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HP Pavilion dv9500t review: HP Pavilion dv9500t

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The Good The HP Pavilion dv9500t laptop has a beautiful design; a bright, crisp display; a thorough set of AV controls, ports, and connections; long battery life; a touch pad on/off button; and a fingerprint reader.

The Bad HD DVD drive not available on initial configurations; media controls provide audible feedback when pressed.

The Bottom Line The HP Pavilion dv9500t is a great choice for home users who don't want to spend a fortune on a large entertainment notebook.

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7.9 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7
  • Support 6

HP Pavilion dv9500t

We always liked the Pavilion dv9000 series, and today HP's desktop replacement is among the first available systems to feature Intel's refreshed Centrino Duo mobile platform (codename Santa Rosa). With the new processor comes a new model name--Pavilion dv9500t--and a few smaller changes, such as the addition of a fingerprint reader and a different Webcam. The early version of the Pavilion dv9500t we reviewed also included a discrete graphics card and an HD DVD drive--two options that won't be available for about a month. Without those high-end components, the HP Pavilion dv9500t costs a very reasonable $1,615, making it one of the most inexpensive entertainment-oriented desktop replacements on the market. Though high-definition fanatics and casual gamers will want to wait (and save their pennies) for the higher-end components to become available, we think the HP Pavilion dv9500t as it exists today is a good choice for home users who want their laptop to double as a mobile entertainment system.

Price as reviewed/starting price $1,615*/$1,199
Processor 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300
Memory 2GB of 667MHz DDR2
Hard drive 200GB at 5,400rpm
Graphics 256MB Nvidia GeForce Go 8600M
Chipset Quanta 30CB
Operating system Vista Home Premium
Dimensions (LWH) 15.5x11x1.6 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 17 inches
System weight/weight with AC adapter 7.9/9 pounds
Category desktop replacement
*Our preproduction review unit will not immediately be available; price indicated is for closest available configuration.

The dv9500t is the same size as its predecessor, and it remains smaller than both the Dell XPS M1710 and the Gateway NX860XL. Still, the dv9500t weighs nine pounds with its AC adapter, making it too heavy to carry with you every day.

While we prefer matte screens on more business-oriented systems, we're fans of the Pavilion dv9500t's glossy display, which features a crisp 1,440x900 native resolution. The screen produced rich colors and sharp details, and there's plenty of screen real estate for traditional computer work as well. Like all Pavilion laptops, the dv9500t includes a row of light-touch buttons above the keyboard that launch the media player and provide volume and playback controls; a somewhat annoying, high-pitched beep lets you know when you've pressed a button (the beep can be disabled in the system BIOS). Altec Lansing stereo speakers, located above those controls, deliver decent sound, though we prefer the depth and clarity of the sound produced by the speakers on the Toshiba Qosmio G35. And while the pricier Qosmio G35 includes an integrated TV tuner, the Pavilion dv9500t lacks built-in TV capabilities, though HP sells an ExpressCard tuner module for $130.

While other Pavilion laptops (including the dv9000z) offer a 1.3-megapixel camera, HP has bowed out of the megapixel arms race and integrated a VGA-resolution (fewer megapixels) Webcam into the dv9500t. The company reasons that the switch will provide a better frame rate for Webconferencing, especially in low-light conditions. Two built-in microphones on the display bezel eliminate the need for an external microphone while videoconferencing. Like almost all desktop replacements, the Pavilion dv9500t's keyboard is full size and includes a 10-key numeric keypad. The somewhat compact touch pad includes a scroll zone, and we love the touch pad on/off button, which is handy when you want to use an external mouse.

  HP Pavilion dv9500t Average for desktop replacement category
Video VGA-out, S-Video VGA-out, S-Video, DVI
Audio Stereo speakers, two headphone jacks, a microphone jack Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data Four USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and a multiformat memory card reader Four USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire, and a multiformat memory card reader
Expansion PC Card and ExpressCard slots PC Card and ExpressCard slots
Networking Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth modem, Ethernet, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth
Optical drive HD DVD drive* DVD burner
*HD DVD drive not available at launch.

The dv9500t has a typical array of ports and connections for a desktop replacement, though it lacks DVI output. We especially like the laptop's dual headphone jacks, which make it easy to share movies and music with friends. We also like that our Pavilion dv9500t preproduction unit included an HD DVD drive and HDMI output. Unfortunately, this option will not be available on initial dv9500t models, though the laptop will include a double-layer DVD burner with LightScribe, which lets you burn your own labels onto compatible discs. (When the HD DVD drive is offered, we expect it to add about $400 to the laptop's price.) We're not convinced the lack of a next-generation drive is a deal breaker, though buyers who simply must have a high-definition drive immediately should look to the Dell XPS M1710 (Blu-Ray) and the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV660 (HD DVD).

The biggest development with this new Pavilion desktop replacement is inside its case, where you'll find the latest Intel platform (aka Santa Rosa) and a brand-new Core 2 Duo T7300 processor. Our review unit also included an Nvidia GeForce Go 8600M GS graphics card, though, in a disappointment to casual gamers, this option will not be available for another month. For now the dv9500t will include only Intel's new GMA X3100 integrated graphics. The currently available configuration that comes closest to our review model costs $1,615 for the integrated graphics; a larger, 240GB hard drive; and 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi; along with the standard-definition DVD burner mentioned above.

On CNET Labs' application benchmark tests, the HP Pavilion dv9500t performed on a par with other just-announced Santa Rosa laptops, such as the Gateway E-475M and the Lenovo ThinkPad R61. (It's worth noting that these other systems included processors with faster clock speeds.) Curiously, however, the dv9500t trailed slightly behind its predecessor, the Turion 64 X2-based dv9000z, on our Photoshop CS2 image-processing test. The most likely explanation for the discrepancy lies in the laptops' operating systems: the dv9000z was running 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate, which helps enhance some of Photoshop's graphics features. The newer dv9500t runs on 32-bit Vista Home Premium.

It seems Intel's new mobile platform gave the biggest boost to the HP Pavilion dv9500t's battery life. While the previous-generation HP Pavilion dv9000z couldn't top the two-hour mark on our taxing DVD battery drain test, the Pavilion dv9500t lasted 2 hours, 42 minutes. That battery life would be admirable on a smaller laptop and is downright impressive for a desktop replacement with such a large screen. In fact, the only Santa Rosa system to outlast the Pavilion dv9500t so far is Intel's own whitebook, which includes the company's integrated graphics; it's a slight stretch, but we suspect the first Pavilion dv9500ts (with the Intel GMA X3100 graphics) will have even better battery life than our review unit.

HP backs the Pavilion dv9500t with an industry-standard one-year warranty; the cost to extend the term to three years with express service is a reasonable $200. Toll-free telephone support is available 24-7 during your warranty period, and the HP support Web site includes one of our favorite support features: real-time chat with a tech rep. If you want to troubleshoot problems yourself, you can search through the site's thorough, FAQ database.

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