Review posted March 6, 2007 by Lisa Gade, Editor
If you like livin' large, but not too large when it comes to weight and price, then the 17" HP Pavilion dv9000t desktop replacement should be on your short list. This Vista notebook has the large display and multimedia prowess you'd expect from a desktop replacement but it sells for $1,400 or less if you shop around (we found it for $1,350 on sale at our local Fry's Electronics with a $50 HP rebate). At 1.57" thick and 7.8 pounds, it's more portable that many competing 17" notebooks, and at roughly 15" x 12" there's still enough room for a can of cola and a bag of chips along with your mouse on your desk.
Features at a Glance
The HP dv9220us is a member of HP's Pavilion dv9000t line of notebook computers which are available in 12, 15 and 17 inch models and have Intel processors (the dv9000z family uses AMD). HP calls it an "Entertainment Notebook PC", and in fact, it's ripe with multimedia features and would have qualified as a Media Center Edition machine back in XP days (Media Center features are built into Vista Home Premium and Ultimate editions). The machine runs Windows Vista Home Premium and features a 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo dual core Intel CPU, 2 gigs of RAM, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g, Ethernet, a modem, an ExpressCard /54 slot, a card reader, BrightView glossy display, dual layer DVD burner, Skype-ready web cam, HDMI port, HP's instant-on feature for multimedia playback sans Windows and a juicy Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics card with 256 megs of dedicated memory for great gaming. That's a lot of goodness for the price. There are versions bundled with an HP ExpressCard analog TV tuner, or you can purchase your own analog or digital PC TV tuner separately.
In the Box
HP includes the computer (of course!), Lithium Ion battery, world charger, a pair of stereo earbud headphones, a wireless remote control for multimedia playback that stores in the ExpressCard slot, a getting started guide and warranty information.
Design and Ergonomics
HP's gloss black Imprint finish graces the notebook, giving it a strong dose of good looks and style. There's a faint pattern of gray swirling lines in the piano black finish, and the inside surface is gloss silver with the same swirling lines, this time in very light gray to near white. As you move and change your viewing angle, the pattern become more or less apparent. The drawback to this black shiny goodness is fingerprints which the notebook attracts madly-- hence the included cleaning and polishing cloth. Pair this with an LG Chocolate, LG VX8600 and an iPod and you'll be wiping away your days.
Close up to show HP's Imprint finish (image is sharpened to make pattern more visible)
Since this is a large notebook, the keyboard is a full-sized roomy affair and we liked the good key travel and sense of tactile feedback (though it doesn't rate as high as Sony's top-of-the-line models, that's to be expected in a notebook that's half the price). The large two button Synaptics touch pad is offset to the left to keep your hands centered on the keyboard's midline with the dedicated number pad on the far right. Though the trackpad surface is glossy, it actually has a good deal of drag, and it features an up/down scroll area on the far right side (well-marked).
The notebook looks more expensive than it is, and is stylish. It feels and looks well made and the robust display hinges seem over-engineered and should last for years (a 17" display needs good hinges). Two display U-brackets slide into two corresponding openings on the wrist rest area and a single latch release opens the notebook lid.
The wireless on/off slider switch is located on the front edge of the notebook, and the dv9220 has touch sensitive multimedia controls on a strip above the keyboard. These control HP QuickPlay features, play/stop, fast forward/rewind, speaker mute and volume.
A 1.3 megapixel webcam and stereo microphones sit above the display offset to the left. We tested it with Skype and both image and voice quality were very good, though Skype still had some issues with Vista and a sound volume bug as of this writing (the mic gain gets reset to min so you have to fiddle with it or your call recipient will find it hard to hear you). This isn't a hardware flaw, and we're sure a future release of Skype will fix this bug.
On the bottom of the notebook you'll find doors for the hard drives (HP configures some Pavilion dv9000 notebooks with dual SATA drives) and memory. There are plenty of vent ports and the fans rarely get loud unless playing a very demanding game. Surprisingly, the Intel HP9000t series does run a bit hotter and louder than the AMD-based 9000z series models.
Horsepower and Performance
The HP Pavilion 9220us has an Intel Core 2 Duo T52200 processor running at 1.6GHz with 2 megs of level 2 cache. That's Intel's latest 64 bit dual core technology and the machine is more than fast enough for even demanding computer tasks including Photoshop, serious gaming and video encoding. That said, if megahertz matters to you, HP does offer a variety of clock speeds in the dv9000 line. And if price is a concern, HP has the dv9000z line with AMD Turion 64 X2 processors that didn't perform as well in our benchmarks. The "z" line averages $200 less than the Intel "t" line.
