Saturday, 28 July 2012

HP Pavilion dv7t-7000 Quad Edition Review


 
The Pavilion dv7t-7000 is HP’s latest 17.3 inch laptop release, it comes equipped with a beefy quad-core Intel Ivy Bridge processer and the latest Nvidia Kepler graphics.  While being very similar to the smaller dv6t-7000 15.6” version of the Pavilion series, the dv7t-7000 differentiates itself with support for dual hard drives and a standard 900p display instead of 768p.  Unlike most laptops, this one also comes with Beats branded speakers and a subwoofer. Starting at $899.99 on HP’s website, the Pavilion dv7t-700 can be configured with up to an Intel i7-3820QM 2.7GHz processor, Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage space thanks to the dual hard drive bays.

Design
Coming in at just under 7lbs, this Pavilion dv7t-7000 is fairly lightweight for a 17.3” laptop, but is still somewhat bulky and large compared to the standard 15.6” form factor, such as its smaller dv6t sibling. While the lid has a subtle, brushed metal skin, most of the dv7t-7000 is constructed out of plastic that is made to mimic the brushed look of the lid. The palm rest area is made from the same metal skin as the lid, while the keyboard back plate and the screen bezel are composed of glossy plastic, as well as the display hinges. For a consumer-class notebook, the dv7t offers few flex points thanks to the aluminum chassis underneath the surface, the only two found were on the keyboard (though only if extra force is applied, not regular typing force) and at the corners of the display, which can flex by a few millimeters with enough twisting force.
Under the laptop, there’s one large panel that covers the dual hard drive bays and the two memory slots, allowing easy access to common upgradeable parts for the end user. Also located in this area is the PCIe slot, where the wireless card is installed. Topside is also just as simple, with just the keyboard and touchpad, power button, and a fingerprint reader.
Branding is an important part to marketing this laptop, so HP includes a “HP Premier Experience” sticker, Beats logo, and the glowing HP logo on the lid as well as the standard Windows, Intel, and nVidia stickers.

Stickers
Display
This dv7t-7000 came with the standard 1600 by 900 pixel TN panel, a common resolution on 17.3” laptops that has the same pixel density as a 15.6” display with a resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. As far as display quality goes, this is pretty much run a run of the mill glossy type display with average colors, contrast, and black levels. The upgrade option, which I’d recommend, is the 1920 x 1080 pixel Full HD matte display. Tilting the display back to its maximum angle will only slightly darken images on the screen, though tilting it even slightly towards the user will whitewash colors severely (though whites on screen will shift to black). Viewing from the sides isn’t as bad however; images and text on the display will retain their correct colors and are still readable (the text, that is) even at around eighty degrees (zero degrees will be directly facing the display).
dv7t-7000 1600 x 900 screendv7t-7000 1600 x 900 screen
dv7t-7000 1600 x 900 screendv7t-7000 1600 x 900 screen

