HP Pavilion dv6500z Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (68,052)

by Kevin O’Brien

Affordable gaming and multimedia notebooks are nothing new to HP, and the updated dv6500z follows along with that tradition. Starting as low as $649, the AMD-based notebook offers users a notebook with outstanding features at a great starting price. One particularly useful feature included on this notebook when optioned with a dedicated graphics card is an HDMI port, giving this notebook a front and center position in any home theater. Read on to see how well this model holds up in our testing.

Our pre-production review unit of the dv6500z is priced at $1,133 as configured ($1,033 with online rebate at the time of this writing) with the following specifications:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)
  • AMD Turion 64 X2 Dual-Core Mobile Technology TL-60
  • nVidia nForce 630M chipset
  • Broadcom 4321AG 802.11a/b/g/draft-n
  • 2GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM (2 x 1GB, maximum capacity 4GB)
  • 160GB Seagate 5400.3 (reviewed with 80GB Seagate 5400.3)
  • 8x DVD (+/-R double layer) drive
  • 15.4" 1280×800 w/ webcam (WXGA,Glossy)
  • nVidia 8400M GS
  • Expresscard slot/54
  • 5-in-1 media card reader
  • HDMI, VGA, S-Video, Expansion Port, Modem, 1Gb LAN, IEEE 1394,Serial, and Mic/Two Headphone connectors
  • Three USB 2.0 ports
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 14×10.1×1.3/1.45” at rubber feet
  • Weight: 6lbs 1.5oz with 6-cell (6lbs 11.6oz with 12-cell), 6lbs 12.6oz travel weight
  • 60W (20V x 3.25A) 100-240V AC adapter (13.6oz)
  • 6-Cell Lithium Ion Battery 55Wh (11.5oz)
  • 12-Cell Lithium Ion Battery 95 Wh (1lb 5.7oz)
  • 1-Year Standard Limited Warranty


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Build and Design

The dv6500z has a very nice sleek design, with a beautiful glossy feel. The display cover has the durable plastic Imprint finish, which holds up quite well to minor abrasion without scratching. The body has all smooth, rounded edges, making it really comfortable in your hand while carrying it around. The screen also sports a latchless design, removing the release switch from the front of the lid. The removal of this part also helps when it comes to picking out a slipcase for the notebook, as latches will sometimes snag on tight fitting cases. Although the lid lacks any latch to keep it held shut, the hinges feel fairly strong, keeping the lid secure. The cover itself feels quite durable, and is fairly rigid. The lid feels fairly strong, but pressing firmly onto the back of the cover will produce ripples on the screen.


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Opening up the notebook, you see a similar imprint finish surrounding the keyboard. It has the same super durable finish, but the panels themselves don’t feel that strong. Moderate pressure from your thumb is enough to flex the palmrest surface.

The body of the dv6500z feels pretty durable, and doesn’t creak when being held. The plastic used for the bottom of the notebook seemed to be of a high quality material. All of the access panels were thick enough to not cave in under pressure, even at the cooling vents where the material was not solid. All of the user upgradable components had an easy to remove panel, including the harddrive, ram, wireless cards, and backup battery. The optical bay was also user upgradable or swappable, with a single set screw.


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Screen

The glossy display on the dv6500z is very bright and vibrant, but in an extremely narrow viewing angle. No matter how you adjust the screen, you can never find a position where the entire screen is a solid black color. Too far forward and the screen starts getting washed out, and too far back and the colors darken or invert. Overall contrast also seems to be lacking, with blacks never reaching a true deep black. Viewing bright pictures or watching cartoons the screen’s poor contrast doesn’t show through, but reading text or watching dark movies the black colors have an almost gray look.


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Brightness levels were more than adequate for viewing the screen outside, or in a brightly lit conference room. My comfortable viewing level was 50-60%. Pixel refresh rates seemed to be top notch, with no ghosting in games or fast paced movies, or mouse trails on a black screen.

Speakers

Speakers are located above the keyboard, near the screen pivot point. This location puts them out of the way from your arms and wrists while typing. Music and movies came through clearly, but midrange and bass felt lacking. Volume levels were about average, but even with media player and windows volume levels maxed the speakers didn’t seem to reach their true high mark.

This notebook also includes two headphone jacks, which would be very useful if watching movies or listening to music on a plane with a buddy. Audio quality from both jacks was top notch, without any hiss or other forms of distortion.


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Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the dv6500z was very comfortable for extended typing. Individual key action was very smooth, and only required a light press to trigger the button. Keyboard flex was kept to a minimum with good support from below on both sides (even above the optical bay). Spacing between keys was similar to that of a desktop keyboard, and the layout was easy to follow. Gamers and other advanced users will enjoy the ctrl key placement on the far left side, with the function key just right of it.


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The touchpad is a super slick glossy style, having the same imprint finish as the rest of the notebook. Compared to other textured touchpads I have used in the past, it felt really strange at first. Once I got used to it, I almost wished all of my other notebooks had this same finish. Gliding your finger across the surface required almost no effort, and the sensitivity of it was perfect. Not once did I find a window or object that wouldn’t release after being dragged around the screen, or items that I had to forcefully click to get register a hit. The touchpad buttons were just as nice, with the identical imprint finish. Both buttons had a smooth action, with good feedback. A button located above the touchpad also allows the user to disable the touchpad, which comes in handy if you have an external mouse attached.

