Tuesday

HP Pavilion dv6t-7000 Quad Edition Review

HP Pavilion dv6t-7000 Quad Edition
The HP Pavilion dv6t Quad Edition was HP’s best selling laptop last year, so it’s no surprise that this model was the first to receive the Intel Ivy Bridge upgrade before the rest of the company’s laptop lineup.  The new HP dv6t Quad Edition for 2012, that we’ll refer to as the dv6tqe for short, is targeted at buyers that want a laptop with enough power to replace your bulky and immobile desktop PC yet still have a laptop that is of a reasonable enough size to move around or use in your lap.  The dv6tqe has a new design that should appeal to a wide audience, and also has some improved features and of course big performance advantages over last years model.



Design
HP has switched to a new design with the dv6t-7000 and dv7t-7000 series that they’re calling part of the Mosaic of product designs from HP.   While that’s all a bit of drivel to be quite honest, what it does mean in real terms is that HP has gone to a look that features precise lines and tapered profiles and in their flagship products are using premium materials such as aluminum and magnesium.
The dv6tqe is offered in just one color, midnight black.  Last year they offered a dark brown and silver design on this model, but as it turns out black is the most popular color option so HP just settled on that this year.  And that’s a good thing, the black design is classic and the subtle aluminum brush strokes are a nice touch.  The lid has a silver rim and features an illuminated HP logo, it’s a classy look from up above and it doesn’t pick up fingerprints too much.
Inside the look is again all black, the bezel around the screen has a glossy finish that picks up a lot of fingerprints.  The keyboard tray area has the same glossy finish, though the keys themselves are a matte finish.  The palm rest areas have the same brush metal finish you see on the lid.  The sides of the laptop where the ports are located have a silver color finish, the material used here is plastic, but it’s solid and durable feeling nonetheless.  At the top of the keyboard and below the screen are two mesh like speaker grilles.  I should mention that the speaker grille below the screen is just glued on, I had the unfortunate luck of peeling mine off a little when removing protective plastic layer after unboxing.  This is unfortunate, HP should have used a snap in technique to secure these speakers to the body.
The bottom of the dv6tqe is made of what seems to be a very rigid and durable plastic.  There’s a subwoofer located here.  You can easily remove the battery using a release button and accessing the hard drive, wireless card and memory is easily done with the removal of just one screw.
The overall look of the dv6t-7000 is great, it’s clean and appealing, the red Beats Audio logo branding at the top is subtle but actually looks cool against the black.
Display
HP offers two options for the 15.6” screen, the standard screen is a glossy 1366 x 768 while the premium upgrade is a 1920 x 1080 resolution matte finish screen.  The dv6tqe under review has the premium screen, it was a $150 upgrade at the time and in my opinion well worth it.  This screen is amazing, it has excellent viewing angles and accurate color reproduction.  That’s all on top of the amazing Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution that allows you to easily fit two windows on the screen at the same time or see several rows and columns of a spreadsheet.  The matte finish is also much appreciated as it reduces glare on the screen and prevents eye strain.
Below are a few pictures comparing viewing angles of the Flowers HD wallpaper we use for the sake of comparing screen color reproduction from one laptop to the next.
Keyboard and Touchpad
IMG_0505-001
The dv6t uses a chiclet style keyboard and has enough space to accommodate a number pad on the right side.  The keys have a fairly short travel distance, which is good for fast touch typists but if you’re a clumsy typist this could result in more key press mistakes.  The keyboard is firm, you really have to push down to find any flex.  My favorite aspect of the keyboard is most definitely the backlighting option.  It is $25 extra to get the keyboard backlight, but the cost is well worth it.   The look is cool and it’s all the more usable in a dimly lit room.
HP includes is a fingerprint reader as a standard feature, this is nice as an alternate form of login for Windows and can be used on any website that requires use of login, the software will store your login credentials after you login to a website for the first time and from then on a finger swipe can be used to login.
The top row Function keys (F1 – F12) act as dedicated media type buttons, for instance you can just push F10 to turn up the volume, you don’t have to hold Fn + F10.

The touchpad is a decent size and works well, it uses synaptics drivers and has all the scroll and multi-touch features you’d expect. Unfortunately the touchpad area is not backlit like the keyboard, this is odd since on last years dv6t model the touchpad did have illumination. The mouse buttons below the touchpad are a let down, while they work fine, they have very little travel distance and don’t give convincing feedback – the feel is pretty chintzy.

