HP Pavilion dv6985se review: HP Pavilion dv6985se

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The Good Beautiful, unique design; incredible battery life, thanks to its 12-cell battery; comfortable keyboard; touchpad on/off button; touch-sensitive media controls; dual headphone jacks.

The Bad Battery adds significant weight; speakers produce treble sound.

The Bottom Line The HP Pavilion dv6985se is a well-stocked mainstream machine with a long-living (though heavy) 12-cell battery. We recommend it, provided you like the unique copper-colored case and are willing to schlep around 6.6 pounds of laptop.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 9
  • Support 7

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.

Its shape and feature set will be familiar to anyone who's seen other Pavilion dv6000 series laptops, but the Special Edition HP Pavilion dv6985se stands out for two reasons. First, its upscale design includes an eye-catching, copper-colored lid and silver interior, both bearing a faint imprint that looks like etching. The other special feature: a 12-cell battery that provided one of the longest battery lives we've seen in CNET Labs. Otherwise, the Pavilion dv6985se is a fairly typical mainstream laptop, with a decent feature set and strong performance.

Of course, the features that make the Pavilion dv6985se special are also its downside. That extra battery does add weight, and the flashy design certainly isn't for everyone (though we happen to love it). Users who want something more portable or more subdued should look to the Sony Vaio NR498, which offers similar performance and features (but lacks multimedia controls) for a slightly lower price. Or you could scrap the 15-inch size entirely and go for a 14-inch model like the Gateway T-6836 or the Sony Vaio CR510.

Price $999
Processor 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750
Memory 4GB at 667MHz
Hard drive 250GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel 965
Graphics Intel GMA X3100 (integrated)
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WDH) 14.1 x 10.1 x 1.1 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 15.4 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 6.6 / 7.4 pounds (includes extended battery)
Category Mainstream

The Pavilion dv6815se's shape is essentially the same as the Pavilion dv6915nr we reviewed earlier this summer. The "Special Edition" designation, however, warrants a spiffy new color scheme; in the case of the Pavilion dv6985se, that means a shiny copper-colored lid and display bezel with a silver keyboard deck and keys. Both the lid and wrist-rest incorporate a subtle imprint design of narrow stripes that morph into organic shapes reminiscent of Art Nouveau; the pattern even extends across the touch pad. The overall effect is very appealing--certainly more expensive-looking than its actual price (more so when you factor in Best Buy currently offers it with a $100 discount)--but also seems destined to look slightly dated by the time you graduate.

The Pavilion dv6985se we reviewed differs from its siblings in one other significant way: the laptop includes a bulky 12-cell battery that raises the back of the system an inch and contributes to its hefty 6.6-pound weight. (With HP's standard Pavilion battery, the system would weigh closer to 6 pounds--but a smaller battery isn't an option on this fixed configuration.) The extra juice will come in handy when cranking out term papers, but you probably won't enjoy carrying the laptop to the library.

The 15.4-inch wide-screen display on the HP Pavilion dv6985se has a typical 1,280x800 native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size. The screen's glossy finish produces rich colors and contrast; we found it minimally distracting while surfing the Web and typing e-mail but quite enjoyable for watching movies. A 1.3-megapixel Webcam above the display lets users conduct video chats.

Typing was comfortable on the Pavilion dv6985se's nearly full-size keyboard. The wide touch pad includes a scroll zone, and we love the on/off button above the pad, which is handy when you want to use an external mouse or just type without worrying about misplacing the cursor. Above the keyboard sits a row of light-touch controls to launch HP's QuickPlay media player, control disc playback, and adjust volume. Perhaps to maintain the laptop's polished aesthetic, HP left off the handy port labels found on the keyboard deck of nearly every other Pavilion laptop.

  HP Pavilion dv6985se Average for mainstream category
Video VGA-out, S-Video VGA-out, S-Video
Audio Stereo speakers, two headphone jacks, microphone jack Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, mulitformat memory card reader 4 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Networking modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN
Optical drive DVD burner with LightScribe DVD burner

The HP Pavilion dv6985se includes most of the ports and connections we'd expect to see on a laptop of its size, though the Sony Vaio NR498 does manage to squeeze one more USB port into its similar footprint. (We have a feeling a USB port was jettisoned to make room for the HP Expansion Port, which lets you connect to an HP docking station.) The HP also lacks Bluetooth, which is surprising given its otherwise upscale bent. We do like the Pavilion's dual headphone jacks, which make it easy to share movies and music with friends. We're less impressed with the Altec Lansing stereo speakers, which are loud and clear but produce too-treble sound.

The retail-only Pavilion dv6985se comes in a single fixed configuration that includes a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor--part of Intel's previous-generation Centrino platform and the standard for mainstream systems--plus a generous 4GB of RAM. Paired with 64-bit Windows Vista, that 4GB of RAM gave the Pavilion dv6985se a notable boost on our Photoshop CS3 benchmark, where the first three spots among Back-to-School systems went to 64-bit-equipped laptops. Otherwise, the Pavilion dv6985se performed admirably on CNET Labs' benchmarks, showing enough multitasking and processing oomph for all your scholarly pursuits (and diversions).

As mentioned above, the HP Pavilion dv6985se includes a massive 12-cell battery that adds significant weight to the system. But it just might be worth schlepping around: it ran for 5 hours and 17 minutes on CNET Labs' video playback drain test. That's one of the lengthiest battery scores we've seen, and bests all our other mainstream Back-to-School systems, which featured six-cell batteries, by nearly 2 hours. Our video playback battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect even longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.

HP backs the Pavilion dv6985se with an industry-standard one-year warranty. Toll-free telephone support is available 24-7 during your warranty period, and the HP support Web site includes real-time chat with a tech representative. If you want to troubleshoot problems yourself, you can search through the site's thorough FAQ database.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Pavilion dv6985 Special Edition
HP Pavilion dv5-1002nr