It's always showtime with the HP Pavilion dv6t. Powered by a second-generation Intel Core i5 CPU with 6GB of RAM, a 640GB 7,200-rpm hard drive, and switchable AMD graphics, this 15.6-inch laptop can seamlessly stream HD video, play your favorite games and music, and look good doing it. A bright glossy display and the addition of Beats Audio make for a great entertainment experience.
Drawing its inspiration from modern-day sports cars, the dark umber HP Pavilion dv6t has an understated elegance. The brushed-aluminum lid really draws you in, especially the nice little swoop towards the hinge. The sides of the laptop are wrapped in gray matte aluminum, while the base is made of black plastic. Our only complaint is that the dv6t picks up fingerprints.
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The deck of the Pavilion dv6t has the same rich dark umber finish as the lid, set off by a thin silver speaker panel located above the keyboard, which is nestled between the aluminum hinges. The silver power button and black web browser button sit below the speakers on the left side of the deck. The front lip of the laptop also houses two additional speakers for added audio quality.
At 14.8 x 9.7 x 1.2-1.3 inches, the Pavilion dv6t is slightly smaller and slimmer than the 15.2 x 10.2 x 1.4-inch ASUS K53E, making it easier to slip into a backpack. However both machines weigh in at 5.8 pounds, which means you'll likely use this notebook mostly at home.
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Keyboard and Touchpad
The Pavilion dv6t's black matte island-style keyboard sits in a glossy black keyboard panel that shows off the generous spacing between the keys. We experienced firm feedback from the large, flat keys without any flex. The palm rest was comfortable and large enough so that we were able to rest our entire wrists on it. Taking cues from its consumers, HP has set the function keys as Direct Action keys, so you don't have to press the Fn key to adjust screen brightness or volume, for example.
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The 3.7 x 2.1-inch touchpad gave us plenty of room to move our fingers, and we liked how it's bordered by a bluish-white backlight. Multitouch gestures such as two-finger scrolling and pinch-to-zoom were easy to use on the smooth, friction-free surface. Two-finger rotation, three-finger press, and flick are also available, but they must be enabled in the Control Panel.
The Pavilion dv6t features a fingerprint reader, a feature normally reserved for business notebooks; this gives users the ability to swipe a finger in lieu of keying in their passwords. After being prompted to swipe our fingers several times, we were able to access our Facebook account with a single swipe of a finger. We then did the same for our e-mail, Twitter, and Flickr accounts. HP SimplePass can also generate one-time passwords for financial sites such as PayPal. Users can even use the reader to register multiple users, each gaining access using a finger swipe.
After we streamed 15 minutes of video from Hulu at full screen, the dv6t's touchpad measured a chilly 84 degrees Fahrenheit. The space between the G and H keys was a little warmer, at 92 degrees. The underside of the laptop registered 99 degrees, which is above what we consider uncomfortable (95 degrees), but is typical for a notebook bottom. The hottest point of the dv6t, on the bottom by the vent, registered a somewhat troubling 107 degrees.
While the initial temperatures were a mixed bag, HP's CoolSense utility helped cool things off a bit. Using the laptop's accelerometer, CoolSense detects the subtle movement of a notebook on a user's lap and turns on the fan to maintain a comfortable temperature via three settings (Coolest, Performance Optimized, and Quietest). The dv6t kept things nice and cool on the Coolest setting with noticeable--but not distracting--fan noise.
Display and AudioClick to enlarge
Watching video on the dv6t's glossy, 15.6-inch HP BrightView LED Display was a blast. The 1366 x 768 panel is bright with vivid color. Optimus Prime's red and blue chassis gleamed and explosions were fiery during the Transformers: Dark of the Moon trailer. Brilliant white and yellow sparks flew during fight scenes and blacks were deep and rich with minimal pixelation. The dv6's wide 120-degree viewing angles meant that three people sitting side by side could comfortably watch the action.
Featuring four speakers and Beats Audio software (pictured), the dv6t offers impressive music playback. Whether it was a bass-heavy track such as "Bad Intentions" by Dr. Dre or something more ethereal such as Evanescence's "My Immortal," the sound was crystal clear and full, easily filling a small room. However, Dell XPS 15's much larger JBL speakers produced even better audio.
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Using headphones with the dv6t, we were able to hear even the minutest details, including distinct background vocals in songs we had heard many times before without noticing them. Videos on CNN.com initially sounded flat, but audio improved when we switched the sound settings from Music to Voice in the Beats Audio control panel. Switching to Movie mode as we watched "28 Days Later" gave us that extra jump-out-of-your-seat scare factor.
Ports and Webcam
The right side of the Pavilion dv6t houses two USB 2.0 ports, a DVD drive, a Kensington secure lock, and a power jack. An SD/MMC card reader is located on the front of the laptop while the right side features two USB 3.0 ports (denoted by a subtle SS icon), an HDMI port, VGA, two headphone jacks, a microphone jack and a gigabit Ethernet jack. We'd prefer that the USB 3.0 ports were more clearly marked by making the port connectors themselves blue.
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The HP TrueVision webcam (capable of recording video up to 1280 x 800) provided mediocre results. When we conducted calls on Skype in an office setting under fluorescent lights, video was grainy and dark, but our call partner at least reported clear sound with little to no background noise.
