HP Pavilion dv7 review

In August, HP were in turmoil. Leo Apotheker had killed webOS out of nowhere, announced that he wanted to spin off their PC division. Then he was ousted in favour of Meg Whitman who eventually came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea (gasp) to keep the world’s largest PC business. Apotheker is an idiot, and HP make fantastic computers, such as the budget Pavilion g6 range and the award-winning Folio ultrabook. Now, we have our hands on a Pavilion dv7, a high-end notebook designed for work and play, but can it justify its £949 price tag?

Hardware

The dv7-6b51ea that we are reviewing boasts a powerful 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-2670QM processor, capable of turbo-boosting to 3.1GHz, and a massive 8GB of RAM, enabling it to handle almost anything you throw at it. This, combined with the 1GB of video RAM on the AMD Radeon graphics chip and the 1TB hard drive means that this laptop is perched at the higher end of the spec table. HP didn’t stop there, adding in a few small things such as a fingerprint scanner and a Blu-ray drive to make it just that bit better. The display is a 17.3″ panel of 1600 x 900 resolution which, while having great contrast and a crisp picture, lacks in brightness, even compared to lower end laptops like the Pavilion g6. The screen does however have impressive viewing angles. The built in camera is quite crap, despite its misleading HP TrueVision HD label. Both videos and stills come out at a measly 640 x 480 resolution, and the frame rate is worse than a dustbin.

As with all flagship HP laptops, the dv7 range comes with Beats Audio as standard. The clarity of sound is fantastic, even when playing at full volume. Little distortion occurs and the HP Triple Bass Subwoofer ensures that my large Skrillex collection always makes my head bang. Most importantly for a journalist, however, is the keyboard and the one in the dv7 is quite simply fantastic. The keys are not too shallow, and a rubberised coating makes them very comfortable. The number pad, noticeably absent from some smaller HP devices, is convenient and as you’d expect. The trackpad, hilariously coined as a TouchPad by HP, is smooth and responsive, supporting certain multitouch gestures, but I still prefer using a mouse.

Design

The dv7 is a beautiful piece of tech. The core of the device is made from brushed aluminium, which looks and feels amazing. The base of the device is unfortunately made of plastic, but I can live with this. One advantage of the Envy range is the aluminium unibody, even if it is just a carbon copy of the MacBook Pro. The notebook is not the most portable one I have ever seen, but I haven’t had problems carrying it around the school grounds on a daily basis. The lid of the device is emblazoned with the HP logo which, again similarly to Apple devices, lights up when the device is in use. While this is a nice touch, I would rather that HP used these LEDs in a different place such as the keyboard, which suffers from the lack of backlighting. The speakers are placed around the edge of the laptop and on a bank between the two hinges. The Beats branding is clear to see across the device, even in the taskbar, but, when compared to certain HP laptops, the branding is thankfully minimal and bearable.

Software

The dv7 comes with Windows 7 Home Premium as standard, along with the usual preloaded crapware that you have to filter through upon your first boot. Things like HP Games by WildTangent, Bing Toolbar, Internet Explorer 9 and the free trial of Norton Internet Security went without a moment’s hesitation, but HP CoolSense is actually worth keeping on any HP device. CoolSense allows you to juggle fan usage and performance to make the laptop cooler/quieter when required. SimplePass software comes to work with the fingerprint reader and it can be programmed to log into certain sites and open them with a swipe. Being so well-specced, the dv7 has had no problems with almost everything thrown at it. Games such as Portal 2 and Modern Warfare 3 can be played on the highest graphical settings with ease, and I have, on occasion, been able to play at least half a dozen HD YouTube videos simultaneously, but the Zune software has strangely caused a few problems. On a number of occasions it has caused random reboots, but I believe that this problem is with the software itself having heard of others enduring similar experiences.

Conclusion

The HP Pavilion dv7 is a fantastic laptop, perfectly equipped to handle anything thrown at it without being excessively bulky or expensive. For less than the price of a 15 inch MacBook Pro, you get a better processor, sublime audio and, in my opinion, a superior all-round user experience. While the battery life and webcam both leave things to improve upon, overall I would recommend this notebook to anybody who can afford it.

Xavier Voigt-Hill contributed to this review

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What we’re looking forward to in 2012

2011 is nearly over and we can all agree that it has been pretty good for tech. Nokia’s credibility returned and people began to talk to their phones. We all know, however, that 2012 can be epic. Here is what we want from the year ahead.

Windows 8

We know it’s coming in 2012 with a beta as early as January. I love the Metro UI on my phone and I am looking forward to seeing it on both tablets and computers, and not to forget Windows Phone 8 that is rumoured to be coming in the third quarter of next year.

Nokia’s Windows 8 tablet

Following straight on from Windows 8 comes the Nokia tablet that Paul Ansellem, GM of Nokia France, assured us would be available by June. Due to the recent partnership between Nokia and Microsoft, the ‘Lumia Tab’ would likely be the first Windows 8 tablet so this inadvertent announcement could give us information as to the release date of Redmond’s next OS. Plus, if it looks anything like an enlarged Lumia 800 as My Nokia Blog’s mockup suggested, the DX offices will be full of productive happy bunnies.

Nokia Lumia 900

Speaking with a French paper, Ansellem said that the fantastic Lumia 800 was like the BMW 5 series. Great, but a 7 series is better. Numerous leaks have suggested that it will be an 800 with a larger screen, the Lumia 900. The 800 is a great phone but in my opinion a 4.3 inch device with a high resolution and HSPA+ is what the market needs. I don’t give a damn about LTE because I hate Ofcom.

The inevitable rise of Windows Phone 7

With the number of apps on the Marketplace recently having broken the 50,000 barrier, it’s no surprise that our favourite OS Windows Phone 7 is growing. Unfortunately it is not yet at the same level as iOS or Android, but hopefully in the next 12 months Microsoft will catch up to their competitors and Nokia will produce some awesome handsets and WP will eat it’s way into the market.

Apple without Steve

With Steve Jobs having passed on earlier in the year, we still are not sure as to how Apple are going to cope without him. Even though Steve will have planned ahead before his passing, Tim Cook is having to fill a big gap that was left by the father of the modern computer.

RIM

I am sure that everyone is looking forward to the final nail in RIM’s airtight coffin which is most likely going to come in the coming year. So yeah. Death to RIM.

webOS goes open source

Since Leo Apotheker won the idiot of the year award, people have been wondering whether webOS was dead or not after HP announced they were discontinuing its use in their products. However at the beginning of  December, it was announced that HP would be making it open source, in the coming year we are looking forward to manufacturers creating webOS devices.

HTC going for quality over quantity

Apparently HTC are going to completely change their marketing philosophy and go for quality over quantity. Hopefully in the next year we will see something good come from the Taiwanese company instead of such abominations as the HTC Sensation, Sensation XE and Sensation XL. DEATH TO SENSE.

That is all.

webOS lives!

HP have announced that webOS will live on as an open source platform, much to the dismay of ousted idiot of a CEO Leo Apotheker. His replacement Meg Whitman announced the news last night, also confirming that hardware manufacture from HP will not be resuming but the OS will be developed by both HP and the community for OEMs that may want it. Rumours have said that HTC and RIM are among the interested parties and we will report on any news regarding this as we get it.

YEAH!