I’ve been eyeing the HP Pavilion dv2 ever since it was announced at CES. Mostly because of its good looks and near netbook-like pricing. Also, it seemed like the dv2 could be the best of both worlds – an affordable ultraportable that is almost as convenient to carry around as a netbook, but with the muscle power of a heavier laptop. I am a power user, so the more performance at my disposal, the better.
The dv2 weighs just 3.8lbs yet manages to pack in 3 USB ports, a multi-card reader, ethernet, a PC express card slot, a lock port, and both HDMI and VGA outputs, which means that it can easily be hooked up to a projector for presentations or a large screen TV for watching movies. The build quality of the dv2 is excellent, it feels very solid with smooth round edges. When you hold it you can tell that it has been made with high quality materials. There is no flex in the system unless you try really hard to bend it, which is obviously not recommended. Notably, the left side on the bottom of the laptop gets pretty hot, especially during graphics intensive tasks like playing a video game or watching a video. There are two colors available for the dv2, an Espresso Black and a Moonlight White for an extra $25. We received the white version.
The glossy 12.1″ LED BrightView Widescreen (1280 x 800) display is bright, sharp and clear with good color reproduction and good viewing angles, and it is really on par with most of HP’s other current laptop displays. Glossy widescreens are pretty widespread by now, so I think that most people aren’t bothered that much with the glare issues that come with a glossy screen.
As much as netbooks have been taking off, and we do love them, they really are secondary computers. Sure, they can work great as a kid’s primary computer, but when it comes to teenagers and college students, they need something more. The dv2 hits the sweet spot in this respect – it’s more powerful than most netbooks, yet it’s not that much more expensive than most netbooks. It also has bigger a screen than your average netbook – it sports a 12.1 inch display while the average netbook has a 10″ display. Its ultraportable sized display, combined with its sub 4lb weight, make it easy to carry around. This is the perfect laptop for a high school or college student since it’s powerful enough to be their main computer without making any real compromises.
You can configure the dv2 with up to a 500GB 5400RPM hard drive and 4gb of ram, which is very welcome since it helps improve multitasking performance. Our unit came with a 320GB hard drive. For a processor you have two choices, the 1.6ghz AMD Athlon Neo Processor, or for an extra $75.00 you can get the 1.6ghz AMD Turion Neo X2 Dual-Core Mobile L625. Our unit was running on the Neo X2 Dual-Core Mobile. For a video card, the dv2 has the 512MB ATI Radeon HD Premium Graphics 3410 – unless you opt for Windows Vista Basic, in which case you can go with the less powerful ATI Radeon X1250.
Actual overall performance with the dv2 isn’t all that much faster than the standard Atom processor you get in most netbooks, but the dedicated 512MB ATI Radeon card is what really makes the dv2 stand out for this form factor and at this price point. The dv2 garnered a respectable 2,189 PCMarks in PCMark05 and it earned a Windows Experience Base Score of 4.0 and 4.1 for Gaming Performance.. Heavy Microsoft Office users will be happy to know that Microsoft Office 2007 runs snappily on the dv2. Word, Excel and Powerpoint only take 1 to 2 seconds to load up. Overall the system runs Vista Home Premium very well, which is yet, again something that most netbooks don’t do all that well. The dv2 also does a good job of multitasking.
The dedicated video card gives you enough muscle to play modern games. Albeit no replacement for a serious gaming laptop, this will do the job for most teens and college student who casually game, which is probably a good majority of them. In contrast, most typical netbooks and many sub $800 laptops can’t run any serious games at all. The dv2 garnered a score of 1228 in 3DMark06. Again, the average netbook only achieves a score of about 100 or so. I was able to play the new Sims 3 at a 800×600 resolution on the dv2 very comfortably- take that netbooks! Jumping to a 1024×768 resolution started to slow things down, but even then the game was playable.
The dedicated video card also keeps Blu-Ray playback running smooth, should you choose to shell out the cash for the optional external Blu-Ray drive. Blu-Ray playback on the dv2 is lovely without any hiccups. Because there is an HDMI out jack, that also means that you can connect the laptop to a TV and use it as a Blu-Ray disc player. This is perfect for students living in dorms. For starters, they probably don’t have the money to buy a dedicated Blu-ray player, nor do they have the room for one either.
