Dell recently released the Inspiron 1520 notebook, a 15.4" mainstream system with the new Intel Santa Rosa platform. HP beat Dell to the punch by releasing the Pavilion dv6500t Santa Rosa based notebook in mid-May. So does the best come to those who waited for Dell or did HP win in regards to both time to market and a superior product?
Just like the title says, here's a 5-minute video of me rambling on about these two notebooks:
HP redesigned their laptop line a year ago for the consumer dv series, the design was received well and is popular with consumers. The glossy finish lid and eye catching imprint finish gives a cool and classy look. HP stuck with essentially the same design for the dv6500t as the proceeding dv6000t, except changed the imprint finish slightly. The dv6500t has what is called a "Radiance" imprint finish. The imprint is part of the plastic casing so you can be sure it will never scratch or wear off like paint sometimes does from laptop lids.
HP dv6500t above the Dell Inspiron 1520 (view large image)
Dell also redesigned their Inspiron 1520 and allow you to customize the lid color. Outside of the lid color change, all Dell really did was remove the "white bumpers" previously seen on such laptops as the Inspiron e1505. We're happy to see those white bumpers go, and the colored lid option is cool, but other than that the Inspiron keeps a pretty basic and some might say boring look.
HP dv6500t on the left, Dell Inspiron 1520 on the right (view large image)
The dv6500t is is thinner and lighter than the Dell 1520, in fact the Inspiron 1520 feels downright beefy for a 15.4" notebook. The 1520 is definitely more of a desktop replacement size notebook, especially with a 9-cell battery in that sticks out and weighs extra. With the 9-cell battery in the 1520 weighs close to seven pounds, with a regular 6-cell battery it's more like 6.5 pounds. The HP dv6500t weighs about 6lbs with the 6-cell battery so there's almost half-a-pound of weight difference seperating the two.
Though the Inspiron 1520 weighs more, it does feel more sturdy. There's simply no flex to the Inspiron 1520 case, it's a beast. The HP dv6500t has a thinner casing and flexes in some parts.
The HP dv6500t and Inspiron 1520 have a very similar selection of ports and features. The major difference being that the dv6500t has three USB ports to the four that the Dell has and the HP dv6500t has an HDMI port while the Inspiron 1520 does not. Here's a quick compare chart of the ports and features each have:
|Dell Inspiron 1520||HP Pavilion dv6500t|
|# of USB Ports||4||3|
|Hi-Def Video Out||None||HDMI|
|Media Card Reader||5-in-1||5-in-1|
|Expansion Port||No||Yes, Expansion Port 3|
|LAN / Modem||Yes||Yes|
|Heaphone Ports||Yes, 1||Yes, 2|
|Media Buttons||Yes, front location||Yes, top of keyboard|
|Wireless on/off switch||Yes||Yes|
Here's a visual tour around the ports so you can see what's located where and get a better idea of the design comparison between the two:
Front side of the dv6500t on the left and Dell Inspiron 1520 on the right (view large image)
Closeup of front side ports on the Dell Inspiron 1520 on top and HP dv6500t on the bottom (view large image)
Left side ports of Inspiron 1520 on top and HP dv6500t on the bottom (view large image)
Right side ports of Inspiron 1520 on top and HP dv6500t on the bottom (view large image)
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Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the Dell Inspiron 1520 is rock solid with no flex, while the Pavilion dv6500t isn't quite as firm and has a bit of sag to it if you push hard on the keys. Overall though both keyboards feel nice and are pleasant to use. The larger touchpad on the dv6500t is slightly easier to use and it has a dedicated touchpad on/off button. The mouse buttons on both notebooks are nice and have a good amount of travel.
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Notice the HP dv6500t has a fingerprint reader for security while the Inspiron 1520 does not.
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The HP dv6500t has an HDMI port while the Inspiron 1520 does not, so that's one leg up the dv6500t has in terms of multimedia features. Other than that things are pretty even. Both notebooks have an instant-on mode to access media without booting into Windows, both have dedicated media buttons, both have a remote control that gets stored in the ExpressCard slot and both notebooks have an integrated web camera.
