HP Fansite super exclusive review of the 2010 HP Pavilion dv3: If there’s one fantastic thing the world didn’t see coming this year, it would be the brand new 2010 HP Pavilion dv3. Redesigned from the ground up (along with its larger siblings dv5, dv6 and dv7) and looking nothing like pre-2010 Pavilion models, the 2010 Pavilion dm4 is designed for those who want a compact notebook with plenty of power. At the moment, the HP Pavilion dm4 will sell alongside existing dv4, but with the total makeovers HP has done to the dv5, dv6 and dv7 models this month, who knows what they’ll do to the old, glossy dv4?
Update: Whoops, epic fail on my behalf. This is not the Pavilion dm4 – I was too busy gushing over the greatness of the notebook for several days that I didn’t even notice that this is in fact… the 2010 Pavilion dv3. Apologies for the mistake, and thank you to the many readers who pointed out the confusion to me (-embarrassed look on face-). I would also like to extend further thanks to those who sent in links to HP’s product pages (Those are exactly what I’ve been looking for!)
Here’s a sneak peak of what the new Pavilion dv3 has to offer: it has a quad core Intel Core i7 processor (yes, quad core!) and new DirectX 11 kicking Mobility Radeon 5400 series graphics (Updated; new 2010 dv3 has lower end graphics than similar dm4) from ATI! Hit the link for HP Fansite’s complete, super in-depth, super exclusive review of the notebook!
- 1.60 GHz Intel Core i7 720M quad core processor
- 8 GB of DDR3 RAM (4GB X 2 slots)
- 1 GB ATI Mobility Radeon 5450 graphics
- 500 GB hard disk drive, 7200 RPM
- 13.3 inch 16:9 glossy “Bright View” widescreen (1366 x 768)
- 2 USB ports, USB + eSata, HDMI, LAN port, VGA out
- 9 cell extended battery
Gone are the glossy plastic (and fingerprint-loving), old Pavilion models: the HP Pavilion dv3 along with other 2010 Pavilion models are now have aluminum bodies. That means fingerprint cleaning is a thing of the past, and the Pavilion dv3 can handle slightly rougher handling than your average consumer notebook (but doesn’t mean you should literally throw it around). The upper half of the Pavilion dv3 appears to follow a certain unibody design principle – it’s made out of a single whole piece of aluminum with no seams or patches of components. The bottom half of the notebook is not-so-unibody like, or as pretty, (as you’ll see in a moment), but nevertheless, there are various vents and covers for hard disk/memory module accessibility.
HP has also added some “nice” metal-etched patterns and lines on the lid and palmrest area of the HP Pavilion dv3… not quite my cup of tea, but I did receive many approving nods and compliments about the new design (including three people saying it’s a brilliant step-up and far less ugly than the patterns and swirls of old Pavilion models) from buddies and random people who saw the notebook; so it’s probably safe to say it’s a “win” for HP from the average Joe/consumer standpoint, with the Pavilion dv3’s flowing lines being one of their most successful (if not, THE most well received) abstract patterns/designs yet. And before I forget, yes, you can actually FEEL the metal-etched patterns, which provide a subtle tactile feel.
Besides the entire design makeover that HP gave the Pavilion dv3, they’ve also removed the glossy strip of touch-sensitive media and volume keys that sat above the keyboard of the old Pavilion models. Instead, the Pavilion dv3’s upper row of Function keys on the keyboard now serve to directly access/control those options like play, fast forward/stop/rewind and all, just like we first saw on HP’s Envy 13 and Envy 15 models last year. As a HP Pavilion dv4 owner, I can’t say I’ve ever used the touch-sensitive media keys (I use Winamp for music and VLC for movies, and I find the mouse/keyboard shortcuts a lot more useful for controlling playback), so I’m okay with whatever HP does to those media controls. Even if you’re a big time fan of those touch sensitive controls, you’ve gotta admit, there’s one big advantage of moving their functions to the F-keys on the keyboard – no more shiny bright lights below your screen to distract you when watching movies!