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Powered by a second-generation 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-2410M CPU with 6GB of RAM and a 640GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive, the dv6t is a solid multimedia machine. The laptop posted a 6,673 on the PC Mark Vantage test, besting both the 5,550 category average and the ASUS K53E's score of 5,729. The Dell XPS 15 we reviewed recently notched a much higher 8,548, but that more expensive system is configured with a quad-core Core i7 processor.
In everyday use, the Pavilion dv6t handled multitasking with ease, streaming video from Hulu while performing a full system scan, running 12 tabs in Google Chrome, eight tabs in Internet Explorer, and a game of Plants vs. Zombies.
Despite its 7,200-rpm speed, the dv6t's hard drive booted Windows 7 Premium in a sluggish 72 seconds, 7 seconds slower than the mainstream average. The K53E performed slightly better, clocking in at 70 seconds. The dv6t redeemed itself on the LAPTOP file transfer test (duplicating a 4.97GB folder of mixed media files), taking just 2 minutes 49 seconds for a transfer rate of 30.1 MBps. That beats the 3:17 (26.8 MBps) mainstream notebook category average and the K53E's time of 2:53 (29.4 MBps).
Using Oxelon Media Encoder, the dv6t converted a 114MB MPEG4 video file into AVI format in a speedy 50 seconds, 20 seconds faster than the category average (1:10). However the K53E proved to be the faster of the two, clocking in at 46 seconds.
Graphics and Gaming Performance
The dv6t has switchable graphics, featuring both an integrated Intel HD 3000 Graphics chip and a discrete AMD Radeon HD 6490M Graphics chip with 1GB of dedicated memory. While not as useful as Nvidia's Optimus technology, which automatically switches between GPUs based on individual applications, the dv6t can toggle between the cards as a power-saving measure, asking users if they'd like to switch to the AMD card when the dv6t isn't plugged in. Also unlike notebooks with Nvidia Optimus, the screen blinks a few times during the transition.
The added muscle of the AMD GPU helped the dv6t score an impressive 5,826 on the 3DMark06 test, 1,868 points higher than the mainstream notebook category average. The dv6t also bested the ASUS K53E and its Intel GMA HD graphic card's score of 4,260. The proof, however, is in the gaming. As we played World of Warcraft, we achieved a solid frame rate of 54 fps at 1366 x 768, which was better than the K53E's 40 fps, but failed to beat the mainstream category average of 68 fps. As expected, the frame rate dropped considerably when we cranked special effects to the max. Here the dv6t tied the category average of 26 fps.
When we played the more demanding Far Cry 2, the dv6t performed well. With a resolution at 1024 x 768, we got an impressive 68 fps; that's 30 points higher than the mainstream average (38.3 fps). However, at native resolution and with effects on Very High, that number dropped to a sluggish and barely playable 23 fps.
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On the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi), the dv6t lasted 5 hours and 2 minutes. That beats the category average by about 30 minutes, but is about 40 minutes shorter than the ASUS K53E, which lasted 5:43.
Our $769 review unit came equipped with a second-generation 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-2410M CPU, 6GB of RAM, a 640GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive, switchable graphics (an Intel HD 3000 Graphics card and Radeon HD 6490M Graphics chip) with 1GB of VRAM, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. The $599 base model configuration of the Pavilion dv6t includes a 2.1-GHz Core i3-2310M processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive, an Intel HD 3000 Graphics card, and Windows Home Premium 7 (64-bit).
Consumers can choose three other processor options (2.5-GHz Intel Core i5-2520M for $50, 2.6-GHz Core i5-2540M for $100, and 2.7-GHz Core i7-2620M for $200). Graphics options include an AMD Radeon 6770M GPU with 1GB of video memory for $125; increasing the memory to 2GB costs $175.
Software and Warranty
HP covers all the bases with its large offering of pre-installed software. For security and data recovery, there's the HP Recovery Manager, HP SimplePass for password management, and a 60-day free trial of Norton Internet Security. Consumers can also purchase a LoJack Theft Recovery subscription starting at $39 for one year. HP also gives users 2GB of free storage via HP CloudDrive. Users can purchase additional storage starting 10GB for $3 a month.
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The dv6t comes with a modest set of entertainment software using a mix of HP exclusives and third-party offerings. HP Games offers anumber of popular casual games including Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies. Blio will appeal to avid readers with its wide selection of free books. We downloaded Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes and Max Brooks' The Zombie Survival Guide in 10 seconds and could quickly read through our books using the arrow-based page navigation.
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The HP Movie Store (powered by Roxio Now) features a large library of movies available for rent or purchase. Movie rentals start at $3 while purchases cost $10, and you can read movie synopses and credits as well as view trailers before buying. Roxio users can also watch their personal videos in the movie store upon logging in.
Additional software includes HP Download Store, Microsoft Office Starter, Rhapsody, and Windows Live.
The dv6t comes with one year of limited hardware support and 30 days of free limited software support. See how HP fared on the LAPTOP Tech Support Showdown and our Best & Worst Brands roundup.
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Consumers looking for a stylish and affordable multimedia laptop with strong performance, convenient fingerprint security, and impressive sound should snatch up the $769 HP Pavilion dv6t. The second-generation Intel Core i5-2410M CPU provides more than enough power to stream HD movies while uploading images or editing video, while the inclusion of switchable graphics gives the dv6t enough oomph for playing the latest games. For $30 more, the Dell XPS 15 offers better sound and Nvidia GeForce GT525M graphics. However, we give the edge to the Pavilion dv6t because of its sleeker design. It's a great all-around entertainment notebook at a price that's right.