HP Pavilion dv9500t Review

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$2074

Pros: Sleek design; Large, beautiful screen; 240GB of storage; Very good webcam; HD-DVD drive with HDMI output

Cons: Mediocre wireless performance for 802.11n; 1080p display not available

Verdict: A high-quality desktop replacement, HP's dv9500t offers speed, versatility, and style.

The HP Pavilion dv9500t is a fun and fast entertainment notebook that delivers excellent performance and multimedia features in a slick design. The system sports a beautiful (if somewhat low-resolution) 17-inch widescreen and offers plenty of space for your music, photos, and video. The included HD-DVD drive and HDMI port allow users to watch high-def movies on the display itself or on a big-screen TV. Priced at $2,074, the dv9500t is a smart choice for home users looking for a powerful but reasonably priced desktop replacement that will turn heads (view photo gallery).
An update to the dv9000 series, the dv9500t sets itself apart with the refreshed Centrino Duo mobile platform (codenamed Santa Rosa) and other welcome upgrades, such as the addition of a fingerprint reader and a VGA webcam. Weighing 7.7 pounds and measuring 15.2 x 11.7 x 1.6 inches, this desktop replacement is light enough to tote around the house. Keeping the same layout and design as the previous model, the dv9500t offers a shiny black coating, a sleek silver inside, and a new Radiance Imprint pattern on both surfaces.

Comfort is the first word that came to mind when we opened up the system. The large touchpad is soft and has an integrated scroll bar that makes scanning long Web pages a cinch. The touchpad also has an On/Off button, which is useful when you want to use an external mouse. Like other desktop replacements, the system features a full-sized keyboard and includes a 10-key numeric keypad. Above the keyboard are light touch multimedia QuickPlay buttons. You'll also find Altec Lansing stereo speakers, which sounded very good during our tests.
The 17-inch glossy display offers only 1440 x 900-pixel resolution, but this Ultra BrightView panel is no ordinary screen. HP claims that it improves the color gamut by 72 percent, and we think it's worth the extra $125. The screen provided very sharp and bright images, and the roomy screen allowed us to keep numerous windows open at the same time. If you want more resolution for enjoying HD-DVD movies, you can opt for the 1680 x 1050-pixel panel, which costs $75 less but doesn't offer the sweet Ultra BrightView treatment.
To get a true 1080i or 1080p high-def experience, you can use the dv9500t's HDMI port to output the notebook's audio and video to your HDTV using a single cable. When watching the HD-DVD version of Dreamgirls on the notebook's screen, we could see Beyonc's detailed makeup, but we could actually count her pores when we switched over to a 42-inch Sony LCD TV.
Above the screen resides the VGA-resolution webcam, which delivered clear Skype video calls even in low-light conditions. We also loved the convenience of the two built-in microphones that straddle the webcam; other callers could hear us quite well, even as we moved around the room.
Thanks to its 2-GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 processor and 2GB of RAM (upgradable to 4GB), the dv9500t can handle anything from standard chores to hardcore multitasking. We couldn't get PCMark05 to run, but running two chat programs, surfing on Firefox, and playing a HD-DVD movie didn't slow down the system enough to affect playback. However, we did notice a lag in speed when switching programs. Likewise, when we ran a virus scan and installed program updates while watching a movie, there were no interruptions in the audio or video. In terms of handling Vista, the system gets a 4.5 (out of 5.9) base Vista experience score and a subscore of 4.6 on the graphics card that tests Vista's Windows Aero interface.
The Nvidia 8600M GS graphics card, complete with 256MB of dedicated video memory, gives the dv9500t pretty good gaming muscle. The dv9500t notched a good but not great 3DMark03 score of 6,221, as well as a respectable 67 frames per second using F.E.A.R.'s autodetect settings (25 fps with the settings maxed out), not bad for a nongaming notebook.
On our DVD rundown tests, the dv9500t lasted an above-average 2 hours and 21 minutes. The 802.11n connection wasn't exactly blazing; 13.2 Mbps of throughput at 15 feet and 12.5 Mbps at 50 feet.
For a little more than $2,000, you get a whole lot of power and style in this desktop replacement. The HP Pavilion dv9500t gives you a gorgeous screen, HD-DVD playback, and plenty of multimedia might.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Operating System MS Windows Vista Home Premium
RAM 2GB
RAM Upgradable to 4GB
Hard Drive Size 240GB
Hard Drive Speed 5,400rpm
Display Size 17
Native Resolution 1440x900
Optical Drive HD DVD ROM/DVD+R DL
Optical Drive Speed 8X
Graphics Card Nvidia 8600M GS
Video Memory 256MB
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
Ports (excluding USB) Expansion Port 3
Ports (excluding USB) S-Video
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) Modem
Ports (excluding USB) Dual Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
Ports (excluding USB) IR
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) Firewire
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
USB Ports 4
Card Slots ExpressCard
Card Slots 5-1 card reader
Warranty/Support One-year parts and labor/one-year 24/7 toll-free, one-hour e-mail assistance, real-time chat, 30-day replacement for defective software
Size 15.2 x 11.7 x 1.6 inches
Weight 7.7 pounds
Company Website www.hp.com