HP Pavilion dv6500t Review

by JasonB Reads (155,082)

by Jason Brill

Introduction

The HP Pavilion dv6500t is a “Santa Rosa” equipped update to the very popular dv6000t series of mainstream laptops, which topped the NotebookReview.com Most Popular Laptops chart for quite a while.  A 15.4” widescreen, consumer-oriented laptop, it delivers a solid, well-rounded package that updates the HP lineup nicely.

Specifications and Pricing

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 (2.0GHz, 4MB L2 cache), PM 965 “Santa Rosa” chipset @ 800 MHz FSB
  • OS: Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium
  • RAM: 2GB DDR2 SDRAM @ 667MHz (2 x 1GB)
  • Hard Drive: 120GB SATA @ 5400 RPM
  • Screen: 15.4" WXGA BrightView Widescreen (1280 x 800)
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS, 128MB dedicated VRAM + up to an additional 256MB shared
  • Optical Drive: Super Multi 8X DVD+/-/R/RW w/double layer support
  • Audio: Reaktek High Definition Audio with digital output
  • Battery: “High capacity” 6-cell lithium ion
  • Wireless: Intel PRO/Wireless 4965 802.11 a/g/n + Bluetooth
  • HP Imprint (Radiance) finish + 2 Microphones + Fingerprint reader
  • Ports/Slots: one IEEE 1394 (FireWire); HDMI; three USB 2.0; 5-in-1 memory card reader; VGA monitor out port; S-Video out; RJ-45 Ethernet LAN; RJ-11 modem; Express Card; IR receiver; Expansion Port 3; two headphone/speaker jacks; microphone/line-in jack
  • Remote: HP Express Card IR media center remote
  • Warranty: 1 year standard warranty + 1 year extension (see below)
  • Weight: 6.14 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 14.05" (W) x 10.12" (L) x 1" (min H)/1.69" (max H)


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Design and Build

The build of a laptop is important, especially one that will be carried around and used constantly, but I do not equate a solid feel with ultimate build quality.  I am pleased with the apparent quality of the dv6500t, but only time will truly tell how it fares.  The case is plastic but feels solid, with the top a shiny black coated plastic and the base a more standard matte black.  The area around the screen and keyboard also has a shiny finish that reflects less than the top.  The screen flexes significantly under stress but I cannot produce any ripples in the screen. The hinges are solid and keep the screen in place.  The only flex found in the case is under the optical drive in the center right of the base and a slight amount to the right of the touchpad.  I can pick up each corner of the base without feeling any sag.  Nearly all ports are on the left; only a USB port, the optical drive, the express card slot, and the power connection on the right.  The express card slot has a plastic placeholder rather than a true cover, but the media center remote is stored in this slot, anyway, so a cover would be superfluous.  All vent openings are placed on the back and bottom.  This arrangement does allow some of the vents on the bottom to be blocked without completely obstructing the air flow.  The front lip holds an IR receiver, a microphone/line-in jack, and two sound output jacks.

The lighting adds a very classy touch to the design.  The row of media controls at the top of the keyboard glows an iridescent blue, as does a ring around the power plug when the AC adapter is connected.  The media buttons are all touch sensitive and very responsive.  A click sound accompanies a press, but this feature can be turned off in the BIOS.  The mute button turns orange when activated, as does the icon above the touchpad when disabled via a hard button.  The caps-lock and number-lock keys have blue lights beside each of them to indicate activation.  Finally, three small lights in the bottom left corner show power, charging state, and drive activity.

The one big consideration in all of this shiny, fancy, coated plastic is how easily it can accumulate dust and fingerprints.  A microfiber cloth comes standard, and neat freaks, including myself, will wipe down the top and area around the screen at least a few times a day.


The media buttons and Altec Lansing speakers. (view large image)


The included media center remote. (view large image)


A macro view of HP’s imprint finish. (view large image)

Screen

The dv6500t’s glossy WXGA LCD sports a 1280×800 screen resolution with HP’s Brightview technology.  The colors of the glossy screen really stand out in comparison to a matte display, and the accompanying reflection has not bothered me.  Brightness and contrast are outstanding.  Adjusting the backlight can be done in very small increments, and even at half brightness the image looks brilliant.  I have found that in a dark room with the brightness at full, I have to squint due to the amount of light coming from the display.  The horizontal and vertical viewing angles stretch across a wide range with even lighting in all areas.  Light leakage is undetectable.  In short, this display might be one of the best I’ve seen, even with its standard resolution.


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Speakers

Again unapologetically inserting my opinion here, I do not expect much out of the built-in speakers of a laptop.  The Altec Lansing speakers in the dv6500t sound fine from this perspective, and with the volume at maximum they are powerful enough to project sound into a fairly large room with only some distortion.

Processor and Performance

The 64-bit T7300 runs two cores at 2.00 GHz and includes the Santa Rosa chipset’s ability to dramatically shift power from the second core to the first when a single-core process demands it.  The benchmarks and battery test below show first-rate processing ability and improved efficiency.

The GPU, an NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS, lies at the lower range of their new line-up.  The GS runs slightly more slowly than the GT, which is a slower version of the 8600m GS.  From the benchmarks, don’t expect great gaming performance.  I do not have the time to play too many games during the normal week anyway, but this card does manage to handle the older games I have.  Running a demo of Armed Assault requires most settings turned down to medium for a smooth experience.  Aero effects in Vista run smoothly.  The X3100 integrated option is also available for $80 less.