Software
HP has included several pieces of pre-installed freeware and trialware on their Pavilion systems. Like any Windows 7 laptop out there, the dv7t-7000 comes with Microsoft Office 2010 Starter and a trial of Norton Internet Security (complete with annoying popups to get a user to buy the software). On top of that, HP included a myriad of HP-branded software, including the HP Marketplace (a software store where a user can buy Office, Norton, etc.), HP Support Assistant (updates, troubleshooting, laptop specs, and the ability to contact HP support), HP Moviestore, and Play HP Games (like Steam, but mostly for casual games). I was surprised to find Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 offered on Play HP Games, so either they’re expanding their offerings to higher-quality games or I’m getting too old and my childhood favorites are becoming the new casual. HP’s Launch Box Editor is basically an additional taskbar filled with links to other software; out of the box, it’s configured to display HP Setup Manager, HP Security Assistant, Blio, Skype, CyberLink YouCam and CyberLink PowerDVD. In addition to that, it also launches a toolbar for shortcuts to four programs from Windows Live Essentials at boot. Perhaps the only HP software worth keeping is the SimplePass application, which manages the fingerprint hardware built into the palm rest of the laptop, allowing a user to log into Windows using a fingerprint over a less-secure password.
In addition to that, HP also includes a few more applications out of the box. Rara Music is a streaming service that aims to rival Spotify and Last.fm, sporting over ten million tracks to choose from. Zya Music, on the other hand, is an application that is supposed to allow the user to “easily make studio-quality music and even use famous hooks to reimagine hit songs” (taken from zyamusic.com); yes, auto-tune is prevalent. There’s also a shortcut to eBay on the desktop. Blio, mentioned previously, is an eReader application that rivals the Kindle and Nook stores. I’m sure that you readers are familiar with Skype and what it’s used for. YouCam is camera software that uses the built-in webcam to record the user as well as to upload recording to Youtube, Facebook, and other websites. OnLive gives the user the ability to play games streamed from a server instead of having to install them locally; it’s definitely a neat service, especially for those with computers lacking gaming-grade hardware, though with the dv7t-7000 gaming is just as good locally as it is with OnLive (well, depending on how fast a user’s internet connection is). Evernote is a simple, easy-to-use note-taking application that lets a user sync their notes from their computer to other computers, tablets, smartphones, practically anything.
Keyboard and Touchpad
HP Pavilion dv7t-7000 Quad Edition keyboard
While the keyboard back plate may be glossy, the keys themselves are matte. Like most other companies, HP is going with the island-style keyboard with their line of laptops, and the dv7t is no exception. These flat keys are decently sized, coming in at 17.5mm by 19mm for the alphanumeric keys. For those who work with numbers often, the dv7t’s number pad is a welcome addition that is lacking on a number of 15.6” laptops. Key travel is somewhat shallow, but the overall typing experience is good. The review unit also came with a backlight for the keyboard, so typing in the dark is no issue either; the keys are neither too bright to blind us, nor to dim to not be able to read the lettering on the keys. The only possible problem with the keyboard is that, due to the number pad, the alphanumeric keys are shifted towards the left side of the laptop and not centered to the display, which may be awkward for some people who are used to laptops without number pads.
Sporting a large (4.125” by 2.125”) touch surface, the touchpad on the Pavilion dv7t is following the trend of giving the end user a generous amount of surface area to manipulate the cursor on screen. While the whole surface is not clickable, the cursor movement is accurate and the smooth surface is comfortable to use. It’s a complete 180 from the older HP touchpads from yesteryear which used some sort of silvery, sometimes sticky surface instead. Anyway, this touchpad comes with several gesture features, such as two-finger scrolling and zooming in and out with two fingers (pinch out and pinch in, respectively). A nice feature of the touchpad is that it’s recessed into the palm rest, so when using the laptop in the dark, a user can feel when they’re about to slide their finger onto the touchpad.
The Pavilion dv7t-7000 Specs:
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3610QM
  • Graphics: nVidia GeForce GT 650M with GDDR5 memory
  • Memory: 8GB RAM
  • Display: 17.3” 1600 x 900 resolution, glossy finish
  • OS: Windows 7 Home Premium
  • Storage: 1TB 7200RPM HD
  • Battery: 6-cell Li-Ion, 62Whr
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Ports: Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, USB 2.0, Three USB 3.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks, SDHC media card reader
  • Optical Drive: Blu-Ray player / DVD burner
  • Dimensions: 16.38” x 10.79” x 1.28” (W x D x H)
  • Weight: 6.94lbs
Audio