We benchmark notebooks using PCMark 05, and here are the dv9220's strong results:
The machine comes with 2 gigs of DDR2 RAM, and we recommend that amount. Vista Home Premium needs a gig to run well and 2 gigs to perform its best when running several concurrent applications or even one very demanding app. If you use only a few applications at a time and use light ones like web browsers, email and MS Office, you can do fine with 1 gig of RAM, should you be on a budget. The Pavilion has 2 DIMM slots accessible via a door on the bottom of the machine, and each is populated with a 1 gig SODIMM.
For storage the dv9220us has a 5400rpm 160 gig SATA drive. Smaller and larger drives are available in different configurations. Because the dv9000t line ran Media Center edition before its rebirth in the Windows Vista lineup, high capacity drive options were abundant. But notebook drive capacity is much less than that of desktop drives, so HP incorporated two drive bays in the Pavilion dv9000 line. Our 160 gig config has a single drive, but if you opt for 200 gigs or more of storage, your machine will have two hard drives (as notebook hard drive capacity increases, the floor where two drives replace the single drive config will rise). If you get the stock machine with 1 drive, you can add your own second serial ATA hard drive-- nice.
This is an "entertainment notebook PC", so the Pavilion has an optical drive that plays DVDs. It's a Light Scribe drive which means a laser in the drive can label the top side of disks, no annoying ink jet labels required. You will need to use Light Scribe disks to use this feature. The 8x dual layer drive can burn CDs, CDRW, DVD +/-RW and dual layer media. HP offers an optional HD DVD ROM drive which will set you back more than $400 additional, and it's usually bundled with a higher resolution display.
Should you want to wait for Windows to boot just to watch a DVD, you can use HP's QuickPlay 2.3 which is a an instant-on (really 15 - 30 second) mode for multimedia playback of music, DVD, TV and photos. You can start up QuickPlay by tapping the touch sensitive control above the keyboard. However, HP's QuickPlay and Vista aren't so quick together: tap the QuickPlay button and the machine will boot into Windows rather than the mini-QuickPlay OS (Linux, we think) which HP has abandoned on the Vista platform.
As with many notebooks, HP does not include recovery media. Instead they ship the notebook with a recovery partition that holds all restore files and a Recovery Manager that helps you recover and restore your computer. We heartily recommend making backup media using the included software: this takes 1 dual layer DVD, 2 single layer DVDs or 10 CDs (now why would anyone choose that option?). Warning: the process of burning recovery disks takes more than an hour using DVD media, but most of that runs unattended.
Multimedia, Gaming, Graphics and Sound
The HP dv9220 provides a robust multimedia experience. From the DVD player to the included remote to the touch sensitive multimedia controls, the machine is a pleasure to use. Sound through the stereo Altec Lansing speakers housed in the large grill above the display is excellent by notebook standards, and high end games as well as DVDs sound excellent with good separation and dynamics (and no distortion at even fairly high levels). The notebook uses the Conexant High Definition Audio chip and has two omni-directional mics, easy-access audio ports up front including two headphone ports and SPDIF digital audio out (through the 2nd headphone port).
Close up of a portion of the capacitive touch-sensitive controls.
Front-facing IR, mic, headphone and combined headphone-SPDIF ports.
HP's $130 analog TV tuner ExpressCard is optional, and you can supply your own USB or ExpressCard/54 tuner should you wish to use Windows Vista Home Premium's media center features to record and watch TV. The HDMI port assures the best quality playback when connecting the notebook to a TV or monitor with an HDMI input.
If gaming is your thing, the HP dv9220us gets you 80% of Alienware performance at 1/3 or less the price. The dedicated NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 with 256 megs of dedicated video RAM handled the latest demanding titles such as Company of Heroes along with F.E.A.R. and Doom III easily with the games running at or near actual maximum display resolution. The built-in speakers sound really great for gaming and they're loud and clear enough at half volume that we could hear someone gaming several rooms away in a large house. If you want a bit more umph or future-proofing, HP offers the Go 7600 with 512 megs of dedicated RAM as an upgrade option. Our 256 meg NVIDIA system can use 271 megs of shared video memory for a total of 527 megs memory if needed.
The standard BrightView widescreen display runs at a resolution of 1440 x 900. This is a glossy display with good saturation and strong contrast but it's not the brightest. We keep the brightness turned up to 75% or better and then it looks lovely. The viewing angle is wide and by glossy display standards, glare isn't too bad. HP offers an upgrade option to their dual lamp Ultra BrightView display which they claim improves color gamut by 72% (no idea how this impacts battery life). Yet another option is a higher resolution 1680 x 1050 BrightView (sorry no Ultra option for this resolution) for $50 additional on a build-to-order dv9000t.
