HP Pavilion dv9000t with Vista Review

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The HP Pavilion dv9000t is HP’s flagship desktop replacement notebook PC with a nice crisp 17” screen, full 101-key alphanumeric keypad (with numpad), and various other entertainment options such as an optional webcam, Bluetooth, TV Tuner, and HD-DVD drive.


The HP Pavilion dv9000t Entertainment Notebook (view large image)

I first started looking around for a laptop around Feb 20th when my previous HP dv4000 mysteriously died on me. While I could have gotten it fixed, I decided it was easier to upgrade to a more modern notebook. I had settled on getting a HP dv6000t until I saw the HP dv9000t. The glorious screen and video card at only 7.8lbs was irresistible. Most people would consider 7.8lbs too heavy to carry for a college notebook, but my previous dv4000 with a 12-cell weighed about the same, so I was set! I also considered the Dell Inspiron e1705, but the dv9000t was more affordable, plus I didn’t need the power (and heat) a 7900 GS would probably give off.

HP dv9000t specs:

  • Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Intel(R) Core(TM) 2 Duo T5200(1.60GHz/2MB L2Cache)
  • 17.0" WSXGA+ BrightView Widescreen (1680×1050)
  • 256MB NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) Go 7600
  • HP Imprint Finish + Microphone + Webcam
  • 512MB DDR2 System Memory (1 Dimm)
  • FREE Upgrade from 80GB 5400RPM to 120GB 5400RPM!!
  • Super Multi 8X DVD+/-R/RW w/Double Layer Support
  • Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network w/Bluetooth
  • No TV Tuner w/remote control
  • 8 Cell Lithium Ion Battery
  • Microsoft(R) Works 8.0

$1256.08 after tax and APP (student) discount from HP Home & Home Office store.


The dv9000t in my dorm room. If only I could hide those cords too… (view large image)

First Impressions:

The screen is huge and the notebook itself is very slim. Previous 17” laptops from HP were very bulky weighing 9.8lbs, but it’s nice to know that the dv9000t is easy to carry when needed. Believe it or not, I actually carry this thing around every day (some people would call me crazy), but it is manageable. The fingerprint finish is also a nice touch that HP has now put on desktops and laptops that really makes the laptop shine.


Top of dv9000t with HP Fingerprint Finish (view large image)


The top is also a fingerprint magnet. (view large image)

Design and Build:

HPs design on this laptop is a process I’ve seen evolve over the years to make a much better product. It looks like it’s worth more than you paid for it, especially with the suave imprint finish applied to the top. One thing to be weary of is that the latch requires 2 hands to open, and the hinges don’t seem as solid as my previous laptop. It looks great on a desk, but it’s not a ThinkPad in terms of durability so no one should treat it as such. I compared the dv9000t to my previous 15.4” dv4000 and found that it weights just as much with the 12-cell battery while being MUCH slimmer. That’s definitely an improvement in that area.


Only marginally longer (view large image)


But slimmer too (view large image)

The Screen:

The screen is amazing on this laptop. I opted for the 1680×1050 resolution for an extra $50 and it’s worth every penny. The only downside is that there is a bit of light leakage on the very bottom middle portion of the screen.  The good thing is that it’s not noticeable unless you want to stare at it. I guess not everything can be perfect.

Graphics

The system comes with a Geforce 7600 Go, with either 256MB or 512MB of video RAM. It should play today’s games decently at max resolution with some special effects off. I suggest getting the lower 1440×900 resolution if you intend on gaming a lot so the GPU doesn’t struggle too much. At the price point of $1200, I couldn’t find any other laptop with a much better GPU.

Sound

The built-in Altec-Lansing speakers sound great. Sound doesn’t distort at higher volumes and it retains clarity. The SP/DIF support also allows you to hook up your laptop to a surround sound system if needed.

Processor and Performance

I got the lowest Core 2 Duo possible (Intel T5200 at 1.6Ghz) so that I could upgrade myself later if I wanted. It runs fast enough for my needs of watching movies and general computer tasks.

Benchmarks

A note for the benchmarks, I upgraded my RAM to 2GB DDR2 533Mhz RAM and all scores reflect this.

3DMark06:

3DMark06 is a benchmarking tool that tests the graphical performance of a notebook, below is how the HP dv9000t with its nVidia Go 7600 stacked up to other notebooks.