Beats Audio SubwooferThough not as respected by audiophiles as other brands such as Shenheiser or Audio Technica, the Beats-branded speakers increasingly found in HP’s lineup of laptops are better than your typical laptop speakers. Inside the laptop, there are two speakers and a subwoofer, with sound coming from the two sound bars near the hinges — one is just above the keyboard, the other is below the display. These are controlled by both Intel’s Display Audio drivers and IDT’s High Definition Audio Codec (displayed as a driver); so it seems that the only thing that makes these “Beats” speakers is the addition of a subwoofer.
Unlike Beats branded headphones (which are more like some sort of misguided fashion symbol than quality headsets), the speakers found in this laptop have a very noticeable improvement over other laptops with non-branded sound systems. Of course, the subwoofer delivers a deep tone to anything played by the user, but the speakers themselves also deliver clear, loud sound. And I mean loud; at full volume, this laptop can drown out or even mute my TV, fifteen feet away. Just from ear, having this laptop set to 50% volume sounds roughly the same as non-branded laptop speakers at 100% volume. Guitars and vocals pop out and sound full-bodied (tested with “Blurry” by Puddle of Mudd) and bass-heavy music will vibrate your lap and mid-tones will nearly deafen you at full volume (“Kung Fu King” by Chrispy). College students wanting to listen to music while studying late at night should invest in a pair of decent headphones, because this has a real problem of waking up your roommate.
Ports
The number of ports on the Pavilion dv7t-7000 certainly isn’t lacking. It features all the commonly-used ports, though none of the more specialized ports such as eSATA.   Fast transfers can be done fairly easily with the USB 3.0 ports anyway. On the left side, where most of the ports are located, we have two of the aforementioned USB 3.0 ports, the headphone and microphone jacks, HDMI, and VGA. One port, the Ethernet port, is covered by a piece of plastic that is a little tricky to remove; for people with short fingernails it is annoying to get out, but once open it’ll swing down to expose the wired internet port. Why HP decided to cover up this important port is beyond me.
HP Pavilion dv7t-7000 left side ports
On the right, we have the indicator lights (power, HDD activity, and charging light), a USB 2.0 port, USB 3.0 port, the Blu-Ray drive, and the power connector.
HP Pavilion dv7t-7000 right side
There’s a lonely SDHC card reader on the front; no lights or other ports accompany it.
dv7t-7000 front side
And finally, the back side contains absolutely nothing. The bottom of the display bezel covers up the entire edge anyway, so any ports located over here would be unusable.
HP dv7t-7000 back side
Heat and Noise
One issue with HP laptops from the past was that the cooling system wasn’t exactly great at keeping the laptop cool. However, HP has improved their design it seems. At idle, the CPU hovers at around 50 degrees C (122 degrees F), which is a little high for an idle CPU but this is Intel’s fault with Ivy Bridge, and 34 degrees C (93 degrees F) for the GT 650M. While running benchmarks (in this case, 3DMark 11), the quad-core i7 will hit up to 64 degrees C (147 degrees F) and the GPU will be practically the same as idle, hitting only 33 degrees C.
temps idle
Temps on idle
temps (3dmark11)
Temps after running 3DMark 11
Most of the time, noise is no issue whatsoever. In a quiet room, a user will probably hear the low hum of the fan while typing away on the keyboard, though any laptop made with a fan will have this quiet background noise. The keys have a pleasant, subdued clicky noise to them when the user presses down on them, and the laptop body itself makes no noises while being handled. However, there are times where the stock hard drive can be heard clearly when it’s trying to access data (I notice this mostly when I resume from sleep or hibernation); you can sometimes hear it accessing data and while it’s not a “Click of Death” type of clicking, it does sound very busy at times. A majority of the time though, the hard drive is silent.
Performance
With a PCMark 7 score of 2660, the HP Pavilion dv7t-7000 edges out in front of the previous-generation IdeaPad Y570 (which had an i7-2670QM and nVidia GT 555M) and is on par with the Envy 17-3000 (i7-2670QM and AMD 7690M).
pcmark 7
LaptopPCMark 7 Score
HP dv7t-7000 Quad Edition, Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GT650M, 5400RPM HD2,660 PCMarks
HP dv6t-7000 Quad Edition, Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GT650M, 7200RPM HD2,877 PCMarks
HP Envy 17-3000, Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD2,703 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y570 – Intel Core i7-2670QM, Nvidia 555M 1GB, 8GB RAM,5400RPM HD2,573 PCMarks
Dell XPS 17 (Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, Nvidia 550m, 6GB RAM, HD 7200RPM)1,995 PCMarks
Sony VAIO SA (Intel Core i5-2430M 2.50GHz, AMD Radeon 6630M, 4GB RAM)2,002 PCMarks
In 3DMark Vantage, the review laptop scored a very respectable P10,437, with the GPU score coming in at 8920 and the CPU score at 21,319.
3DMark Vantage Score
Laptop3DMark Vantage
HP dv7t-7000 Quad Edition, Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GT650M, 5400RPM HD10,437
HP dv6t-7000 Quad Edition, Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GT650M, 7200RPM HD10,108
Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD)5,587
HP Envy 17-3000, Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD6,970
Dell XPS 17 (Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, Nvidia 550m, 6GB RAM, HD 7200RPM)4,747
HP Pavilion dv6t Select Edition – Intel Core i5-2410m, Intel HD 3000 Graphics, 6GB RAM1,845

