With a name like Pavilion dv7t Quad Edition, you know HP's latest 17-inch desktop replacement is no slowpoke. In addition to a blazing second-generation Intel Quad Core i7 processor and switchable AMD graphics, this aluminum-bodied speedster (starting at $1,099) packs both a 7,200-rpm hard drive and a 120GB SSD to give shoppers the best of both worlds. On the other hand, the $1,604 asking price for our configuration is hardly chump change. Is the dv7t Quad Edition splurge-worthy?
Like the dv6t, the Pavilion dv7t Quad has a stylish, minimalist look that takes design cues from sports cars. Available in dark umber and steel gray, the lid has a brushed-aluminum finish with an illuminated HP logo. While it's a handsome look, the lid picks up smudges. The interior is also dark umber, surrounded by a thin strip of gray aluminum. The black matte keyboard sits in a glossy black panel, while the hinges and the speaker between them are made of gray aluminum.
Measuring 16.3 x 10.8 x 1.2-1.4 inches, the 7-pound dv7t Quad is slightly smaller and lighter than the Dell Inspiron 17R (16.5 x 11.3 x 1.2-1.3 inch inches, 7.2 pounds). Still, this notebook is designed to be used on a desk and likely won't move around much.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The dv7t Quad Edition's island-style keyboard is spacious, with large flat keys and a full number pad. Typing was mostly comfortable, but we noticed a small amount of flex. During the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, we achieved our normal speed of 50 words per minute with a 1-percent margin of error.
The 3.7 x 2.2-inch touchpad gave us more than enough space to navigate pages. Pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling were fast and responsive. While we like that the area around the touchpad lights up, we'd prefer a backlit keyboard. (For that, you have to get the Envy 17.)
Fingerprint Reader and SimplePass
The dv7t Quad Edition includes a fingerprint reader that's used in conjunction with the biometric password manager, HP SimplePass. Using the software, we were able to swipe our finger to sign into Windows. We also accessed our e-mail and social-networking pages by assigning each site to a different digit. The fingerprint reader can be a little bit finicky. Sometimes we received a message saying that there was a problem registering our finger and that we needed to try again.
After 15 minutes of streaming video from Hulu at full screen, most of the dv7t Quad Edition was practically chilly. The touchpad measured a cool 81 degrees Fahrenheit, while the space between the G and H keys measured 87 degrees. However, the underside of the laptop was uncomfortably warm, measuring 110 degrees. Fortunately, HP bundles its CoolSense technology, which leverages the notebook's built-in accelerometer to detect when the dv7t is resting in someone's lap. When we placed the notebook in our lap, the system's fan immediately kicked in.
Display and Audio
The glossy 17.3-inch HP BrightView LED display on the dv7t Quad Edition has a resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels. We'd prefer a full HD screen at this price, but you can step up to a 1080p screen with an anti-glare coating for an extra $150. Nevertheless, the panel on our system delivered a bright and colorful picture and wide viewing angles. As we watched the 1080p Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 trailer on YouTube, fires bloomed in red and orange, while the wand battle between Potter and Voldemort was an explosion of blue and yellow.
As with the dv6t, the dv7t Quad Edition uses Beats Audio technology. Using the included control panel, we could toggle audio configurations between music, movies, and voice. When we listened to Katy Perry's up-tempo "Last Friday Night (TGIF)" and Yelawolf's bass-heavy "Daddy's Lambo," both tracks sounded rich, with clear distinction between vocals and instrumentals. Still, Perry's vocals became a little brassy at max volume, and Yelawolf's bass line sounded out of whack
Webcam and Ports
The right of the dv7t Quad Edition houses two USB 2.0 ports, a DVD drive, a Kensington secure lock, and the power jack. The front of the laptop features an SD/MMC card reader, while the left side houses two USB 3.0 ports, two headphone jacks, a microphone jack, an HDMI port, VGA, and a gigabit Ethernet jack.
The HP TrueVision webcam can capture video and stills up to 1280 x 800; however, we saw less-than-stellar results. During a Skype session, our caller reported grainy and dark images under fluorescent and natural light. However, the audio was loud and clear, with minimal background noise and echoing.
Powered by a second-generation 2-GHz Intel Quad Core i7-2630QM CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 120GB solid state drive, and a 540GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive, the dv7t Quad Edition can handle just about anything you throw at it. On the PCMark Vantage test, this big-screen machine scored 13,565, outperforming the 6,983 desktop replacement category average, as well as the Dell XPS 17 3D (8,222) and the ASUS G73SW (8,226).
The SSD certainly gives the dv7t Quad Edition an edge, and it should, since this component alone costs $420. The only other 17-incher we've tested this year that scored higher in PCMark Vantage is the Alienware M17x (17,486), and that rig packs a 256GB Samsung SSD.
Thanks to Intel's SSD, the dv7t Quad Edition copied a 4.97GB folder of mixed-media files in just 1 minute and 6 seconds, a rate of 77.1 MBps. That's more than double the desktop replacement average of 34.6 MBps. This notebook boots fast, too, taking only 37 seconds to start Windows.