Networking and Ports
The HP features Intel's PRO/Wireless 3945ABG WiFi 802.11a/b/g adapter which offered robust connections with good range. For the wired, there's a 10/100/1000 gigabit Ethernet port (Intel Pro/1000 PL) and a 56k modem. Those wanting to use a WAN card from Cingular, Sprint and the like will have to wait until the carriers offer ExpressCard solutions (the HP is compatible with ExpressCard/54 and /34 cards).
There are ports a-plenty, and these include 4 USB ports (two on each side), 1 Firewire 4 pin unpowered port, HP dock connector for their optional expansion base, HDMI, 3.5mm stereo out, SPDIF, mic line-in, VGA and s-video ports. The Pavilion has an integrated single-slot card reader that handles SD, MMC, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro and xD Picture cards.
Left side ports.
17" notebook PCs aren't known for their ability to leave AC outlets for long. The dv9220 surprised us by going 2 hours and 44 minutes on a charge using the default power management settings with WiFi on and active. This was in a mix of web surfing and business oriented tasks. Don't expect to play Doom III for that long unplugged! We like the brightness set at 75% to 85% and happily battery life didn't take a complete nose dive with the large panel set that high: it reduced runtimes to 2 hours and 27 minutes. An 8 cell Lithium Ion battery is standard and HP also offers an extended 8 cell high capacity battery for those who roam with their 8 pound buddy in tow. The 90w AC adapter is light and compact, and it's one of the few that still uses 3 prongs. It's a world charger that supports 100-240v at 50-60Hz.
A lot of computer for the price. The HP Pavilion dv9220us makes and excellent desktop replacement and media center, yet it's still portable enough to take with you now and again. It has every feature you could want: dual layer DVD burner, a plethora of ports, glossy display, great looks, a very strong dedicated graphics processor that can handle current demanding games, plenty of storage, a second drive bay and 2 gigs of RAM. The Intel Core 2 Duo dual core CPU is a good match for Vista and we heartily recommend the HP dv9220us for those looking for a desktop replacement and occasional portable PC.
Pro: Great performance and looks. Feature-packed yet reasonably priced. Dual layer DVD burner with LightScribe, good display, great sound, web cam and integrated mic delivery excellent quality audio and video conferencing.
Con: Trackpad surface drag slows us down, lovely gloss finish attracts fingerprints with abandon.
List Price: $1,499 for the dv9220us. The HP Pavilion dv9000 line ranges from $950 to over $2,000 with an HD DVD drive and all the fanciest trimmings.
Display:17" 1440 x 900 WXGA+ High Definition widescreen Bright View display. NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 discrete graphics card with 256 megs dedicated video memory (can share system memory, in addition for more memory).
Ion rechargeable 8 cell battery.
Core 2 Duo T5200 64 bit processor running at 1.6GHz (two cores, one CPU). Faster CPUs available as well as AMD Turion 64 X2 CPUs. The Core 2 Duo has 2 megs of level 1 cache and a 533MHz FSB. 2 gigs of DDR2 RAM standard (two 1 gig SODIMMs, two memory slots total).
Drives: 160 gig serial ATA 5400 rpm hard drive (ours was an Hitachi). 8x dual layer DVD burner with LightScribe technology. Plays and writes CD, CDRW, DVD, DVD +/-R and RW, dual layer DVDs.
Size:15.16" (L) x 11.65" (W) x 1.57" (H). Weight: 7.8 pounds.
Camera:1.3MP web camera.
in Altec Lansing stereo speakers, two mics, 3.5mm line-in for external mic, 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack as well as SPDIF. Conexant High Definition Audio.
Ports:Four USB 2.0 ports, 1 stereo headphone out w/SPDIF digital audio, one 3.5mm microphone-in, 1 Expansion Port 3, 1 IEEE 1394 Firewire (4-pin) 1 Consumer IR, 1 HDMI port. ExpressCard/54 slot. 5-in-1 card reader (SD, MMC Memory Stick Pro, Memory Stick, xD Picture cards).
Vista Home Premium operating system. Vista Ultimate and Business are available as options.
Microsoft Works 8.0, HP QuickPlay 2.3, Roxio MyDVD Creator Basic 9, 90 days of Symantec Norton Internet Security, muvee autoProducer 5.0, HP game bundle and other HP apps and utilities.