HP Pavilion dv6z Review

by Jerry Jackson Reads (151,321)
  • Pros

    • Good value
    • Excellent selection of ports
    • Nice design and build quality
  • Cons

    • Average battery life
    • Low screen resolution
    • Heat exhaust is extremely hot

by Jerry Jackson

The newest 16-inch notebook from HP promises to deliver great performance at a low price and might be very popular in 2009. The HP Pavilion dv6z features the latest AMD dual-core processors, your choice of integrated or discrete graphics, and all the ports and features you need. At a starting price of just $599.99 it might just be the most competitive desktop replacement notebook on the market. Keep reading to find out if this notebook is as impressive as it sounds.

Our HP Pavilion dv6 (dv6z) has the following specifications:

  • Processor: 2.1GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-64 dual core processor
  • Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 4530 512MB
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium with SP 1 (32-bit)
  • Screen: 16.0″ diagonal High Definition HP Brightview Display (1366×768) 
  • Memory: 3GB DDR2 (up to 8GB configurable)
  • Storage: 250GB SATA HDD (5400rpm)
  • Optical Drive: Lightscibe SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-R/RW with Double Layer Support
  • Wireless and Communications: 802.11b/g WLAN with Bluetooth
  • Battery: 6-cell Li-Ion (10.8V, 47Wh)
  • Dimensions: 14.9″ (W) x 10.2″ (D) x 1.4″ (min H)/1.7″ (max H)
  • Weight: 6.36lbs
  • Warranty: 1-year
  • Price as configured: $774.99

Build and Design
The dv6z has a glossy, modern design that is essentially a larger version of the dv4 and dv5 series notebooks. The display cover has the durable plastic “Espresso Black” Imprint finish which holds up quite well to minor abrasion without scratching. The body of the notebook is smooth with rounded edges, making it extremely comfortable in your hand while carrying it around. The screen also sports a latchless design, making it easy to open the notebook with one hand. Pressing firmly onto the back of the screen cover will produce some ripples on the screen … but you must apply significant pressure to cause this. Overall, the design is very attractive, but the glossy plastics are very prone to collecting fingerprints.

Build quality is above average with solid plastic used throughout the notebook, which helps reduce flex and protect components. The palmrests have good support and only flex under strong pressure from your hands. Under normal activity it feels rock solid. The keyboard is the same, with just a little flex around the “F” key when heavy pressure is applied.

As mentioned above, our dv6z features the “Espresso Black” Imprint Finish which looks like a glossy black plastic with a silver bubble pattern on the lid and left palmrest. The Imprint Finish on the dv6z isn’t as subtle as the pattern on the HP Pavilion dv2. I suspect many average consumers will find the bubble pattern on the lid a little too “splashy” for a workplace environment, but it still looks very attractive and I’m sure it will be popular among younger shoppers.

The bottom of the dv6z is pretty simple with several heat vents located in strategic positions to help keep the laptop cool. The two access panels on the bottom of the notebook make it easy to upgrade RAM, replace the hard disk drive, or access the wireless card. This arrangement makes it simple for the novice user to make upgrades, but more serious users will have to remove the entire base of the chassis in order to access the rest of the motherboard.

Display
The 16? display is above average in terms of overall viewing quality, but resolution is only average. Sure, the 1366×768 resolution provides more horizontal screen space than the 1280×800 resolution common to 14-inch and smaller notebooks, but we would have liked to see the option for a 1920×1080 screen. When manufacturers stick with lower resolutions on larger panels pixels become more apparent and screen real estate seems unusually limited. Overall the panel looks good with excellent color saturation and contrast levels thanks in part to the glossy surface.

Screen brightness is fine for viewing in a bright office environment … even at lower brightness settings. Outdoor viewing wasn’t as impressive, but the screen is still visible outdoors if you can find some shade. Vertical viewing angles are normal, having a narrow viewing sweet spot before color starts to wash out or invert. Horizontal viewing angles are much better and staying true even at extreme angles.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size keyboard with number pad on the dv6z takes advantage of all of the space provided by the wide 16? chassis. In previous years the keyboards on 15-inch and 17-inch HP notebooks suffered from at least some flex under typing pressure. Thankfully, the keyboard on the dv6z is remarkably firm and quite comfortable to type on. The only area that suffered from flex was around the “F” key, but we had to apply significant pressure for the flex to become visible. Individual key action is smooth with a light audible click when pressed. The glossy key texture is prone to picking up fingerprint smudges (like everything else on the notebook) but it’s a minor annoyance.

HP includes a moderately-sized Synaptics touchpad on the dv6z which feels very responsive with little lag. The entire touchpad surface is made of a high gloss plastic, and can sometimes be hard to use depending on how dry or oily your fingertip happens to be. The surface needs to collect some of your finger’s natural oils to allow for easy movement on the touchpad. While the reflective touchpad surface looks cool HP probably would have been better off using the same type of textured touchpad surface used on the HP Pavilion tx2500 and TouchSmart tx2. The touchpad buttons are in a great location and are easy to control with your thumb. The buttons provide mild feedback with a shallow movement that gives an audible click when pressed.

