The HP Pavilion dv7 is a multimedia laptop that combines sophisticated design with digital entertainment. It’s built to be a multi-use machine, and as such needs to be able to handle the same tasks as a desktop PC.
Handling and design
The HP Pavilion dv7-2160ef’s white housing is both restrained and elegant. Like other HP products, the plastics are glossy. While the screen bezel is black and acts as a mirror (like the display panel itself--see inset), the rest of the shell is white and hides the fingerprints that are inevitable with a gloss finish.
The finish detailing is fairly good, with a subtle decorative pattern over the surface of the machine. We weren’t very happy with the illuminated logo on the lid, however as it lacks discretion. It’s not the best thing to bring to a conference or to take to class if you want to blend into the background.
The keyboard is wide and fully equipped, complete with number pad. The keys are almost normal size. The feel is supple and comfortable. We would prefer a backlit keyboard, though, which would surely be more practical than the bright HP logo. Touch-sensitive buttons located above the speakers control the sound and other audio/video playback functions. As is often the case, the volume adjustment is not very precise.
The touchpad is not huge, but it’s big enough to let you work comfortably. It isn’t very pleasant to use, though, because of its totally smooth, glossy surface, which impedes dragging (unless your fingers are a little “greasy”). We also could have done without the mirror effect, though some owners may find it comes in handy. The click buttons are firm and well integrated.
The webcam is of acceptable quality. Colours were reasonably accurate. However, we found there was a lack of contrast and that the resolution was somewhat limited. Overexposed areas were burned.
The HP Pavilion dv7-2160ef is fairly noisy. You can tell that the machine has trouble evacuating the heat generated by the processor and graphics card. The fan accelerates with the demands made on the machine, and it eventually gets pretty loud. That’s a disappointment when you look at the size of this laptop, which clearly could have housed a better cooling system.
Connectivity is complete, with most of the ports located on the left and right edges. There are four USB 2.0 ports, including one that's an e-SATA combo, 1 IEEE 1394 FireWire, 1 HDMI, 1 VGA, 1 proprietary extension port, 1 5-in-1 memory-card reader, 1 RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet) connector, and an IR port. On the front are two headphone jacks and a microphone jack. Wi-Fi b/g/n is also included, along with a remote control that fits into the ExpressCard port.
Connectivity is overall about the same as on the smaller HP Pavilion dv6-1225ef; we expected a bit more. But what’s there is very good, with almost nothing missing.
|Backlit HP logo
||Touchpad and remote control
|VGA, HP Port, RJ45, HDMI
||USB/e-SATA, FireWire, card reader, ExpressCard
Vista Index: 5.2. Details: Processor 5.2 - RAM 5.9 - Graphics 5.9 - Game Graphics 5.6 - Main hard disk 5.9.
The processor in the HP Pavilion dv7-2160ef, an Intel Core 2 Duo P7550, scored an index of 81. An index of 100 corresponds to our reference computer, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650. It’s a good score, and in practical terms translates into fast execution – quite satisfactory for photo retouching and video editing. The processor’s results were close to those of a Core 2 Duo P8400, which is clocked at the same frequency (2.26 GHz).
Video decoding is handled by the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650 dedicated graphics card, with hardware acceleration. That makes it possible to play HD movies (like Blu-ray) with no problem. The processor can also take over the decoding tasks. But it’s better use the graphics card with a compatible software app (such as PowerDVD), which supports hardware decoding, and free up the CPU.
The Mobility Radeon HD 4650 from ATI is a good midrange model. The most recent games run with no problem. But you will have to limit details with the most resource-hungry ones. Crysis, for example (surely THE hungriest game title) can only run with the detail level set to medium if you want to play in native definition (which is preferable). Most other games play well at high detail levels. With Race Driver: GRID it was no problem.
The HP Pavilion dv7-2160ef’s sound output is fairly good. We might have expected better, though, from such a hefty machine. The HP HDX18, for instance, does better. The inclusion of two headphone jacks is a plus. It lets you listen to music or watch a film with a friend without disturbing those around you (while traveling, for example). The outputs are fairly clean and both have a quite adequate level.
Portability & Battery Life
The battery life came as a pleasant surprise. At 2 hours 45 minutes, this model has the best battery life in its category, ahead of the MSI GT725. The 8-cell battery clearly contributes to those results.
As for mobility, this is a heavy, bulky, desktop-replacement computer, with its 3.52 kg on the scales and 17'' display. It’s not the kind of machine you want to carry around all day.