Oh yes, and that HP logo on the lid of the Pavilion dv3 finally lights up when the notebook is on!
The HP Pavilion dv3 will come with a variety of processor choices, from the really basic Core i5 520M dual core processor right up to the higher end (still dual core) Core i7 620M. This little Pavilion dv3 that showed up sports a Core i7 720QM quad core processor, but I can’t be sure if this option will appear in retail units (it probably will; just that I’m saying this first since the details given by HP are scarce, and they haven’t even put up a product page for the Pavilion dv3 yet!). There are two user-accessible DDR3 RAM slots and 2.5 inch notebook hard disk bay on the underside of the dv3; HP is likely to offer their usual options for both: “up to 8 GB of RAM” and “up to a 500 GB 7200 rpm hard disk”. This particular model of the Pavilion dv3 came with 1 GB of ATI Mobility Radeon 5450 though it appears HP is offering a 512 MB version of the ATI Mobility Radeon 5450 for models in some regions.
Size and weight: The HP Pavilion dv3 measures a little under an inch thin in front; gaining a few millimeters to measure slightly over an inch thick at the back. That’s because most of the core components (ie battery and graphics) are located towards the back of the notebook). In a way, it’s good for typing and ergonomics in general as the notebook is naturally, very slightly tilted towards you. If you’d like to extend battery life and make the notebook even more angled towards you, then getting the 9 cell extended battery might help. The Pavilion dv3 is also slightly larger and thicker than your average 11 or 12 inch ultra-portable, so it’s no surprise that the notebook is proportionally heavier, moreso when you take into account its less-plasticky build quality. However, most will find the dv3 easy to carry around and not really that much of a burden.
Ports and connectivity: Majority of the HP Pavilion dv3’s ports are located on the left side of the notebook, but let’s take a look on the left first, shall we? Here we a tray-loading Blu-ray/DVD drive along with two USB 2.0 ports and a port for plugging in the AC adapter. The left USB port has enough clearance from the optical drive for you to fit a plus-size USB device, but doing so may obstruct you from using the right USB. The HP Pavilion dv3 comes with and uses the same standard AC adapter that HP has been bundling with many of their notebooks for years.
And over here on the left side is where all the action is… from left to right, we have a Kensington lock slot (for securing the notebook to a permanent fixture/object), VGA port (for connecting the dv3 to projectors and external monitors), LAN port, HDMI port, a combo USB 2.0 + eSata port and dedicated audio in (microphone) and audio out (headphones/speakers) ports. There are also two LED indicator lights – one for hard disk activity and the other for power status. There’s not much to explain or rant about here, besides the lack of USB 3.0 on the Pavilion dv3 – still, if HP does a refresh to incorporate them once USB 3.0 devices become mainstream, it shouldn’t be a problem.
One thing I want you guys (and girls) to take a good look at is that big fat air vent between the Kensington lock slot and VGA port – it’s huge for a notebook this size! One may recall the various heat (and overheat) issues the old pre-2010 Pavilion models faced, thanks to their not-so-bright (read: epic fail) placement of the airvent: behind the screen hinges and facing downwards. Thankfully, HP learned their lesson and have included larger and more airvents on the Pavilion dv3… hmmm, perhaps just toooo many vents, as you’ll see in a moment.
And here we are, the bottom of the HP Pavilion dm4 notebook… as you can see down here, there’s a whopping six airvents on the Pavilion dm4. Lots of airvents… it’s a good thing when it comes to cooling the notebook – but compared to the Pavilion dv3’s pretty face, it’s underside is not quite as flattering to look at. But hey, how often do we show off the underside of our notebooks to people, right?
Drives: The HP Pavilion dm4 comes with an optical drive that can play CD, DVD and Blu-ray discs as well as satisfy your CD and DVD burning needs. The optical drive on the dv3 cannot be removed as easily as that of old Pavilion models – while I can remove the optical drive of my old Pavilion dv4 just by pulling a switch (really, that’s it: it’s out!), one would require a screwdriver and the removal of some screws to remove the Pavilion dm4’s optical drive, though I don’t see many reasons you’d want to do that anyway – it’s not like you could stuff in an additional hard disk via an upgrade bay accessory like you can on HP’s high end Elitebook models.
