Recently we took our first look at the HP Pavilion dv3 range in the shape of the dv3-2055ea. We went away very impressed, particularly due to the excellent battery life, massive 500GB hard drive and generous features on offer given the £750 price. Now we're looking at its slightly cheaper cousin, the dv3-2050ea. At £699.99 online it's only £50 cheaper, so the question is whether it's £50 worth saving, or £50 worth spending.
Before we get into how the two differ let's refresh ourselves with the dv3 chassis. Those who aren't so keen on glossy plastic need not apply here, since the dv3 is covered in the stuff, but if you're indifferent then this is a smart, eye-catching and well put together machine. Its dark brown 'espresso' finish looks black in most lights, but it's a subtle and pleasant change, while HP's signature imprint designs continue to add an individual look and feel.
This is also a machine that offers prodigious connectivity. There are three USB ports in total, one of which doubles as an eSATA port, HDMI and VGA for video, a 5-in-1 card reader, a 34mm ExpressCard slot, Gigabit Ethernet, and line-in and line-out connections for headphones and microphones. You also get a mini-remote, which slots into the ExpressCard slot, as well as a built-in IR receiver on the front.
Other benefits include a webcam with dual-microphones in addition to a fingerprint reader, which is even more of a rarity at this price than it was on the £750 dv3-2055ea. Other premium touches that belie the machine's affordable nature are the touch controls, which comprise a mute button, volume slider and wireless radio toggle.
Perhaps the best element of the dv3, though, is its keyboard. Its keys are well arranged and have a nice crisp action that makes typing a breeze. Only the oddly positioned touchpad spoils things, since it can interfere with typing, but HP does provide a dedicated toggle button to remedy this should it bother you.
Audio visual performance is also above par. We particularly enjoyed the Altec Lansing speakers, which deliver warm and well defined mid-tones and a nice level of clarity, even if bass is predictably lacking. Likewise, while not outstanding in any particular way, the 13.3in, 1,366 x 768 resolution display delivers decent colour fidelity and is bright and readable, though the glossy finish is predictably reflective.