The similar but more recent 3DMark 11 graphics benchmark was also run to see what kind of score the dv7t Quad Edition achieved related to other laptops:
image

Laptop3DMark 11
HP dv7t-7000 Quad Edition, Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GT650M, 5400RPM HD2,171
Lenovo ThinkPad W530 – Intel Core i7-3520M 2.90GHz , Nvidia K1000M, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD1,213
HP dv6t-7000 Quad Edition, Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GT650M, 7200RPM HD2,365
Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD)1,333
Lenovo IdeaPad Y470p (Intel Core i5-2450m, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 5400RPM HD)1,339
Dell XPS 17 (Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, Nvidia 550m, 6GB RAM, HD 7200RPM)1,041
With the 5400RPM stock hard drive, the HP Pavilion dv7t-7000 cold boots to the desktop in just over half a minute. This isn’t a clean install of Windows, nor any sort of software tinkering from my end; all the freeware/trialware is still installed and the HP Launch Box is still launching from start.
Battery Life
Using nVidia’s Optimus, dimming the screen to half brightness, and using Power Saver mode, the 6-cell battery in the HP Pavilion dv7t-7000 is able to run for six hours and seventeen minutes while browsing the internet and using Office applications. Unfortunately, there’s no way to manually switch which GPU is used in the BIOS, so a user can’t force the laptop to use just the Intel HD 4000 or just the nVidia GT 650M. nVidia’s Control Panel gives the option of setting preferences for either the whole system or certain programs, though it would be nice to be able to solely use the integrated GPU for when users want to squeeze an extra half hour or so from the battery. Even still, a little over six hours is great for a huge, 17.3” laptop.

Conclusion
First impressions can be everything, though sometimes these pre-conceived notions can be thrown out the door when companies try hard enough. Before this review unit showed up, my previous experience with HP was with their 2007-2009 Pavilion laptops with the infamous quality control issues, let alone nVidia’s blunder with GPUs of that era. Those laptops weren’t well-built, they would overheat like crazy, and the overall experience was negative. Data input using the keyboard and sticky trackpad wasn’t pleasant either.
However, the Pavilion dv7t-7000 is exactly the opposite from its past models. The internal metal frame makes the body of the laptop feel stiff and unlikely to break anytime soon, or ever with good care. The display hinges are relatively firm; if the user shakes the laptop then it’ll move, but under normal use everything stays in place. The keyboard feels good to type on despite the flat keys, and they are relatively quiet to boot, whereas the trackpad is smooth, slick, and responsive. I’m very impressed with the audio quality above all else, there aren’t many laptops on the market with a dedicated subwoofer for those deeper sounds and voices to really shine. And of course, with the latest processing and graphics technology the Pavilion dv7t-7000 is certainly no slouch. It’s not really a portable system per se, but this laptop will make for an excellent home laptop as a desktop replacement. The only negative that would be noticed is the 900p display, which is similar to a 768p 15.6” display; I’d highly recommend upgrading to the 1080p display for this machine, especially if you want to enjoy Blu-Ray movies to their fullest.