The 14-inch HP Pavilion dv4t is consumer notebook offering a wide range of multimedia features at a modest starting price of $599. With features that span from built-in Verizon or AT&T WWAN, a Blu-ray media drive, and even an internal TV-tuner this notebook has the ability to be the hub of any home or dorm entertainment system. Take a look at this review and find out what all a “budget-priced” notebook can do.
Our HP dv4-1001xx Specifications:
- Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 processor (2.8GHz/ 1066MHz FSB/ 6MB L2)
- 14.1 WXGA Glossy LED-Backlit LCD (1280x800)
- Nvidia GeForce 9200M-GS w/ 256MB DDR2 dedicated video card
- 4GB DDR2-800 RAM (2x 1GB)
- 320GB 5400RPM hard drive (Toshiba)
- Blu-ray ROM with SuperMulti DVDRW
- WiFi, Ethernet, Modem, and Bluetooth Connectivity
- Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
- 55Wh High Capacity 6-cell Li-ion battery
- Size: 13.15" (W) x 9.45" (D) x 1.34" (H)
- Weight: 5lbs 5.2oz with battery
Since our review unit was a custom-built reviewer's sample from HP our exact configuration isn't available for purchase from HP. However, a similar configuration with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 processor costs $1,674.99 ($1,474.99 with instant savings) on the HP website.
Build and Design
The design of the HP dv4 has the same heavily chromed accents just like the dv5 and new HDX models. I think that HP went slightly overboard with the use of shiny surfaces and in some instances you end up being blinded by a number of things. When using the notebook outside on a sunny day, the touchpad, speaker grills, media access keys, or even the palmrest trim could blind you if the sun hits it just right. Another high gloss surface that luckily this model did not include is the Infinity glass panel over the already glossy display. The few models we have had in our offices with that setup make viewing the screen a challenge in all but perfect lighting conditions with the amount of reflections.
Build quality is above average, with durable plastic all around the chassis. The painted surfaces seem to hold up well against minor scratches of day to day use, but they do attract quite a few fingerprints. The plastic that makes up the palmrests is fairly rigid, but will flex under moderately heavy pressure. The display cover is the same way, only flexing a little bit under strong pressure. I don’t think this notebook would have any problem being transported in a backpack with a bundle of heavy textbooks.
The glossy LED-backlit WXGA (1280x800) panel is bright and vibrant, with excellent colors for viewing images or movies. Contrast seems slightly washed out mostly because of blacks showing up as dark grey instead of full black. Viewing angles are average with limited vertical viewing angles that give you a sweet spot of +/- 15 degrees. Horizontal viewing angles are much better with colors staying true even out to very wide angles. Brightness levels are more than adequate for viewing in a bright office setting. Sunlight readability is limited with the glossy surface, but if you find a spot with some shade it should be fine.
With the included Blu-ray drive watching HD is limited to roughly 720P content with the lower 1280x800 screen resolution. On a screen this small you probably wouldn’t even notice the difference. The HDMI output is a better choice for watching movies, capable of outputting the full 1080P resolution of Blu-ray movies, as well as high definition audio.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size keyboard is comfortable to type on, with only light pressure required to fully press each key. The individual key action is smooth with a bit of plastic jiggle as you type. Keyboard spacing is excellent, and no area of the keyboard felt cramped as though HP tried to fit more keys than necessary into the mix. Keyboard support is excellent, with a very rigid surface that doesn’t want to budge even with very heavy pressure. If the keys were painted black you could probably even get away with calling it a business notebook keyboard.
The touchpad is an ALPS made model and feels very responsive with little lag. The entire touchpad surface is made up of a high gloss plastic, and hard to use at first. The surface needs to collect some of your finger's natural oils to allow easy sliding around the surface. If you clean it off with rubbing alcohol every so often, it will be tricky to move your finger around in a smooth motion until more oils collect on the surface. The touchpad buttons are in an easy-to-access spot and are easy to control with your thumb. The buttons provide mild feedback with a short throw that gives an audible click when pressed.
For quick access to movie controls, the dv4 has a touch-sensitive media access panel above the keyboard. It has dedicated buttons for the QuickPlay HP media control area, mute, volume up/down, media controls, and wireless on/off.
Performance and Benchmarks
System performance with the 2.8GHz Intel T9600 Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of system memory, and NVIDIA 9200M GS dedicated graphics is excellent. Day-to-day applications scream, mostly related to the top-of-the-line processor. The NVIDIA 9200M GS graphics card doesn’t help much for playing modern games, but it does help offload processing power when decoding Blu-ray movies. In all but video encoding the processor in our review model would be left unused, and a slower processor could have probably done just fine. To go from the base 2.0GHz T5800 processor to the T9600 is a $550 upgrade that could be better spent on a faster hard drive or even a docking station with money to spare.
Synthetic benchmarks were very good, mostly attributed to the 4GB of RAM and high-end processor.
