HP Pavilion DV4000 Review (pics, specs)

by newz Reads (458,839)

by Bob Jones, California USA

HP DV4000 Overview

HP Pavilion DV4000

This review is for the Hewlett Packard  DV4000 laptop. The unit is a multimedia notebook in a medium sized form factor. For several months I have been looking for a portable computer that I could use to surf the internet while sitting in my easy chair. I looked at the Dell Inspiron 6000, Toshiba Satellite M35-S311 and the Sony VAIO FS550.  The Toshiba didn’t have a glossy screen and the Sony’s audio system was barely audible.  I thought the Dell was clunky looking.   I always liked HP’s DV1000 but thought its 14-inch screen too small.  When the dv4000 came out with a beautiful 15.4 inch  screen, it was just the ticket I had been looking for.  I purchased this configure-to-build unit from HPShopping.com for $1191 after rebate (before taxes) .  I saved a little by going through the EPP (employee purchase program) site which gives modest discounts to employees of large companies.  It only took 8 days from placing my order to being delivered at my home after being built and shipped from China.  When I placed the order, HP estimated it would take a month for delivery.  I understand from others who have ordered from HP, they are often this conservative and give you a ship date further out than what is actual. 

My configuration for the HP Pavilion dv4000 customizable Notebook PC:

  • 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
  • 512MB DDR SDRAM (2x256MB)
  • 60 GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive
  • FREE Upgrade to 8X DVD +/- RW/R & CD-RW Combo!!
  • 54g(TM) Integ. Broadcom 802.11b/g WLAN & Bluetooth
  • 12 Cell Lithium Ion Battery
  • Microsoft(R) Works/Money
  • Remote control (purchased separately)

Upgrades

As you can see, I upgraded the drive to 5400RPM , added Bluetooth and a 12-cell battery.  This is one of the reasons I didn’t buy a retail version like the dv4030us ($1399-$50 rebate)….you are stuck with a 4200RPM hard drive, Wi-Fi but no Bluetooth and only a 6 cell battery.  If you ordered the 12 cell battery as an extra it would cost you $179. When I configured my dv4000 it was only $25 more than the 6 cell battery.  If you do the math you can see the customized laptop was a better deal for me even though you can sometimes buy a retail unit for $1199 when CompUSA or Office Depot is running a promotion.  

Screen

The screen was one of the main reasons I bought the dv4000…it is stunning.  When I play DVD’s on it, my friends can’t believe how clear and bright it is.   Similar to the DV1000 (as was pointed out in the excellent review of the dv1000), the DV4000 LCD has a limited vertical viewing angle.  You have to tilt it just right to get the best contrast and brightness.  This is mostly an issue when playing DVDs and less of a problem when running typical applications for web surfing and word processing.  The glossy screen can introduce a lot of glare, especially in a bright office, but in a dimly lit home it is not as bad.  I want to stress this glossy screen can look like a mirror under some lighting conditions.  Here is a photo showing the screen reflecting my backyard:

Notice with the glossy enhanced screen you do get a lot of reflection when bright light is hitting the screen (view larger image)

None the less,   I think the advantages of the brightview  screen is worth the glare, but some people using  this computer in a classroom might not agree. I’m happy to report my screen has no dead pixels.

When in a darker room setting the DV4000 screen really comes to life with the vibrant colors it displays (view larger image)

Audio and Build Quality

Besides the nice screen I  picked the dv4000 for its audio.  Those front firing speakers are very impressive for a laptop.  Few other notebooks are as loud and clear. The fit and finish seems first rate.  Build quality also seems pretty good too for a unit in this price range. Let’s be clear, it’s no bullet proof IBM ThinkPad, but it isn’t bad.   The keyboard has very little flex and the keyboard travel is good.  I have noticed that the shift keys sometimes make a plastic rubbing plastic sound.  I hope this does not become a problem.  I suspect since the shift key is so large it may not be supported as well as the smaller keys.  The only other key issue is over the up/down arrow keys.  Sometimes it doesn’t want to scroll a page.  I have had to click a few times on the page before the arrow buttons work.  I tend to use the up/down keys instead of the scroll bar as it is much faster.  The scroll bar is located on the right side of the touchpad.  It takes a while getting used to, I would prefer a scroll wheel like they have on a mouse (I don’t know of any laptop with a built-in scroll wheel though!).  The LCD hinges are sufficiently strong to hold the screen at any angle.  The LCD frame does appear to be a weak spot.  Don’t get me wrong, the LCD doesn’t distort when you move it like some cheap notebooks, but when you press on the back of the LCD (the top of the notebook) it creates distortions.  I shudder to think what would happen if you dropped a heavy book on the top of the closed laptop.   Speaking of closed….when you close the cover it is quiet…no loud clicks.  It appears to latch well.

A look at the keyboard of the DV4000 (view larger image)

A close up of the keyboard and QuickPlay buttons (view larger image)

Hard drive

I was concerned that the 60GB 5400RPM  (Hitachi) hard drive would  be noisy. It is not.  You can hear some little ticking sounds if you are in a quiet room.  In a normal room with TV or music you won’t hear the drive.  Another thing you won’t hear is the fan.  It rarely comes on- almost never when just web surfing.  When it does come on it sounds like an ocean breeze that is rather pleasant.  It must not be a high RPM fan because it is nearly silent.  Once again in an average room with background sounds you won’t hear a thing.

