Now, anyone with a little experience in using notebooks will know that lots of heat and noise generally impacts battery life. It’s no less true of the dv2. It doesn’t help matters that HP has chosen to use a relatively low capacity 41 Watt-hour, four-cell battery. In the MobileMark 2007 Productivity benchmark, for instance, the dv2 only just managed to creep past two hours. In the DVD benchmark, meanwhile, where we ramp up the brightness to get worst case scenario results, playback came to an end after a mere 83 minutes.
As far as we’re concerned this is fundamental failing for the dv2. At a bare minimum an ultra-portable should be able to achieve three hours under reasonable usage conditions, but it only just passes two hours. It’s a pretty poor effort, one that could’ve been easily avoided with the inclusion of a decent six-cell battery. Fine, it might have upset the dv2’s sleek lines, but it would make it considerably more useful and, given the choice, we’d take a better battery over the bundled optical drive that in today’s digital world is becoming increasingly less important.
It’s a failing made all the more disappointing by the decent performance of AMD’s Athlon Neo processor. It might not be a speed demon and its single-core means it’s not great at multi-tasking, but in single threaded applications it’s noticeably quicker than Intel’s Atom and this makes for responsive and snappy performance. Moreover, as our PCMark Vantage results show, it isn’t embarrassed by the Sony VAIO TT, despite it sporting a dual-core processor and an obscene price tag. Indeed, it’s only in the very CPU intensive TV & Movies segment where a sizeable gap in performance opens out, with the HP being 45 per cent slower.
Another benefit the Athlon Neo can claim is HD video playback. At 720p the processor can deal with things without assistance, while the discrete graphics can be called upon to process 1080p video should the need ever arise. HP has even mooted releasing a Blu-ray drive as an optional extra, though this seems like a niche concern to us.
As does gaming, which makes us wonder why the dv2 comes lumbered with a fairly substantial graphics chip. Yes, the 512MB dedicated video memory and discrete graphics may allow you to eek out a few more frames per second, but when it’s the difference between completely unplayable and just unplayable (or offensively ugly and just plain ugly) is it a benefit worth the downsides? When those downsides are poor battery life, excessive heat and excessive noise, we’d argue not.
It’s this that represents the nub of our issues with the Pavilion dv2. While we love the concept and ideas that have gone into it, it just misses out where execution is concerned. Had, for example, AMD chosen to use its latest generation chipset with superior integrated graphics, or HP bundled a higher capacity battery, we’d be looking at a machine that might have run cooler, lasted longer and been a lot better for both. As things stand, though, it doesn’t do enough to dissuade us from waiting to see what Intel and nVidia – in the form of its ION platform – have in store, or, for that matter, rule out more powerful and similarly priced notebooks like the Samsung Q210.
Despite outstanding design and an excellent feature set, the HP Pavilion dv2 is let down by its disappointing battery life and some poor decisions in regards to specification and bundling. There’s lots of promise here and if you’re happy to invest in an extra battery this is a smart and practical machine, but it’s not quite the genre defining product it could have been.