Performance and Benchmarks

Overall speed of this notebook was excellent for day to day use, as well as some gaming. The dual core AMD Turion TL-60 really pulled through with the nVidia 8400m GS video card. With the default settings, Half Life 2: Lost Coast ran perfectly without any loss of frame rate. Media Center ran flawlessly, and with a HDTV tuner, let us pause and rewind live TV without so much as a hiccup.

Below are benchmarks you can use to compared this particular model against others in its class:

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi.

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
HP Pavilion dv6500z (AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 40.759s
Systemax Assault Ruggedized (Core 2 Duo T7200 @2.0GHz) 41.982s
Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @2.2GHz) 37.299s
HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 40.965s
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240s
Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 42.385s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
Alienware M5750 (Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz) 38.327s
Hewlett Packard DV6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s
Samsung Q70 (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 42.218s
Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi (Core Duo T2500 @ 2.0GHz) 42.947s
Samsung X60plus (Core 2 Duo T7200 @ 2.0GHz) 44.922s
Zepto Znote 6224W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 45.788s
Samsung Q35 (Core 2 Duo T5600 @ 1.83GHz) 46.274s
Samsung R20 (Core Duo T2250 @ 1.73GHz) 47.563s

PCMark05 measures the overall system performance of a notebook, the 6910p came out with a respectable score, though nothing spectacular:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
HP Pavilion dv6500z (2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60, NVIDIA 8400m GS) 4,031 PCMarks
Systemax Assault Ruggedized (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, Intel GMA950) 3,413 PCMarks
Toshiba Tecra M9 (2.20GHz Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA Quadro NVS 130M 128MB) 3,723 PCMarks
HP Compaq 6910p (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,892 PCMarks
HP Compaq 6510b (2.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, Intel X3100) 4,241 PCMarks
HP Compaq 6910p (2.20GHz intel Core 2 Duo T7500, ATI X2300 128MB) 4,394 PCMarks
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270) 2,420 PCMarks
Toshiba Satellite A135 (Core Duo T2250, Intel GMA 950) 3,027 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA 950) 2,994 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
Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950) 2,732 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks


3DMark06 comparison results:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
HP Pavilion dv6500z (2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60, NVIDIA 8400m GS) 1,551 3DMarks
Systemax Assault Ruggedized (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, Intel GMA950) 234 3DMarks
Toshiba Tecra M9 (2.20GHz Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA Quadro NVS 130M 128MB) 1,115 3DMarks
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 122 3DMarks
LG R500 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS 256MB) 2,776 3DMarks
HP dv2500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,055 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,329 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 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

We did not run any hard drive benchmarks on this notebook, since the drive installed in the machine failed early in our review. We had a preproduction model that had seen better days, and the hard drive looked to have almost taken a direct impact. The model included with the notebook was a Seagate 5400.3 160GB drive, and we replaced it with a Seagate 5400.3 80GB running Vista Ultimate.

Heat and Noise

The dv6500z is pretty tame in terms of noise and heat output. The fan stayed off most of the time during basic tasks like browsing the web or typing. Under more stressful activities like running benchmarks or playing games the fan would usually stay on at a quiet, low speed. You could barely hear the fan unless it you had your ear next to the exhaust vent. Sometimes if the heat output peaked, the fan would come on at a faster, more audible speed, but would slow down moments later.

The palmrest and keyboard did warm up during use, but stayed within reasonable temperatures. Below are heat overlays showing the temperature of the upper and lower notebook surface in degrees Fahrenheit.


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Battery

For this review we had two different batteries to test, a 6-cell and the much larger 12-cell. Each battery was tested with the LCD backlight at 80 percent, and just using Internet Explorer with an active WiFi connection. This would simulate a regular day at school killing time inside or between classes. During this test the 6 cell managed 3 hours and 20 minutes, with the 12-cell getting 4 hours and 50 minutes.

Port Selection


Front: Wireless on/off switch, IR port, microphone jack, and two headphone jacks. (view large image)


Rear: CPU exhaust vent. (view large image)


Left: Kensington Lock Slot, Svideo, VGA, Expansion Port, LAN, Modem, HDMI, two USB ports, Firewire, and 5-in-1 Card Reader. (view large image)


Right: Expresscard/54 slot, optical drive, USB, and AC jack. (view large image)

Conclusion

The HP dv6500z turned out to be a pretty nice budget multimedia notebook. The build quality and material selection was excellent, and the durable imprint finish holds up great to wear. Although the screen could have been improved, it was still fairly nice. The keyboard and touchpad turned out to be superb, and the finish on the touchpad couldn’t have been better. Add the HDMI output into the mix, and it’s hard not to recommend this notebook.

Pros

  • Durable Imprint Finish
  • Super smooth accurate touchpad
  • HDMI, VGA, and S-Video Outputs (everything you could ask for)

Cons

  • Some flex to the palmrest under pressure
  • Display cover doesn’t stop the LCD from making ripples under strong pressure.


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