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HP has kept the front of its notebook fairly clean, housing only the infrared sensor and audio connections. One of those little touches you might expect from a market leader is that there are twin headphone ports as standard, ideal for watching a film with your better half without disturbing anyone. They also double as S/PDIF (digital audio out), combining with the HDMI output and the Blu-ray drive to make this the possible centre of your home entertainment system.
Internally there's an Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 is running at what might seem a lowly 2.0GHz, but this being a Centrino 2 model, it utilizes a 1,066MHz front side bus and fits in an efficient 25W thermal envelope compared to the usual 35W. This is backed by a generous 320GB 5,400RPM hard drive and a very capable 4GB of 800MHz DDR2 RAM. This amount of memory will be somewhat underused by the 32-bit version of Windows Vista Premium, but better too much than too little and you won't have to upgrade if you ever switch to a 64-bit OS.
Wi-Fi is well taken care of by an Intel Draft-N Wi-Fi module, but the Pavilion's cable-free credentials do take a bit of dent due to the baffling absence of Bluetooth. This might be acceptable on low-end budget notebooks, but it's something you'd expect to find in a notebook of this price.
Meanwhile a GeForce 9600M GT discrete graphics chip with 512MB of memory makes for a very capable entertainment machine, while not being too much of a gaming slouch either. At high detail, with 2x anti-aliasing and 4x filtering, TrackMania Nations Forever returned a score of 30.2FPS. While this is slightly lower than HP's Pavilion dv5-1011ea despite featuring exactly the same components, the test was run at a higher resolution because dv7's 17in panel is 1,440 x 900 compared the former's 1,280 x 800. This might have an effect on the settings you can run in some games, but nonetheless the dv7 is capable of playing games at reasonable settings.
Unfortunately, the resolution might have changed but nothing else has, meaning the screen is still the weakest factor of HP's Pavilion range. This is due to HP's new glossy plastic screen cover that stretches across the front of the screen, creating a seamlessly flat bezel. Though this does create a striking visual effect, it also reduces the brightness of the screen compared to other notebooks and given the choice a brighter and more legible display would be preferable. We could also complain about HP not taking the opportunity to upgrade the resolution to a Full HD compatible 1,920 x 1,200, but the advantages are icons that are easier to see and better performance in games - something that many people may appreciate - as well as the cheaper price.