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Review: HP Pavilion dv6

As a part of the Better Together giveaway, presented by HP and Ivy Worldwide, I’ve been loaned the same models of the notebook and the netbook that I will be giving away in about two weeks. I’ll be using these laptops over the course of several months and offering you guys completely honest reviews about the value of these products.

This bundle is being billed as the perfect combination for students who need performance and screen space while in their dorm rooms, but are also looking for mobility so that they can work in class, in the cafeteria, in the library, etc.. My focus with this site is to help you spend your hard earned money on things that are of value to you. So how well does this bundle live up to its claims, and is it really perfect for college students on the go?

I’m going to take a look at each machine separately, so today we’re going to cover the larger notebook, as opposed to the smaller “netbook.”

The HP Pavilion dv6

HP Pavilion dv6

Specs:

• Intel® Centrino® 2 Processor Technology featuring Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor
P7350
• Genuine Windows Vista® Ultimate 64-bit with Service Pack 1
• 16.0″ Diagonal High Definition HP BrightView Infinity Display (1366×768)
• ATI Mobility Radeon™ HD 4650 (M96) with up to 2815MB total available
graphics memory with 1024MB dedicated
• 4096MB DDR2 System Memory (2 Dimm)
• 500GB (5400RPM) Hard Drive (SATA)
• LightScribe Blu-Ray ROM with SuperMulti DVD±R/RW Double Layer
• HP Webcam with integrated digital microphone
• Intel® WiFi Link 5100AGN
• 6-Cell Lithium-Ion battery
• 1-Year Free Hardware Technical Support

If you’re like me, only about half of that made sense to you. Here’s how it breaks down: this notebook has a 16” (diagonally measured) widescreen display, a Core™2 Duo Processor, Windows Vista, a very nice graphics card with 1gig of dedicated memory, 4gigs of system memory (RAM), a 500gig hard drive, a Blu-Ray player that can also play and write DVDs (and can make labels for certain DVDs), a built-in webcam and microphone, wireless card, a battery (of course) and a one-year warranty.

Processing Power and Graphics

I’m not a huge gamer – or at least, I’m not a variety gamer. I tend to pick one game and obsessively stick to it. Since 2004, that game has been The Sims 2 and it’s gazillion expansions. Make fun of me all you like, but this game takes a lot of processing power and an advanced graphics card to run. Combine that with my general obsession with the game, and it seemed the perfect test subject for this computer.

Did the game run perfectly on this computer? No. Some of the cut-scene animations were still a little jumpy, which I think is an indictment of the game more than anything else. But other than that, I’ve never seen this game run so smooth before. I cranked all of the graphics settings as high as they would go (which is something that would send my desktop screaming to a halt), but the dv6 didn’t flinch.

So I loaded up a 16-room college dorm from the University expansion pack – arguably the most intensive part of the game. You’ve got about 17 or so autonomous little people running around, doing their own thing, while you control your characters. Even on the most intense lot of the game, with all of the graphics turned all the way up, the dv6 took it like a champ. I was able to zip around from floor to floor in the dorm with no lag time – an action that normally slows the whole game down on my desktop (without the graphic cranked!).

Conclusion: The dv6 took everything I could throw at it, gaming-wise. It may not be enough for the most dedicated of gamers, but they’re probably not in the market for a notebook, anyway.

Blu-Ray Player and HDMI Output

I couldn’t resist renting one of my favorite movies, Serenity, on Blu-Ray to test out the dv6’s Blu-Ray player. I wanted to really push it to the edge, so in addition to watching the special-effects-heavy movie, I turned on the picture-in-picture cast and director commentary. The computer handled was handling the movie just fine, even with the picture-in-picture turned on, so I decided to push it even more. I grabbed an HDMI cable and hooked that thing up to my parents’ 42” HDTV.

The computer was able to output beautifully to the TV, still with the picture-in-picture on. Getting it to display on the TV was a cinch thanks to Vista, and the media remote that comes with the dv6 let me relax on the couch and control the movie from afar.

Conclusion: If your college experience is anything like mine, you’ll be watching a lot of movies in your dorm with your friends, and sometimes hooking your player up to larger TVs to watch with a larger group. The screen size and Blu-Ray player of the dv6 will more than handle the first task, and the HDMI output will be a really benefit for the second.

Webcam

To put the thing to rigorous testing, I held webcam chats with two free services: TokBox and Skype. TokBox lets you hold a multi-camera chat over the internet, and at the high point of our chat, we had four webcams and two people with just microphones. The webcam wasn’t great – we’ve had better quality with an external USB webcam. But for a built-in webcam, it worked quite well. The quality of the picture was nearly identical to that of the built-in webcam on my boyfriend’s MacBook. We had similar results with Skype, which only allows two people to connect with webcams.

Conclusion: You won’t be making any high-quality films with this webcam, but it works just fine if you’re hoping to snap a quick picture or video-chat with friends and family.

Look and Feel

HP Pavilion dv6 Back The model that HP loaned me is the “Moonlight White” color, which comes with a cool sort of waves and dots design on the shell. It’s not a stark white, but more of an iridescent pearl color, which is very attractive. Still, there are some things I don’t like about it. Because it has a smooth and shiny finish, it shows fingerprints really well, which is a bummer since, presumably, you’re going to be touching your notebook! The touchpad is a shiny silver that, although it works well, also shows fingerprints (even more so than the case).

