If you're after portability and power then the 13in form factor has long been the best option. There have been numerous excellent examples in this arena over the last year or two, including the now discontinued Dell XPS M1330, the outstanding Sony VAIO Z Series and the latest iteration of the machine that arguably popularised the format, the Apple Macbook. More recently Samsung has provided another excellent value option in the shape of the Q320 and though the HP Pavilion dv3-2055ea we're looking at today isn't quite as cheap, it still offers excellent value for money.
This is largely thanks to an exceedingly generous feature set. Prices range from £750 to £800 and for this you benefit from a whopping 500GB hard drive, Draft-N Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, discrete nVidia G105M graphics with 512MB dedicated memory and 4GB of RAM. Only the CPU is a little disappointing given it's not on the bleeding-edge of Intel's range, but nonetheless the Core 2 Duo T6400 runs at a reasonable 2.0GHz and offers decent all-round performance for most needs.
HP continues to impress with the connectivity on offer here. Starting on the left there's the power input, which also boasts a handy LED to indicate it's active, as well as two USB ports. An 8x DVD Re-writer with LightScribe support dominates the rest of the space.
On the front are line-in and line-out connections, which are accompanied by an IR receiver. This works with the provided 34mm ExpressCard remote, which is always a welcome addition. However, the placement of the IR input could be more convenient, since it points downward and is hidden beneath the front lip of the machine.
Connectivity is rounded off by a bevy of options on the right that comprise a 34mm ExpressCard slot, a 5-in-1 memory card reader, a combined eSATA/USB port, an HDMI out, the Gigabit Ethernet port and a VGA out. On the main body of the machine, meanwhile, is a fingerprint reader - something not often seen at this price point - while a webcam with dual-microphones is subtly integrated above the screen. Only a Blu-ray drive could improve this picture, but this is available in the dv3-2060ea for £879.95, which is still a pretty good price for a Blu-ray equipped machine with this spec.
Like so many laptops of late the dv3 range has moved to a 16:9 aspect display. Its 1,366 x 768 resolution does mean less vertical space than older machines, but the wider aspect is better for film viewing and also makes it easier to view documents side-by-side - a less advertised but arguably more useful benefit! Like many this is also an LED backlit display, so it's very bright, though the reflective finish won't help matters in bright sunlight. In normal light the image quality is good without ever being outstanding. Colours are nice and vibrant, black levels decent, and viewing angles reasonable. Small text could be sharper, but overall this is a good effort.