo!
Powering our dv2633TX is a Core 2 Duo T5550 and GeForce 8400M GS -- not powerhouses by any stretch of the imagination, but just fine for a mid-range notebook. By spending a bit more money you can upgrade your processor to something a little more beefy, although sadly the 8400M GS is as high as the graphics card goes. Still, it's perfectly fine for day to day use and much better than the Intel alternative.
Finishing out the specs parade is 2GB RAM, DVD+-RW, 802.11A/B/G/N, Bluetooth and a 160GB hard drive. There is a grand lack of HSDPA support (even though the US model appears to contain it), so if this is a deal breaker for you, you might want to look elsewhere.
On the software side, HP is playing the field even more than usual, with the now standard Yahoo default search, Google toolbar and brand new for the crapware stakes, an AOL homepage. Most will want to change or uninstall all of these pronto. The Telstra BigPond and Dodo Internet sign up icons are still on the desktop, as are links to EBay, White Pages and Yellow pages. We can only assume the dollars are big in the cross promotion stakes, as sadly, everyone is doing it.
The Verve pulled in a 1077 in 3DMark06, meaning it should be able to handle some older games OK, but is still not a gaming laptop. The 3915 offered by PCMark05 however proved its decency as a day-to-day office and applications machine, perfect for most other tasks.
Interestingly we had an issue playing DVDs at full screen with Windows Media Player, where the action was stilted and laggy -- despite being prompted to update drivers by both Windows Update and HP's own tool, neither mentioned the graphics driver update that was required to fix this. HP seems to bundle all its drivers in one package too, as the download amounted to a whopping 130MB -- not cool.
After applying the update, we set all power management options off and the screen brightness to its highest, and played back a DVD to test the battery. It came in at a not so great one hour, 13 minutes and 11 seconds for its six-cell battery to die -- the GeForce 8400M GS the likely culprit for reduced battery time. You can purchase batteries with higher cell counts, but take in mind that since the battery doesn't sit flush with the edge of the laptop, the only way to pack the extra cells in is down -- meaning the battery will bulge from the bottom of your laptop.
The Verve's successor, the dv2700 series should be out shortly, which as best we can ascertain simply offers a different processor and a remote control, the rest of the bits staying pretty much the same.
The Verve is near perfect -- though it wouldn't hurt HP to squeeze out a little more battery life, thin out the crapware and to start supplying some realistic driver downloads.