Notebook  3DMark 06 Results
HP dv9000t (1.6Ghz Core 2 Duo, nVidia Go 7600 256MB) 1,847 3DMarks
Dell Precison M90 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia Quadro FX 1500M ) 3,926 3DMarks
Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB  1,528 3DMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)  794 3DMarks
Compal HEL80 (2.0GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7600 256MB) 1,654 3DMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800GTX)  4,085 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB)  4,744 3D Marks

SuperPi Benchmark Results

Super Pi tests the speed of a processor, in our test we force Super Pi to calculate the number Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy:

Notebook Time
HP dv9000t (1.6Ghz Core 2 Duo, nVidia Go 7600 256MB) 1m 37s
MSI M677 (1.8 GHz Turion X2) 1m 53s
Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s
LG S1 (2.16 GHz Core Duo) 1m 11s
Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 16s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s
Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo) 1m 29s
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 53s

 

HDTune

HDTune measures hard drive performance, below is a screenshot of the results for HDTune when run on the dv9000t:


(view large image)

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the dv9000t is probably one of the better ones I’ve used. Each key is very springy, allowing for feedback, similar to desktop keyboards. The additional numberpad is also a big plus, as few laptops have them at all. One minor thing is that the right shift key is now half-sized, just like other keys to accommodate the closer position of the arrow keys. The touchpad itself is ok; not bad and not great. It does have an off switch, but the feel of the pad itself is rather slick. Sometimes there is just too much drag on the surface to use easily. I switched to an external mouse and keyboard to solve my problems.

Input and Output Ports

The clinching factor that really made me purchase this laptop is the bevy of ports available. It comes with 4 USB ports, a built-in memory card reader, an expansion slot, 2 headphone inputs, ExpressCard slot, and probably best of all, an HDMI port. The beautiful part about HP’s newer laptop series is that all of them include an expansion port that allows you to connect to a specific HP dock that replicates most of these ports so you can connect just 1 cable to your laptop. Pretty sweet, no?


USB Port, ExpressCard slot, DVD+/-RW Drive, USB Port, AC Adapter Jack (view large image)


S-Video port, VGA Port, Expansion Port (for HP QuickDock), Ethernet & Modem Jacks, HDMI Port, 2 USB Ports, Firewire 4-pin Jack, Multimedia Card reader (with SD card inserted) (view large image)

BatteryLife

The 8-cell battery lasted around 2 hours before it died with medium brightness and Wifi. I suspect this probably has to do with the state of nVidia’s drivers for Vista that still need some work.

Heat and Noise

The notebook fans are usually on most of the time when on AC but there is no way to control them. Heat comes from the left hand side where the HD is, and from the back near the fan. It makes some noise when it’s quiet, but not enough to be annoying.

Wireless

No problems with the Intel 3945ABG. The wireless switch is very handy when want to quickly turn off WiFi and switch to Ethernet when I reconnect to my HP QuickDock.

Service and Support

HP’s service is moderate compared to other companies. It’s not the best and it’s not the worst but somewhere in between. Personally, online help was more receptive when I was exploring my options about my broken dv4000 compared to phone help so that avenue was much better. I haven’t dealt much with tech support at all before that, so I can’t make much of a decision.

Software:

HP has a LOT of software pre-installed on my notebook, some of it I quickly removed but others I did keep, most notably HPs Total Care Advisor. It’s a helpful program that keeps track of the state of your PC, advising you on certain updates for drivers, basic support, and browsing HP accessories. It was useful enough that I kept it. Be aware that HP uses a recovery partition as a “worst case” backup instead of discs, so you’ll need to make them yourself. One thing I dislike is that reinstalling Windows Vista from the recovery partition and discs installs all the other unnecessary software as well; I might just have to get a Vista RTM disc and install Home Premium myself. HP does easily offer all the downloads for installed drivers, so that is a huge plus.

Vista

Running Windows Vista Home Premium on this laptop has its ups and downs. As a whole, my PC runs smoothly but certain areas like copying large amounts of files needs a LOT of work. HP includes all the drivers in a folder called SwSetup, so if you ever install a bad driver, you can easily reinstall the old one without going online. I’d recommend at LEAST 1GB, preferably 2GB RAM in order to run Vista smoothly. There’s still a lot of minor things that need to be worked out, but on the whole, it’s a pretty good upgrade from Windows XP.

Conclusion

I’ve used this notebook for a few days and have no regrets purchasing it. Vista runs pretty well after a 2GB upgrade and has caused no trouble while using it. Most of my programs worked flawlessly when installed. It’s slim enough to be carried around for a desktop replacement and certainly wowed my friends. The screen is great, the keyboard works well, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I do wish there were more battery life, but it’s not possible to have everything!

Pros:

  • Large screen
  • Number pad
  • HDMI output
  • Touchpad on/off switch
  • Slim profile give the laptop size

Cons:

  • Fingerprint magnet (cloth included however)
  • Touchpad has some drag
  • Right Shift key is smaller
  • Media keys make noise (turn off in BIOS)
  • Fans run quite often
  • Notebook lid is a bit flimsy when closed


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