How much do we love the HP G62t, a $599 Intel Core i3-powered laptop? Let us count the ways: it offers better performance and battery life than the competition, a cool yet understated design, and a blazing fast hard drive. We're not fans of the single touch button, but overall, the G62t is far and away the best laptop you can get for less than $600.
Taking a cue from HP's higher-end Envy notebooks, the G62t has a sophisticated taupe color both inside and out, as well as a matte finish. Its textured pattern reminds us of the Envy 13, although it has a smooth metal lid; the G62t is made of a cheaper plastic and bears that pattern throughout. However, the brushed metal hinges make the laptop look more expensive than it is.
Other than a small power button, there are no controls in the area above the keyboard--just a discreet strip concealing the Altec Lansing speakers. HP emulates Apple's MacBooks by adding multimedia and volume controls to the top row of the keys on the keyboard.
One of the things we like best about the G62t's design is its light weight. At 5.4 pounds and 14.7 x 9.7 x 1.4 inches, it was easy to carry this notebook from room to room. The similarly priced Gateway NV5934u weighs 5.6 pounds, while the Toshiba Satellite L505-ES5018 weighs an even heftier 6 pounds.
Keyboard and Trackpad
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The G62t's keys adjoin each other at the base, but are terraced at the top with a soft matte finish that felt nice against the fingers. While we scored 83 words per minute on the Ten Thumbs typing test with a 0 percent error rate (not bad considering our high score is 88 wpm), we felt HP could have arranged the keys more efficiently. For instance, there's no number pad, as there is on many other 15-inch notebooks. Worse, the right Shift key is undersized, something we noticed as we typed. Considering there's an inch of unused space on either size of the keyboard, we see this as a missed opportunity.
We've given HP flack in the past for selling notebooks with high-friction touchpads, but the G62t's was a delight to use, even if it's largely indistinguishable from the surrounding deck. We love its spacious (2.3 x 3.5 inches), smooth, low-friction surface. Unfortunately, HP made a mistake in pairing it with a single, stiff mouse button instead of softer twin ones. We had to apply a good deal of pressure every time we wanted to press the button, though we expect it would break in over time.
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After running a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, we recorded temperatures of 87 degrees Fahrenheit on the touchpad, 96 degrees at the center of the keyboard, 102 degrees on the bottom of the notebook, and a troubling 110 degrees near the vent. While its touchpad is cooler than most other budget laptops we've tested recently, every other spot we measured on the G62t was hotter than average.
Ports and Webcam
The G62t's port selection includes three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and VGA output, Ethernet and modem jacks, headphone and mic ports, a 5-in-1 memory card reader, and a Kensington lock slot. Some 15-inch notebooks offer four USB ports, but otherwise we have no complaints.
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Our still photos and video taken with the VGA webcam were well lit with bright colors, although a good deal of detail was lost due to the relatively low resolution (some webcams have a 2 or even 3 megapixels). You'll love the CyberLink YouCam software, whose fun filters and 2D effects are easy to layer on top of videos and photos.
Display and Sound
While watching a Saturday Night Live clip on Hulu, the 15.6-inch, 1366 x 768-pixel resolution display looked bright. However, the glossy display's side viewing angles were limited.
This notebook features Altec Lansing speakers right above the keyboard. The volume was impressive when we streamed "Notion" from Kings of Leon over Slacker.com. The G62t easily filled a medium-sized office with sound. Although "Kids" by MGMT sounded tinny, it came out clearer than when we played it on the Gateway NV5934u, which distorted the music at higher volumes.
The G62t runs Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) and has a 2.13-GHz Intel Core i3-330M processor and 4GB of RAM. That's typical for a machine this size and price. Indeed, While the $599 Gateway NV5934u and $587 MSI A6200 have matching specs, the G62t has a larger and faster 7,200-rpm, 500GB hard drive, which translates to all-around superior performance in everything from boot times to transferring files. For example, the G62t scored 5,306 in PCMark Vantage, a Windows performance benchmark, whereas the NV5934u and MSI A6200, which have the same processor and RAM but slower hard drives, scored 4,720 and 4,191, respectively. (The average mainstream laptop scores a much lower 3,885 on this test.)
Meanwhile, the G62t booted in 56 seconds, which is pretty good for a Windows machine, whereas the NV5934u took 1:30 and the A6200 took 1:20. Finally, when it came to transferring a 4.97GB mixed media folder, the G62t did so in 2:40, or at a rate of 31.8 MBps, whereas the NV5934u did so at a slow 13.1 MBps; the A6200 completed the test at a rate of 23.2 MBps.
