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HP Pavilion dv6z Review: Quad Core at Bargain Price

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The HP Pavilion dv6z represents a hard to achieve notebook package — a quad core processor, a large screen, durable body that is thin enough to slip into a backpack discrete switchable graphics for under $800. That’s not to say the HP dv6z is perfect but it does offer significant value and style.

HP Pavilion dv6z Quick Specs:

The HP Pavilion dv6z comes with a metal alloy case that houses a 15.6″ HD HP Brightview LED backlit screen with a 1366 x 768 resolution,  an AMD Phenom II Quad-Core Mobile Processor P920, 3GB DDR3 RAM, a 320GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive and a 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 switchable graphics solution.

Who is this Notebook For?

The HP Pavilion dv6z is a great fit for users who want power and a big screen but also want a notebook that is portable and affordable. The dv6z as configured would be a good fit for students who want one notebook to handle web browsing,  homework, video and image editing as well as entertainment and mild gaming. Though this notebook is slim, the battery life limits it from being the best option for an on the go professional or small business owner.

Build and Design

The HP Pavilion dv6z was one of the notebook lines refreshed this summer by HP in a move that saw metal alloy lids and cases gracing the entire Pavilion line. These new cases don’t just prevent fingerprints, they add to the overall durability and build quality of the notebook. The dv6z felt very durable during use with no flexing or bending of the screen or case when we tried to stress it. The hinges also felt sturdy and kept the notebook closed when you shut the lid.  When compares to a last generation HP dv6 this notebook is slimmer and felt noticeably sturdier.

HP Pavilion dv6z hands on

Screen

The screen on the review unit was glossy, but not so bad that we couldn’t use it in an office with florescent lights, in a coffee shop near a window or even in the car. It isn’t one that you would want to use outside on a daily basis but so long as there is something between you and the sun it is usable.

The screen on the dv6z tilts back enough to be usable in many situations whether on a table or on your lap and when it comes to brightness; the brightest setting was sufficient for use while working or watching a movie and when set a lower brightness to save battery the notebook was still usable for text based work or web browsing. Screen quality was good with no dead pixels, uneven backlighting or light leaks.

Mouse and Keyboard

The keyboard on the HP dv6z, like the rest of the refreshed Pavilion line, is a chiclet or island style keyboard that is easy to use with decent feedback and key spacing. The keyboard was not mushy nor did it flex during extended typing sessions which heavy typers like myself will appreciate. The keys are not as good as those we saw on the ThinkPad edge but are on the upper end of consumer notebooks.

One thing we didn’t like was the inclusion of a function row of keys to the left of the keyboard where you would normal find the Tab, Caps Lock, Shift and Ctrl keys. These keys launch various pre-defined programs and will take some serious adjustment to handle. After 2 weeks with the machine I was still consistently opening the calculator instead of hitting Shift.

Most users will appreciate the switch in function keys that rest above the keyboard though. Instead of needing to hit function to adjust volume, brightness etc. you can just hit the corresponding key. If you need to use a function key like F7, you can use the Fn key and press F7. If you prefer to have the function row work as F1 – F12 by default you can turn this on in the BIOS.

The Mousepad is large and generous which again mirrors the new trend on HP Pavilion notebooks of incorporating the mouse buttons into the mousing surface. The large touchpad can be pressed at any point and will make a clicking noise, but  the clicks only register as left or right when your finger is in the bottom section of the mousepad.

This style of mousepad is ultimately one that users either love or hate, but after a week of use and turning palm check up higher the mouse was usable.

Processor and Performance

When it comes to processing power the HP Pavilion dv6z we tested is packing the power in the form of a quad-core AMD Phenom II processor. In testing the notebook it was able to handle video editing using Sony Vegas software without any issues as well as handle some gaming we threw at it thanks to the switchable graphics solution that will automatically switch between the high-end graphics when plugged in and the integrated solution when unplugged to save on battery life. You can also control this manually if you need more graphics horsepower when you are unplugged.

While the dv6z was able to handle many processor intensive tasks we threw at it there were still the occasional hang up while using Chrome with many windows and tabs. This issue did not occur when using Internet Explorer, but is worth noting.

