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While it might not be immediately apparent from the photos, the dv3-2055ea is actually finished in a very dark brown - HP calls it Espresso, but we're calling it brown. This, as is the modern habit, is coated in a glossy varnish, so fingerprint issues apply here, though the brown finish doesn't make them as obvious as a black one.
Another typical trait of HP laptops is their artsy imprint designs and the dv3 doesn't disappoint. As ever they definitely bring a little individuality to the table, though we must admit the novelty has worn off a little - if only because we've seen it so often. Indeed, this view could be applied to the machine as a whole since the HP design language is very consistent across its whole range. However, this is our inner jaded journalist talking really; overall, the dv3 is a classy and attractive machine. It's also well put together. We encountered no creaking in the body panels and while the system does generate a little noise under stress, it remains pretty cool.
It's also a machine that benefits from an outstanding keyboard. Its keys have a wonderful crisp and even action, with just the right amount of travel and a pleasing lack of flex. We can find no issue with the layout, either. Keys are large and easy to use and HP has made good use of the space available, squeezing in Page Up and Down keys to the right of the Return key.
Alas, the touchpad isn't quite so faultless. It works well enough, its mirror-like finish is very smooth, it's nicely proportioned and the buttons are firm and responsive, it's just the positioning that's gone wrong. That's because HP has put it slap-bang in the middle, so it obstructs typing when active. Now, HP has a toggle button to deactivate the pad, but why not just put it in the right place in the first place? After all, HP's other laptops don't have this problem and they all have toggle buttons, too.
Happily, in the greater scheme of things, this is a fairly minor complaint, especially when you begin to enjoy the excellent speakers. They're branded Altec Lansing and regardless of whether this is meaningful or not, the end result is impressive. They produce nice mid-range clarity, a hint of bass and can reach good volumes. This makes them good for casual music listening, perhaps even the occasional TV episode.
This audio prowess is a good illustration of what you get for the extra £100 or so you might spend over the Samsung Q320, whose similar spec belies some truly atrocious speakers. Another example of where the extra cash goes is the smart touch controls, which comprise a mute button, a volume slider and a wireless radio toggle. Strangely, given HP's past habits, you don't get playback touch controls, though these are mapped to the F8 to F12 keys. Throw in the fingerprint reader and the provided remote and there are enough reasons to justify the extra cost.