The HP Pavilion dm4 has a single 2.5 inch hard disk bay that takes both hard disks and solid state drives. I don’t have any specifics on the hard disk and SSD sizes that HP plans to offer with the Pavilion dv3, but one thing’s for sure – 7200 rpm hard disks will be standard. This specific Pavilion dv3 unit came with a 500 GB 7200 RPM hard drive.
Memory: The HP Pavilion dv3 has two DDR3 RAM slots, which allow for expansion up to 8 GB of RAM. The RAM slots are accessible by undoing a screw and lifting the cover on the bottom of the notebook (in fact, you can see the RAM modules behind the airvent in the picture above.
On the front of the HP Pavilion dv3 is an SD/SDHC (no word so far about SDXC though) memory card slot along with two speaker grills. The HP Pavilion dv3’s speakers carry “Altec Lansing” and “SRS Premium Sound” branding/labels, though I’ve always had doubts about famous big names stamping their names on components of various electronic devices (like how Nokia’s phones have “Carl Zeiss” lenses for example, right….)
Display: Moving along, we have the glossy LED-backlit display of the Pavilion dm4, sporting a pretty standard 1366 x 768 pixels. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m more of a matte screen lover, but I found this glossy screen on the Pavilion dm4 to be slightly more tolerable than say, the Envy 15’s really reflective screen. Brightness was good along with very saturated colors, good news for movie lovers. There’s also a webcam above the screen, now branded with the new HP TrueVision name, which I found decent for carrying out a few webcam chats and conferences online, but nothing extraordinary to brag about.
Trackpad: First seen on the HP Envy models, the Sypnaptics-driven multi-touch, buttonless trackpad has trickled down to the more affordable, consumer level 2010 Pavilion models, including the dv3. The trackpad has been updated even further to improve multi-touch operation, so you can actually rest your thumb on the lower ‘click’ area while surfing and scrolling around using your index finger – without the cursor jumping around like a monkey. The trackpad is buttonless (you know, like those found on Apple’s Macbook and MacBook Pro models) with the difference being the Pavilion dv3 (a Windows machine) has dedicated left and right click “buttons”, separated by the little white line in the center of the trackpad. There’s also a trackpad lock function that can be activated by double tapping your finger on the white dot on the upper left side of the trackpad. You’ll know when the trackpad is ‘locked’ when the little white dot lights up red.
Keyboard: The HP Pavilion dv3 has a full-size chiclet keyboard that seems to have been “borrowed” from HP’s own Touchsmart tm2 tablet computer. Though I wouldn’t say it’s revolutionary or noticeably better than some other similarly-sized HP notebook keyboards I’ve used before (ie Pavilion dv4 and HP Envy 13), but it’s definitely a great keyboard to type on with good typing feedback “clicks” and fairly silent key presses. Something that’s definitely missing is a set of dedicated Page Up/Down keys (now performed using Fn+Arrow Up/Down) and complete lack of Home/End keys. This opinion may differ based on different individuals though – I for one, MUST have my dedicated Page/Home/End keys on a notebook (I make exceptions for netbooks); while Apple MacBook/most Sony Vaio users have been surviving fine (I think… I hope…) without them.
Battery life: The HP Pavilion dv3 here came with a 9-cell battery that sticks out of the bottom of the notebook (though I bet retail units are likely to come with 6 cell batteries in the box) which helped quite a bit in battery life. With the screen set to moderate-high brightness and wireless on, I managed to work on some documents and articles (writing this review included), while surfing the web and watching a few hilarious video clips from The Onion, for about 6 hours. Of course, with more power-conscious behavior such as turning down screen brightness and switching off WiFi when not in use, one could easily squeeze another hour (or two) of usage out of that 9 cell battery.
