After much thought and research, I pulled the trigger on buying a HP dv9700t 17-inch laptop. I placed my order on 02/02/08 and received the notebook on 02/18/08. The laptop was purchased through HP online with the recent $500 off coupon.
The system specifications for this HP Pavilion dv9700t include:
- Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T7500 (2.20 GHz, 4 MB L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB)
- 17.0" WXGA+ High-Definition HP BrightView Widescreen Display (1440 x 900)
- 2GB DDR2 System Memory (2 Dimm)
- 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS
- HP Imprint Finish (Radiance) + Webcam + Microphone
- Intel PRO/Wireless 4965AGN Network Connection
- 240GB 7200RPM SATA Dual Hard Drive (120GB x 2)
- LightScribe SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-RW with Double Layer Support
- 8-Cell Lithium Ion Battery
- Price as configured: $1,409 ($906 after $500 coupon)
Reasons for Buying
Brand had very little impact on my decision to buy an HP. In years past, I have been a customer of both Dell and Gateway, but never HP. My primary constraint is price and of course various options that I desire. I was looking for a laptop in the 17-inch, mid-range performance spectrum that would be capable of moderate casual gaming. Specifically, I wanted the following:
- Intel Core 2 Duo T7500
- 2GB DDR or greater
- Dedicated Graphics, thus Nvidia 512MB GeForce 8600M GS or 8600GT 256MB
- 7200 RPM drive greater than 80Gig
- DVD burner with dual layer
- HDMI port
- Price less than $1,000 (US)
Build & Design
Overall build quality impressed me right from the beginning. Although I am not one for designs with glossy "everything" that are currently all the rage, this is a minor inconvenience for me. Weight and balance is as expected for a full size desktop replacement in the 17” range. Although the total weight is 7-8lbs it is very manageable due to the fact it will spend the majority of the time on my lap or kitchen table (my backpacking years are over).
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From what I can tell, the case is mostly plastic. Screen twist is non existent and I am unable to distort the screen from pushing on the back. The hinges seem robust and tight. Hopefully they hold up over time unlike my Gateway m320. Although I wouldn’t classify this laptop as "heavy duty" as say a ThinkPad, I found it to have little to no flex when picking it up from the corners or the side. In my past use with the Dell Inspirons of 3-4 years ago, I was turned away from the creaking and flex of the plastic case. With the dv9700t, I would rank it 7.5 out of 10 for rigidity, with a ThinkPad being 9 or 10.
This dv9700t features a 17.0" WXGA+ High-Definition HP BrightView Widescreen Display (1440 x 900). At first, I debated on wither upgrading to the higher resolution or dual lamp extra brightness offering. However, as stated above my price was to stay below $1,000 and this was the concession I made. I did not need the higher resolution as I had no plans on playing HD DVD’s and have limited need for that much resolution for general use. If I was to pick one of the upgrades, I would have elected the dual bright feature to enhance use in brighter outdoor settings (sunroom, porch, etc).
At the top of the monitor, there are two microphones surrounding the integrated webcam. Although now I have no need for the webcam, from the little I played with it, the quality amazed me when compared to cell phone cameras of similar specs.
Having opted for the standard BrightView, I find it to work just fine. Note: If HP offered a matte finish, I would have selected that instead. Come to think about it, all else held equal, I would have purchased a Dell if they offered HDMI on the 1720 for the same price only to get the matte screen option. I was fortunate enough to have no dead pixels on my display.
The built-in speakers are Altec Lansing and are controlled through the touch buttons on the top right side. As with most laptops speakers are marginal at best, and this includes the HP dv9700t. Although clarity is excellent, overall volume is not loud enough and much quieter than previous laptops (volume maxed). However, I don’t watch movies from the laptop, and serious gaming is done with my Sharp 42" LCD and speakers.
Processor and Performance
The SuperPi synthetic benchmark calculated 2M digits in 53 seconds, compared to more than 2 minutes on my old Pentium M 1.6GHz (Dothan core). In short, for me the performance boost is great. The 800MHz FSB and 4MB L2 cache boost things along nicely. The Windows Vista Performance Index score was 4.8 … not bad at all.
