Editors' note: This review is part of our Back to School 2008 roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
HP's 14-inch HP Pavilion dv2945se looks like it should cost more than $899, thanks to a cool subtle pattern on the keyboard tray and lid (the "se" in the name stand for special edition). We've seen the same upscale look recently in the very similar HP dv2700t Special Edition.
For about $900, we'd be tempted to look elsewhere for an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, rather than the underperforming AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 found here. Still, we are pleased to find 4GB of RAM (along with the 64-bit version of Windows Vista) and a roomy 320GB hard drive. It may not win on performance or features in the mainstream category of our back-to-school retail laptop roundup, but it's certainly one of the nicer-looking systems in this price range. If the battery life were better, we'd give this Pavilion a higher recommendation for students who place more emphasis on design than performance.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$899|
|Processor||2.0 GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60|
|Memory||4GB, 1600MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||320GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce Go 7150M (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||13 x 9.5 x 1.3 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.4/6.1 pounds|
HP's high-gloss special edition finish, called Verve, is a swirly, organic-looking black-and-bronze affair. While it's aesthetically pleasing, we're not sure it would be enough to sway our laptop buying decision one way or the other. What we like more is the 14-inch size, which shaves some travel weight when compared with 15-inch laptops.
The dv2945se has a nearly full-size keyboard, with full page-up and page-down keys--usually the first thing laptop makers cut for space. The keyboard feels roomy, but the small touch pad has a too-glossy finish. A row of now-mandatory touch-sensitive buttons are above the keyboard, featuring media transport controls and quick-launch buttons for HP's proprietary media management software (which, like most custom media software packages, is fairly nonintuitive and won't threaten iTunes or even Windows Media Player anytime soon).
The 14.1-inch wide-screen LCD offers a 1,280x800-pixel native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size, although more expensive models can go up to 1,440x900. The screen is especially glossy, so keep that in mind if, like us, you prefer matte display finishes.
|HP Pavilion dv2945se||Average for category [mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, S-Video||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone (x2)/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mini FireWire, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi,||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
While the Pavilion dv2945se lacks the HDMI port we found on some even cheaper back-to-school laptops (such as the Dell Inspiron 1525), we like the twin headphone jacks and Lightscribe DVD burner, for burning grayscale text and images directly on the face of special optical discs (which cost a little more than standard CD or DVD recordable media).
With a 2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 CPU, the dv2945se wasn't as fast as a comparable Intel Core 2 Duo system, such as the Toshiba A305-S6858--but the performance difference won't be especially noticeable during basic computing tasks, such as Web surfing and working on Office documents. Still, in the same price range, there are faster laptops, and we ran into occasional minor stuttering when multitasking too heavily. You can see a trend looking at our charts, where the three AMD-based models in this price range finish at or toward the bottom of the charts, including battery life.
The system ran for 2 hours and 46 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, which is on the short side of acceptable for a mainstream laptop that costs close to $1,000. The 14-inch Dell Inspiron 1420, for example, lasted about 30 minutes longer on the same test, and was even slightly faster, despite costing $100 less.
HP includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system. Toll-free telephone support is available 24-7 during your warranty period, and the HP support Web site includes real-time chat with a technical support representative and a fairly thorough 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)