Many students need a laptop that can double as both a work and entertainment machine while in school. The new 2012 version of the HP Pavilion dv6t Quad Edition fits this need nicely and can be had for under $1,000 if you use the HP student discount or available HP coupons. Thanks to its Nvidia 650m graphics card and 3rd generation Intel Quad Core i7 processor the dv6t-7000 has some serious performance credentials, with enough power to do gaming when you need to blow off steam. And for when you’re doing work, there’s an option for a high resolution 1920 x 1080 matte screen so you can fit more text on the screen or fit two windows at the same time to be more efficient. The dv6t-7000 is also portable enough that you can take it to the library or class to take notes. In this review we cover the pros and cons of this laptop and whether you should consider it for your school needs.
This dv6t-7000 was purchased direct from HP.com where it’s easiest to configure and find the best deals, there’s often coupons available that can knock the price down as much as 30%. You can also use the HP student discount (Academic Purchas Plan) to get a better deal, around 7 – 10% off. When you unbox the dv6t-7000 it comes with the laptop itself, power brick and cable, documentation and of course the battery. You don’t get restore disks, you have to create those yourself using a utility HP provides if you want them.
HP dv6t-7000 Design and Build
The design for the dv6t is all new for 2012, it features a midnight black color lid with brush aluminum finish. Around the edges is a silver trim and then inside you again get an all black finish. The look is great and I think will appeal to a wide audience, though possibly more so males than females as it’s a rather masculine look. There are no options for alternative colors this year.
One nice design touch is the HP logo that lights up on the lid when the laptop is powered on. Maybe it doesn’t have the same caché as an illuminated Apple logo, but it’s better than a sticker logo that’s for sure.
When you open up the dv6t-7000 the look is all black. The keyboard has a chiclet design in which each key is individual, like an island. The area around the screen has a glossy finish and tends to pick up finger prints, which can get a little annoying. One thing you’ll notice is the red Beats audio logo, it’s kind of a cool looking little logo and tells the world you have enhanced audio on board, although to be honest I think it’s more marketing than it is substance.
The underside of the dv6tqe is constructed of a durable and rigid plastic so that it’s well protected when you carry it around. There’s a subwoofer on the bottom to help enhance the audio systems bass. The battery is easily accessed here by releasing two latches that act as locks. You also get access to internal components such as the hard drive, memory and wi-fi card by removing a panel that is held in with a single screw.
The materials used in the dv6t are a mix of aluminum and plastic, this provides for a solid chassis. While it’s not quite the same look and feel as the same sized all aluminum ENVY 15, it’s still good. The top of the dv6t-700 and palm rest areas are all made of aluminum and the sides use a durable plastic. I tried pushing in on several areas and couldn’t find any particular spot that had excessive flex. You can push in on the back of the screen lid and no ripples are produced, so this indicates the screen is well protected.
HP dv6t-7000 Screen
The 15.6” screen on the dv6tqe I’m reviewing is the 1920 x 1080 matte finish screen, a $150 upgrade option. It’s definitely an upgrade I’d recommend, even if you’re on a budget like most students you should try and find a way to fit this in the budget. Simply put, the 1920 x 1080 screen is amazing, and it will make you so much more productive than the budget friendly but lacking 1366 x 768 screen. How will it make you more productive you ask? Consider the fact that you can fit a lot more text on images on the screen with a higher resolution, so you end up doing less scrolling to read or view things. You can also fit two windows on the screen side by side at the same time with the Full HD screen, which makes it easy to compare documents or reference text in one window while doing input in the other — or have chat open off to the side as you type a report, whatever the case may be. But that’s not all (I know, I’m starting to sound like a telemarketer), the viewing angles on the Full HD screen are amazing, colors stay true at very wide angles, take a look at the proof with these pictures:
The Full HD screen also has the advantage of having a matte anti-glare finish, so it reduces eye strain when you stare at it for several hours, which is a common thing when you have to write a several pages long report or do lots of reading online.