WPrime is a benchmark similar to Super Pi in that it forces the processor to do intense mathematical calculations, but the difference is this application is multi-threaded and represents dual core processors better. Lower numbers indicate better performance.
|Notebook / CPU||wPrime 32M time|
|HP Pavilion dv4t (Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 2.8GHz)||26.972s|
|Dell Studio 15 (Core 2 Duo T5750 @ 2.0GHz)||41.246s|
|HP Pavilion dv5z (Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80 @ 2.1GHz)||39.745s |
|Dell Vostro 1510 (Core 2 Duo T5670 @ 1.8GHz)||51.875s|
|Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz)||43.569s|
|Dell XPS M1530 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)||37.485s|
|HP Pavilion dv6500z (Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz)||40.759s|
|Sony VAIO NR (Core 2 Duo T5250 @ 1.5GHz)||58.233s|
|Toshiba Tecra A9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)||38.343s|
|Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)||37.299s|
|HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz)||40.965s|
|Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)||37.705s|
|HP Pavilion dv6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz)||38.720s|
PCMark05 measures overall notebook performance based on processor, hard drive, operating system, RAM, and graphics (higher scores are better):
|HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, Nvidia 9200M GS 256MB)||5,463 PCMarks|
|Dell Studio 15 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100)||3,998 PCMarks|
|HP Pavilion dv5z (2.1GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80, ATI Radeon HD 3200) ||3,994 PCMarks|
|Dell Vostro 1510 (1.8GHz Intel T5670, Intel X3100)||3,568 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100)||4,149 PCMarks|
|Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB)||5,412 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT)||4,616 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100)||3,283 PCMarks|
|Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB)||4,189 PCMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||4,234 PCMarks|
3DMark06 comparison results for graphics performance (higher scores are better):
|HP Pavilion dv4t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, Nvidia 9200M GS 256MB)||1,741 3DMarks|
|Dell Studio 15 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100)||493 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion dv5z (2.1GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80, ATI Radeon HD 3200)||1,599 3DMarks|
|Dell Vostro 1510 (1.8GHz Intel T5670, Intel X3100)||519 3DMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100)||545 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion dv6500z (2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60, NVIDIA 8400m GS)||1,551 3DMarks|
|Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100)||504 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB)||4,332 3DMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT)||2,905 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||827 3DMarks|
All of the 3DMark06 scores for all of the systems listed above were run at 1280 x 800 or 1280 x 768 resolution. We also ran PCMark Vantage on the dv4t and obtained a score of 3,811.
Speakers and Audio
The onboard speakers leave much to be desired with a tinny sound at moderate volume level. Both bass and midrange were absent, and at high volume levels the speakers distorted quite a bit. Lack of bass and midrange is quite common with many notebooks, leaving headphones as the only good option for enjoying movies or music. If you are close to a home theatre that supports audio out of HDMI you could also route audio through that.
Ports and Features
Port selection on the HP dv4t is excellent, offering a wide range of onboard ports, including VGA, HDMI, eSATA and a connection for external docking station. Audio hookups are great, with two headphone jacks that can easily share a movie with a friend.
- Three USB 2.0 ports
- One eSATA/USB port
- Expansion Port 3 (docking station connector)
- ExpressCard slot
- Gigabit Ethernet
- 5-in-1 multi-card reader
- Two audio out ports
- microphone in
- VGA monitor out
- HDMI out
- Kensington lock slot
Front: IR, two Headphone jacks, and Microphone jack
Rear: Screen hinge
Left: Kensington Lock slot, VGA, docking connector, LAN, HDMI, USB/eSATA combo port, Expresscard/54, 5-in-1 multi-card reader
Right: Expansion bay, 2 USB, modem, AC power
The dv4t also offers a media bay that lets the user swap out the optical drive for an additional hard drive. The bay with 250GB drive costs $109.99, and gives much faster transfer rates over a external USB drive since it is connecting through an internal SATA connection.
Heat and Noise
Thermal performance of the HP dv4t’s cooling system was average, with a few hot spots forming even with a cooling fan that was audible from across the room. Upper notebook temperatures were kept in check, leaving the palmrest in the 81-91 degrees Fahrenheit range even under load. Lower temperatures were not as good, with a few parts reaching upwards of 102 degrees Fahrenheit, making for a not-so-comfortable laptop situation if you were using it for any good length of time.
The cooling fan was obnoxiously loud during heavy activity (such as gaming or benchmarking) and easily heard around a small office setting. During normal use the fan didn’t always turn on with such vigor, but it was annoying during the times it tried to really cool itself down.
Battery life is average with the high capacity 6-cell battery. With the “HP Recommended” power profile enabled, wireless on and active, and screen brightness set to 60 percent the system squeaked by with 3 hours and 24 minutes of runtime before it his 5 percent and wanted to shutdown. HP does offer an extended 12-cell battery which should offer even greater battery life, but without any specifications listed that would hint at capacity it is hard to estimate how long that battery would last.
I normally don’t comment much on added manufacturer bloatware on notebooks, but the HP dv4t was an exception. Loaded down with additional IE toolbars, processor intensive antivirus software, and prompts that popped up one after another, it was a pain to use. The first 30 minutes after I opened the box was used uninstalling anything that was not absolutely needed for the system to function correctly.
The HP Pavilion dv4t works well as a media hub for a home theater, as well as a mobile workhorse for lugging to school or traveling. Port selection is fantastic, and with the native docking station connection you can attach even more devices. The “SmartBay” removable storage expansion drive worked well when you wanted more storage instead of an optical drive. While the price on our configuration was quite high because of a few key components like the top-tier processor, a more modest configuration would result in a much more affordable notebook. Overall, you get lots of bang for your buck in a durable chassis that should easily hold up for a number of years.
- Expansive port selection
- User-swappable media bay
- Native docking station connection
- LED-backlit screen is quite bright
- Good performance
- Very pricey depending on what options you configure the notebook with
- Super reflective notebook that causes lots of glare