What do you do when nearly every major notebook manufacturer has imitated the design of your best-selling consumer laptop? You give it a whole new look and add compelling new features, including an accelerometer to help protect data in case of a tumble. And with Intel's next-generation Centrino 2 processor and chipset and Nvidia's latest graphics card under the hood, the HP Pavilion dv5t (available in the July/August timeframe) backs up its sweet aesthetics with some serious horsepower.
A welcome departure from HP’s older Imprint Finish, the Pavilion dv5t is decked out in onyx and chrome and features a subtle grid pattern that extends from the lid to the keyboard deck. HP calls this liquid metallic look the Imprint 2 finish, and it’s certainly striking. It’s almost as if HP poured the bad-guy cop from Terminator 2 into a notebook mold. This finish extends to the sides of the system as well, giving the ports and optical drive a unified appearance. The dv5t is a bit on the heavy side at 6.4 pounds, but with a one-inch thin profile it slips easily into a case or backpack.
Other subtle touches make the dv5t stand out from the crowd. When the system is on, an HP logo shines bright white on the lid. Likewise, you’ll find “magic chrome” touch media controls that light up only when the notebook is running. These controls were relatively responsive on our tests, but sometimes we had to swipe the volume bar too many times to get the desired result. About halfway up the keyboard, the deck switches from the grid pattern to a speaker grille of the same color. While overall this offers an effect of depth, the whole system collects fingerprints pretty quickly—especially on the lid.
On the left side of the dv5t are a VGA port, an expansion port for HP’s dock, Ethernet, HDMI, eSATA, one USB, FireWire, a 54mm ExpressCard slot and a 5-in-1 memory card reader. Along the front are two headphone and one mic jack, and on the right, you’ll find the DVD burner (You can also upgrade the optical drive to a Blu-ray player for $200), two USB ports, a modem jack, and a Kensington lock. You’ll also find a fingerprint reader on the keyboard deck.
The full-size keyboard thankfully forgoes the glossy treatment for a matte finish. Keys were well spaced and offered good feedback. We wish HP would change its trackpad, though. As with the dv6700 series, the trackpad dragged a bit with the moisture from our fingers after only a couple minutes of use. We also noticed that the keyboard got warm after about an hour of use.
Display and Sound
HP goes for the frameless LCD look with the dv5t’s 15.4-inch widescreen. As we’ve seen on such systems as the Lenovo IdeaPad Y510, the notebook has glass that extends to the edges of the bezel for a crisp, clean look. Our system was configured with a 1680 x 1050, 15.4-inch panel with a BrightView Infinity treatment for enhanced movie watching. And while it showed a lot of glare (we could check our teeth using the screen as a mirror, even when the system was on), movies looked fantastic with excellent horizontal and vertical viewing angles.
Sound was also impressive, thanks to the dv5t’s Altec Lansing speakers. Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” sounded as good as it would on a small boom box. In fact, this notebook produced enough volume to fill a kitchen with plenty of sound.
Above the display is a VGA webcam, which followed our movement well and is paired with CyberLink’s YouCam software. The images were a little dark in office lighting, though, even after we used the software to brighten them.
HP Pavilion dv5t New Features
To help users protect their data stored on the hard drive, HP took a page from its business notebooks and endowed the dv5t with HP ProtectSmart Hard Drive Protection technology. Using an accelerometer, this technology automatically detects if a notebook has been dropped and automatically stops the generously sized 250GB hard drive from spinning. The dv5t’s new eSATA port provides another way to safeguard your photos, videos, and other important files by enabling lightning-fast backups to an external drive that features that type of connector.
HP’s popular QuickPlay feature has been enhanced, as it provides quick access to more entertainment options with the touch of a button (although Vista has to be running). These include DVDs, videos, photos, music, karaoke, games, Internet TV, and streamed or recorded TV if you spring for the optional TV tuner. The dv5t also tries to address the learning curve of creative multimedia projects by bundling built-in demos. For example, one shows you how to add music to your slide shows or videos.
Blazing Productivity and Graphics
The dv5t is the very first notebook we've tested that is powered by Intel's Centrino 2 mobile technology, which features an enhanced processor, a 2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400, 2GB of RAM, and a brand-new chipset. We can’t share the benchmark results yet, but we can tell you that the dv5t is one of the fastest notebooks we’ve ever tested. Just as important, the dv5t multitasked like a champ. We played a movie, download Mozilla’s Firefox, chatted with friends via IM, and surfed the Web simultaneously, and this notebook didn’t show a hint of lag.
The most pleasant surprise was the dv5t’s graphics performance. HP has kicked Nvidia’s aging GeForce 8400M GS card in favor of the new GeForce 9600M GT. This GPU managed a startling 12,550 on 3DMark03 and 3,937 on 3DMark06. Only two mainstream systems have beat these graphics scores: the Alienware Area-51 m15x and the Apple MacBook Pro. Such high numbers mean you can easily play a handful of 3D games with most of the effects enabled, if not all. On our F.E.A.R. tests, for instance, we saw 76 fps on autodetect mode at 1024 x 768 resolution. When we bumped up the settings to maximum, that number dropped to a still playable 38 fps.
Wi-Fi and Battery Life
Featuring Intel's WiFi Link5100 wireless card, a required component for any system which bears the Centrino 2 moniker, the dv5t showed wireless scores of 18.9 Mbps and 16.9 Mbps at 15 and 50 feet, respectively, from our access point. Both are more than 1 Mbps higher than the average for the mainstream notebook class.
Battery life was not as spectacular. Using MobileMark07, the dv5 lasted 2:45 with Wi-Fi on, and 2:49 with Wi-Fi off, which is 20 minutes and 27 minutes less, respectively, than the category average. We will update this review with our own Wi-Fi Web surfing test to confirm these results.
Software and Warranty
In addition to a 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security 2008 and PC Recovery software from SoftThinks, HP bundles the dv5t with a host of multimedia programs, including HP PhotoSmart Essentials, Muvee AutoProducer Basic Edition, Sling Player (Slingbox sold separately), HP Games (powered by WildTangent), and The Sims Life Stories Laptop Edition. The company backs the notebook with a one-year limited hardware warranty and one year of 24/7 technical support.
The HP Pavilion dv5t sports a redesign that makes other mainstream machines look old-fashioned by comparison and backs up its futuristic-chic appearance with fast performance. There’s more than enough oomph here for a smooth Vista experience, as well as for playing the latest 3D games. And with its sharp display and robust speakers, the dv5t doubles as a portable entertainment center. This is a worthy sequel to the dv6500t and one of our favorite 15.4-inch notebooks.