HP DV4170 Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (67,459)
  • Pros

    • Great battery life
    • Quite and effective fan,
    • Fast processor and RAM
    • Great wireless performance
    • Quickplay
    • Fast DVD writer
    • Incredible screen and speakers
    • Included Remote and Earbud Headphones

  • Cons

    • Must update drivers for maximum potential
    • Limited virus coverage with provided software
    • Screen takes a little getting used to
    • No dedicated graphics card


by Hassan Dawood, Connecticut USA

I am reviewing the HP DV4000 series.  It is a medium sized laptop and a great multimedia companion.  It weighs in at 6.5 lbs. making it fairly light seeing how it is close to a desktop replacement in features.  My previous laptop, the Sony Vaio PCG-FRV26, was under a Best Buy warranty and I recently sent it in to have the CD writer as well as the dead pixels on the screen replaced.  I was ecstatic to hear that they had decided to invoke their no lemon policy and had agreed to replace my laptop with a laptop of equal or lesser value than what I paid for my original laptop.  For two weeks I researched numerous models including the Vaio FS640, the Vaio FS660, and the Toshiba M45-355.  I finally decided upon the HP DV4170us which was $100 cheaper than the laptop I had bought two years ago, but I did not have a problem with that at all.

HP dv4170 (view larger image)

My configuration for the DV4170us:

  • Microsoft(R) Windows(R) XP Home Edition with SP2
  • Intel(R) Pentium(R) M Processor 740 (1.73 GHz)
  • 15.4″ WXGA BrightView Widescreen (1280×800)
  • Intel(R) Graphics Media Accelerator 900
  • 1024MB DDR SDRAM (2x512MB)
  • 100 GB 4200 RPM Hard Drive
  • 8X DVD +/- RW/R & CD-RW Combo!!
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG network connection (802.11b/g)
  • 6 Cell Lithium Ion Battery
  • Microsoft Works, Money, Windows Movie Maker, Media Player; InterVideo WinDVD, Home Theater; muvee autoProducer DVD Edition with Burning; HP Image Zone Plus; Adobe Acrobat Reader; HP QuickPlay; Apple iTunes and more
  • Remote control

Screen

The screen on the DV4000 was spectacular.  My final decision came down to the Vaio FS660 or the DV4170us.  In the store, the DV4170 seemed much clearer to me.  I love the widescreen aspect.  I just recently watched “The Incredibles” and I loved it.  The only thing that took me a few days to get used to while using the laptop is that it is a good idea to push the screen slightly more backwards than most laptops.  For some reason this increases the clarity as well as the brightness of the screen.  While turned off the screen is basically a mirror; I can clearly see myself in it and make out most details of what its reflecting.  When I first received the laptop, I used a small program called Dead Pixel buddy.  The results showed that there were no dead pixels on the screen and there have been none in the first two weeks of use.  The screen is wide enough to allow you to run multiple programs side by side which is a plus for multitaskers.

Angled view of the screen (view larger image)

Speakers

The speakers on the DV4000 series were another one of the reasons that I purchased this laptop.  The first thing that strikes you about the DV4000 is the fact that the speakers are not your typical laptop speakers that face upwards and are either in the front under the screen or below the keyboard.  The speakers actually fire outwards and are not blocked in the least when the lid is closed.  The speakers on this laptop are made by Altec Lansing and true to their external speakers, these sound amazing.  Listening to music or watching movies are both a pleasure with these speakers.  The bass they produce is exceptionally superior to the bass on the other laptops that I tested.  While watching “King Arthur” I plugged the computer into my 19 inch monitor but left the sound running on the laptop’s speakers and they were simply amazing.  It is really something you need to hear in person.

HP DV4000 Front view and speakers (view larger image)

Processor and Performance

The processor on my laptop is the Pentium M 740 clocked at 1.73 Ghz.  On a Pentium 4 scale this rates at about 3.2 Ghz which is plenty fast enough for me.  The out of box boot time on this laptop was about 7 seconds but with all the software I have loaded onto it, it is taking about 10-11 seconds now which is still quite impressive to me.  I do feel that the 1024 Mb of RAM is helping quite a bit to speed up the performance of the laptop and is allowing me to run quite a few intensive programs at once.  The processor always seems quite snappy to me although I do not game that often; I rip DVD’s, burn DVD’s, do some intensive tasks in Photoshop CS2, and play Dungeon Siege on high settings from time to time.  This system has never really hung for more than a second or two which is rarely noticeable and I have never experienced the “blue screen of death” with it either.