In our real-world testing, the dv7t Quad Edition kept all its balls in the air, running 13 open tabs in Google Chrome and nine tabs in Internet Explorer, all while simultaneously performing a full system scan and streaming full-screen video from Hulu. During our Oxelon Transcode Test (converting a 114MB MPEG4 video file into AVI format), the Pavilion dv7t Quad Edition clocked in at 43 seconds, 17 seconds faster than the category average (1:00).
The Pavilion dv7t Quad Edition is equipped with both an integrated Intel HD Graphics chip and a discrete AMD Radeon HD 6770M GPU with 1GB of video memory. Like the dv6t, the dv7t Quad automatically switches cards as a power-saving measure when the notebook is unplugged, although the system does give users the option of remaining on AMD graphics. We prefer Nvidia's Optimus technology, which switches cards on the fly depending on the individual application. While Optimus offers an almost unperceivable, instantaneous swap, we noticed a blinking screen when the dv7t Quad made the switch. On a couple of occasions, we experienced a total blackout for approximately two seconds.
Thanks to the AMD Radeon HD 6770M graphics, the dv7t Quad Edition scored 11,697 on the 3DMark06 test, blowing past the desktop replacement average (9,135) and squeaking by the Dell XPS 17 3D (11,248). While the dv7t Quad is a powerful multimedia machine, it can't hold a candle to the graphical muscle of a gaming rig. Powered by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M GPU with 1.5GB of VRAM, the ASUS G73SW posted a score of 14,058. On the 3DMark11 test, the Pavilion dv7t Quad scored 1,554, narrowly beating the category average of 1496.6 but once again falling behind the ASUS (1,816).
For our real-world graphics testing, we embarked on a few quests in World of Warcraft on the Good setting at 1600 x 900 resolution. The dv7t Quad Edition provided a smooth 101 frames per second. The Dell XPS 3D only registered about 61 fps, but that was at full HD resolution. The ASUS G73SW posted 155 fps. When we upped the settings to Max, the Pavilion's frame rate nearly dropped in half, falling to 53 fps, but that's still more than playable. When we fired up Far Cry 2 on autodetect at 1600 x 900, the dv7t Quad Edition delivered an impressive 127 fps.
Battery Life and Wireless
During the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi), the Pavilion dv7t Quad Edition lasted 4 hours and 45 minutes, which is more than an hour longer than the desktop replacement average (3:06).
We were disappointed in this notebook's Wi-Fi performance. The dv7t Quad Edition posted a transfer rate of 22.5 Mbps at 15 feet away from our router, 12.5 Mbps below the category average. At 50 feet, the transfer rate dropped to 18.8 Mbps, which is 1.1 Mbps below the average.
Our $1,604 review unit came equipped with a second-generation 2-GHz Intel Quad Core i7-2630QM CPU, 8GB of RAM, and dual hard drives--a 500GB, 7,200-rpm hard drive plus a 160GB SSD. You also get switchable graphics with 1GB of video memory. The base model costs $1,099 and features the same processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 750GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive. While our model didn't include a Blu-ray drive, the base model does as a free upgrade.
Consumers also have a choice of two additional processors ($150 second-generation 2.2-GHz Intel Quad Core i7-2720QM CPU or $350 second-generation 2.3-GHz Intel Quad Core i7-2820QM CPU) and two graphics options (Radeon HD 6770M graphics with 1GB of VRAM for $25 or 2GB of RAM for $100). We highly recommend upgrading to the full 1080p display for an extra $150.
Software and Warranty
The dv7t Quad Edition comes with some useful utilities, including HP Recovery Manager and HP CloudDrive, HP's cloud storage software. For additional security, consumers can purchase a subscription from LoJack Theft Recovery, starting a $39 for one year of protection.
HP Games still has a hefty cache of offerings, including Blasterball 3 and Diner Dash 2 Restaurant Rescue. Movie buffs can check out the Roxio-powered HP Movie, HP's take on Netflix. Third-party applications include Microsoft Office Starter, Windows Live, and a 60-Day free trial of Norton Internet Security.
The dv7t Quad comes with a two-year limited hardware warranty. Check out how HP fared in our Tech Support Showdown.
Consumers on the market for a multimedia notebook with good looks and strong performance should definitely consider the HP Pavilion dv7t Quad Edition notebook. The quad-core Core i7 CPU can seamlessly stream movies, edit video, and perform just about any other task you can think of, while the AMD graphics deliver solid frame rates on the latest games. Beats Audio is another plus. Our only major complaints are the lack of a backlit keyboard and the relatively weak Wi-Fi scores.
It really comes down to whether you're willing to pay a small fortune for an SSD. While it dramatically improves the boot time and responsiveness on this notebook, the option adds $420 to the price tag. You could get a 1080p display instead and pay $1,334 instead of $1,604. Overall, though, the HP Pavilion dv7t Quad Edition is one of our favorite 17-inch notebooks.