Audio and Speakers

The Dolby Advanced Audio and Altec Lansing speakers go a long way towards keeping the dv6z out of the muddy and tinny sounds that seem to surround many notebooks these days. For music or movies in a small room the speakers are sufficient and provide an enjoyable level of volume without distortion. That said if you are going to be pumping out the tunes for a small gathering or sharing a movie with more than one other person you will want to connect the dv6z to external speakers.

Heat and Noise

Surprisingly even though the dv6z has a Quad-core processor heat was not a problem. Even during extended use the palmrest and bottom of the notebook did not reach uncomfortable temperatures. Noise was also not an issue while using the dv6z.

Battery

The Battery life of the HP dv6z can vary by a large amount depending on what you are doing and whether or not you have the dedicated graphics solution running. While editing a video with the higher power graphics turned on the notebook lasted just over two and a half hours but when relying on the integrated graphics for standard web work the notebook could hit the four hour mark. It would be great to see a longer battery life, but given the power this notebook is packing it is a trade off you may be willing to make; especially at the pricepoint.

When configuring, you do have the option of selecting between a 6 cell battery high capacity 6 cell battery and an oversized 9 cell battery. For users who need to be away from outlets for extended times the $60 upgrade to a 6 cell battery and a 9 cell battery is a good deal.

Connectivity

The HP pavilion dv6z has all of the ports you need to connect your peripherals.
Left (left to right): Vent, VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, eSATA/USB 2.0 combo USB 2.0, headphone, Microphone, Card reader
Right (left to right): USB 2.0, DVD drive, USB 2.0, Power, Kensington
Front (left to right): Speakers
Back: Shown to illustrate sturdy hinges

Software

The Hp dv6z comes with a standard assortment of software in Windows but it also offers the HP QuickWeb instant on OS that lets you browse the web, use Skype and a few other web related apps. Until using this tool I wondered who had such an urgent need to get something done that they couldn’t wait for Windows to load, but during my time with the dv6z I came t appreciate this feature. After shutting down the notebook at a local coffee shop I received a text message asking me to update a project I was working on that is inaccessible from the mobile browser. I was able to use the QuickWeb environment to quickly wrap up the task in the time it would have taken to load Windows and start Chrome.

Value

The HP Pavilion dv6z is a value notebook and it offers a users looking for significant processing power and switchable graphics a good value for their money.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, even though the keyboard layout takes some getting used to and the battery is just OK, the fact that you can get a durable body, Quad-core processor and switchable graphics in a system that can handle anything from web work to video editing makes this notebook stand out in sea of competing 15.6″ notebooks.

Pros:

  • Quad Core at an affordable price
  • durability
  • switchable graphics

Cons:

  • Battery life
  • Issues when running Chrome

HP Pavilion dv6z Gallery:

HP Pavilion dv6z Detailed Specs:

Brand HP
Model Pavilion dv6z
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
Processor / Graphics AMD Phenom (TM) II Quad-Core Mobile Processor P920 (1.6GHz, 2MB L2 Cache)

512MB ATI Mobility Radeon (TM) HD 5470 switchable graphics

Memory 3 GB DDR3 RAM
Hard drive 320 GB HDD 7200 rpm
Display / Resolution 15.6-inch HD 1366×768 High-definition LED-backlit
Removable Storage DVD±RW – Dual Layer 8x
Wireless Support Wireless-B+G+N
Input Devices Full-size keyboard, Multitouch mousepad
Power 6-cell battery
Memory card reader Yes
Ports Headphone/speaker/line-out jack, Microphone-in jack, DC-in jack for AC adapter, Ethernet, 3 USB 2.0, eSATA USB 2.0 combo, HDMI
Audio Altec Lansing Speakers with Dolby Sound
Weight 5.35 lbs.
Dimensions 13.9 in x 1.4 in x 9.25 in
Webcam Yes, HP Truevision webcam
Warranty 1-Yr Parts and Labor

Josh Smith is a longtime mobile tech user, currently using a Droid as his primary smartphone. Josh is also an editor at Notebooks.com where he reviews notebooks and other mobile tech. Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh_Smith or email him Josh@Notebooks.com.

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