Editors' note: This review is part of our Retail Laptop Review Roundup: Q1 2009, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
HP's Pavilion dv line of multimedia laptops, available in 14-, 15-, and 17-inch versions, consists of attractive systems aimed at mainstream consumers with a heavy diet of videos, music, and other forms of media. To this end, they share features, such as Altec Lansing speakers, HDMI outputs, and touch-sensitive media control buttons, along with mirror-finish accents.
The $1,199 HP Pavilion dv7-1285dx is a step up from the less expensive (although cosmetically identical) $699 HP Pavilion dv7-1245dx we looked at recently. For the extra money, you trade up from an AMD processor to a high-end 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600, and from a 320GB hard drive to a 500GB model.
For the same $1,200, you can trade some hard-drive space and CPU power for better 3D graphics by choosing the Gateway P-7805u FX. That system--our favorite in the mainstream category of our current retail laptop review roundup, has an Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTS, which is better-suited for gamers than the dv7-1285dx's GeForce 9600M GT.
|Price as reviewed||$1,199|
|Processor||2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600|
|Memory||4GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel PM45 Express Chipset|
|Graphics||512MB Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.6 x 11.2 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.0 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||7.5/8.6 pounds|
The design of the HP Pavilion dv7-1285dx is essentially identical to the AMD-powered Pavilion dv7-1245dx's. HP wisely makes the current dv line of laptops stand out from the crowd, skipping the typical glossy gray-and-black designs for a subtle cross-hatch pattern with a bronze tint, which is more likely to fit into your post-dorm-room decor. We also like the laptop's single, long hinge, which keeps the display from wobbling.
The touch pad (which has wide-screen-like dimensions) and mouse buttons have a highly reflective mirrored finish. It shows fingerprints and smudges easily, but also offsets the bronze color of the chassis nicely. One other complaint: the mirrored finish on the touch pad glides less easily against the finger than a traditional touch-pad finish, causing a little bit of finger drag.
As in the less expensive 17-inch HP dv7-1245dx, there's a series of lighted, touch-sensitive media controls above the keyboard, which glow either white 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 are finicky and lack the capability to do very fine adjustments. When the system is off or asleep, the button labels literally vanish into the mirrored strip above the keyboard.
The 17-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,440x900 native resolution, which is typical in less expensive desktop replacements, but for $1,200, we'd rather have a 1,600x1,200 screen, which is better for watching 1080p HD video content. The glossy screen makes video content pop, but can cause distracting glare while trying to read or type, depending on the lighting in the room.
|HP Pavilion dv7-1285dx||Average for category (mainstream)|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA-out, HDMI|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone (x2)/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0 (1 USB/eSATA), SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||Lightscribe DVD burner||DVD burner|
The 17-inch dv7-1285dx has essentially the same ports and connections as its cheaper cousin, which includes some high-end choices, such as a combo USB/eSATA port, and a Lightscribe DVD burner, which uses specially coated, blank, optical media to burn grayscale text and images on discs.
All the systems in the Mainstream category of our Retail Laptop Review Roundup: Q1 2009 (covering laptops from $900 to $1,200) have high-end Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs and 4GB of RAM. Not surprisingly, the two systems with the 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 (this laptop and the 13-inch Dell SX13-163B) were the fastest, although any of these are excellent performers for heavy multitasking.
The 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT is a standard midrange GPU, capable of kicking out a reasonable 43.2 frames per second in Unreal Tournament III at 1,280x800. For almost the same price, however, Gateway's P-7805u has a GeForce 9800M GTS--the current high-end of mainstream video cards, and scored 120.8 frames per second on the same test.