The keyboard is comfortable, I’ve not go complaints there, even after several hours of writing. The volume and wireless are controlled by “touch media controls” instead of buttons or rockers. Honestly, I don’t care too much for these – the touch controls didn’t respond while I was loading a game, so when the sound was up too loud during the load screen of The Sims 2, there was nothing I could do about it except throw my hands over the speakers!

Conclusion: It’s an attractive computer right out of the box, but it will take some careful maintenance to keep it looking good as you use it. (HP provides a cloth for wiping down the surface.) And I don’t suggest the Moonlight White if you’ve got pets –I’m constantly brushing away the very visible hair from my black cat and black Labrador!

Odds and Ends

I already mentioned the HDMI output and the remote that comes with the system. In addition there’s:

  • 5-in-1 integrated Digital Media Reader for Secure Digital cards, MultiMedia cards, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, or xD Picture cards.
  • 4 USB 2.0 ports
  • 2 headphone jacks
  • 1 microphone-in
  • 1 VGA (15-pin) for hooking up an external monitor
  • eSATA + USB 2.0 (someone ask my boyfriend what this does!)
  • Ethernet port
  • 1 notebook expansion port 3
  • 1 IEEE 1394 Firewire (4-pin)

I’ll come back to software in a later review, because I haven’t fully tested everything. But I will say that it only comes with a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office. Most students will want to purchase the Office upgrade when buying this machine. It also comes with a 60-day trial of Norton Anti-Virus, so you’ll want to either purchase the full version or get a different anti-virus program.

Value

Overall, I’m a fan of this computer. My family has always been fairly loyal to HP computers, so it probably comes as no surprise that I like this computer. It’s not perfect for every student, but the price is right for the vast majority of us. If you’re writing papers, playing a few games, surfing the internet, and watching movies (Blu-Ray, DVD, and online), this notebook will serve you well. For college students, I give it my stamp of Recommended.

Special Offer

Do you want a dv6 of your very own? Well, you can stick around for a little while and try to win one when I do my giveaway on August 18th (and I sincerely hope you do). But if you’re a pragmatist that needs a computer for school, and can’t wait around to see whether you win one or not, HP’s got you covered. As a part of this whole Better Together promotion, they’re also offering really special deals to the readers of the sites involved (that’s you).

Each offer is different and for a limited time only. This week’s offer is listed below. If it doesn’t tickle your fancy, come back to this entry next week for the latest deal. Here goes:

The first deal has expired. The current deal can be found at the bottom of my review of the HP Mini 110.

This deal is valid only for the 100 people who act on it! So act fast, because this coupon is being distributed to the readers of all 25 sites in the Better Together promotion!

  • Valid for 2 Days Only – 8/6 to 8/7/09
  • GET $300 OFF when you configure to $999.99 or higher on HP Pavilion dv6z
  • Power, Mobility & Design for On-the-Go Students
  • FREE 3GB Memory upgrade
  • FREE 320GB Hard drive upgrade
  • FREE Color upgrade
  • FREE Shipping

To redeem this offer, customize your HP Pavilion dv6z here, and use coupon code NBY8746 at checkout!

Valid for HP Home & Home Office (www.hpshopping.com) internet and call center purchases only. Coupon valid on first 100 redemptions, or while supplies last. Any unused portion will be forfeited. Each coupon code is limited to one usage per customer; one coupon code per checkout. Offer void where prohibited, taxed or restricted by law. Non-transferable. Not valid retroactively on previously purchased items. Not valid for any resale activity as defined by HP Home & Home Office Store. Coupons may not be used to purchase gift cards. Not valid on clearance sales. May not be permitted with certain bundle offers. Not valid on: Academic and Employee purchase programs, HP Employee purchase program, Refurbished products, Extended Service Plans. For complete coupon conditions, see “Coupon Information” in the “Customer Service” section at www.hpshopping.com.

10 responses to “Review: HP Pavilion dv6”

  1. Emily

    Sounds sweet … great offer too, I think I’ll try my chances at winning one.

  2. Tempra

    I just bought the HP dv6 for school and I love it! The analysis was correct but, I was a little disappointed that you did not address battery life which is up to 6hrs. That along with onboard 10 key capabilities and ultra portability were three most important factors for me. I never expected to be able to get such a great deal on all of the other bells and whistles that are included.

    Great Job HP!

  3. Win an HP “Better Together” Back to School Bundle

    [...] Review: HP Pavilion dv6 (Poorer than You) [...]

  4. Lamrani Hamada

    i wana buy one the next week , and i wana know if the battery …

    thank you guys

  5. Professor Ink

    I picked up a Sony VGN-AW110J when Circuit City was going out of business and it has very similar settings as this HP does.

    I just installed Windows 7 and it works great.

  6. danny

    DON’T FALL FOR AN HP LAPTOP! THEY HAVE A MALFUNCTION TIME-BOMB. My Pavillion dv6 laptop apparently has a power problem and won’t power-on exactly a year after it was purchased. HP considered the contact-day the day the laptop actually broke, so the day I contacted them was the day that my warranty had already expired for 4 days. They offered to fix it for $398 + tax when I only paid $802 for it. Perhaps all HP components, even the design, were done in China. Go figure!

  7. More

    It trully has some impressive specs and the price is quite low