Benchmarks

This notebook takes mere seconds to start nearly any application.  Adobe Photoshop CS2 took the longest with a fairly quick time of 7 seconds to load the whole program including plug-ins.

Below are the benchmark scores from the tests I was able to run on the DV4170us (Pentium M 740 1.73 Ghz with 1024 Mb RAM).

Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz) 1m 53s
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 53s
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 45s
Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M) 1m 48s
Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M) 1m 52s
Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M) 2m 10s
Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Pentium M) 1m 57s
Sony VAIO S170P (1.5 GHz Pentium M) 2m 07s
Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m

HD Tune Benchmarks

Test IBM ThinkPad X32 HP DV4170us
Minimum Transfer Rate 11.9 MB/sec 3.7 MB/sec
Maximum Transfer Rate 34.6 MB/sec 25.7 MB/sec
Average Transfer Rate 38.1 MB/sec 23.0 MB/sec
Access Time 17.7 ms 18.2 ms
Burst Rate 67.5 MB/sec 68.9 MB/sec
CPU Usage 5.8% 23.4%

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the DV4000 made a good impression on me.  The keys are not too small and are very springy yet make little noise when you type on them, even if you do type extremely fast.  I experienced no flex with the keyboard, or at least none that I could actually notice.  The touchpad did present a few problems.  With the ALPS drivers that shipped with the computer, there was no option to deactivate the touchpad while I was typing making it easily the most irritating thing about this keyboard.  After just a few minutes of research I actually downloaded the Synaptic drivers for the touchpad and installed them.  This presented me with a massive array of options including to turn off the touchpad while I typed and to activate the scroll strip on the right of the keyboard (which also did not work with the ALPS touchpad drivers).  The actual touchpad buttons are responsive but occasionally I have to click more than once on something almost as if the touchpad is lagging, but this does not bother me much because it happens very rarely.

Keyboard and touchpad (view larger image)

Buttons

The DV4000 series comes with 7 buttons along the top of keyboard which allow for numerous functions.  The power button is programmable to send your computer into stand by, hibernate, or shut down.  The wireless button actually not only turns off the internal wireless but also disables it so you cannot reenable it through software.  To reenable it you must use the button again.  The next two buttons launch the DVD Quickplay as well as the CD Quickplay.  The final 3 buttons allow you to increase, decrease, and mute the volume.  The one thing that I missed was an on screen display of the volume being adjusted by these buttons.

Input and Output Ports

The DV4000 series comes with all the ports that come on today’s standard notebooks with a few added features.  The ports include the following: 1 power input, 1 RJ11 input, 1 RJ45 input, 1 proprietary expansion port for the HP docking station, 4 USB ports (2 on both sides), 1 1394 iLink input, 1 card reader (SD, MS, MMC, SM, and XD), 1 headphone output, 1 microphone input, 1 vga out, and 1 S video out.  The S-video out is a nice touch because more and more computer companies are removing video out from their notebooks.

DV4000 Left side ports (view arger image)

DV4000 Right side ports (view larger image)

Underside (view larger image)

Above view of dv4000 (view larger image)
 
Wireless

My laptop came preconfigured with the Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG network adapter and no Bluetooth.  I do regret not getting Bluetooth and am currently considering replacing the Intel mini pci card with a combo card.  When I first got the laptop the wireless was extremely irritating.  It came with the HP wireless assistant which was nice to set up profiles for home, work, and school.  The signal was always strong at home (I’m usually about 40 feet away from my router) but the speed was horrendous if it did actually work.  It often showed a “very good” signal but the internet rarely worked.  After reading about this problem on the Notebook Review forums, I decided to upgrade to the newest driver from Intel which came with the Intel PRO wireless configuration software as well.  Since then the adapter has been, simply put, amazing.  The signal has been great all over the house and the internet has always worked unlike before.  The adapter even picks up my router in areas that my 5 other family members’ laptops will not.  The DV4000 series does come with a infrared port for the remote control, but I have yet to figure out whether it can be used with other infrared interfaces such as my pocket pc.

