As one of the inaugural notebooks of Best Buy’s Blue Label program, HP’s Pavilion dv3510nr ($1,099) offers features that the big-box retailers’ customers have been asking for, including a thinner and lighter design (this is HP’s first consumer 13-inch notebook) and a backlit keyboard. This system also sports a fast Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of RAM, discrete Nvidia graphics, and a stylish design. HP even throws in a remote control for music and video playback. Some buyers may be turned off by its below-average battery life, but overall the dv3510nr is one of the most attractively designed and best performing notebooks for the price.
The dv3510nr is one of the more stylish 13-inch notebooks we’ve seen. Like the Pavilion dv7 and dv5t, this system features an HP logo that lights up on the lid and chrome accents around the sides of the chassis. However, the pattern on the deck and lid is HP’s Intersect Imprint finish, which looks like cool intersecting diamonds done up in bronze. At 12.6 x 9.0 x 1.4 inches and 4.8 pounds, it fits snugly into a messenger bag, and isn’t too heavy to carry around.
Keyboard and Touch Controls
The dv3510nr has a very firm and responsive keyboard. We appreciate the protective coating on the full-size layout, but it felt a little slick. Pressing Fn+Space Bar activates the backlight on the keyboard. We could easily see the keyboard in a darkened room, and the layout was evenly lit, with the letters giving off a subtle glow. Too bad the backlight doesn’t turn on automatically, like on the Apple MacBook.
The silver touchpad worked fine but provided more resistance than we’re accustomed to, which means you have to use a little more effort to move the cursor around. The silver mouse buttons had just the right amount of resistance and were fairly quiet.
Above the keyboard are backlit multimedia touch controls. Unlike the keyboard, these responsive buttons are permanently backlit. Pressing the MediaSmart button brings up an application panel that lets you choose between DVD playback, music, photos, TV (if you spring for an external TV tuner), and videos.
The volume controls work well, and we like that the dv3510nr provides audible feedback when you raise or lower the volume. Just keep in mind that stabbing at the plus and minus buttons won’t work; you need to glide your fingers from one to the other or press and hold either button.
Display, Webcam, and Speakers
The dv3510nr’s 13.3-inch, 1280 x 800 display had excellent horizontal and vertical viewing angles, although the screen tilts back only 45 degrees. When we watched a DVD of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, visuals were bright and crisp; when we output the movie to a 46-inch 1080p Samsung TV via the HDMI port, the Nvidia graphics card was easily able to handle it, and both video and audio remained in sync.
Despite a resolution of just 0.3 megapixels, the dv3510nr’s webcam produced very good visuals. While the video was a little greenish, it was very sharp and wasn’t grainy at all during Skype chats, and the two microphones that straddle the webcam picked up our voice clearly. The included CyberLink YouCam application provides a number of fun visual effects. You can also easily upload video recordings to YouTube.
The Altec Lansing speakers on the dv3510nr are sufficiently loud for a few people gathered around the notebook. When we streamed The Kooks over Pandora, the volume was impressive even at the medium level. Cranking it up all the way made the music sound a little harsh. Two people can listen to tunes or a movie at the same time via the dual headphone jacks on the front of the system.
Ports and Remote Control
Despite being a 13-inch notebook, the dv3510nr has an ample number of ports: two USB, VGA. USB/eSATA, HDMI, Ethernet, modem, 5-in-1 card reader, and an ExpressCard/34 slot. It’s a wonder why Toshiba wasn’t able to put as many ports on its larger E105.
HP thoughtfully includes a small remote control that fits into the ExpressCard slot, and it worked even 30 feet away from the notebook. If you want to integrate the dv3510nr into a home theater system, it should do the trick; we only wish, given the HDMI output, that the dv3510nr was offered with a Blu-ray drive as an option.
CPU and Hard Drive Performance
The dv3510nr features a 2.0-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 processor and 4GB of RAM, which booted to Windows Home Premium in 75 seconds, slightly longer than average. The system scored 3,480 on PCMark Vantage, about 700 points higher than the category average, and 100 points higher than the Fujitsu LifeBook S6520, which has a faster 2.4-GHz P8600 processor but only 2GB of RAM. The dv3510nr delivered smooth performance when playing a movie, surfing the Web, and running a virus scan simultaneously.
On the LAPTOP Transfer Test, the 320GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive on the dv3510nr copied 4.97GB of files in 4 minutes and 18 seconds, a rate of 19.7 MBps. That’s more than 5 MBps faster than the class average. The drive is protected by HP’s ProtectSmart technology, which parks the drive in case the notebook is accidentally dropped.
The dv3510nr’s discrete Nvidia GeForce 9300M GPU performed very well on our graphics tests. Its 3DMark03 score of 5,374 is more than double the thin-and-light notebook average, and its 3DMark06 score of 1,867 is more than 500 points above the category average. The only recent notebook to best these scores is the Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (2,251 on 3DMark06), which has the same GPU but a faster CPU.
On our F.E.A.R. test, the dv3510nr notched 58 frames per second in autodetect (resolution at 800 x 600); with effects set to maximum, and the resolution set to 1280 x 800, the game dropped to a still enjoyable 30 fps. Both scores were well above the averages of 40 and 12 fps, respectively. Despite the small screen size, the dv3510nr should suffice for casual gaming.
The dv3510nr’s Intel WiFi Link 5100 adapter turned in data rates of 19.4 Mbps at 15 feet and 17.8 Mbps at 50 feet, both above the averages of 18.2 and 14.9 Mbps at those respective distances. An episode of Saturday Night Live on Hulu streamed without any lag or degradation in signal quality.
Owing to its discrete graphics chip, the dv3510nr fared a bit worse on the LAPTOP Battery Test than other thin-and-light systems, most of which have integrated graphics: the dv3510’s six-cell battery lasted 3 hours and 41 minutes, 20 minutes below the category average—and 30 minutes less than HP’s claim. We’d like to see HP offer an update to this system with Nvidia’s GeForce 9400M graphics card, which offered snappy performance on the MacBook while offering 4 hours and 45 minutes of battery life.
Software and Warranty
Users can enable the HP Advisor toolbar, which offers drop-down tabs for easy access to various programs like Windows Live apps. HP’s Total Care Advisor provides an at-a-glance overview of the notebook’s status. Also included is HP PhotoSmart Essentials, MediaSmart, Microsoft Works, muvee autoProducer, CyberLink DVD Suite, ProtectSmart Hard Drive Protection, and a 12-month subscription to Norton Internet Security 2008. HP covers the dv3510nr with a two-year warranty, as well as 30 days of free Geek Squad support from Best Buy.
Overall, the $1,099 HP Pavilion dv3510nr is a sleek and powerful 13-inch notebook. The identically priced 14-inch Toshiba E105—the other laptop that launched the Blue Label program that includes a backlit keyboard—offers longer battery life (4:36 vs. 3:41) and a bigger 14-inch screen in a package that weighs about the same as the dv3510nr. However, the HP’s design is more attractive, and it offers discrete graphics and a better keyboard. If you can live with its below-average endurance, the dv3510nr is a very good thin-and-light multimedia machine.
Check out the HP Pavilion dv3510nr's backlit keyboard in action below.