If your typical routine entails spending a lot of time online, whether that means reading blogs, updating your Twitter status, composing e-mails, or perusing friends' photo albums, you'll find that the G62t has more than enough power to keep up. When it comes to more intensive computing, the G62t was able to transcode a 114MB MPEG-4 file to AVI in 1:07. While the Gateway NV5934u did so slightly faster, finishing the test in 1:04, the G62t still outperformed the MSI A6200 (1:08), and the Satellite L505-ES5018 (1:14).
The G62t has an integrated Intel GMA HD graphics card, which is fairly standard for a sub-$600 laptop. It's in this one area that the machine doesn't necessarily perform better than its competitors. For instance, on 3DMark06, a gaming benchmark, it scored 1,377. The Gateway NV5934u, which has the same graphics card, processor, and amount of RAM, scored 1,736. Then again, the average mainstream laptop (many of which have discrete or at least integrated Nvidia graphics cards) scores 3,359 on 3DMark06.
In real world testing, the G62t managed frame rates of 42 fps in World of Warcraft at 1024 x 768 resolution (it dropped to 7 fps at the native resolution, 1366 x 768). Meanwhile, in <i>Far Cry 2</i>, a more graphically complex game, it crawled at 9 fps, even at 1024 x 768 resolution. The MSI A6200 performed better, runningWorld of Warcraft at 52 fps.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
The G62t's six-cell battery lasted 4:03 on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which entails surfing the web continuously using Firefox until the battery dies. That's longer than the mainstream category average of 3:39, as well as any other comparably priced and sized laptop we've tested recently. The Dell Inspiron 14 and MSI A6200 came close, with respective battery lives of 3:54 and 3:52, but some notebooks, such as the 15-inch Toshiba Satellite L205-ES5018, can't even last three hours.
The Atheros 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi radio delivered throughput of 45.8 Mbps at 15 feet and 30.2 Mbps at 15 feet. While that's certainly good, other notebooks did better. The Toshiba L505-ES5018 and the Gateway NV5934u delivered throughput near our access point in the 50 to 53 Mbps range.
After being fully depleted, the G62t's battery took 1:11 to charge to 80 percent and 1:59 to fully recharge. By multiplying the charge time with the average watts while charging (41.2), and then dividing by its battery life, we're able to derive the notebook's battery efficiency index (lower numbers are better). The G62t's index of 20.2 is better than the Gateway NV5934u's rating of 21.4, the Dell Inspiron 14's 25.4, the MSI A6200's 27, and especially the Toshiba Satellite L505-ES5018's rating of 39.
Although the G62t's EPEAT rating of 15 isn't as good as the Satellite L505-ES5018's rating of 21 (higher numbers are better), it's a much greener score than the Inspiron 14's rating of 6.
Although this particular preconfigured version of the G62t is only for sale at Best Buy, you can also configure it here on HP's site. There, the starting price is $579, twenty dollars less than the configuration we reviewed. However, that price gets you 3GB of RAM (instead of the 4GB) and a 7,200-rpm, 250GB hard drive (compared to our system's 500GB drive).
The 2.13-GHz Intel Core i3 CPU in our test notebook is the base-level processor, which isn't bad at all. In total, HP offers two Core i3, three Core i5, and one Core i7 options for the notebook. Users can configure it with up to 4GB of RAM, even if the machine does support 8GB; one also gets a "free upgrade" from 2GB to 3GB. For hard drives, too, entry-level users get a purported upgrade from a 250GB or 320GB 7,200-rpm hard drive to a 500GB one (also 7,200 rpm).
While our configuration had a poky Intel GMA HD graphics card, you can get better gaming performance if you upgrade to a discrete ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5430 graphics card with 512MB of dedicated video memory (a $100 option). On the multimedia front, users can also upgrade to a Blu-ray ROM drive (that is, one that plays Blu-ray discs but doesn't burn them) for $150.
Software and Warranty
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The G62t comes with a typical array of software and trialware, including a trial version of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 (including a PowerPoint 2007 viewer and compatibility pack) and a trial of Norton Internet Security. You also get a suite of CyberLink software, including DVD Suite, MediaShow, PowerDVD 8, YouCam, Power2Go, and PowerDirector.
The G62t comes with a one-year warranty, including 24/7 toll-free phone support. See how HP fared in our annual Tech Support Showdown.
Thanks to its sophisticated design, fast performance, and long battery life, the HP G62t is the best bargain notebook around. Mainstream gamers will find that the Gateway NV5934u, also $599, offers better graphics performance, while the identically priced MSI A6200 has a more comfortable keyboard. However, at the end of the day, the G62t offers the closest thing to a complete package for an affordable price.