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HP Pavilion dv6500 review: HP Pavilion dv6500

HP Pavilion dv6500

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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
Dan Ackerman
6 min read

With an eye toward multimedia users, HP's family of dv-branded Pavilion laptops have always combined eye-catching design with cool features such as touch-sensitive media controls and dual headphone jacks. We're partial to 17-inch desktop replacements such as the Pavilion dv9500t--we'd happily trade a bit of portability for a larger screen in such an entertainment-oriented machine--but if you're looking for more of a compromise between screen real estate and total travel weight, the 15-inch dv6500t delivers nearly all of the features found on its larger cousin, including Intel's refreshed Centrino Duo mobile platform (formerly known as Santa Rosa). Our somewhat expensive review unit included high-end extras such as an HD DVD drive, but stripped down, the system starts at less than $1,000. Even at its base of $950, the Pavilion dv6500t is hard to beat for a basic multimedia laptop.

6.9

HP Pavilion dv6500

The Good

Includes HD DVD drive and HDMI port; touch-sensitive media controls; 802.11n Wi-Fi; good component mix for the price.

The Bad

Some options (including HD DVD drive) not available yet; disappointing battery life.

The Bottom Line

HP's attractive Pavilion dv6500t is a well-designed 15-inch multimedia laptop that stands out from the mainstream crowd with touch-sensitive media controls and an HDMI output, but the standard battery could be better.

Looking like a shrunken version of the larger 17-inch dv9500t, the dv6500t retains HP's signature silver-and-black chassis, with a silver keyboard tray and touchpad and a black keyboard and screen bezel. The lid features one of HP's subtle imprint designs, which breaks up the plain black finish without being distracting or showy.

The dv6500t is about the same size and weight as other recent 15-inch laptops we've tested, such as the Toshiba Satellite A205 or the Gateway E-475M, but the 15-inch mainstream laptop is quickly losing ground to models with 14.1-inch screens (like Gateway's E-265M), trading a little screen real estate for lighter, smaller cases and better design, saving almost a full pound in many cases. But for music and video use, a 15-inch offers a more immersive experience, and this particular system stands out for that purpose thanks to eye-catching design and media-friendly features.

As an entertainment-oriented laptop, the dv6500t features a glossy screen, good for viewing video files and gaming. The 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size. The black screen bezel also helps the image pop off the screen.

Besides a fingerprint reader to the right of the touchpad and a Webcam above the screen, the HP Pavilion dv6500t has a row of touch-sensitive media controls above the keyboard. With those you can launch HP's QuickPlay program (a Media-Center-style application), play or pause media files, and control the volume with the brush of a fingertip. While not unique to HP, these capacitive touch controls are a staple of the company's entertainment laptops.

The Pavilion dv6500t has a fairly typical collection of ports and connections, with a couple of key extras, including an HDMI output and an HD DVD drive. We also liked the addition of both Bluetooth and a new 802.11n Wi-Fi antenna, which together cost only $45 more than plain old a/b/g Wi-Fi.

The HD DVD drive isn't actually available yet, but it should add around $400 to the system's price when HP finally adds it to the online configurator. Other upgrades that bumped up our review unit's price include a 200GB hard drive ($190 more than the default 80GB drive) and 2GB of RAM, a fairly reasonable and recommended $75 upgrade over the standard 1GB.

We're not particularly bullish on next-gen optical drives in laptops in any case--the discs have yet to reach critical mass, and the differences between SD and HD DVDs on a laptop screen are not as pronounced as they would be on a 50-inch plasma screen--but if you want one right away, currently available options include the Blu-ray-equipped XPS M1710 and Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV660, which is an excellent multimedia laptop with an HD DVD drive.

Our review unit fits the specs for Intel's revamped Centrino Duo platform (previously known as Santa Rosa), by way of its 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 processor, Intel 965 chipset, and an Nvidia GeForce Go 8400M GS graphics chip. Both CPU and GPU are a notch up from the highest-end specs currently available on the HP Web site, but should be available shortly.

Compared to other systems from the first round of Santa Rosa laptops, the HP Pavilion dv6500t performed as expected on CNET Labs' Multimedia multitasking, Photoshop CS2, and iTunes encoding tests. It only fell seriously behind the HP Pavilion HDX, which featured Intel's fastest laptop CPU, the 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700. In real-world use, it ran fine, even when multitasking, but we'd expect nothing less from a modern laptop.

For gamers, the 128MB Nvidia GeForce Go 8400M GS graphics chip means that while the dv6500t won't match a gaming laptop such as the HP Pavilion HDX, you can get some decent gaming scores out of it at lower resolutions. While we could only get a somewhat choppy 23.8 frames per second (fps) out of Quake 4 at 1,024x768, once we turned off high-end features like anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, the frame rate jumped to a very playable 47.5fps.

The dv6500t ran for one hour and 48 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. Our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use, but we still like to see at least two hours from any laptop that's not a 17-inch desktop replacement. HP also offers a 12-cell battery, which sticks out from the bottom of the system a bit, as a $49 option.

HP backs the Pavilion dv6500t with an industry-standard one-year warranty; upgrading to three years is a reasonable $200. Toll-free telephone support is available 24-7 during your warranty period, and the HP support Web site includes one real-time chat with a tech rep as well as an extensive FAQ and documentation section.

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP HDX
842 
HP Pavilion DV6500t
958 

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP HDX
234 
HP Pavilion DV6500t
261 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP HDX
171 
HP Pavilion DV6500t
185 

DVD battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion DV6500t
108 
HP HDX
90 

Quake 4 performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP HDX
59.1 
HP Pavilion DV6500t
23.8 

System configurations:

Gateway E-475M
Windows Vista Business Edition; 2.2GHz Intel Core Duo T7500; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD2300; 100GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

HP Pavilion dv6500t
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.2GHz Intel Core Duo T7500; 2048MB DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB Nvidia 8400M GS; 200GB Toshiba 4,200rpm

HP Pavilion dv9500t
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8600M GS; 120GB Western Digital 5,400rpm; 80GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

HP Pavilion HDX
Windows Vista Home Premium Edition; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700; 3,072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB ATI M76-XT; 100GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

6.9

HP Pavilion dv6500

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7Battery 4Support 7