Review: Glossy all-rounder
Thin is in when it comes to women and notebooks, but in spite of the latest craze with thin and light notebooks, which is reminiscent of last year's netbook hype, there's still a market for desktop replacement notebooks. You still remember those things don't you? Powerful, well equipped, capable with dealing with most tasks an average non-gamer needs and big enough to kill in a single blow.
Over the years, HP's Pavilion series has offered quite a few interesting and well priced machines, and the DV5 is no exception. Like most Pavilions, it's available in a bunch of various configurations, with prices ranging from as little as €450 to over €900.
We got ourselves a special edition model, in pearl white, but under the bonnet it's a low end SKU, based on Intel's venerable T5800, with 3GB of DDR2 and 320GB of storage. We like the looks, as the white version is a tad more interesting than the usual diet of silver and chrome. However, HP's DV series sports quite a bit of chrome and gloss in any package, from 12 to 17 inches, and some find it too tacky, and flashy, much like a white Cadillac driven by a bloke with a couple of gold teeth.
In recent months, we've been spoiled by thin and light notebooks, and the DV5 might seem a bit chubby. Measuring 41.9 x 259 x 357mm, it's by no means small, but it's not too bad either. It weighs just short of 2.7kg, and both in terms of weight and dimensions, it's what we've grown to expect from this particular product class.
Design and Build Quality
There's a thin line between chic and kitsch, and the DV5 is doing a tight rope balancing act on that line. All DV-series notebooks feature the same basic design features, i.e. loads of glossy plastic and chrome. Some love it, some hate it, and frankly, I can't make up my mind, either. Well, at least we can all agree it's a bit different than most 15-inchers, especially in the white finish.
The upshot of using white plastic instead of glossy black is increased resistance to smudging and fingerprints. Bear in mind, the finish is still glossy, and it will pick up quite a bit of dirt, it just won't show as much. The lid, with two overlapping textures in green and grey is a nice touch, if you don't think the green bits are a bit over the top. The lid itself feels very sturdy, it doesn't flex much, and the hinges are great, not that we would expect anything less from an HP, and a rather heavy one.
The HP logo is backlit, bathed in a gentle white light. It looks a bit better than on the black version, as there's less contrast and the effect is more subtle.
Everything feels pretty solid, and although HP used quite a bit of plastic, it doesn't creak when put under pressure. The only thing that worries us, in the long run, is durability. The chrome trim on the edges is exposed, and if you're not careful you'll scratch it in no time. This is not an ultraportable machine, so this is not a major concern, as it will spend most of its life on a desk.
Once you power it up, the chromed strip under the screen lights up like the Las Vegas strip, and offers you all the multimedia controls you could ask for, as well as a Wi-Fi switch.
The DV5 is put together quite nicely, too. Nothing seems too flimsy, and you can feel the attention to detail. There's not much flex on the keyboard or wrist rests, and in spite of using a lot of plastic on the chassis, HP still ended up with a pretty robust machine.
The biggest trouble with the glossy finish is the fact that HP though it would be a good idea to use it on the touchpad. Well, it wasn't.
Keyboard and Touchpad
On a 15-inch all-rounder, you'd expect a great keyboard, and the DV5 delivers.
The layout is excellent, there's next to no flex, and it just feels right. I'm not a huge fan of glossy keyboards, I just don't find them as comfortable as regular ones, but this is not a big deal.
However, using a glossy finish on the touchpad was a very bad idea. If you've got oily skin or sweaty palms, and who doesn't after a couple of hours of work, it will be a mess. Basically, it's like dragging piece of rubber across glass. In humid conditions it just gets worse.
I honestly can't even begin to imagine what the design team was thinking, or smoking, when they decided to use this finish. Sure, it looks nice, but it can be incredibly annoying, especially on a hot day of after prolongued use. What's worse, cleaning it only makes matters worse, as grease helps your finger slide across it, at the cost of making you feel physically sick.
At least the touchpad keys feel good.
Ergonomics, Everyday use
The connector layout is good, and the range of available interfaces will even put many desktops to shame.
Starting with the left side, which features VGA, HDMI, LAN, eSATA/USB combo, a docking station port, a USB, card reader and ExpressCard 54 slot. Unfortunately, this particular SKU doesn't have a FireWire port, but most other models do.
The optical drive is on the right side, along with two USBs, DC connector and Kensington lock.
At the front you'll find the status LEDs and audio connectors. Placing audio connectors at the front is not a very good idea, but at least the Altec Lansing speakers provide pretty good sound quality, and you won't have to connect external speaker too often. If you're into movies, they'll do, but music lovers will crave a bit more bass.
There are no ports at the back. The battery isn't placed on the edge of the chassis, but rather at the bottom. In our video playback test it managed 2:09h. So, under load you can expect a under two hours, and while using everyday, non-demanding applications, we were easily managing over two and a half hours.
Under load the top side of the chassis can heat up to over 38°C, but the palm rests tend to stay a bit cooler. However, the cooling system is pretty quiet, and in conjunction with the Altec Lansing speakers, it won't bug you while watching movies.
Sadly, the screen will let you down when it comes to video. It lacks brightness, even when the backlight is set to max and the DV5 is plugged in. This, along with the glossy coating makes it extremely unpleasant to use outdoors.
We can't expect much from an entry level SKU, and Intel's GMA X4500 IGP drags the Vista Experience Index down to just 3.8. The rest of the package fairs pretty well, but it still can't excel in any department.
We'll compare the DV5's Core 2 Duo T5800 to the recently introduced Pentium dual-core T4200 at the same frequency.
In Cinebench the T5800 shows it scales better, and scores higher in the xCPU part of the test, while the T4200 fairs better in the single-CPU test.
Surprisingly, the Pentium outperforms the Core 2 Duo in most Sandra CPU tests.
Memory bandwidth is what you'd expect from DDR2, average.
Futuremark 3Dmark 06
The 3Dmark06 score is irrelevant, and the CPU score is about 1% lower than the one scored with the T4200-based Acer we tested a few weeks ago.
The 320GB Fujitsu hard drive fails to impress. With an average speed of 46.5MB/s and a seek time just shy of 20ms, it's a bit slower than expected. CPU utilization is also pretty high.
Basically, the DV5 is a no thrills notebook that desperately tries to be different. In some respects, it manages to stick out from the mass of cheap 15-inchers, but it also has some shortcomings.
First of all, the glossy touchpad is pretty uncomfortable to use, and it can be downright annoying. The screen is also a bit disappointing. At 1280x800, it lacks a bit of resolution by today's standards, but that's the least of its problems. It's too glossy, and simply lacks brightness and contrast.
The design, especially in this limited edition finish, is a case of love or hate. But, in all fairness, it stands out in a crowd of cheap 15-inchers. Whether you like to stand out is up to you. Build quality is good, battery life and performance are average.
However, the best thing about the DV5 is the wide range of various configurations at relatively affordable prices. You can get it with ATI or Nvidia discrete graphics, and the SKU we had on test is a rather awkward one. You can even get a TV tuner and remote. Most DV5 ship either with AMD CPUs and HD3450/3650 graphics, or Intel CPUs and Geforce 9600M GT graphics. You can get an AMD based SKU with HD3450 graphics for as little as €450, which is pretty good value, but Intel-based SKUs with Nvidia graphics are pretty pricey, and frankly, not worth the bother.
If you're after a sub-€600 notebook and you don't mind the glossy finish, the DV5 is an interesting proposition. However, if you're willing to go for one of the pricier versions, with more powerful graphics and an Intel CPU, we believe you should look elsewhere.