Benchmarks

Super Pi comparison results:

Notebook Time
HP dv6500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 59s
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 58s
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 1m 01s
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300) 0m 59s
HP dv2500t (1.80GHz Intel 7100) 1m 09s
Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300) 0m 59s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200) 1m 03s
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300) 1m 24s
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52) 2m 05s
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400) 0m 59s
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s

PCMark05 comparison results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
HP dv6500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,079 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks

3DMark05 comparison results:

Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results
HP dv6500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 2,288 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 3,116 3DMarks
HP Compaq 6510b (2.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, Intel X3100) 916 3DMarks
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270) 871 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 2,013 3D Marks
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 1,791 3D Marks
Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 4,236 3DMarks
Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB) 7,078 3D Marks
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,092 3D Marks
Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB) 2,530 3D Marks
Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,273 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB) 2,090 3D Marks

3DMark06 comparison results:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
HP dv6500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,334 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 794 3DMarks
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 and ATI 1250M chipset / GPU) 476 3DMarks

HDTune results:


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Everest: 2011 MB/s read, 1199 MB/s write, 87.8 ns latency

Heat and Noise

The case does not heat up beyond what I would call warm during even intense operation.  The touchpad, of all places, remains warmer than the surroundings whenever the laptop is on.  The left center of the bottom also warms up during normal use, but not enough to become uncomfortable.  The fan runs nearly constantly when the laptop is on external power.  The sound created as it speeds up is more than I expected.  On battery power, this sound reduces to nearly silent.  In other words, if you are taxing the processor, expect a fair amount of fan noise.


There is a noticable amount of warmth and noise despite the number of vents on the bottom and back of the dv6500t.(view large image)

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard feels very similar to my old Thinkpad, with perhaps a little more flex.  The keys travel a good distance, and a slight, unobtrusive noise accompanies each movement.  Some of the larger keys, like the carriage return/enter key, do have a louder click as they are hit, but the noise would not be enough to bother anyone in a quiet room.  Keyboard flex is moderate in the middle and bottom, but only with firm pressure does it start bending.   As mentioned before, the right palm rest flexes slightly with heavy pressure, although this would not be noticed under normal use. 


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The touchpad is relatively large and matches the dimensions of the screen.  Straight out of the box, my fingers would not glide over its surface easily, but after a day’s use, a little oil from my hands apparently coated the touchpad and made it feel smoother.  Personally, I find that somewhat strange, but it does work better now. One nice feature is an on/off button located directly above the touchpad allowing you to deactivate the touchpad when you use an external mouse. A red-orange LED lights up when the touchpad is turned off … which helps if you forget you turned the touchpad off.

I/O Ports

The dv6500t features a good selection of ports (more than most notebooks in this price range):

  • VGA monitor out port
  • S-Video out
  • RJ-45 Ethernet LAN
  • Expansion Port 3
  • RJ-11 modem
  • 1 IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
  • HDMI
  • 3 USB 2.0
  • 5-in-1 memory card reader
  • Express Card
  • IR receiver
  • 2 speaker jacks, with digital out
  • Line-in jack


Front view with IR receiver, microphone in, and dual headphone ports. (view large image)


Right side view with Express Card slot, optical drive, USB port and DC jack. (view large image)


Left side view with lock slot, S-Video out, VGA out, Expansion Port 3, Ethernet, modem, HDMI, two USB ports, FireWire and 5-in-1 card reader. (view large image)


The back view doesn’t offer much except hinges and the fan vent. (view large image)

Wireless

The newest draft-N wireless comes as part of the Centrino Duo package, though I don’t have a wireless-N router to actually use or test this with.  The adapter does pick up the 802.11g router in the area with no problem, and the Bluetooth adapter works well.  This integrated Bluetooth and the 802.11N come together as an option, priced at $45 extra.

Battery Life

If you need something that can last at least two hours on a charge to take notes during class, the dv6500t’s 6-cell battery more than accomplishes that.  Rather than select the 12-cell which lifts the back and adds about an inch to the thickness, I opted for the “high-capacity” version of the standard 6-cell, which has a 16% increase in capacity.  While word processing and moving a few files around, with wireless off and screen brightness at a lower but acceptable level, the battery lasted 4 hours and 1 minute. The 6-cell lasted for about 3 hours while watching a DVD with the screen at half brightness.

OS and Software

This laptop comes with a minimum of bloatware, and I thank HP for that.  Expecting enough pre-installed junk to mandate a fresh install of the OS, I uninstalled only 3 programs after booting up for the first time.  I also immediately turned off Vista’s User Access Control.  The included programs I have found most useful include VeriSoft’s biometrics software, which is very intuitive and integrated seamlessly with other programs to remember passwords, with loads of customizable settings for the fingerprint reader.  Vista’s photo viewing and editing utilities are a welcome addition and make simple fixes quick and easy.  HP’s Quickplay software requires a full Vista boot, but it works well and makes for a flashy way to show off media.

Vista took 58 seconds to reach the desktop during a cold boot, including several seconds for fingerprint verification and log-on.  I’m favorably impressed with the OS itself, and many tasks take a significantly shorter time than in XP, like Microsoft Update.  The plethora of shortcuts seems designed well and with the end-user in mind.  My one complaint is the lag in opening folders in the Start menu under battery power.  I have never experienced this lag in XP, and I fail to see why a menu under All Programs should take several seconds to show its contents in Vista.  When running under external power, this pause disappears.

Conclusion

The HP Pavilion dv6500t performs admirably in all fields, with only a few issues that may or may not concern an individual buyer.  If you need a well-rounded laptop with outstanding performance without giving up battery life, this should be on your short list.  The whole package, starting at less than $1,000 if you are really on a tight budget, shows how a mainstream laptop can excel.

Pros:

  • Great performance
  • Looks that turn heads
  • Outstanding display
  • Good battery life
  • Responsive keyboard
  • Reasonably priced

Cons:

  • Glossy chassis requires a lot of wiping to keep fingerprint-free
  • Dedicated graphics option lacks true gaming power
  • Moderate fan noise at high RPMs


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