- Editor's Rating
by Dustin Sklavos
OVERVIEW AND INTRODUCTION
The HP Pavilion dv6560us is one of the retail versions of HP’s Santa Rosa-based refresh of their dv6000 series, labeled the dv6500. The dv6560us is available in stores now, and the HP dv6500t series is available for custom ordering on HP’s site.
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My sister is a notoriously difficult person to shop with or for. That isn’t to say she doesn’t like getting things – she’s every bit the consumer as her younger brother (that would be me) – but she’s picky. We were shopping for a laptop for her new business, and were pretty much at the end of both of our respective ropes when a salesman at a local Fry’s informed us that even though there wasn’t a display unit available, they had dv6560us laptops in the back.
The unit was $1,049, and she picked up a three year extended warranty for it. While initially against my better judgment, she’s been using the same Sony VAIO laptop since she was in college (a robust Pentium III) while I cycle notebooks about once a year. She wanted to make sure it would last.
The HP Pavilion dv6560us’s specifications are as follows:
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 (1.86 GHz, 2MB L2 Cache, 800MHz Front Side Bus)
- Chipset: Santa Rosa Platform, Intel 965GM
- Memory: 1GB DDR2-667 in two sticks, expandable to 2GB
- Video: 1280×800 WXGA Glossy running on Intel GMA X3100
- Hard Disk: 160GB 5400rpm SATA
- Optical: 8x DVD+/-RW with LightScribe
- Networking: 10/100 Wired Ethernet, Intel 3945ABG Wireless Networking, 56K Modem
- Communications: Webcam with integrated microphone
- Power: 65W AC Adaptor and 6-Cell LiIon Battery (12-Cell Battery purchased separately)
- Connectors and Ports: 3x USB 2.0, 1x 4-pin FireWire, VGA, S-Video, Ethernet Port, Modem, ExpressCard54 Slot, Kensington Lock, 2x Headphone Jacks, 1x Mic Jack, 1x Infrared Port, 1x HP Expansion Port 3; 1x 5-in-1 Digital Media Reader supports SD, MMC, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro, and xD
The unit also includes a media remote and a pair of earbuds, and runs Windows Vista Home Premium.
Included HP media remote (view large image)
I’m fortunate to have an AMD-based dv6000 special edition on hand to compare the dv6560us to – that is, the AMD notebook is mine, and the one I’m writing this review on.
If you’re familiar with the dv6000 series in its AMD and Intel incarnations, you’ll find no surprises here. The imprint finish is still gorgeous, the build is still solid, etc. Make no mistake, this is a refresh, but when you’re on top of the heap already, why mess with success?
BUILD AND DESIGN
The dv6560us is based on the HP dv6500t series, which is in turn a refresh of their existing dv6000t series. The lid has HP’s gorgeous, fingerprint-loving imprint design, emblazoned with a silver HP logo. It feels fairly sturdy, with no wobble and minimal flex. Though the unit as a whole is a bit bulky for a 15.4" mainstream notebook, that bulk serves a purpose. The lid itself does not close using conventional latches, but instead simply snaps shut, then snaps open, like a clamshell. Some people might worry about this, but honestly, you really do need both hands to open the unit – it’s not going to open by itself.
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The internal of the unit sees the Altec Lansing speakers at the top, followed by the touch-based media controls, the keyboard, the touchpad.
The lid, shell, and keyboard are black, with the internal plating around the keyboard silver, and the touch controls are illuminated with blue LEDs.
The machine as a whole is built pretty much identically to other dv6000 series notebooks and so you may want to consult other reviews if you want other perspectives. It’s solid, attractive, and functional.
The screen isn’t anything to write home about, at least if you’ve been using glossy screened notebooks for a while. It’s plenty bright, has good contrast, but viewing angles can be problematic as is typical of notebook screens. Vertical viewing angles are a bit touchy, while side-to-side goes dim and discolors in a hurry.
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That said, compared to other screens of its ilk, it’s pretty much par for the course, but the irony is that the second headphone jack may not be that useful given the lousy viewing angles of the unit.
Backlighting is sourced from the bottom of the screen, and surprisingly even in comparison to my dv6258se.
HP has historically taken their notebook speakers pretty seriously, and the dv6560us is no exception. Featuring the same Altec Lansing speakers as its ilk, sound produced is loud, crisp, and clear, even at the highest volumes. While lacking the bass typical of notebook speakers, these are nonetheless a substantial cut above the rest.