3DMark06 comparison results for graphics performance:
(Higher scores mean better performance.)
|HP Pavilion dv9700t (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GS 512MB)||2,167 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion dv2700t (1.66GHz Intel T5450, Intel X3100)||563 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion dv6700t (1.66GHz Intel T5450, Nvidia 8400M GS 256MB)||1,556 3DMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100)||545 3DMarks|
|Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100)||504 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB)||4,332 3DMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT)||2,905 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 (1.66GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB)||2,144 3DMarks|
|Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB)||1,831 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||827 3DMarks|
PCMark05 measures overall notebook performance:
(Higher scores mean better performance.)
|HP Pavilion dv9700t (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GS 512MB)||5,211 PCMarks|
|HP Pavilion dv2700t (1.66GHz Intel T5450, Intel X3100)||3,562 PCMarks|
|HP Pavilion dv6700t (1.66GHz Intel T5450, Nvidia 8400M GS 256MB)||3,386 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100)||4,149 PCMarks|
|Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB)||5,412 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT)||4,616 PCMarks|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS)||4,591 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100)||3,283 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|
|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|
Heat and Noise
Compared to my Gateway Pentium M 1.6GHZ, 400FSB (Dothan), the dv9700t is cooler and quieter. Specifically, casual web surfing on the couch only leaves your lap warm as the Pentium M will eventually get hot. On the dv9700t, upon gaming, the laptop heats up to the point you would not want to play games in your lap. Watching a SD DVD movie would be doable I think, although I didn’t watch one all the way through. For the hour that I was, fan noise was not an issue.
Hard drive noise is almost non existent. This surprised me as I have two 120GB 7200RPM Hitachi HD’s. There is no ticking and I can only hear the drives writing in a dead silent room, even then the noise is minimal. I was surprised as in my old laptop I have a 60GB 7200RPM Hitachi Travelstar that I upgraded to a few years back. Comparably, both being Hitachi’s, the new SATA drives are leaps and bounds quieter.
The DVD burner is the most irritating part. When accessing and searching the drive, the noise level is loud and bothersome. In fact, this drive has one of the loudest access noises I’ve ever heard. Somehow my LG 8X DVD burner in my old gateway is so much quieter for overall use. Spin-up noise ironically is quiet. Go figure. Luck for me, DVD’s are not used much in the laptop.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Having a full keyboard with a number pad I find very beneficial when doing any numerical input such as Excel and taxes etc.. This was one reason I was looking in the 17" lineup. The keyboard itself has little to no flex; I cannot feel it being pushed down at all. The key tension is about average, maybe a little softer than others.
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The touchpad mouse requires some getting used to since it’s offset to the left of the full laptop. However, I realize it is better to be centered off the space bar to be standardized. I actually ditched the HP touchpad drivers and defaulted to Vista’s control inputs. I enjoy the fact the touchpad has an on/off switch allowing me to type more freely as I write this review without my thumbs moving my cursor. The one thing I dislike is the depth the mouse buttons must be depressed for selection. It seems you have to push down more than on my old Gateway m320.
Input and Output Ports
Another reason I selected the 17” lineup was the abundant port options. Those included are:
- 4x USB Ports (two left side, two right side)
- 1x IEE1394 ( left side, front)
- 1 HDMI (left side)
- 1 SVIDEO (left rear)
- 1VGA (left rear)
- Memory Card reader (front left)
- 1x PCMCIA (front right)
- 1x HP expansion slot 3 (left)
The HDMI video out works flawlessly. My Sharp LVD shows the input as 1080P. The dual clone and extended desktop look fabulous.
Front view. (view large image)
Right view. (view large image)
Left view. (view large image)
Wireless is the Intel PRO/Wireless 4965AGN. Connection times to my G router are almost instant when resuming from standby. Range seams no different from my older Intel Pro 2200, although latency times seem to have improved. Also included is a small IR remote that fits is the PCMIA slot.
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Above, see the wireless on/off switch on the left, with IR sensor in the right of the photo.
Battery life for a 17” desktop replacement is not particularly impressive and we all know these notebooks are designed to be desktop replacements. So far I can get 2-3 hours of casual web surfing, just more than 2 hours for a DVD. I have tried adjusting power settings, but am still getting accustomed to Vista’s new layout. If you want a laptop that you can watch two movies on an Airplane, get something smaller, but I think that goes without saying.
Operating System and Software
The stock OS is Vista Home Premium. So far, I’m not a fan and may end up downgrading to XP. HP and many other manufactures are not shipping any restore discs and you have to make your own. Bloatware is common and very annoying. Initially, I did a clean Vista install within the first six hours of opening the box. This alone made a huge difference in startup speed.
Microsoft Works is preinstalled but when I did a clean Vista installation I installed Microsoft Office 2003 instead.
For the money, you can’t beat the performance in a mid-range desktop replacement. I would recommend the HP Pavilion dv9700t for any consumer looking for an affordable, full-featured 17-inch notebook.
- Abundant USB ports
- Dual 7200RPM HD’s
- One of the best "bang for buck" when $500 coupon comes along.
- Marginal battery life
- Too much bloatware
- No matte screen offering
- A little on the heavy side, not for the student or professional on the move