Keyboard and Touchpad
The dv7t features a full-sized Chiclet-style keyboard, which basically means the keys are not raised as much nor curved to fit the form of the fingers (some keys on Chiclet keyboards are curved slightly, but the keys on this particular keyboard are not curved at all, they are flat). There is also ample amount of space in between the keys to help with the reduction of typos, a change from the earlier dv7 models with a more traditional keyboard. There is also a full numberpad included with each model.
The typing experience was found to be quite good overall despite the flat keys, with great tactical feedback and key throw. Surprisingly, there weren’t any major problems and users shouldn’t suffer all that much if they’re making the switch-over from the traditional keyboard to the Chiclet-style keyboard. The aluminum chassis and frame helped to greatly make the keyboard solid; it hardly flinched under pressure when we pressed down.
We do, however, have a few smaller complaints about the keyboard area. For one, there is no backlit keyboard option. Not only would this have been a neat stylistic option for HP, but some users simply like to game/do other tasks in the dark. Since it’s hard to see exactly where the function keys are in the dark, not having this option may be a letdown for some.
Another complaint is the size of the up/down arrows. The traditional size is usually slightly smaller than the lettered keys, but on this keyboard the up/down arrows are extremely small. This may be annoying in any number of instances–and moreso irritating to those who play casual arcade games, and need those keys on the regular.
HP has also done away with the array of useful quick-launch and media (sound) buttons used on older dv7/dv7t laptops. My older dv7 at home had a large slew of LED media buttons–this newer dv7 only has a browser quick-launch button; that’s it. Something like this is complete opinion; rather you like the “cleaner” look without these buttons or you like the ease of access those buttons lend to.
One of the major problems I have with my dv7 at home is the glossy touchpad. Its design is appealing to the eye, but in use, it is one of the worst touchpads I’ve come across due to the gloss material and the design of the touchpad buttons. If your fingers have even just a little bit of moisture on them, they will drag along the surface of the touchpad due to the build quality. Not only that, but the cursor frequently gets “stuck” in transit even when your fingers are moving along the pad. I’ve also found that sometimes the cursor will bounce around randomly.
The new design of the touchpad is what HP calls an “oversized clickpad,” meaning it’s bigger than most touchpads used on laptops. It has improved some this time around–no more glossy surface. This time it’s matte, and while this definitely improves the experience, it still has its flaws. For one, it’s not as smooth as it should be, which leads to the same “dragging” problem like last time if there is any moisture on your hands.
Secondly, there is no scrollbar using the default settings; a feature that should have definitely been included, especially since this is a multimedia notebook. Also, the touchpad buttons make a somewhat irritating “click-clack” noise when you press them.
The touchpad has been greatly improved from the previous generation dv7, though, so HP is moving in the right direction. It’s (comparatively) a great deal easier to use now.
Screen and Speakers
Our review unit has a 17.3-inch widescreen BrightView LED display with an HD+ resolution of 1600 x 900, but HP has given users the choice of another display–an anti-glare LED full HD option (resolution of 1920 x 1080). We will be covering our review unit’s display only. The screen has a glossy (reflective) surface; some people may find the reflection of objects near the laptop to be distracting, while others may find it to be beautiful; but one thing is for sure, this notebook may not be the greatest to use while outside.
I’m very happy that HP decided on the HD+ display rather than the lower-resolution 1366 x 768 that is still utilized on some entertainment notebook screens. After testing the screen for its luminance rating, the top measurement we received was 114 nits and the average was 104 nits. The darkest measurement found was .44 and the average was .50. This leaves the contrast rating at a 208:1, which is a lot lower than I expected for this screen at first glance. It’s still slightly above average, but I would have liked the contrast to have a higher rating. You may want go with the 1080p display option for an extra $150 if that contrast ratio is too low for you.
Horizontal viewing angles are not that great and images and colors begin to distort starting at about a 15 percent backward tilt. Vertical viewing angles are a lot better and can go roughly 50-60 degrees off-center before the reflective surface begins to interrupt the viewing experience under normal room lighting. Overall, though, the display should be good for entertainment purposes and most people won’t experience problems with gaming (unless the glossy surface is too distracting).
The prior dv7t entertainment notebooks had above average audio quality, but it would reach a distortion point at higher levels… and there wasn’t really a way to go in and individually change the audio settings to prevent distortion (besides turning the volume down a bit). The new dv7t has a triple bass reflex subwoofer with speakers that are located across almost the entire top of the chassis, below the touchpad across the front, and at the bottom of the notebook for more of a surround sound effect.
Beats Audio Software
HP has included its new Beats Audio software with the dv7t. The software allows users to control the individual volume levels of playback and recording devices, change the decibel amount of input from bass, focus, reach, and etc., to change how “heavy” (for example) the audio output is, and to enable certain recording options such as noise cancellation. There is also advanced settings where you can set the power management on to disable certain audio sounds in order to save on battery life when the notebook is unplugged. The software works well with most of its features and most definitely enhances the audio experience. Users will be happy with the graphic equalizer, which allows for certain audio frequencies and levels to be set. Beats Audio will leave most audiophiles happy and will make for a more complete listening and recording experience at the entertainment level. Most people won’t need to buy external speakers, which can be a huge space saver.