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HP Pavilion dv2 Review by chipchick.com December 16, 2009

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HP Pavilion dv2 Review

By Chip Chick
July 15, 2009 at 7:33 am

hp pavilion dv3 moonlight thumb 500x228 86793 300x137 HP Pavilion dv2 ReviewI’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.

Battery Life:
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!


HP Pavilion dv2 (1030-us) Review by pcmag.com December 12, 2009

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The HP Pavilion dv2 (1030-us) is as close to a netbook as you’ll see with an AMD processor. Though it was made clear that the semiconductor company had no interest in competing in the netbook category, this 12-inch beauty says otherwise. The dv2, which bears a strong resemblance to the Dell Inspiron Mini 12, is the first laptop to use AMD’s new Athlon Neo processor, and at $749.99 (direct), it costs about $100 more than the HP Mini 2140 netbook. I think HP and AMD have the right idea here, as there aren’t enough 12-inch form factors that are able to hit this price. The only catch is that you’ll have to put up with fan noises and occasional heat from its underside. In terms of form factor, the dv2 as more like a netbook. The things that set it apart from that category are the new AMD Neo processor, 4GB of memory, a discrete graphics card, and a 12-inch screen, not to mention its steeper price. In that way, it straddles the line between netbooks and ultraportables.

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Take away the brand logos and you’ll see the striking design similarities between the dv2 and the Dell Mini 12. They have roughly the same dimensions: the dv2 measures 11.5 by 9.5 by-0.9 inches, and the Mini 12 is slightly thinner at 11.8 by 9-by 0.8 inches. Both have a glossy-black top that collects smudges and fingerprint marks. On closer inspection, it becomes apparent that HP paid more attention to subtle design details on the dv2, such as the chrome trimmings along the edges, the embedded patterns on the palm rest, and the chrome mouse buttons and touchpad. The Mini 12, as with most inexpensive netbooks, is more basic.

At 2.7 pounds, the Dell Mini 12 is more than a pound lighter, but the dv2’s 3.8-pound frame is fit for travel. Granted, the dv2 weighed in with a bigger 55-Wh battery (its only battery option) than the 12’s 24-Wh one. A 12-inch widescreen is a rare sight on a budget laptop, which is what makes the dv2 so appealing at this price. The 1,280-by-800 resolution is much more pleasant to work with than the 1,024-by-600 one that is typically employed for a netbook. It allows high-end applications like Adobe Photoshop CS4 to install (Adobe Photoshop CS2, CS3, and CS4 require a minimum 1,024-by-768 resolution screen), and makes multi-tabbed Web surfing more tolerable than on a 10-inch netbook screen.

A full-size keyboard would have improved the dv2’s standing against other 12-inch ultraportables. Alas, it has a 92 percent keyboard, the same size as that of the Mini 12. The keys are very similar in design and in size to those found on the HP Mini 1000 and the Mini 2140. Unless you have stubby fingers, though, the typing experience is still exceptional for an ultraportable. If a full-size keyboard is a must for you, you’ll get the best typing experiences from more-expensive ultraportable systems like the Toshiba Portégé R600-S4202 and the HP Elitebook 2530p. Because of the dv2’s roomier dimensions, a pair of responsive mouse buttons is located beneath the touchpad rather than flanking the sides of it, as they do on the Mini 1000 and 2140. In case users find that the touchpad interferes with their touch typing, there is even a button above the touchpad that disables it.

For the most part, the dv2 hits the right notes in terms of features. An HDMI port makes it stand out from a netbook, and the built-in speakers pack more oomph than those on the Mini 12. Otherwise, it possesses many of the features that are commonly found on a netbook, including three USB ports, a 5-in-1 card reader (SD, MMC, xD, MS, MS Pro), an Ethernet port, VGA, and built-in Wi-Fi. Like all Pavilion laptops, it comes with a one-year warranty for parts and labor. Omitting an internal optical drive was necessary to maintain its slim silhouette, although an external dual-layer DVD burner comes standard with your purchase. And, no, you cannot opt out of it, but you can upgrade to an external Blu-ray drive, which will ship separately.

The dv2 is the first out of the gate with AMD’s new Athlon Neo—a low-powered processor that’s greater in physical size and slightly more powerful than the netbook-class Intel Atom. Running Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit is another thing that differentiates this system from a netbook, given that the OS on most netbooks is Windows XP Home Edition. As a result, the dv2 doesn’t suffer the same memory limitations imposed by Microsoft (with XP Home Edition, manufacturers are restricted from putting in more than 1GB of memory). The dv2 comes with 4GB of DDR2 memory. And whereas other netbooks run on Intel’s integrated graphics, the dv2 is capable of running 3D-intensive applications. Its ATI Mobility Radeon 3410 discrete graphics card, which comes with 512MB of video memory, can handle moderate 3D gaming (a Spore trial edition comes with the system). The card helps prevent lag and smooths out the decoding process while you’re watching high-definition content on, say, Blu-ray discs.

HP Pavilion dv2 (1030-us)

So how did the Neo processor fare against the Atom in actual testing? Thanks to the Neo, the dv2 showed its muscle in video-encoding tests, outperforming the Atom-powered ASUS EeePC 1000HE by 20 seconds and the Mini 12 by 1 minute 18 seconds. It was the only one of the group that completed Photoshop CS4 tests, finishing in 1:49 (the Dell 12 did not complete the test, and the 1000HE’s resolution was too low to even run the test. (Like Atom, the Neo is a single-core processor, so it couldn’t complete a dual-core test like CineBench R10.)

In terms of raw horsepower, the Neo clearly has an advantage over Atom. Against an ultra-low-voltage Intel Core 2 Duo, however, it fell way behind. The Core 2 Duo–equipped Toshiba R600-S4202 was at least twice as fast as the dv2 in video encoding and Photoshop CS4 tests. More important, the Toshiba ran cooler than the dv2.

The combination of the dv2’s processor and a discrete graphics card did result in heat and fan-noise issues. I noticed when I had the dv2 propped on my lap that the underside was extremely warm, and traces of heat were detected on the palm rests. I took readings with a Fluke infrared thermometer and found that temperatures got as high as 112 degrees Fahrenheit at the base. The palm rests measured 95 to 97 degrees while Photoshop CS4 was installing, and the fans could be heard the whole time, working constantly to cool the laptop (even when it was idle). The Mini 12 ran much cooler and quieter, as did most netbooks that use the Intel Atom platform.

A warm system can have an adverse affect on battery life. The dv2’s 55-Wh battery was less than stellar, scoring 3 hours 41 minutes on MobileMark 2007 tests. The ASUS 1000HE and the Samsung NC10-14GB have similar-size batteries that scored around 6 hours or more.

The HP Pavilion dv2 (1030-us) has some interesting advantages over its netbook counterparts. A big screen and a nice resolution make a huge difference in usability. Though overall performance didn’t blow me away, the dv2 wielded better graphics performance than a laptop with an Intel integrated chipset, and completed certain tasks faster, albeit at the expense of having a cool-running system. The dv2 will face some stiff competition when the Samsung NC20 and the MSI X320—cheap VIA- and Atom-based netbooks with big screens—begin their march in the U.S. (both reviews to come shortly). Until then, the dv2 and the Dell Mini 12 are the least expensive systems in the 12-inch space. If you’re looking for a little more performance, like watching a Blu-ray video or encoding files, a dv2 is a good pick. For general-purpose tasks, you’d be better off with the Mini 12.

Check out the HP Pavilion dv2’s (1030-us) performance test results.