HP built this unit for media, and that emphasis shows in the power of the speakers, but also in the dual headphone jacks on the front, and the media center remote conveniently stored in the ExpressCard bay.
PROCESSOR AND PERFORMANCE
This is where the difference bears itself out: under the hood. It’s worth mentioning that the processor in this notebook – the Core 2 Duo T7100 – is virtually identical to the desktop Core 2 Duo E4300, with two crucial points: lower power consumption and heat dissipation, AND this processor supports Virtualization Technology. In short: all the bells and whistles. It’s more than a little exciting to be able to get a notebook processor in a mainstream notebook that is actually directly superior to a mainstream desktop part.
In casual use, the system is snappy and powerful. The inclusion of only 1GB of RAM is disappointing, especially in a modern notebook at over a grand, and HP has filled both bays with 512MB of RAM. This means that if you want to upgrade your RAM to 2GB, you’ll have to replace both sticks. Mercifully, RAM is dirt cheap right now, but RAM prices fluctuate worse than the stock market, so it isn’t something to bet on.
For the benchmark junkies out there, I’ve run Super Pi and PCMark05. Super Pi gives a very raw calculation of CPU speed, but is single-threaded and doesn’t stress the CPU as well as it could, while PCMark05 is a bit more thorough.
A run of SuperPi calculating to two million places, per standard for this site, nets a respectable time of 1m 17s, proving that just because the Core 2 Duo T7100 is a dual core doesn’t mean it can’t tear up a single-threaded app.
|HP dv6560us (1.86GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7100)||1m 14s|
|Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300)||1m 0s|
|HP dv2500t (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300)||58s|
|HP dv2000t (1.83GHz Core Duo)||1m 22s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300)||59s|
|Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300)||1m 24s|
|Toshiba Satellite A205 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 34s|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T2400)||59s|
|Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
A run of PCMark05 yields a score of 2820, about on par for the specs.
PCMark05 comparison results:
|HP dv6560us (1.86GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7100, Intel X3100)||2,820 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|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
It goes without saying that given the system is running a GMA X3100, it’s not exactly a gaming machine. That said, there’s a lot of potential in that hardware, potential I had the privilege of seeing at GDC this year, and as a companion to my GeForce Go 6150 review, I’ll be writing a detailed performance review of the GMA X3100 in the future.
KEYBOARD AND TOUCHPAD
What can really be said about this unit that hasn’t been said about its predecessors? Minimal flex, surprisingly comfortable full-sized keyboard layout.
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I’m not really sure what to say. While the keyboard is no ThinkPad keyboard, the textured plastic keys are comfortable to use, and the smooth touchpad exhibits exactly the right kind of sensitivity. While it isn’t a textured touchpad like on HP’s new tablet line, it still feels very smooth, and the scroll bar is surprisingly easy to use given how touchy the ones I’ve used in the past have been.
The mouse buttons do have less travel than in older units, but this is a positive change, as the buttons are now less clicky, require less effort, and are just more responsive.
The feature I love most of all about HP’s notebooks – and the reason why I picked up mine – is the touchpad disable button. Located just above the touchpad, the button can be used to toggle – in hardware and not software – the touchpad, so if you’re writing a novel like, for example, this review, you won’t have to worry about accidentally bumping the pad and highlighting a new window, randomly dumping new and exciting words into an already written sentence, assuming you didn’t lose focus altogether.
How often do I use it? Not that often, but that’s chiefly because my typing has adjusted to suit notebooks that don’t enjoy this feature, and because the touchpad is also pleasantly recessed into the unit, making it just a little harder to bump it.
The design is very smart.
The media keys are a little more up in the air. While some may find touch keys to be a pleasant and modern choice, I don’t personally care for them as I prefer tactile feedback. When the unit is muted, the mute touch button glows orange instead of blue. It’s a cute, futuristic touch that also provides a nice visual cue for the volume. The volume up and down buttons aren’t just buttons, but can function as a slider, adjusting the volume as you drag your fingertip across it. It’s a nice touch.
INPUT AND OUTPUT PORTS
The HP Pavilion dv6560us has the standard complement of ports.
On the left side, there’s a Kensington lock port on the monitor half, followed by an S-Video port, a VGA port, an Expansion Port for a docking unit HP sells, an ethernet port, the modem jack, two USB ports, a 4-pin FireWire port, and the 5-in-1 flash reader.
