The newest 12-inch notebook from HP is no ordinary ultraportable. Featuring the new AMD Athlon Neo processor, the HP Pavilion dv2 promises to bridge the gap between low-performance netbooks and higher-priced ultraportable notebooks. This pint-sized powerhouse can handle 1080p HD content from a Blu-ray player or even get you to the next level of your favorite video game and is priced starting at just $699. But in a world full of $300 netbooks can the dv2 survive? We took a quick look at a pre-production sample of this notebook at CES and we’re ready to tell you what we think.
The pre-production sample of the HP Pavilion dv2 that we used features the following specifications:
- Processor: 1.6GHz AMD Athlon Neo 64-bit processor
- Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 3410 (256MB dedicated memory)
- Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium with SP 1 (32-bit)
- Screen: 12.1″ HP BrightView Widescreen Display (1280 x 800)
- Memory: 3GB (up to 4GB configurable)
- Storage: 160GB HDD
- Optical Drive: External Blu-ray Drive with Double Layer Support
- Wireless and Communications: 802.11b/g WLAN
- Battery: 4-cell Li-Ion
The pricing on the dv2 starts at $699. We don’t have final pricing for other configurations to the time of this writing, but it’s safe to say that any configuration with the dedicated graphics and external Blu-ray drive will cost more than $800. Regardless, this is a fabulous price point for students or anyone looking for an extremely mobile multimedia solution.
Build and Design
The dv2 has an all new ultrathin design weighing just 3.8 pounds that is made possible thanks to the new AMD Athlon Neo platform. The display lid has the durable plastic Imprint finish, which holds up quite well to minor abrasion without scratching. The body of the notebook is smooth with rounded edges, making it extremely comfortable in your hand while carrying it around. The screen also sports a latchless design, making it easy to open the notebook with one hand. Although the lid lacks any latch to keep it held shut, the hinges feel fairly strong, keeping the lid secure. Pressing firmly onto the back of the screen cover will produce some ripples on the screen … but you must apply significant pressure to cause this.
The plastic chassis is quite rigid and suffers from no flex or creaks even when twisted between my hands. Granted, this is in large part due to the fact that the dv2 is less than one inch thick … meaning there isn’t much empty space inside the notebook to flex.
The pre-production sample of the dv2 that we used features the “Espresso” (black) Imprint Finish but HP will also offer the dv2 with the “Monlight” (white) Imprint Finish. All of our editorial staff generally likes HP’s various Imprint Finishes, but they are glossy and tend to show fingerprint smudges quite easily.
Overall, the dv2 is something like a smaller version of the MacBook Air … only this notebook has more ports and doesn’t cost nearly as much.
The 12.1-inch diagonal HP BrightView Widescreen Display (1280 x 800) is nice and provides considerably more viewable real-estate than the displays on netbooks. Detail is good, colors are rich with deep contrast, backlighting is even across the entire surface, and viewing angles are good. There is some color inversion when you view the screen from below.
Input and Output Ports
The dv2 has an impressive number of ports for such a small and thin notebook. Here’s a run down of the ports:
- 3 USB 2.0 ports
- HDMI 1.3 connector
- 5-in-1 multi-card reader
- Microphone in and headphone/audio out ports
- 1 RJ -45 (LAN)
- 1 VGA out
- Kensington lock slot
While three USB ports might not sound like a lot, that’s pretty good for an ultrathin 12-inch notebook. The really impressive port here is HDMI thanks to the ATI Radeon HD 3410 graphics. We would have liked to see at least one USB/eSATA combo port on this notebook, but given the price point that is something we can forgive.
The second important feature to consider with the dv2 is the optional external optical drive, available as either a DVD burner or a Blu-ray and DVD burner combo drive. Power and data are handled over a single USB connection so you only have to sacrifice a single USB port on the dv2 when the drive is connected.
HP offers the new Pavilion dv2 with the new AMD Athlon Neo 64-bit processor. This processor is bassically a scaled-down version of AMD’s current notebook processors with a lower TDP (15 watts) which means this notebook shouldn’t get as hot on your lap and should last a little longer on battery power. While the power consumption of the new Athlon Neo isn’t as low as the Intel Atom, AMD showed multiple benchmarks indicating that the Athlon Neo is anywhere between 50% and 149% faster than the Atom in various tasks. However, the big news this year is the availability of discrete graphics thanks to the new ATI Radeon HD 3410 graphics inside the dv2.
While it’s true that a few netbooks offer discrete graphics, the reality is that the Intel Atom platform lacks the muscle to truly take advantage of discrete graphics. Our own lab tests confirm that Atom-based netbooks with dedicated graphics cards perform virtually the same as Atom-based netbooks with integrated graphics. This is yet another reason that the dv2 shouldn’t be labeled as a netbook. For the first time ever consumers have a low-cost ultraportable that offers flawless 1080p video playback and can even play many 3D video games at reasonable frame rates!
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the Pavilion dv2 has zero flex and excellent key travel with quiet presses. I can’t say with absolute certainty, but I suspect the keyboard is the same part used on the tx2000 and tx2500 with a different Imprint Finish (which makes sense seeing as how they are all 12-inch HP notebooks).
The keys have a durable coating which makes the keyboard look and feel better when typing. The slight glossy texture of the keys won’t develop the typical “shine” that begins to show up on keys after extended use.
The palm rest area features the same “Mesh” Imprint Finish used on the lid. The touchpad is reasonably large for an ultraportable notebook and features the same slick surface seen on touchpads found on the HP Pavilion dv4 and dv5. The marked vertical scroll section is likewise accurate and responsive. The touchpad buttons have okay feedback (the button press isn’t deep but it’s not too shallow either) and produce quiet, cushioned clicks.
One of the nice features found on HP touchpads is the touchpad on/off button. If you press the small button above the touchpad you can disable it … perfect for people using an external mouse. Although the touchpad is quite nice I would have liked to see the same style of touchpad that HP started using on the tx2000z, tx2500z, and the new TouchSmart tx2z.
As of this writing we’ve only had about one hour to play with a pre-production sample of the HP Pavilion dv2. Still, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about this notebook. First, we’re just glad to see HP release a new 12-inch ultraportable notebook design since the design of the tx1000 and tx2000 series is a little old and a little thick by today’s standards. More importantly, we’re glad to see a low-priced ultraportable with dedicated graphics and a processor that seems to actually perform well.
We reserve final judgment for the full review, but right now we have high hopes for this notebook.