HP Pavilion dv5000z Review

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Dv5000z review


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About 3 months ago, I purchased the dv5000z notebook computer from Hewlett Packard. I am a gamer, I build and fix computers for my friends as well as work for a school district in the computer department. I also am studying engineering. After many months of research and looking, I came across the new dv5000z notebook which was a few weeks old when I purchased it. It fit my criteria of a fast processor, good design, good video card, and, though a lot less important, a notebook that didn’t look like it fell out of the sky onto my desk.

Dv5000z specs:

  • Processor: AMD Turion64 ML-37 (2.0GHz, 1MB L2, 35W)
  • Screen: 15.4″ WXGA BrightView widescreen (1200×800 resolution)
  • Graphics: ATI 200M mobile express chipset and GPU with 128MB
  • RAM: 1x stick 512MB DDR PC2700 (upgraded [see below])
  • Hard drive: Toshiba 80GB @ 5400RPM (model: MK8032GAX)
  • Optical drive: LG DVD+/-R/RW/DL + CD-R/RW combo drive (model: GSA-4082N)
  • Wireless: Broadcom 802.11a/b/g
  • Wired: Realtek 10/100mbps (model: RTL8139/810x Fast Family Ethernet NIC)
  • Bluetooth: HP Bluetooth 2.0 internal adapter
  • Battery: 12-cell LiIon w/ 71000mW capacity
  • OS: Microsoft Windows XP Professional v5.1 build 2600 w/ SP2
  • Dimensions: 10.4″ long x 14.1″ wide x 1.38(min) in. /1.77″(max) height (w/ 12-cell battery)
  • Weight: Approx 6.6lbs
  • Price: $1,173 (this same config has sense dropped about $150 since the time of purchase in Jan 06)


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Reasons for Buying

I wanted a college notebook was a combination of mobility and speed. Also a comparable Intel notebook cost about $200 more than the dv5000z, so cost was a big issue since I’m on a bit of a budget. The 200M is able to handle games pretty well. Things like BF2 and HL2 have some good lag from the GPU, but if all the graphic goodies are turned down, its more than reasonable. The notebook also featured Bluetooth wireless, a feature, oddly, hard to come by on laptops.

Purchasing the Notebook

I purchased this notebook via HP’s website, www.hp.com under the home/home office section. It was purchased a couple of weeks after it was first released, so I have one of HP’s first generation Turion notebooks. I was excited when HP mentioned a new AMD Turion based coming out soon, so I pulled away from the Gateway I considered getting and waited for the new dv5000z to be released. Upon release, I configured it on their easy-to-use website. With the exception of a premium graphics card, HP has a lot of configuration options. After configuring it the way I wanted, it was ordered. Soon, I was provided with a number that allowed me to watch the progress of my notebook. It’s estimated build date was 2 weeks away from order, but I was OK with that. But like every other computer company, it was built and shipped within a week from China via FedEx. I guess the days of American mass-produced computers are numbered. I got it from the FexEx facility (b/c i didn’t want it left on my door all day) in a box that wasn’t covered with the “HP” or “AMD” logos (unlike Dell boxes). You would have never known it was from HP except until you opened it and found the goodies inside. Overall, dealing with HP was very pleasant. Except for the one complex nerdy question I asked, they were able to answer all my questions within one business day. Shipping was quick, notification was above par. I say A+!

Design and Build

dv5000 Picture from HP.com

This notebook is very well designed. I cannot get over how well they made this notebook. It feels heavy and sturdy, but it is not where near heavy. This 6.6lb notebook is very rigid and strong. Its not going to break in two any time soon! Overall, the notebook is very aesthetically pleasing. It has nice lines and a combination of flat and glossy black trim. Only problem is the flat black trim gets scratched easily and shows finger prints. I have to clean the glossy black trim often because it looks bad covered with finger pints and dust. The keyboard is easy to type on but does not flex under pressure (unlike many new Dells and Gateways I’ve dealt with). The distance between the hinges and screen is less than half an inch! It doesn’t look as good as a Mac, but its pretty close.

