HP Pavilion dv2-1030ea notebook review

HP’s Pavilion dv2 strikes a balance between laptop and netbook - offering budget, low-powered components in order to keep the price below £500, combined with fantastic portability that rivals ultra-portable machines costing three times the price.

The 12-inch screen is better than those found on most netbooks, mostly because of the higher 1280 x 800 pixel resolution. It’s easy to view two documents simultaneously, and there’s no need to scroll when viewing webpages. Although it features a standard 16:10 aspect ratio, you’ll find a thick bezel at the top and bottom, giving the mini HP an unusual, near-square footprint.

The dv2 features similar keyboard to those found on HP’s range of netbooks - including the Mini-note 2133 and the Compaq Mini 702EA. As with those machines, it’s a joy to type on, the keys proving large and perfectly weighted, with slightly indented centres to ensure typing mistakes a kept to a minimum. Unlike its smaller siblings, however, this laptop isn’t saddled with a frustratingly tiny touchpad, and the buttons are also located in the more traditional and comfortable place.

In addition to excellent usability, you’ll also find better than average build quality and, despite the skinny dimensions the dv2 feels reassuringly tough. The chrome-effect plastics are convincing, and contrast nicely with the glossy black finish - although, as with any other shiny product, it’s quickly covered in fingerprints and smears.

As with the netbooks this machine rivals, you won’t find full-on desktop-replacement performance on offer, as the dv2 uses AMD’s latest budget processor - the Athlon Neo 64 - a rival to Intel’s Atom chip.

Our review machine - the dv2-1030ea - features a 1.6GHz Neo MV-40 processor, 2GB of RAM and a capacious 320GB hard drive. Performance proved slightly mixed; the dv2 takes a frustratingly long time to install programs and, with lots of pre-installed software already running in the background - such as an antivirus suite and a host of HP software - the Neo processor is soon bogged down.

Close any unnecessary applications, however, and the HP is more than quick enough for everyday use. We wouldn’t particularly want to use it as our main machine - but as a larger than average netbook, used for word processing, browsing the web or watching the odd movie - it’s fine.

HP promises the perfect blend of performance and portability from the AMD chip, so it’s a slight disappointment to find out the battery life is no better the an average, lasting for just over 3 hours during our time with it.

If everyday performance is underwhelming, we were far more impressed by the HP’s multimedia abilities. Featuring an ATi Mobility Radeon HD 3410 GPU, you’ll find enough power to play back HD movies smoothly, or even play the odd older game. It’s a world ahead of netbooks equipped with Intel’s integrated GMA 950 chip, and closer to a regular laptop.

Wireless connections are limited to 802.11b/g speeds, although we never found this to be a problem. Some buyers may be put off by omission of an integrated optical drive, although every dv2 also comes with a matching external DVD rewriter. Compact and finished with a similar design, it makes installing software or simply copying DVDs a possibility, and the weight saved makes it more than worth the compromise, for us at least.

You’ll find a range of ports on the left-hand side of the dv2, comprising an Ethernet connection, VGA and HDMI and two USB ports. The rest of the space is taken up by an air vent. On the right side sits a third USB port, power socket, microphone and headphone jacks, 4-in-1 memory card reader and a hardware button for activating wireless functions. You’ll also find the power button on this side. The rear of the machine is covered by the battery - at which point the skinny chassis also gets slightly deeper to accommodate.

Verdict

As to whether you’ll like the dv2, and indeed whether it can be judged as a success or not, depends entirely on what you need out of a laptop. With limited everyday performance, it’s definitely not a machine you’ll be able to replace your home PC with, but for those with simple needs, or seeking a laptop primarily for the commute, it’s ideal.

Yes, you can get netbooks for cheaper, but few offer the same quality or usability, and most also lack the higher-res screen and external optical drive. Overall, we like the dv2, and it crams in a lot for your money. Just don’t go thinking it’s perfect.