Some might complain that there is no optical drive built-in to the laptop, but we would disagree. The lack of the built-in optical drive keeps the weight down, and the reality is that most kids are probably downloading and watching movies right off of their hard drive anyway. I myself rarely pop in a DVD anymore. Instead I rely on Hulu Desktop, iTunes, YouTube and Torrents for most of my video entertainment. And in that department the dv2 runs very well, I can watch HD Quicktime files without a hitch.
Keyboard and Mouse:
The keyboard on the dv2 is nearly full size at 92% of a standard keyboard and it has great tactile feedback, with similarly glossy keys like the HP Vivienne Tam Edition. But unfortunately the keyboard feels somewhat cramped.
Also, in general most laptops are better off operating with an external mouse, but in this case, it’s really necessary to use an external mouse since the dv2’s mirrored touchpad is slippery and not very responsive. Its buttons are much more difficult to push down on than they should be, and I often found myself repeating clicks till I was able to successfully click on something. This makes ordinary tasks frustrating. However, we’ve been using HP’s Wireless Comfort mouse and we just couldn’t use the system comfortably with out it. The mouse works well, it’s a good size in terms of comfort yet it still manages to be portable enough to throw in to a bag easily. The mouse also is ergonomically shaped and comfortable to use. We especially like its scroll wheel which not only tips up and down, but to the right and left as well. You can pick up the HP Wireless Comfort Mouse for an additional $29.99
The dv2 has two Altec Lansing stereo speakers inside of it, unlike many ultraportables that have weak speakers, they are able to get pretty loud.
Unfortunately, the dv2 comes with a significant amount of bloatware out of the box, but not the worst we have seen. I mean a Juno and NetZero offer, really? Be prepared to download PC Decrapifier after unboxing and setting it up. The system also comes with trial of Norton Internet Security and Microsoft Home Office 2007, as well as full non-trial versions of Cyberlink DVD Suite and Microsoft Works.
HP Total Care Advisor is also installed in the system and it sits on top of your desktop as a tool bar that lets you quickly do searches, as well as give you instant access to assess your computer’s health and security. The software has a slick interface which lets you keep tabs on your computer’s security status, Windows updates, battery life, backups, printer connections, warranty information, internet connection, and overall PC health. This is a great GUI for those to use, who aren’t very technically savvy but still need to be on top of these common and necessary maintenance tasks.
The dv2 also comes pre-installed with HP Mediasmart which is pretty neat multimedia software that lets you playback photos, make slideshows, upload photos to Snapfish, play and organize videos, upload videos to YouTube, and listen to music playlists, all within a slick and organized U.I. It also includes webcam software that lets you add special effects to your webcam photos.
On a related note, we also received Music Maker 14, a cool software app that we can best describe as the closest thing to Garage Band on the PC. It lets you create and mix tracks on the computer by providing you with effects and sounds.
The included 6 cell battery is supposed to provide up to 4 hours 45 minutes battery life. However, with normal use including surfing the internet with Wi-Fi turned on and the display at its brightness, the dv2 lasted for a little less than 3 hours.
The HP dv2 is the perfect laptop for the back to school season. Parents and students on a budget will appreciate its affordable price tag. Teens will love the dv2’s design and light weight form-factor, combined with its solid performance and multimedia capabilities. Kids will also be proud to carry this around to both coffee shops and classes, and it is sure to get a few compliments along the way. I know I have already received some compliments, as well as some inquiries about what model laptop it is that I’m using. When I tell strangers about the laptop, they are mostly surprised at the price. For those who are thinking about waiting for Windows 7 to buy a laptop, you’ll be reassured to know that if you buy the dv2 now, you’ll be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 7.
Unfortunately for the dv2, the “highend” netbook space with larger 12.1″-13.3″ displays is starting to get very crowded with similar systems from Acer, Asus, MSI and Dell coming to market. But to its credit, the HP dv2 already offers two advantages over the competition – 1. A dedicated video card and 2. A superior build quality, especially in comparison to lets say, the competing MSI X-Slim series. Ultimately, because of its superior build quality, the dv2 is more well suited for the riggers of student life.
The Good: Recently dropped in price, a litte more costly than a netbook- but much more value, excellent build quality, stylish design, great gaming performance for the money and form-factor, excellent display, better performance than your average netbook, lots of ports
The Bad: Mouse trackpad isn’t very responsive, trackpad buttons are difficult to push, keyboard has great tactile feedback but still feels somewhat cramped, lots of other new netbooks are coming out with 12.1 and even 13.3″ screens
UPDATE 07/24/09: Turns out that the external Blu-Ray drive is also a Lightscribe drive, nice!