Bays


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On the underside of the notebook, there is a combined RAM and WLAN card bay as well as a HDD bay. These bays are easy to get into as they are only held shut with a latch and 2 screws. My only complaint here is that there is no processor bay. It becomes a heck of a task to actually get to the processor and all those high-heat components. Its one job that I don’t want (and don’t recommend) to attempt after looking at the instructions, which does show how to get to the processor. I would have loved to put an AMD Turion64 MT-40 (2.2GHz, 1MB L2, 25W) and ArticSilver 5 thermal paste in there, but it too tall of a task. For the basic user who never plans to open these bays, this probably won’t be an issue.

Heat and noise

Here’s the big issue with lots of people; heat. HP has some smart ideas when it came to removing heat from this notebook. They smartly put the hard drive under the touchpad instead of under the palms. This makes a world of difference. With this configuration, it allows the user more time with less discomfort. The processor, GPU, and chipset are well cooled by 3″x.75″x 1(?)” copper heat sink. Interestingly, to blend with the notebooks look, the fins of the heatsink were chemically blackened. I’m not sure how this effects heat transfer. There hasn’t been any serious heat issues yet, so it doesn’t look like its has a serious effect. The fan is very quite and you really have to pay attention to hear it turn on. When I first got the notebook, I was afraid the fan was dead, but it was really quite. This could be a problem later if the fan really does die, as you wouldn’t notice. The hard drive makes very little noise as well and seems to be pretty well insulated against noise. A note heat though, like most laptops, if you leave it on for 24+ hours, even at half-power, it will be really toasty. The cooling just can’t keep up if its on that long. That aside, heat and noise are dealt with excellently.

Wireless

HP has a few options for wireless. One of the offerings was a 802.11b/g w/ 125HSM (125mbps), but it can’t be coupled with Bluetooth. There was also vanilla b/g and vanilla a/b/g. The dv5000z cannot be configured w/o a wireless card. I don’t see why you wouldn’t have want one as it can be turned off easily. The 802.11a/b/g+BT card I opted for is a Broadcom WiFi card w/ an HP Bluetooth adapter. It is nice that the computers’ wireless is controlled by a dedicated button below the screen, but it turns off all wireless, not just WiFi. The wireless button is handy to turn on and off the wireless quickly and effortlessly. The BT and WiFi power can be controlled independently through the HP wireless assistant in the operating system. Compared to some other systems, the wireless range on the dv5000z is usually 1 bar lower than an Intel card. This is perhaps because of a small antenna or a weak card. However, this card performs very well at weak signal strength. A Broadcom utility does exist that is similar to the Intel Proset wireless utility, but it does not come installed or on the disk. This utility isn’t nearly as good as the Intel utility, but its worlds better than the Windows utility.

Processor

The dv5000z features the latest mobile processor from Advanced Micro Devices. AMD’s Turion fuels this beast nearly identically as Intel’s Pentium M and Core processors. Despite the smaller cache, the Turion DOES perform the same as Intels chip at a much lower cost. An MT series processor with a 2MB L2 cache (which doesn’t exist…yet) would smoke the Intel chip in performance and battery life. This zippy little CPU easily tackles all the tasks you throw at it!

Optical Drive

HP offers three different kinds of optical drives. The first and lowest is a CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive. Next up is a CD-RW/DVD+/-R/RW combo drive, and finally is a CD-RW/DVD+/-R/RW with LightScribe. LightScribe is a method of labeling media. After burning a CD/DVD, the disk can be flipped over and an image can be burned onto special LightScribe media. It does this burning process at about 8x and takes at least 2 burns to make it look good. Don’t worry, with LightScribe, it will find its starting place again and re-burn the exact same image.

