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HP Pavilion zd7000 review: HP Pavilion zd7000

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Editors' note: HP recently added the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition to the HP Pavilion zd7000's configuration options, and we took the updated model for a spin. See what Eric Franklin, manager of CNET Labs in San Francisco, has to say about HP's revitalized laptop in the performance section of this updated review. (3/4/04)

Microsoft has upgraded its TV- and media-friendly Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) to MCE 2004, and HP's Pavilion zd7000 runs the new version. The $2,600 laptop features a big, wide-screen display; a handheld remote; a DVD burner; and an external box that ties in to your television signal. MCE 2004 may be better suited for a PC, especially if accommodating the OS requires a 9.2-pound laptop, plus multiple cables and paraphernalia. Nevertheless, the HP Pavilion zd7000 is among the fastest, best-designed laptops CNET has ever tested, and it's equipped to please videographers, shutterbugs, gamers, and even those who ponder spreadsheets. However, its sheer weight and heat, plus a battery that conks out just past two hours, may discourage you from taking the laptop off your desk.

After looking at several recent big-screen laptops, we think the HP Pavilion zd7000 has the best implementation of a nonstandard-resolution display. In particular, its resolution is appropriate for its screen size, unlike others we've seen. HP's Pavilion nx7000, for example, crams its 1,680x1,050 resolution onto a 15.4-inch (diagonal) wide-screen LCD--that's 130 pixels per inch, a view so dense, you have to squint.

The HP Pavilion zd7000 tops out at a comfortable 100 pixels per inch, displaying a 1,440x900 native resolution--enough to sail through a spreadsheet as easily as through a movie. We love the display's saturated colors and its sharp, clean text on an evenly lit background. The image fades when viewing from above or the side, however, so gathering friends around for a movie won't work.

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The big keyboard includes a separate numeric keypad.
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The wide touchpad features a scrolling strip down the right-hand edge.

The HP Pavilion zd7000's size allows for uncluttered, uncrowded hands-on elements. A long, ridged latch opens the lid easily to reveal a full-size keyboard--even the Backspace key is big--with a separate numeric keypad. Keys provide a good "pop" feel and operate silently, and the keyboard is almost free of wiggle and sag. A wide touchpad features a scrolling strip down the right-hand edge; ordinary left- and right-click mouse buttons sit just below it. Stereo speakers line the laptop's entire front edge and sound at least as good as small external speakers. There's also a power button for the 802.11g Wi-Fi radio.

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The DVD-rewritable drive is fixed, so you can't swap in another battery.

HP stocked the Pavilion zd7000 with features on the outside and muscle on the inside. Along the edges, it has a quartet of USB 2.0 ports; a four-pin FireWire port; S-Video; two flash memory slots that read Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, and SmartMedia; and a Type II/Type III PC Card slot. A fixed DVD-R/RW drive accommodates most optical media but, unfortunately, not a backup battery. Inside, there's a screaming-hot 3.2GHz desktop Pentium 4 (it really does run hot; good thing the Pavilion zd7000 is too heavy to park on your lap for long); Nvidia's AGP 8X GeForce FX Go5600 graphics controller with 128MB of its own memory; 512MB of 333MHz memory filling both memory slots; and a 60GB hard drive.

Microsoft streamlined and extended Media Center Edition (MCE) 2004 in some useful ways. The basic idea is a separate, no-keyboard interface that lets you use the remote to run utilities for viewing and recording television, organizing and displaying photos, and performing other media-oriented activities. MCE 2004 can teach itself how to work with your set-top box, walk you through calibrating color on your screen, and notify you when someone is trying to call you (if you have Caller ID). It can download current TV schedules unattended and record a TV show while you're using the system for other tasks. Microsoft also improved the television listings; you now have tools to sort and filter them, and you can find listings based on keywords.

For those moments away from television, HP bundles Microsoft Works 7.0 with Microsoft Money 2003 and Encarta Internet Edition.

Mobile application performance
The HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE comes in first place in mobile performance in this small test group of desktop replacements. The HP Pavilion zd7000 is the first laptop we've tested with Intel's Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor. The difference between this chip and the normal Pentium 4 is the addition of a 2MB L3 memory cache on the Extreme Edition chip as well as its normal 512K L2 memory cache. The HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE's mobile performance score has less to do with this major bump in cache memory and more to do with how low the speed of the processor is throttled in order to conserve battery life. In this case, the HP Pavilion zd7000's 3.2GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor does not drop its speed significantly and as a result ends up with the highest MobileMark performance score we've yet seen. Unfortunately, the HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE's great mobile performance does not come without a price, as is seen in its battery life score. The Dell Inspiron XPS with its Pentium 4 3.4GHz processor is a distant second in mobile performance, with the original HP Pavilion zd7000 P4 bringing up the rear. Often with desktop replacements, mobile performance comes down to how much battery life the manufacturer is comfortable sacrificing. In the case of the HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE, HP chooses mobile performance, designing a system that can run office and content-creation applications very fast in a mobile state.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  
HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE
221 
HP Pavilion zd7000 P4
186 

SysMark 2002 performance
The Pentium 4 Extreme Edition-based HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE significantly outperforms its Pentium 4-based predecessor, with increases of about 14 percent over the older processor. This is due not only to the laptop's Pentium 4 Extreme Edition chip, which has a superlarge 2MB L3 memory cache, but also to the system's increased RAM, about (1GB as opposed to 512MB) and faster 5,400rpm hard drive. All of these factors result in a 24 percent increase in office-productivity performance and a 3 percent increase in Internet content-creation performance. However, the great hardware improvement isn't enough to win out over the Dell Inspiron XPS. Although the Dell Inspiron XPS uses the normal version of the Pentium 4, it runs at a faster 3.4GHz. Also, the system includes a superfast 7,200rpm hard drive, which helps give it a performance boost over the competition. That said, the HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE's maximum performance is still one of the best we've seen and should satisfy the performance demands of even the most demanding user.

Maximum application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2002 rating  
SysMark 2002 Internet content creation  
SysMark 2002 office productivity  
Dell Inspiron XPS
311 
441 
219 
HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE
307 
418 
225 
HP Pavilion zd7000 P4
263 
406 
170 

To measure maximum notebook application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2002, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).

3D graphics performance
The HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE places a distant second behind the Dell Inspiron XPS in 3D graphics performance. The good news is that the HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE's 3D score is a huge 25 percent increase over the older model's, thanks mostly to the P4EE processor's huge 2MB L3 memory cache. The 3D performance of this system is great. However, the Dell Inspiron XPS performs even better. Using 3D architecture that is about half a generation ahead of the HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE's, the Dell Inspiron XPS houses ATI's newest mobile GPU, the Mobility Radeon 9700 128MB, which is the successor to the Mobility Radeon 9600 Pro. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the Dell Inspiron XPS beats the HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE by 15 percent. It should be noted, however, that the HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE is still one of the highest-scoring 3D laptops we've seen. It was just outclassed by newer hardware. Still, the HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE should have no problem meeting the performance needs of most gamers.

3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate faster performance)
Futuremark's 3DMark2001 SE  
HP Pavilion zd7000 P4EE
10,234 
HP Pavilion zd7000 P4
7,710 

To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark2001 SE. We use 3DMark to measure desktop replacement notebook performance with the DirectX 8.1 interface at the 32-bit color setting at a resolution of 1,024x768.

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs assistant lab manager Eric Franklin.

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Dell Inspiron XPS
Windows XP Professional; 3.4GHz Intel Pentium 4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 128MB; Hitachi Travelstar 7K60 60GB 7,200rpm

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