Wi-Fi indicator and other buttons/lights (view larger image)

Battery

The battery on the DV4000 was ultimately the reason I went with it over the Vaio FS660.  The DV4000 has gotten incredible reviews in the past and had its battery rated anywhere from 3 hours flat to 3 hours and 45 minutes.  This is a much better rating than my old laptop which died in around 1 hour and 20 minutes.  The DV4000 has allowed me to watch a whole DVD movie with the screen and speakers on their highest settings and the wireless off.  After this I still had 32 percent battery remaining.  Note that the movie that I watched was “The Incredibles” which is neither a particularly long movie nor a particularly short one.  With other tools such as Centrino Hardware Control, I have been able to use my laptop for approximately 3 hours and 24 minutes on full brightness with the wireless adapter on.  In short the battery life on this laptop is quite good and allows you to use the computer to its maximum potential for a lengthy period of time.

Operating System and Software

The DV4170 shipped with Windows XP Home Edition with SP2.  An XP clean install disc was provided for recovery.  A second recovery disc was provided for the numerous applications and drivers that came with the laptop.  The software that was included was generally pretty good.  The Norton Internet Security and Security Center were of course trials.  Intervideo Home Theatre was exceptional in that it simulates XP Media Center Edition and is a one stop media player.  Also included was Intervideo WinDVD which is a very powerful DVD player, Muvee autoproducer DVD with burning ability, and HP quickplay.

Quickplay

Quickplay is an extremely useful feature allowing you to not only play DVD’s, CD’s, and MP3 CD’s, but also the music in your Share Music folder on your hard drive.  While the playlist function takes a while to get used to, the Quickplay feature itself is great.  DVD’s boot up in less than 13 seconds while the Music side of Quickplay takes a mere 11 seconds.  I have yet to test the battery life of the laptop while running Quickplay, but I have heard it is considerably longer than running the computer under an actual operating system.

DVD Drive

The DVD drive on the DV4000 series was exceptional.  I have found that it rarely ever overheats and has not had a single faulty burn with all the DVD’s I have burned recently (over 50).  The drive rips, reads, and writes DVD’s extremely fast.  My only annoyance is that it is kind of loud while burning a DVD, but it is no louder than a normal laptop fan.

Power Cable

The power adapter is extremely small and then end comes with a small groove allowing you to clip it to the power cable when not in use.

Power adapter (view larger image)

Fan

The fan on the laptop was the one thing I was uneasy about when purchasing this laptop.  I heard mixed reviews about it, but upon receiving the laptop, I did not regret my decision in the least.  I am delighted to inform you that the fan rarely ever turns on even while burning DVD’s or performing hard drive intensives tasks.  On the extremely rare occasion the fan does come on, it kicks up to its highest setting for a good 3 seconds and then shuts off to a barely audible low hum.  It remains like this for a maximum of one minute.  I’m not sure if I was just blessed with a particularly cool unit, but I do know that I am EXTREMELY pleased with the fan performance.  CHC has never registered anything over 56 degrees and that is only during extremely intensive tasks.

Remote Control

Included remote control for dv4000

The remote control is a great added touch to the DV4000 series.  It adds to the cinematic experience and really makes you feel like you are watching a movie on a TV or listening to music on a normal stereo.  The remote seems extremely effective even up to approximately 20-25 feet away allowing you to get comfortable wherever you need to be.  The remote’s media launcher buttons are also programmable for your favorite media software.  Finally the remote even allows you to turn on or shut down your computer which I felt was an added bonus if you cannot pry yourself from the couch/bed after a late night movie.

Customer Service

So far I have been lucky enough to not have to use HP Customer Service.  A recent ad in PC Magazine lists them as having award winning technical support which made me a little bit more comfortable with my purchase.  The laptop comes with a one year warranty (parts and services) which is longer than some companies who only offer 90 days.  The warranty includes phone and email support.  I chose not to upgrade my warranty because I was able to transfer my Best Buy warranty over to this new laptop.

Conclusion

Out of the 3 laptops that I have owned thus far in my life, the HP DV4000 is the best.  It is not only quick and snappy but it comes with some great features as well.  I would recommend this to anyone looking for a great multimedia machine that will not have to remain locked to your desk.  The battery life allows you to use it to its full potential without having to be locked down to a power outlet.  The DVD drive allows you to watch movies flawlessly as well as burn them.  The speakers and screen provide an insane multimedia experience.  If you are looking for a relatively cheap medium sized portable laptop, the DV4000 is the way to go.

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • Quite and effective fan,
  • Fast processor and RAM
  • Great wireless performance
  • Quickplay
  • Fast DVD writer
  • Incredible screen and speakers
  • Included Remote and Earbud Headphones

Cons

  • Must update drivers for maximum potential
  • Limited virus coverage with provided software
  • Screen takes a little getting used to
  • No dedicated graphics card

Pricing and Availability


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