Performance
Of course one of the big reasons people are interested in buying the dv6t-7000 Quad Edition is due to the powerful Intel Core i7 Quad core processor that uses the new Ivy Bridge platform.  That, combined with the Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics card makes this a formidable gaming machine, and at a price of under $1,000 after coupons it’s also affordable.  Needless to say, for typical work tasks such as using the web or office applications this machine flies.  You really don’t need as much power as is under the hood here to do regular work.  If you’re into photography and do a lot of rendering or video processing, the Core i7-3610QM on board will shine and churn through that type of multimedia software too.  You can upgrade to even faster Core i7 offerings, but for most that’s really not going to be necessary.
We ran a few benchmarks to see how the dv6tqe stood up to laptops we’ve reviewed in the past.  You might say the comparison is unfair as there’s new technology on board, but it at least demonstrates the fact you’re getting a nice performance jump by buying the latest Intel and Nvidia hardware.
Ports
HP dv6tqe left side
As you would expect with a 15.6” screen notebook designed to be a multimedia / gaming machine you get a good selection of ports. On the left side you have a monitor out port, HDMI, Ethernet LAN (RJ-45), two USB 3.0 ports, headphone jack, and microphone jack:
On the right side, you get another USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port, the power jack and the optical drive which is Blu-Ray in this case:
Audio
Subwoofer
The dv6t-7000 has four speakers on top, two above the keyboard and two on the screen, and then a subwoofer underneath.  HP uses the Beats audio branding on this machine and touts its superior audio capabilities.  I tested the speakers out by playing “Fort Battle” from the soundtrack of Last of the Mohicans, it offers a lot of bass and treble to test speakers out.  The subwoofer did give some nice bass, better than you’d expect from a laptop.  However, the quad speakers did not live up to their billing.  There was a good amount of tininess and nothing like the audio quality you’d get from using headphones, which is what I recommend to do if you’re an audiophile.

Heat and Noise
temps
One important aspect of a laptop often overlooked is how well it manages heat and stays cool.  This is especially a concern in a laptop designed for performance as they tend to use a lot more power.  I’ve read varying experiences in online forums for this model with some complaining of unexpectedly hot surface areas and processor temperatures but I can’t say that’s been my experience.  Granted, if you do some intense 3D gaming for an hour or more the notebook will get warm and you really need to make sure it’s on a flat surface with proper ventilation.   Below is a picture of the dv6tqe with the temperature measured using an infrared heat laser in each area after running a game for 20 minutes (measured in Fahrenheit):
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  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3610QM
  • Screen: 15.6” Full HD (1920 x 1080 resolution) matte anti-glare finish
  • Graphics: Nvidia GT 650M with 1GB GDDR5 memory
  • Memory: 8GB DDR3 (2 DIMM)
  • Storage: 750GB 7200RPM HD
  • Battery: 6-cell Lithium Ion, quotes 6 hours of battery life
  • Backlit keyboard with number pad
  • Built-in WebCam
  • Weight: 5.5lbs
  • Ports: monitor out, HDMI, Ethernet LAN (RJ-45), three USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, headphone jack, microphone jack, media card reader
  • Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Optical Drive: Blu Ray player & SuperMulti DVD burner
  • Dimensions: 14.88” x 9.71” x 1.22” (Width x Depth x Height)


Battery Life
battery compartment
While battery life isn’t the most important aspect of a desktop replacement style laptop, it’s still nice to have a long lasting battery in case you need to be mobile and away from a power outlet.   You can choose between either a regular 6-cell or larger 9-cell battery.  HP quotes the 6-cell battery as offering 6-hours while the 9-cell should offer around 9 hours.   This review unit has the regular 6-cell.  I put it to the test by putting the Windows power setting to “Power Saver”, screen brightness on the 3rd notch, wireless on and had a web browser open that refreshed the page every 60 seconds.  Under this light usage scenario the dv6t-7000 was able to achieve 5.5 hours of battery life.  I consider that a pretty good number considering this is a large laptop and you probably won’t be trying to use it on a long flight, more than likely it’ll be desk bound.
Wrap-Up
With a recent deal via a coupon the HP dv6t-7000 Quad Edition price fell to $770, which is an insanely good price for such a high quality laptop that has so much power. This notebook is solidly built with an aluminum chassis and rigid feel all over. The new Intel Ivy Bridge processor combined with Nvidia GT 650M graphics makes this a capable gaming laptop, but if you have no interest in gaming then it can double as a powerful workstation for demanding applications. The Full HD 1920 x 1080 screen is a dream, it has excellent viewing angles, color reproduction and anti-glare finish. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies though, disappointments included the glued on speaker grill, cheap feeling mouse buttons, annoying glossy screen bezel and there was a lot of bloatware that needed to be removed. No laptop is perfect, and these are small complaints for an otherwise excellent machine. If you’re looking for a powerful laptop with a bit of mobility and don’t want to break the bank, look no further than the 2012 edition of the dv6t Quad Edition.