Keyboard and touchpad


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I was shocked with the keyboard. It is easy to type on and does not flex under the pressure of my fingers. It is very rigid and stiff, but a breeze to type on. At the top of the keyboard is the power button, QuickPlay for DVD and music, then finally volume down, mute, and up. The QuickPlay keys are very nice. If either the DVD or music buttons are pressed when the computer is off, it will boot up a Linux kernel for either a DVD player or an iTunes-like music player. The DVD player works rather interestingly. It will spin up the DVD, cache it to RAM, then stop spinning, which preserves battery. I watched Good Night and Good Luck and it only ate 28% of my battery with the screen on 3/12. The music QuickPlay player takes some getting used to because it doesn’t use a mouse, but its nice one you get the hang of it. The QuickPlay buttons are intended to be used by people who want to turn their computer on and play only music or a DVD, and not have to wait for Windows to boot up. I don’t even have a DVD playing program (except Windows Media Player) installed because hibernating then using DVD QuickPlay is faster and easier to use than using a Window-based player or any other product I’ve used, also uses LOADS less battery.

Not much to say regarding the touchpad other than it works. Nice buttons, good, adjustable sensitivity. Its made by Synaptics, like nearly every other touch pad on the market. The rough area off to the side makes for a very nice scroll zone.

Screen


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The dv5000z can have either a BrightView or standard 15.4″ WXGA display. The screen has 12 brightness settings. The viewing angle is At 1/12, it is rather dim. For me, 3/12 is the best viewing when unplugged. Below is a picture comparing the BirghtView (right) vs. the standard screen (left) on the 3/12 brightness setting. Both screens are very bright and are amazingly well lit. On my BrightView, there are not any bright or dull spots and no dead pixels. At night, of course, the dullest setting (1/12) is plenty bright.

Audio

2 Altec Lansing speakers are behind the front grill of the dv5000z. These two tiny speakers somehow produce amazing sound quality. They are excellent speakers for a notebook. In a presentation, they are loud enough to be heard by those in the back of the room. I have a pair of Sony ear buds that I use as a courtesy to others, but when I’m alone, I prefer using the laptops speakers to listen to music or movies. An excellent choice by HP of including Altec Lansing speakers.

Input and output ports

You get the following ports and slots on the dv5000z:

  • 3x USB 2.0
  • 4-pin IEEE 1394 (with ATI 200M w/ 128MB only)
  • Video: 15-pin monitor VGA
  • S-Video: 7-pin mini-DIN connector
  • RJ-45: ethernet
  • RJ-11: modem
  • PCMCIA slot
  • ExpressCard slot
  • 5-in-1 card reader (with ATI 200M w/ 128MB only)
  • Microphone and headphone ports
  • Expansion Port 2 for HP’s dock
  • NOTE: there is NO infrared port

HP gives the average user more than enough ports. 2 USB ports on the left and one on the right provide a perfect balance for lefties and righties using mice that plug into USBs. HP makes good use of the space they have given themselves.

Is it a bit weird to have an extra $2 bill laying around? Oh well…


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Front: power light, charging light, and HDD activity, and the speakers in the gill


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Right side: microphone & headphone jack, USB, ExpressCard on top, optical drive, modem, power in


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Back side: battery, CPU/GPU/NB vent. And irritated cat in the background


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Left side: lock, VGA, S-video, ethernet port, Expansion Port 2, 2x USB ports, FireWire, card reader (bottom), PCMCIA slot.


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Top: the boring sliver lid with an HP logo


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Bottom: see the lables on whats what.

Battery

The dv5000z can be configured with either a 6 or 12-cell battery. For this notebook, I configured it with a 12-cell battery for longer life unplugged. The 12-cell stick out the bottom of the laptop and actually puts it at a nice, comfortable angle (about 5 degrees) to the desk for typing.. Running with max battery options and the ATI 200M under lowest power, I can get about 5hrs 20min of battery with the screen on 3/12 brightness. The 12-cell was well worth the extra weight and $39 as the 6-cell has enough trouble getting 2:30 of life.

Operating System and Software

HP shipped out with the cheaper Windows XP Home Edition along with the usual crappy software companies insist on installing on your laptop. There was the usual “free this, free that” stuff, but some pleasant surprises, such as iTunes, the Google toolbar, and a short subscription to Norton Internet Security, were included.

Upon the laptops arrival, I turned it on, made sure it worked, then put my copy of XP Professional in the CD drive, rebooted, then formatted. If you don’t understand that last sentence, don’t do it. Personally, I don’t like how computer manufactures configure their machines, so I prefer to use my own setup, but to the basic user, it won’t be a problem.