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On the front is the wireless switch with a convenient blue light, infrared port for the remote, the mic jack, and the two headphone jacks. Near the top, under the lid, are the lights for power, AC adaptor, and hard disk activity.
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On the right side, there’s the ExpressCard port, the optical drive, the third USB port, and the power jack. The power jack lights up blue when plugged into the wall, very cool and a useful visual cue. I don’t know about you, but I’ve actually been dumb enough to not stick the cord in far enough, or stick it in too loose, and then cry when my battery dies.
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There’s nothing on the back except the battery.
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The notebook arranges ports pretty smartly. The media port is placed conveniently toward the front, along with two of the USB ports. If I had any suggestion, it would be that a fourth USB port be placed in the back, or that the headphone jacks would be moved to the left side (personal preference.) I don’t like having the headphone jacks on the front because if you’re using the unit on your lap, you have headphones plugged in, the back of the connector kind of jams right into your fun zone. Of course, that’s a minor quibble and probably too much information…
The wireless connectivity works pretty much just like it ought to. I’ve always been very pleased with Intel’s wireless cards, and there’s no exception here. Nothing exciting to say, you turn it on and it works. Turn it off, it doesn’t, because it’s not on. There you go.
BATTERY AND HEAT
The battery life and heat generation were both very pleasant surprises. While the hard disk runs toasty to the point of getting a bit uncomfortable, the rest of the machine runs pretty cool, only getting a bit warm in the keyboard. The fan seldom spins up, and the unit is pretty quiet overall.
The battery life was the big win here. My sister upgraded to a 12-cell battery, and it’s my understanding she has yet to run it down. Given that she uses her notebook on the battery A LOT, it stands to reason that if nothing else, it passes the "couldn’t run it down in daily use" test. So even though the chipset and processor should theoretically be drawing more juice, the unit boasts an impressive six hour battery life on the 12-cell, suggesting a three hour battery life on the stock 6-cell battery.
OPERATING SYSTEM AND SOFTWARE
The dv6560us comes with Windows Vista Home Premium. My feelings toward the operating system are pretty well known on this site, having written two articles to date on it (Vista article 1, Vista Article 2). I’ll defer to my sister, whom at first was warming up to it until she tried running some of her programs for her job on it, which wasn’t happening. Her computer isn’t running Windows XP yet because we wanted to make sure we reviewed the computer as it came. That said, for casual use, the OS does its job and supports full Aero Glass.
Unfortunately, it comes with the same bloatware that retail computers are pretty much known for anymore, and the boot time kind of suffers for it.
Here’s what HP lists on their site as coming with the computer:
- 60 Day Trial of Norton Internet Security 2007
- HP Total Care Help & Support Center
- PC Recovery
- Wireless Home Network
- HP PhotoSmart Essentials
- HP Quick Play
- Muvee AutoProducer Basic Edition
- Roxio Creator 9 Basic
- Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Microsoft Works
- Microsoft Office 2007 Student and Teacher Edition Trial
- AOL Dial-Up
But if you’re buying retail, this is the kind of thing you need to expect.
CUSTOMER SERVICE AND SUPPORT
My sister actually wound up having to call HP customer support when her wireless networking stopped picking up internet access. It wasn’t a simple case of "I bumped the switch." Yet by eventually just running a wizard in Windows Help, her internet connection worked fine again. I still don’t know why it stopped to begin with.
Now, I said eventually, because she called HP customer support. She called them, and she sat on the phone with the guy for an hour and a half for something that wound up being a very simple fix. And when her phone dropped the call, even though she had given them her number, they didn’t call back. They didn’t call back until the next afternoon, in the middle of the day, because "we had an open ticket."
I don’t totally know what to make of this, other than that the inability of an at least moderately trained tech to solve a problem that she, a total neophyte, wound up solving in a few minutes, seemed to tick her off something fierce.
But it’s hard to expect miracles, and the computer tech support industry isn’t exactly well loved or known for giving anything resembling quality help.
- Still just as attractive as its predecessor; HP doesn’t mess with success.
- High performance.
- Reasonable price.
- Respectable battery life.
- Solid keyboard.
- Lackluster screen.
The dv6560us is a worthy addition to the dv6000 family. There isn’t a whole lot that can be said about this unit that wasn’t already said about its predecessors, and it can most aptly be described as "more better." Which is to say this unit has more of the stuff that made the dv6000 better. Better battery life, better performance, same price. It’s how a refresh should be.