HP dv6t-7000 Specs, Performance and Graphics
Before we go much further in talking about performance, let’s look over the specs for this unit:
- Processor: Intel Core i7-3610QM
- Screen: 15.6” Full HD (1920 x 1080 resolution) matte anti-glare finish
- Graphics: Nvidia GT 650M with 1GB GDDR5 memory
- Memory: 8GB DDR3 (2 DIMM)
- Storage: 750GB 7200RPM HD
- Battery: 6-cell Lithium Ion, quotes 6 hours of battery life
- Backlit keyboard with number pad
- Built-in WebCam
- Weight: 5.5lbs
- Ports: monitor out, HDMI, Ethernet LAN (RJ-45), three USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, headphone jack, microphone jack, media card reader
- Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
- Optical Drive: Blu Ray player & SuperMulti DVD burner
- Dimensions: 14.88” x 9.71” x 1.22” (Width x Depth x Height)
If your needs are pretty basic, you can just get the HP dv6t-7000 with the standard Nvidia 630m graphics card. However, most that are interested in this laptop model will be tempted by the fact you can get a powerful next generation Nvidia 650m graphics card that makes it possible to play the latest and greatest games. It’s only a $50 upgrade to the 650m anyway, so you might as well go with this option as it really is a lot better. There’s no need to pay $100 extra for the 2GB version of the 650M, you won’t notice much if any performance difference due to the memory increase.
On top of the excellent Nvidia graphics, you also of course get the latest 3rd generation Intel Core i7 Quad Core processor (Ivy Bridge family). This particular review unit has the standard Intel Core i7-3610QM, which I think will be ample processing performance for most. In fact, it’s performance is probably overkill for all but the most demanding of users. If all you do is typical stuff like email, media, typing reports, web browsing then you really just need an Intel Core i3 processor, but if you’re into gaming and do lots of other processor intensive tasks then the Core i7 will definitely provide a performance shot.
To get an idea of how this notebook performs I ran both 3DMark Vantage and PCMark 7 and then compared it to scores of the current HP Envy 17-3000 model. Here’s a comparison chart:
|3DMark Vantage||PCMark 7|
|HP dv6t-7000 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia 650M, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD)||10,108 3DMarks||2,877 PCMarks|
|HP Envy 17-3000, Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD||6,970 3DMarks||2,703 PCMarks|
Clearly the graphics are a strong point for the dv6t-7000 and the Nvidia 650M trumps the AMD 7690M in the Envy 17-3000. Also, consider the fact that you get better integrated graphics with the Intel HD 4000 which is 50% faster than last years Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics.
The only Achilles heel of the dv6t-7000 is its standard hard drive storage, you can upgrade to an SSD for better overall system performance, but many students will want a large capacity hard drive for storing multimedia and other large files — you can get up to 1TB of storage with an HD but only 256GB with an SSD. HP does offer a 32GB mini-SSD cache. That’s not going to store the OS on it and offer SSD like performance for booting up, but it can help with caching and speeding up the overall experience. If you had thoughts of upgrading to a mini-SSD (mSATA SSD) it’s not exactly straightforward as it’s located under the palm rest and hard to reach. Bottom line, you either have to go with an HD or SSD depending on your needs and budget. The larger HP dv7t-7000 offers dual storage bays so you can easily install both an SSD and HD.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The dv6t uses an island style keyboard, also referred to as chiclet. It has a number pad on the right side. The keyboard is firm, you really have to push down to find any flex. My favorite aspect of the keyboard is most definitely the backlighting option which is an extra $25 upgrade. The look of the backlit keyboard is cool and it really helps you to see the keys in a dimly lit room.
HP includes is a fingerprint reader as a standard feature on the far right side, you can see it surrounded by stickers in the image above. The fingerprint reader can be used as an alternate way of logging in to both Windows or websites, HP has included software on board that allows you to configure storing website passwords via the fingerprint reader.
The function keys F1 – F12 you see in the top row are actually media keys and system adjustment keys. You can use F2 to dim the screen and F3 to brighten the screen for instance.
The touchpad is an adequate size and works well, it uses Synaptics drivers and has all the scroll and multi-touch features you’d expect. Unfortunately the touchpad area is not backlit like the keyboard, ironically last years dv6t model had an illuminated touchpad but not keyboard, so the tables got turned here. The mouse buttons below the touchpad are middling, they work ok, but they have short travel distance and don’t give convincing feedback making them feel kind of cheap.