Gaming performance (Plugged in): The HP Pavilion dv3 sports an entry-level ATI Mobility Radeon 5450 graphics card with 1 GB memory(updated: although this may not be true for models in some regions, which have a lower end Mobility Radeon 5450 card, with just 512 MB of graphics memory) that supports DirectX 11. During my time with the HP Pavilion dv3, I ran three of my favorite games on the notebook: Left4Dead 2 (DX10), Battlefield Bad Company 2 (DX11) and, the latest addition to my PC games collection, Metro 2033 (DX11). Being the image quality obsessed freak that I probably am (I don’t like “stretched” images, I’d avoid interpolation from using a lower res setting, etc), I ran all the games using the notebook’s native screen resolution of 1366 x 768 (to be honest, I do that for all machines I use – run games at native screen resolutions) and here’s what I got:
Left4Dead 2 (complete with the latest “The Passing” campaign from the new DLC, no less!) ran at a nice 40 FPS with 2X anti aliasing, 2X AF and a mix of medium and low settings. Frame rates did manage to drop to around 30 FPS, and occasionally, the range of 20’s, during intense scenes such as summoning “the horde” and setting gas cans ablaze. The same also happened in campaigns with bad weather (Hard Rain and The Passing), where the water and rain effects consume more processing power.
Battlefield Bad Company 2, a more demanding, DirectX 11 game than Left4Dead 2, ran just as smoothly but with mostly low settings. I’d also recommend turning off anti-aliasing for BC2 as it helps a lot in evening out frame rates. And finally, comes my most recent favorite game: Metro 2033 (where you get to trudge around post-apocalyptic Russian subways; full review of that game to come…). Metro 2033 ran decently around the 30 FPS range with “Normal” quality (the game lacks individual fine-tuning of AA, AF and various graphics options) though I would recommend setting things to “Low” if you don’t want to see frame rate drop to the 15-20 FPS range during intense firefights.
Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro (photo and video editing): I put the notebook through its paces doing a bunch of tasks such as batch image processing, HDR merging and panorama stitching, along with video encoding and format conversion.
Temperature and fan noise: The Pavilion dv3 is a fairly cool and quiet notebook when used for light tasks such as internet browsing, working on documents and watching movies, with fan noise being softer than a whisper. When used for heavy tasks such as image/video editing and gaming, the Pavilion dv3’s fan spins up quite a bit (audible in a completely silent room, but sufficiently quiet to be drowned out by ambient noise in a mid-sized office/classroom), pushing out plenty of air out the airvent on the side/ Temperatures, however remained at ‘touchable’ levels, with the touchpad/palmrest area remaining fairly cool along with a slightly warm keyboard and the bottom of the notebook feeling upwards of “warm” but not scorching hot.
Final thoughts: The HP Pavilion dv3 is a well-rounded notebook with good performance, design and operation as well as battery life – letting you (finally) have your cake and eat it too. HP listened to the various feedback and complains about the old Pavilion notebooks and have (finally) created something droolworthy with few shortcomings. Build quality has been improved along with cooling thanks to the complete redesign of the Pavilion series, more powerful graphics options have been put into the notebook, along with good power management. There are a few rants that I do have, that I have listed below, but they are fairly minor ones (such as the lack of backlit keyboard)
- Dual and quad core (!) processor options
- New design, made from the ground up is great: looks nice (for the majority of people), plenty of airvents, clean lines
- ATI Mobility Radeon 5450 graphics card packs quite a punch
- Notebook is fairly cool and quiet most of the time
- Fairly good battery life for a quad core notebook
- Keyboard is a pleasure to type on; and trackpad firmware has been improved greatly
- No dedicated Page Up/Down and Home/End keys
- USB 3.0 ports would have been nice
- Notebook is not as thin as I would’ve liked
- No backlit keyboard
- I hope battery life is significantly better in dual core models, then this notebook would be a champ!
If you have any questions, feel free to post in the comments section below.