HP dv6500t web camera (view large image)
Dell Inspiron 1520 web camera (view large image)
The major limitation with the HP dv6500t is that the highest resolution screen you can get is a WXGA (1280 x 800). The Dell Inspiron 1520 offers up to a WSXGA (1680 x 1050) resolution screen. Dell also allows you the optioin of configuring the screen as a glossy or matte finish -- though only for the WXGA resolution, but with the HP dv6500t the only option is to have a WXGA glossy screen.
Our review unit Dell 1520 has a WSXGA screen that's overall quite nice, though it could be a bit brighter. The HP dv6500t has a nice display that's maybe a tad brigther than the Dell 1520, but it's hard to detect any major difference in brightness between the two notebooks. Both are adequate in the brightness department, but neither seem as nice as some XBrite Sony displays or Fujitsu LifeBook displays I've recently seen.
Below are the specs for the HP dv6500t and Inspiron 1520 we received, you'll see that the Dell machine we have has higher specs:
Dell Inspiron 1520
Both notebooks of course use the Intel Santa Rosa platform and you can configure those latest set of processors. The Dell does offer a higher end graphics option in the form of the Nvidia 8600M GT though, so if you're looking for a better gaming notebook the Inspiron 1520 might be the one for you. Below are a couple of benchmark comparisons of these two notebooks, keep in mind though the HP is at a major disadvantage due to the slower processor, weaker graphics and baffling 1GB of memory in the review unit we were provided with:
|Dell Inspiron 1520 (Intel T7300 2.0GHz, 2.0GB RAM, Nvidia 8600MGT)||4,648||5,532 3DMarks|
|HP dv6500t (Intel T7100 1.80GHz, 1.0GB RAM, Nvidia 8400M)||4,049||2,292 3DMarks|
If the dv6500t had 2.0GB of RAM and a faster processor it would perform just as well as the Inspiron 1520, but you can only get up to an 8400M card with the dv6500t so the Inspiron 1520 will always trump it on the 3DMark05 graphics score if you compare the highest-end dv6500t to the highest end Inspiron 1520.
Heat and Noise
The dv6500t we have came with an Nvidia 8400M graphics card and 1.8GHz processor while the Dell Inspiron 1520 came with a 2.0GHz processor and Nvidia 8600M graphics card. Despite the Dell having more power, it was quieter and ran cooler than the dv6500t. The HP dv6500t fans really kicked in and became loud during benchmarking and when used for long periods of time, but the Inspiron 1520 was almost always quiet. The HP dv6500t also tended to get warm on the bottom, this was not the case with the Inspiron 1520 that remained cool to luke warm all over.
More vents on Inspiron 1520 seen above the dv6500t might be what helps it stay cooler (view large image)
Both notebooks offer 802.11n wireless using Intel's new wireless chipset, both have Bluetooth offered and both have consumer level IR to work with the remote control. Dell does beat out HP by offering WWAN via Verizon in the 1520, it even offers the super fast Rev-A EVDO which has been a joy to use. For this extra option of WWAN Dell wins on the wireless front.
So which is better?
Overall these notebooks are close in features yet there are small things that make them different enough that one will probably fit your needs better than another. I prefer the look and lighter weight of the HP dv6500t, the Dell is okay looking but still kind of bland on the inside and it's so darn heavy. But the Inspiron 1520 does a great job of staying cool and you can configure a more powerful graphics card -- those hungry for graphics power will go for the Dell. The greater amount of screen resolution options and integrated WWAN offering on the Dell 1520 also will appeal to some people.
At the end of the day I can endorse both notebooks as being solid options in the mainstream 15.4" category. Neither has a huge weakness, both are nicely configurable and can be powerful notebooks for a good price, and both companies are striving hard to do better with their customer service.