HP really has something going. Building on the strength from the smaller Verve, the Thrive is definitely aimed at those who don't mind a bit of luxury in their life -- from the burnt orange lid with inscribed lines featured on it, to the metal interior and smooth trackpad -- the dv6700 is something to behold.
The full-sized keyboard is fantastic, giving a solid clicky feel, so you know when you've struck a key properly. Little touches like the caps lock LED being positioned next to the caps lock key itself are appreciated, as is the positioning of the air vent at the rear so external mouse users don't find their hands heating up. The construction is strong, but not heavy for the size or features.
While the Altec Lansing speakers included will never hit audiophile status, they're better than most solutions, and can put out a respectable volume with minimal clipping or distortion.
Three USB ports, one modem port, one Ethernet (although bizarrely, not gigabit), firewire, VGA and HDMI fill out the sides, as well as an MMC/xD/SD/MS card reader and Express Card 54 slot. A Blu-ray drive takes preference as the optical drive of choice -- a decent investment. Dual headphone jacks, a microphone jack and infrared receiver are mounted to the front, while a webcam sits atop the 15.4-inch, 1,280 x 800 screen. Missing is a fingerprint scanner, although we strongly doubt this laptop will be used in a business scenario where it makes sense to have one.
Connectivity-wise the dv6700 features the aforementioned 10/100 Ethernet and infrared, but also packs draft N wireless and Bluetooth, meaning you should be able to connect almost anywhere. We find it odd that a gigabit ethernet port is not supplied on a laptop of this size.
Of the remaining specs, a Core 2 Duo T7500, GeForce 8400M GS, 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive make sure things keep ticking along nicely.
There is an array of touch sensitive buttons above the keyboard for quick access to media controls, and HP's "QuickPlay" application, and these were easy to use, although we wish the volume slider itself indicated what the volume was currently set to. It also was far too easy to hit the mute button by mistake when swiping from right to left to turn the volume down.
Crapware has been thinned a bit since the Verve days -- with only the eBay icon, MediaRing Talk, and the option to sign up to Bigpond available. The home page in Internet Explorer is still set to AOL, a choice we'd question. At least the option to sign up to Dodo is now gone, as are the links to the White and Yellow pages, and the Google toolbar. The less crap users have to install the better -- so the effort is appreciated.
The Core 2 Duo T7500 processor and GeForce 8400M GS video card put the Thrive in the mid-level performance sector -- it's not quite a gaming laptop, but definitely has enough grunt for the occasional fooling around with some older titles, and will have no issue with high-definition video playback. After updating the graphics driver (still a ridiculous 130MB in size), 3DMark06 returned a ho-hum 1555, and PCMark05 a more respectable 4808 -- meaning it'll be fine for productivity applications.
After turning off all power-saving options and setting screen brightness to maximum, battery time was similar to the Verve on our DVD playback test, coming in at one hour, 13 minutes and 33 seconds -- despite the extra inch in screen size. Regardless, we wouldn't mind if a little more could be squeezed out. If you don't mind a battery pack jutting out the back of your laptop, best to opt for a higher-capacity module like a 9-cell.
HP has well and truly hit its stride with its laptops, and the dv6700 Special Edition series represents a new level in quality. Unless your needs involve being ultramobile, having gigabit ethernet or making use of HSDPA, you shouldn't be disappointed with this machine.