This time around I’ll be taking a brief look at the latest 17” HP dv7-1175nr notebook, available now at Best Buy.
PROS: Keyboard, styling, features, price, connectivity
CONS: low-end CPU, mediocre gaming performance, low-res screen
In 2004 HP made a big splash with the release of the zd7000 series notebook. It introduced several new features previously not found in any notebook. Not only was it a desktop replacement behemoth housing a desktop P4 CPU, it was the first notebook to have a widescreen 17” display and a full-size keyboard with number pad. I was so impressed with the design that I purchased a zd7260 that year just over $2000.
Since then, HP has continued to develop and improve their 17” notebook consumer line with the zd8000, dv9000, and their latest line of 17” models, the dv7 series.
Introduced in August, the dv4/dv5/dv7 series from HP is their new entertainment and multimedia notebook lineup at 14/15/17 inch screen sizes. The new lineup now includes the latest Intel and AMD dual-core processors, new NVIDIA and ATI mobile graphics solutions and options for Blu-ray drives, built-in tv tuner, built-in broadband, fingerprint reader, eSATA port, HDMI port, ProtectSmart hard drive protection, and a new built-in subwoofer sound system.
The dv7-1175nr on review here is priced at $899 and is configured with a T5800 Core 2 Duo CPU, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD, 17” 1440x900 infinity display, Blu-ray/DVD drive, 9600M GT graphics and built-in webcam.
This model also comes decked out in the new bronze/chrome finish HP has recently introduced. Unlike previous models, this one has a tan finish on the lid in place of the black, and the keyboard/trim area now has a metallic bronze finish in place of the silver. Chrome trim finishes the look around the edges and along the sides. The overall appearance is quite nice, giving a distinctly executive appeal and more high-end.
Open it up and you are greeted by an entirely flush screen – no border. HP has eliminated the edge by using a flush acrylic panel in front of the LCD. While glossy, the look is very modern and gives images a fluid-like appearance on screen.
Under the big 17” widescreen you find a vast keyboard with separate number pad, isolated inverted-T cursor keys and full size shift keys. The previous dv9000 series had the cursor keys squished together and did not have the full-size right shift key, so this is a welcome redesign on the part of HP.
The multimedia and entertainment capabilities of the dv7 are very impressive. The unit is very responsive thanks in part to the 4GB RAM and Vista 64-bit. The big 17” screen makes full-screen movie viewing theater-like, while the new subwoofer complements the sound system nicely. Bass reverberates through the entire unit, and while it won’t scream like a boom-box, the sound quality will make listening to music on the dv7 very pleasing. Dual headphone jacks allow you to have an audio line-out and use headphones at the same time, while the stereo mic jack also works as a line-in.
The big addition is of course the Blu-ray drive. While the display is only WXGA, downscaling 1080p content to fit the notebook screen, the HDMI port allows connection to a larger 1080p TV for full-HD playback. Likewise, the eSATA port will facilitate a large full-system backup to an external drive.
Hp's new ProtectSmart hard drive protection uses accelerometers in the unit to detect a fall or a drop, parking the hard drive heads to prevent a head crash and protect your data. While it won't give you MIL-810F durability, it is useful if your unit gets inadvertently bumped or knocked while turned on, and can prolong the life of the drive.
HP retained the proprietary docking station connector and offers a practical solution for desktop use. The additional hardware (available as an extra) includes a tilt-adjustable dock, wireless keyboard, wireless mouse, enhanced speakers, additional ports and a removable 3.5 inch hard drive option, making the dv7 perform much like a no-compromise desktop PC.
At just over 7 lbs, the dv7 is lighter than the over 9 lbs zd7000 from four years ago. The weight saving comes from a more relaxed heatsink design – thanks to the low TDP Core 2 Duo - and a much thinner profile. The fan does not become audible at all, and unlike the space-heater zd7000, the dv7 does not get warm even under full load.
I was unfortunately unable to test the battery time on the dv7 since I only had the unit at my disposal for a few hours. HP offers a 6-cell and an 8-cell battery for the dv7 series, my recommendation being the 8-cell.
Sadly, there is one area where the dv7-1175nr does not perform too well, and that is gaming. While older titles such as Far Cry, Doom 3, GTR2 and Civilization IV run smoothly at the native resolution on max settings, newer games like Crysis and GRID need to be turned down quite a bit in order to obtain playable frame rates.
What this means is that the dv7 will have a hard time running games being released today, much less anything coming out next year. On the other hand, if you play mostly older games and already have a sizeable collection, the dv7 will be a decent performer. Considering the $899 price, it may just make your day.
HP offers many other configuration options on their website for the dv7, including a more powerful 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, dual hard drives and a 1680x1050 display (no WUXGA option sadly). Unfortunately, the 9600M GT is as far as it goes for graphics – more powerful solutions such as the 9800M would require additional cooling and is beyond the thermal design of the dv7.
Would a dv7 with a top-end 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo help with gaming? It's possible. The majority of modern games are CPU dependent at lower resolutions, only being bottle-necked by the GPU at resolutions starting around 1680x1050. Given that the dv7 is available with either a 1440x900 or 1680x1050 screen, a high-end CPU may be able to provide some games a marginal boost.
The dv7-1175nr is an extremely good-looking, modern and full-featured 17” notebook. The impressive bronze/chrome color scheme along with the excellent keyboard and connectivity will make it a very appealing desktop replacement for either the home or the office. If you are configuring a dv7 on the HP website, my suggestion would be to go with the 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo and 1680x1050 display for best performance. Users looking for a dedicated gaming notebook are best advised to look elsewhere.
But for a Best Buy sale price of $899 (and as low as $649 for a baseline AMD version) it is a hard deal to resist.
UPDATE: HP is currently offering a flat 30% discount off any configurable dv7 notebook on their website at www.hp.com. Just enter coupon code NB3434 at checkout to receive the discount.