Ports and Features
Port selection on the dv6z is better than average, and there seems to be a good balance of ports on the left and right sides of the notebook. Then right side includes the optical drive, two USB ports, spaces for the optional TV tuner and modem, as well as a security lock slot and the power jack. The left side of the notebook contains the VGA port, docking station connector, Ethernet, HDMI, eSATA/USB combo port, USB port, FireWire, ExpressCard, and media card reader. The remaining ports include audio jacks for headphones and a microphone on the front of the notebook next to the IR receiver for the remote control.

Performance
HP offers the new Pavilion dv6z with a range of AMD processors, including Athlon X2 dual-core processors and the Turion X2 Ultra dual-core processors. You can also configure the dv6z with your choice of integrated or discrete graphics. Since the dv6z can be customized based on your needs, we decided to configure our review unit with the low-priced AMD Athlon X2 QL-64 processor and the mid-grade ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530 discrete graphics card.

The 2.1GHz AMD processor might be the entry-level option, but it provided perfectly adequate performance in all of our tests. The wPrime synthetic benchmark showed the 2.1GHz QL-64 processor is just a little slower than a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, but the PCMark05 synthetic benchmark wasn’t quite as impressed by the processor’s performance. Bottom line, this value-priced AMD processor is perfectly capable of providing all the performance average computer users need.

The ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530 graphics with 512MB of dedicated RAM performed reasonably well and had no problem playing 1080p video files over HDMI to a HDTV. Gaming performance was good, but certainly not as impressive as what you’re likely to find in gaming notebooks priced at more than $1,000. Still, considering the budget price of just $775 for this configuration, we were more than impressed with how the dv6z preformed.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Sony VAIO FW (Core 2 Duo T9400 @ 2.53GHz)
30.373 seconds
Dell Studio 17 (Core 2 Duo T9300 @ 2.50GHz) 31.574 seconds
Dell Studio XPS 16 (Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.40GHz) 31.827 seconds
ASUS F50SV-A2 (Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.40GHz) 31.857 seconds
HP Pavilion dv6z (AMD Athlon X2 QL-64 @ 2.10GHz)
38.519 seconds

 

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Dell Studio XPS 16 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 512MB) 6,303 PCMarks
ASUS F50SV-A2 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, Nvidia GeForce GT 120M 1GB) 6,005 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FW (2.53GHz Intel T9400, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470) 6,002 PCMarks
Dell Studio 17 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650) 5,982 PCmarks
HP Pavilion dv6z (2.10GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-64, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530 512MB) 4,119 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 graphics comparison against notebooks @ 1280 x 800 resolution (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
ASUS F50SV-A2 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, Nvidia GeForce GT 120M 1GB) 5,152 3DMarks
Dell Studio XPS 16 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3670 512MB)
4,855 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv6z (2.10GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-64, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4530 512MB) 3,254 3DMarks
Dell Studio 17 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650) 2,974 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FW (2.53GHz Intel T9400, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470) 2,598 3DMarks

 

HDTune for the built-in hard drive:

 

Speakers
The performance of the Altec Lansing branded speakers is well above average with strong highs and midrange with adequate bass. Peak volume levels are very good and capable of filling a small room with sound. Still, headphones or external stereo speakers are ideal for audiophiles. The speakers are mounted above the keyboard and direct sound up and toward the user for a great listening experience.

Battery
Battery life is limited by the AMD Athlon series processor (35W TDP) in this configuration and the ATI Radeon discrete graphics … both of which consume a large chunk of power. With Windows Vista power management set to the “power saver” mode, screen brightness set to 50%, and wireless turned on, the dv6z lasted 2 hours and 12 minutes with the 6-cell battery. On the “high performance” power setting, with screen brightness turned up to 100% the battery life dropped to 1 hour and 36 minutes.

While this is “acceptable” battery life for a desktop replacement with discrete graphics, we would have liked to see at least three hours of battery life in the “power saver” mode with the standard battery.

Heat and Noise
The Pavilion dv6z does a reasonable job keeping heat under control, but there are still some hot spots to watch out for when using this notebook on your lap. The system fan and heatsinks in the notebook do a great job managing heat when the system is under load but the bottom corner near the heat exhaust can get uncomfortably hot … as we discovered when we ran multiple benchmarks back to back. Below are images with “average” temperature readings listed in degrees Fahrenheit … the notebook can get cooler or hotter depending on use.

Noise was likewise a mixed blessing on the dv6z. The fan moved a significant amount of hot air and the fan noise was reasonably quiet at idle. However, when the system was under stress the fan became as loud as a quiet hair dryer. Of course, the manufacturer of the cooling fan in your notebook might be different and the dv6z should produce less heat if you configure it with the integrated graphics card, so your mileage (or decibels) may vary.

Conclusion

If you’re currently shopping for a full-featured desktop replacement notebook at a reasonable price then the HP Pavilion dv6z deserves your consideration. The HP Pavilion dv6z came extremely close to winning an Editor’s Choice Award because of the solid build quality, great port layout, fantastic range of configuration options, and low price. However, the limited battery life, limited screen options, and hot spots on the bottom of the notebook prevented it from earning top honors. If you can live with the flaws I just mentioned, then the HP Pavilion dv6z makes an excellent choice for a desktop replacement notebook.

Pros:

  • Good value
  • Excellent selection of ports
  • Nice design and build quality
  • Good speakers

Cons:

  • Average battery life
  • Low screen resolution for a 16-inch screen
  • Heat exhaust can be extremely hot on the bottom


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