HP ships a recovery DVD (yes, 1 DVD, not 40 different CDs) that was put together very well. It’s bootable so Windows can be installed from it. In Windows, theres a nifty utility that installs drivers, programs, and nicknacks, all from one selectable list. So upon formatting, I selected the drivers and programs I wanted, clicked “ok”, then walked away. It installed everything I had selected and only stopped to ask for a final reboot. This made the process of rebuilding my portable empire quick and very pleasant.

Windows XP Professional x64 Edition notes

This laptop has the capacity to run the newest Windows version, x64. Windows x64 is designed for new 64-bit processors, like the Turion64. It takes advantage of 64-bit architecture and, at least on my Athlon64-based desktop, is noticeably faster. HOWEVER, don’t go running to get x64. It still has some program and driver compatibility issues and cannot be installed on x86-based machines. But those issues have greatly improved since I first beta tested x64 for Microsoft. These problems exist because Windows x64 may smell, look, taste, and feel the same as regular XP (x86 based), but the OS is based off the Windows Server 2003 code. Most major companies have written or rewritten things to work on x64, and Vista is going to be x64 based, so 64-bit is the way of the future, and Windows x64 is a good start.

Windows Vista notes

Though not too much is known about Vista, it has been said that on this laptop, as long as it has 512MB of RAM and the 200M w/ 128MB RAM, it will work. They are now shipping notebooks with the Windows sticker, but it says “designed for XP, compatible for Vista.” I haven’t been paying attention to Vista because its going to be hard to beat XP, so thats all I know regarding Vista and the dv5000z.

RAM notes

For the beginning user, skip this section. HP ships the dv5000z’s with DDR 333 (PC2700). AMD processors work much better with DDR 400 (PC3200) RAM. The performance between the 512MB of DDR 333 and my current 1GB of DDR 400 are astounding. I recommend upgrading the RAM speed and capacity if you plan to game, Photoshop, or do anything that is RAM intensive. A 1GB stick of Corsair ValueSelect RAM gives excellent timings of 3-3-3-8 at 200MHz while not harming battery life.

Extra battery life

For the AMD PowerNow! to work, the drivers from AMD’s website have to be installed. The default Windows processor driver keeps the CPU pegged at 1.99GHz. In addition, install the ATI Catalyst Control panel and under the “Powerplay” tab, there is a high and low battery option, move it from optimal performance to optimal battery life. This will underclock the 200M and add about 30 min of battery when unplugged. I’d advise keeping the plugged in option at optimal performance for those gaming urges.

Benchmarks

Here are some benchmarks on SuperPi, HD Tune, and PCMark 05.

SuperPi

Futuremark 3DMark05 Scores

881 3DMark05

3026 CPUMarks


HDTune

The laptop is not too shabby in the lines of performance. The 5400RPM HDD does have some slow access times, but its not as bad as a 4200RPM.

Conclusion

If you’re into battery life and are a fan of playing movies, this machine is especially built for you. The QuickPlay buttons make watching DVD’s a breeze and Intel has some work to do to compete with this cheaper, just as good, if not better, CPU on the market. So far, with the four month I’ve owned this notebook, I’ve been way more satisfied with the dv5000z than with the Gateway M460 or assorted Dell’s I’ve used. In addition, my friend I mentioned earlier purchased his dv5000z on my recommendation and he, too, has been more than tickled with its battery, performance, and how much better it works for him than his old laptop.

Pros

  • Price, cheaper than an Intel system that is nearly identical
  • Performance
  • Battery life
  • Build quality
  • Screen is nice and bright
  • Media-friendly (card reader, QuickPlay buttons)

Cons

  • Turion MT series is not offered. Having an MT processor would give about 10% better battery life than the ML series that HP uses
  • No graphics card option, stuck with the 200M
  • Bright blue LED’s cannot be turned off and are a bit of an annoyance at night
  • Battery not on center, so its a bit tricky to get it to balance on your lap
  • Wireless tends to be weak. However, it performs rather well when at low signal strength
  • No 7200RPM HDD option


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