HP refers to the dv9655ea as a Media Centre and it’s easy to see why, the large screen, TV tuner, webcam and addition of digital ports makes it ideal for watching movies and TV programs or simply recording them and sending them to external sources.
However, when we think of media centres, we tend to consider the high-end and expensive offerings from the likes of Toshiba and Sony. The first thing you’ll realise about this notebook is the price, at £799 (inc. VAT), you still get the benefits of media centre but you won’t be paying a premium for them.
So, you’ll find Windows Vista Home Premium Edition, which comes with media centre software and DVB-T TV tuner and remote control come as standard. With two 160GB hard drives you can record plenty of Freeview TV.
The 17-inch screen is large and bright and comes with a Super-TFT coating so whether you’re just watching a movie or editing photos, the colours look true. It does mean the machine is heavier than most, so this 3.8kg notebook isn’t something you’ll want to take on the road, so the battery life of a little under 2 hours shouldn’t be a concern.
The Screen is supported by the Nvidia GeForce Go 8400M GS card, which for a high-end media centre we would consider a little under-powered but for a machine at this price, it makes perfect sense. It isn’t a DX10 part but it’ll run most games, though you will need to turn the frame rate of the latest games down so they’ll run jag free.
The design fits in with HP’s current Pavilion look, with a swirl design on the black lacquer lid and a silver finish to the inside. It feels impressively sturdy and the addition of Altec Lansing speakers means the sound quality isn’t too bad either.
The keyboard is full size, which is one of the benefits of opting for a larger machine, and there is also space for a numeric keypad on the right. The keyboard proved reliable with plenty of bounce to the keys and the touchpad and mouse buttons were responsive.
The AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 is a dual-core chip and the use of 2048MB if memory means you can run a number of tasks as the same time without seeing a system slow down. However, our one problem with this machine was in the processing power, it simply couldn’t handle as much high-end processing as a more expensive machine could.
There are a nice array of extras, including a lightscribe DVD rewriter for recording labels straight to disc, and a HDMI-out port for sending licensed digital media to an external source, such as a plasma TV.
If you’re on a budget and looking for a media centre for watching and recording media, the HP Pavilion dv9655ea is a great compromise. The screen is god, the storage excellent and the right features all in place.
However, if you’re looking to edit video and generally run high-end tasks, you’ll find it frustrating as we simply didn’t find it powerful enough.