Recently we’ve seen new Chromebook models from Acer, Samsung and more recently Lenovo, and a spec sheet discovered on HP’s site shows that they too are throwing their hats into the cloud-based computing ring. The PDF states that the 14″ 1366 x 768 Pavilion Chromebook is capable of running for 4 hours 15 minutes on a charge, and the remainder of its hardware appears reminiscent of a mashup between Acer’s C7 and Samsung’s Series 3, with the C7’s 1.1GHz Intel Celeron 847 processor coupled with 16GB of solid state storage as found in the Samsung model. The whole package weighs in at 1.8kg and it features 3 USB 2.0 ports and an HDMI port, although a disc drive remains absent. There is no word on when we will see this hitting store shelves, but another major Windows manufacturer beginning Chromebook production is bound to cause shivers in Redmond.
The title of this article is a little misleading, as those of you who read my posts, follow me on Twitter or know me in person will know that I love Microsoft. Windows Phone is my phone platform of choice, I would never consider using anything but a Windows computer, and the thing that I want most in the world right now is a 15.6″ one of these. But even with all the love I bear for the love-child of Ballmer and Gates, there are a large number of things about them which annoy me.
The first and foremost of these annoyances is with Zune. As a Windows Phone user, I am forced to use Zune in order to update, add music and video to and do a large number of other things to, my phone. This is fine, I can add and take away music to and from my phone quickly and easily, and updates will automatically commence if they are available. But when I got my HP Pavilion dv7 with Beats Audio, I began to play music through my laptop, whereas previously I had been using speakers connected to my phone. It soon dawned upon me that Zune, a beautiful piece of software, is one of the buggiest pieces of crap since Windows Media Player. Quite often while playing music, the song will randomly pause, move to a different point or just skip altogether, and on occasion I have closed Zune to find that the song that was playing doesn’t stop playing, much to my teacher’s dismay. When this is Skrillex, chemistry lessons can be quite awkward. What the hell is up with that? A company whom incorporated software into its very name can’t be bothered or is unable to iron out the bugs in their music software. Even iTunes, something which is essentially designed to work on a different operating system and much maligned on Windows, is nowhere near as buggy. This being said, with the Zune name being dumped, and the software being incorporated into the OS, I surely hope that for Windows 8’s sake that at least some of the bigger glitches will be ironed out.
And secondly, what is the point in Windows Media Player any more? The whole thing is utter crap and nobody in their right mind would ever use it. I mean seriously, software that causes computers to blue-screen (I speak through personal experience) through use is not right in any way. And if any person out there does use this utter piece of crap, please explain to me in the comments below why you would put yourself through it. Please.
My final point is the most obvious one. Internet Explorer. This is in every way the single most hated piece of software out there. It is crap, it crashes, freezes and is only there for sane people to download either Firefox or Chrome. And, to make matters worse, you have to have specific permission from Microsoft to be able to uninstall the software. Of course, you can do what both I and Xavier (our EIC) have done and bury it deep within our program files, but it will always be there, taunting you with the possibility that you may one day, have to use it.
So those are the main reasons that Microsoft pisses off even myself, a true Microsoft fanboy. Despite the wonders of things like the Arc Touch Mouse, SkyDrive and Windows Phone, Microsoft isn’t perfect, but by ironing out the bugs and listening to consumers, they could get pretty close.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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