Hard drive Benchmark:

HD Tune: Drive model # HTS541060G9AT00 Benchmark

Transfer Rate Minimum : 18.2 MB/sec
Transfer Rate Maximum : 36.0 MB/sec
Transfer Rate Average : 28.9 MB/sec
Access Time: 16.3 ms
Burst Rate: 73.9 MB/sec
CPU Usage: 5.7%

Battery

I got the extended battery because I wasn’t concerned about the extra weight it added, but with the 12 cell battery this sucker is heavy.  HP says it is 6.5 pounds with a 6 cell battery so with the big battery it’s about 7 pounds, this is not terrible but not light either.  I wouldn’t want to carry it from class to class.   As you can see in the picture the battery bulges out of the bottom giving the unit a nice slant for ergonomic purposes. Air circulation is improved with this raising of the notebook also.   It ruins the sleekness of the laptop, but I don’t care.  I don’t plan on moving the laptop too much so the extra weight is no big deal.  Battery life has been impressive, about 7.5 hours under light use.

Notice how the extended life battery sticks out and also causes the back of the notebook to be elevated when upright (view larger image)

Performance

As mentioned previously, the notebook has a 1.73 MHz Pentium M processor.  With 512 MB of memory the performance has been very good.  Starting Internet Explorer only takes a second.  MS works only 3-4 seconds. 

We use the program Super Pi to get a benchmark of processor speed.  The Super Pi program simply forces the processor to calculate Pi to a selected number of digits of accuracy.  Calculating to 2 million digits is our benchmark.  Below is a comparison chart of how the dv4000 with it’s 1.73GHz processor stacked up to other similar notebooks when running this calculation:

 Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
HP DV4000 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 51s
Dell Inspiron 6000 (1.60GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 52s
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 45s
Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 48s
IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Banias Pentium M) 2m 23s
Compaq R3000T (Celeron 2.8GHz) 3m 3s
Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M) 2m 10s
Dell Inspiron 8600 (1.7GHz Banias Pentium M) 2m 28s

QuickPlay and DVD

HP has hyped the QuickPlay feature, but it is well deserved.  This feature allows you to play a movie without having to boot up the operating system.  So pop in a DVD, hit the DVD button and in about 20 seconds you are watching a movie.  Considering the fact that this computer  boots windows up in 40 seconds, the speed is not that much of an issue.  What is nice with QuickPlay is that it immediately fills the screen with the movie.  At first I thought this was not the case in Windows, but under the WinDVD configuration you can configure  it to start in full screen mode. I can not tell any difference in video quality between the QuickPlay and the WinDVD applications. The credit card sized remote works with both applications.

Software

Unlike some computer manufacturers HP gives you a Windows CD so you can re-install your operating system.  I see an I386  folder on the drive so you probably can reinstall from there also.

They also give you all the disks to reinstall the preinstalled software.   What they don’t give you, at least with this custom built unit, is decent documentation.  They give you several pamphlets, but they are all very generic and not specific to the dv4000.  A user guide on CD is included, but that too is pretty worthless.  I could find no instructions for the DVD burner.  The average joe wouldn’t know which software package to use or even what types of blank disks to use. After installing the DVD burner software and a few other things I had used 8GB of the 60GB drive.  It appears there is a 250MB hidden partition on the drive.  I assume that is for QuickPlay feature.

I/O Ports

A strong suit for the dv4000 is its number of ports.  Everything from firewire to S-Video out.  Many new units are not including the S-Video port.  The media card reader works great.  Pop a memory card into this slot from your digital camera and Windows asks if you want to see a slide show….bingo you are watching your digital pictures.   Keep in mind this card reader will not accept the larger and thicker compact flash cards.

HP DV4000 Left Side (view larger image)

HP DV4000 Right Side (view larger image)

HP DV4000 Back Side (view larger image)

Wireless

I accidentally ordered the Broadcom 802.11 g plus Bluetooth option.  I really wanted the Intel version because I assumed it would be better.  I can’t complain about the Broadcom wireless card though, it has never dropped my wireless internet connection.  A lot of people in the forums have been complaining about the Intel version so maybe I made the right choice.   Also the range appears to be good as I am picking up two of my neighbors routers.  There is a switch at the top of the keyboard to turn off wireless and conserve power.  I have not tried the bluetooth and currently have it disabled for security reasons.

DVD Burner

I ordered the DV4000 with a DVD burner.  I had wanted the dual layer burner but it wasn’t being offered when I ordered the unit.   The DVD-RW/CDRW unit vibrates a little when burning or installing programs.  When playing DVD’s it is nearly silent and vibration free.  I have only tried burning one CD so far and it took nearly 7 minutes.  I am not sure why it took so long.  I have included dvdinfo’s report on the properties of the drive.  As for burning software, HP gives you several….Sonic RecordNow and intervideo WinDVD Creator .  They are not as extensive as Nero but they work fine.  They also give you a video editing program called muvee AutoProducer.  Btw, playing dvd’s is very smooth with no glitches.

Conclusion

While I have had my dv4000 for only a short period of time, so far I am very impressed.  HP has crammed everything you need into a nice stylish package.  I wrote this review while relaxing in my barcalounger — what a treat — no more stiff neck while  hunched over a desktop PC, life is good!

Positives

  • Big beautiful display
  • Quickplay feature
  • Battery life
  • Has S-video out
  • Loud and clear audio
  • Good wireless range
  • Quiet drives and fan

Negatives:

  • Weak LCD cover
  • No CompactFlash card reader
  • No dedicated graphics card
  • Limited documenation
  • The DVD/CD burner vibrates a little when installing programs from it but when playing DVD’s it is silent.  

Pricing and Availability


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