HP dv6t-7000 Quad Edition Battery Life
If you’re going to be carrying the dv6tqe around campus or to the library then you’ll want to have a decent amount of battery life so you don’t have to camp out next to an outlet, we all know how tough that can be when everybody seems to fight over the few outlets that are available. HP says the battery life with the 6-cell battery should be around 6-hours. I tested this out with a conservative usage scenario, setting power to “Power Saver” and setting screen brightness to halfway and wireless on. I browsed the web for an hour or two and then just left the laptop to idle. After 5 hours and 22 minutes the dv6t went into hibernate as it reached the 5% critical low battery point. For this size laptop that is a pretty decent amount of battery life. I think a lot of students will be leaving this in their dorm or apartment and just taking it out when necessary, but it’s at least good to know it can be relied on for good battery life if you need it.
A quick reminder though, if you use the dv6t-7000 for a lot of gaming and movie watching at full screen brightness you should expect much less battery life, say around 2.5 hours.
The dv6t-7000 has a good amount and selection of input and output ports. Here’s a tour of what you get on each side
On the left side you have a monitor out port, HDMI, Ethernet LAN (RJ-45), two USB 3.0 ports, headphone jack, and microphone jack:
On the right side, you get an third USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, the power jack and optical drive which is Blu-Ray
On the front side you get an SD card reader:
The dv6t-7000 has what HP CoolSense technology built in that allows you to change whether you want to favor cool running over noise or vice versa. Essentially what this does is allow you to crank up the fans if you want to keep the notebook cool or tame them which will keep noise down but may allow the laptop to heat up more.
My recommendation would be to simply be prudent and if you are running games or demanding applications, place the notebook on a flat surface free from obstructions so that air can flow underneath and above without the vents being blocked. Even better, use a laptop cooler that helps keep the system warm via use of an external fan. If you’re just doing light work, set the power settings to “Power Saver” and feel free to use the dv6t on your lap if you need, but try and keep the vents clear from obstruction of clothing.
In my experience the dv6t-7000 only got uncomfortably hot after running benchmarks for a long duration, over 20 minutes. For the most part things stayed cool to just warm other than that notable exception.
The dv6t-7000 has a quad speaker setup, there are two speakers above the keyboard and two on the display itself – presumably placed so they can fire forward, which is a good idea. There’s also a sub woofer on the bottom of the laptop to add some bass. You also get Beats Audio on board, there’s a logo on the top right corner of the keyboard to indicate this fact. While the audio is definitely good and above average for other laptops, I wouldn’t say the listening experience is incredible. The bass was only so-so, despite the presence of the subwoofer, but the treble was not all that great and I noticed some tinny sounds coming from the Quad speakers, especially when volume was cranked up.
If you’re looking for a laptop for school and would like something that can double as both a “fun machine” and one for getting important school work done and you don’t want to spend $1,500+, then the HP dv6t-7000 Quad Edition should be on your shortlist. While Apple MacBooks are definitely popular amongst the college crowd, making up nearly 50% of the market according to some stats, the cost and Mac OS X are not for everyone. The dv6t-7000 is a premium notebook in its own right, it offers a lot of bang for the buck. The performance you can get from the Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7 processor combined with Nvidia 650m graphics are excellent. The 1920 x 1080 Full HD screen is awesome and I think rivals what you’ll get on a Mac, which is one reason some people cite for actually buying Apple products – their reputation for good screens.
Some down sides to the dv6t-7000 include poor mouse buttons, glossy finishes where it’s not necessary and only decent speaker performance. There is quite a bit of bloatware on board, but you HP provides a nice option to reinstall to default factory settings and include only the OS, which makes for an easy clean Windows 7 installation.
Bottom line, if you buy the dv6t-7000 via HP.com with a coupon or via the HP Academy and get the student discount you can find great deals, making the dv6t-7000 one of the best options on the market for students that want a powerful notebook but don’t want to break the bank. It’s the most popular selling HP laptop model for a reason!