PROS: Fast CPU, keyboard, styling, features, connectivity
CONS: sub-par gaming performance, minor build quality issues
Following my very brief look at the dv7-1175nr last month, I was impressed with what I saw and decided I would take a more detailed look at a higher-end model of this same notebook. This unit is a custom-configured model with the following specs:
-Bronze color scheme
-Vista Ultimate 64-bit
-Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz
-1680x1050 Infinity Display
-512MB 9600M GT
-dual 320GB 7200RPM HDD
-Webcam with fingerprint reader
-Wireless N with bluetooth
-lightscribe BD rom/DVD burner
-integrated TV tuner
-Vista recovery DVD
As those familiar with this series will note, this is the top-end configuration with all the bells and whistles. The current list price for this configuration is $2792.99, although I got mine for several hundred dollars less thanks to a generous 30% discount from HP available at the time of my order.
My package also arrived ahead of the build schedule specified by HP, taking exactly nine days from order to front door.
While I would normally get into more detail here, most of what I would describe I've already mentioned on my review of the dv7-1175nr. Let me instead focus on the differences and the key components of this notebook.
As far as performance is concerned, the 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo is very snappy - applications run visibly faster compared to the T5800, multitasking response is very good and even gaming performance is more-or-less decent, depending heavily on what games it is you play.
I ran the same benchmarks again as I used with the Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q708. The video encoding benchmark from VOB to WMV took 3 hours 45 minutes, while the WME 64-bit benchmark took 1 hour 55 minutes. These aren't as fast as the scores from the quad-core Toshiba, but they are definitely quick for a dual-core CPU, and makes the HP dv7 acceptable for occasional video editing and encoding work.
3DMark scores came is as follows - 12,797 for 03, 8,270 for 05 and 4,045 for the latest 06 variant. While these scores are marginally better than the numbers posted by the dv7-1175nr thanks to the 2.8GHz CPU, it is still a far cry from the raw gaming performance offered by the dual 9800M GTS cards found in the Toshiba. HP needs a gaming notebook - period.
Since notebook GPU solutions are more-or-less impossible to upgrade, gamers using notebooks are best advised to look for a notebook they can afford with the best graphics card. On the other hand, however, I would still say it's better being able to run a game on lower settings than not being able to run a game at all. In that respect, the dv7 will run any game out there, even Crysis at 30FPS, just not with the fancy eye candy and not at the native resolution. Older games run perfectly well, but if you have a craving for eye candy you can forget about any 2009 games - save your FPS.
It's an unfortunate decision notebook gamers need to balance. And while some gamers will be satisfied with the performance of the dv7 for casual gaming, other enthusiasts will downright dismiss the dv7 as a dedicated gaming platform. My advice? Decide first what you need your notebook for, and then buy one that does what you want. If it's games you play, choose a notebook with the graphics solution that can smoothly run the games you have, or games you plan to buy down the road. Desktop users have a much easier life - just swap in a faster graphics card for that latest framerate-killer and game on!
Battery life with the 8-cell came in at 74 minutes on default settings running Civilization 4. I would expect battery life to be around a quite decent 2 hours under normal use if you're not gaming.
My unit arrived with a small problem - the ethernet jack was broken. The connector on my Belkin cat5e patch cable wouldn't connect properly. On closer inspection, I could see that the release latch failed to "click" when plugged in and the cable would always come loose and fall out. This is the first time I have encountered such a problem with an RJ-45 jack. While those with dedicated wireless solutions wouldn't be too bothered by something they otherwise wouldn't use, it is nevertheless a defect.
Another issue I had was the inability to use the built-in tv tuner. I was unable to receive any tv stations and could not watch tv. I'm yet to determine whether this is due to a bad tuner or antenna, as there is ample signal strength at my location.
With a beefy 2.8GHz dual core CPU, the 17" dv7 becomes a no-nonsense high-end notebook for both work and play. And depending on the discount HP has available, it can be purchased fully loaded between $2000-$2500. Aside from the minor problems I encountered with my unit, it is a solid and stylish notebook good for any task you might need, minus dedicated gaming.