The tablet PC may not have taken off, but support for multi-touch displays in Windows 7 means that some manufacturers are now trying a different tack by fitting touch-sensitive screens to otherwise standard laptops. HP is one of the first, with the Pavilion dv3-2230ea, available for around £780. We were supplied with a pre-production model for this preview, which we will update with the results of our benchmark tests once we get our hands on the final version.
The dv3-2230ea is billed as an entertainment laptop, but it's no big-screen monster, and its 13.3-inch chassis weighs in at a fairly portable 2.1kg. The case is thick, measuring 32mm, and looks pretty chunky, but just about every edge is curved, and the silver plastic that runs around its middle helps break up the design.
The shiny black lid and keyboard surround have a pale grey 'modern vintage imprint' pattern that reminds us of William Morris wallpaper. We rather like it, and it makes a change from the usual swathe of solid colour.
The thick lid sits on two stiff hinges that still exhibit some wobble. Beneath it lies a full-width, low-profile keyboard that's very comfortable to type on, although some give around the L key slightly compromises the otherwise solid feel. There's no separate numeric keypad, but all the keys are full-size.
The wide multi-touch trackpad has a mirrored finish with the same wallpaper pattern as the rest of the case, but its very shiny surface means it suffers from the same sticky finger problems as similar pads on other laptops. A small button above the trackpad disables it. Presumably you're meant to use this button when you're resting your forearm on the wrist rest and prodding the screen.
The dv3-2230ea's 13.3-inch, multi-touch screen works very well. As is the case with the iPhone, the screen's sensor seems very adept at figuring out where you meant to press, rather than just taking a very clumsy poke at face value. The usual set of compatible gestures are all present and correct -- you pinch your fingers together to zoom, swipe left and right to move through photos, and so on -- but reaching up to stroke a vertical surface doesn't feel very natural and we're not convinced that multi-touch capability on a traditional laptop display is as beneficial as on a tablet PC.
Nonetheless, some users, particularly children, may find that a touchscreen provides an easier way to interact with Windows than a trackpad or mouse, and the dv3-2230ea's display is certainly much more responsive than other touchscreens we've tried. Some crispness seems to be lost as a result of the multi-touch technology's inclusion, but the 1,366x768-pixel image is still bright and vibrant.
Theoretical benchmark results
The dv3-2230ea that we were supplied with was a pre-production model with a slightly different specification to the one that will eventually be sold, so we won't mention its actual benchmark results.
The specification published with this preview is that for the final model and, since it's very close to that of the HP Pavilion dv3-2055ea, which we reviewed in June, its performance benchmark results shouldn't be too dissimilar. If anything, the dv3-2230ea should be slightly quicker in the PCMark05 test, as its Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 processor is 200MHz faster than its stablemate's, which scored 4,520. Both use the same Nvidia GeForce G105M graphics chipset though, so we'd expect a similar 3DMark06 score of around 2,400. That's not bad, but not good enough to run modern DirectX 10 games at anything more than low resolutions and detail settings.
Since our sample model shipped with a different processor and on-board graphics, we'll also have to take its times in the Battery Eater tests with a pinch of salt. That said, they weren't too different to the dv3-2055ea's times, at 1.5 hours in the intensive Classic test and 4.5 hours in the less demanding Reader's test.
Based on the final specification that HP will sell, the Pavilion dv3-2230ea should be a solid performer, but it needs better graphics capability if it's to live up to its entertainment billing. The multi-touch screen is a novel addition, and some people may find it useful, but it won't replace a trackpad for most applications.
Edited by Charles Kloet