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HP Pavilion dv3z review: HP Pavilion dv3z

HP Pavilion dv3z

Dan Ackerman
Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
4 min read

An inexpensive 13-inch laptop will always get our attention, and HP's Pavilion dv3z fits the bill starting at less than $700; it is also highly customizable (our configuration was $893). We're fond of saying that 13-inch laptops are the smallest we could fathom working on for a full day, and the biggest we'd be willing to carry around on a regular basis--the popularity of Apple's 13-inch MacBook line points to this.


HP Pavilion dv3z

The Good

Inexpensive, highly configurable 13-inch laptop; excellent battery life.

The Bad

Not as thin or light as other 13-inch systems; AMD processor lags in performance.

The Bottom Line

The 13-inch HP Pavilion dv3z offers a reasonable trade-off, choosing battery life and value over performance and weight.

However, as much as we liked the HP dv3z's low initial price and customization, you can also get Apple's entry level plastic MacBook or HP's own retail-only Pavilion dv3510nr for only $999, and both offer faster Intel processors. The AMD-powered dv3z counters with a large 320GB hard drive and excellent battery life, albeit at the expense of a giant protruding battery.

Price as reviewed / Starting price $893/$679
Processor 2.3GHz AMD Turion X2 Ultra Dual-Core ZM-84
Memory 4GB, 800MHz DDR2
Hard drive 320GB 5,400rpm
Chipset AMD RS780M
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200
Operating System Windows Vista Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 12.2x9.1 inches
Height 1 to 1.3 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 13.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 4.8 / 5.6 pounds
Category Thin-and-light

Similar to other current Pavilion laptops, the HP dv3z trades the typical glossy gray-and-black look for an upscale bronze tint, with a subtle crosshatch pattern on the keyboard tray and a slightly glittery finish on the back of the lid.

The series of lighted, touch-sensitive media controls above the keyboard looks nice, glowing either white, blue, or orange depending on status (Wi-Fi on versus off, for example). There's also a volume slider, but for sensitive volume tweaks, we still prefer a physical wheel; touch-controlled volume sliders can be finicky. When the system is off or asleep, the touch-sensitive buttons literally vanish into the mirrored strip above the keyboard.

The touch pad and mouse buttons have a highly reflective mirrored finish that offsets the bronze chassis color nicely. Fortunately, this touch pad feels like it has a slicker surface than some of the mirror-finished touch pads we've tried on 14-, 15-, and 17-inch Pavilions lately, which means less finger drag and more accurate mousing.

The 13.3-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for screens 13 to 15 inches in size. The glossy finish can easily pick up stray light rays, however, and the dv3z lacks the slick edge-to-edge glass found in systems like the current 13-inch MacBooks.

  HP Pavilion dv3z Average for category [thin-and-light]
Video VGA-out, HDMI VGA, mini-HDMI or Mini-DVI
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0 (1 USB/eSATA), SD card reader 3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, SD card reader
Expansion ExpressCard/34 ExpressCard/54
Networking Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN
Optical drive Slot-loading DVD burner DVD burner

While very configurable, with multiple CPU, RAM, and hard-drive options, only AMD processors and ATI Radeon 3200 graphics are available on the dv3z. The starting $679 configuration includes a 2.2GHz AMD Turion X2 RM-74, 2GB of RAM (currently upgraded to 3GB at no extra charge), and 160GB HDD (also currently subject to a no-cost upgrade to 320GB). Interestingly, you have a choice of tray or slot-loading DVD burners; functionally, they're identical, but the slot-loading one costs an extra $25.

Our review unit had a 2.3GHz AMD Turion X2 Ultra Dual-Core ZM-84 with 4GB of RAM, and, as expected, it fell behind comparable 13- and 14-inch laptops with Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs, such as Dell's midrange 13-inch laptop, the Studio XPS 13-163B, which has a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600. In casual use--Web surfing, media playback, working on office docs--you're unlikely to notice the difference. Working with more professional apps, such as Photoshop, the difference is more pronounced.

The trade-off is in excellent battery life, where the HP Pavilion dv3z ran for 4 hours and 41 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included extended battery (which sticks out from the back of the chassis and adds bulk and weight). The aforementioned Dell, for example, ran for only 2 hours and 46 minutes on the same test.

HP includes an industry-standard, one-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the system, which includes real-time chat and e-mail, plus 24-7 toll-free phone support. Upgrading to a three-year plan will cost an extra $199, which adds the promise of additional support for virus and spyware issues. HP also offers an upgraded support level, which includes accidental damage coverage at $239 for three years.

Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dv3-1051

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dv3-1051

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dv3-1051

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dv3-1051

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System Configurations:

HP Pavilion dv3-1051
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.3GHz AMD Turion X2 Ultra Dual-Core ZM-84; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 320MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200; 320GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm

Dell Studio XPS 13-163B
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9400M G; 320GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Asus X83VB-X2
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS; 250GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Samsung X460-44P
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400; 3,072MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9200M GS; 320GB Fujitsu 5,400rpm


HP Pavilion dv3z

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 6Battery 8Support 7
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