capsule review

HP Pavilion Zd7000

At a Glance
  • HP Pavilion ZD7000

HP Pavilion Zd7000
Artwork: `Rick Rizner, John Goddard

HP Pavilion notebooks have always sounded great, so it's not surprising that the Pavilion Zd7000 has the best sound of any notebook with a 17-inch screen we've tested so far. The integrated Harman/Kardon stereo speakers produce loud, clear audio from a panel that extends across the front; the setup is great for listening to music or watching a movie playing in the fixed DVD+RW drive located on the right side of the unit. The huge screen is impressive, with a standard native resolution of 1440 by 900 pixels. Aided by the top-notch GeForce FX Go 5600 graphics card and 128MB of graphics RAM, the display is sharp and easy to read and offers room for comfortably viewing multiple documents side by side.

Our review unit had the Windows Media Center upgrade ($175, included in our listed price), which comes with an external USB TV tuner and a remote control for recording and watching TV programs on your notebook. If there were a subwoofer (to fill out the bass) and a complete set of audio-control buttons on the notebook--all you get is a volume toggle at the top of the keyboard--the Zd7000 would be the perfect big-screen multimedia portable.

The model we tested also came with a preinstalled 802.11g Mini-PCI card. The laptop is ready to be connected to other devices too, sporting a whopping four USB ports (two more than usual) plus a FireWire port, an S-Video-out port, and two PC Card slots. The multimedia card reader located above the notebook's infrared port on the right side can read SD/MMC, CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, and Memory Stick Pro cards.

Like most wide-screen notebooks, the Zd7000 is bulky and heavy. It measures almost 2 inches tall and weighs 9.3 pounds (11.1 pounds including the power adapter). Size has its advantages: The Zd7000's expanded keyboard includes a separate numerical keypad, useful for people who work frequently with numbers. The extrawide metallic-skinned touchpad incorporates a textured vertical scroll zone and a handy lock button that prevents you from accidentally repositioning the cursor while typing. A presentation shortcut button not only launches a customizable presentation application but also stores a preset resolution (for an external monitor or projector) and power scheme.

But size does not always guarantee a better design. The Zd7000's battery is one of the most difficult to remove that we've seen--we had to use the flat end of a screwdriver to pry open the bottom release. The big battery (one of the largest we've encountered) does not translate into long battery life, either, as the Zd7000 lasted only 1 hour, 48 minutes on one charge. However, since you'd likely have this hefty desktop replacement near an outlet all the time, battery life may be less of a concern.

Both the hard-drive and RAM slots are easy to reach in their compartments on the bottom of the notebook. Four small screws hold the panel covering the drive; RAM shares a cavernous compartment with the notebook's wireless network Mini-PCI card.

The 2.8-GHz Pentium 4-equipped notebook earned a PC WorldBench 4 score of 110, about the same as results we've seen from similarly equipped systems running Windows XP Professional, but slower than the scores from systems using mobile Pentium M processors.

If the Zd7000 will be your primary PC, HP's $249 Notebook Expansion Base could be a worthwhile addition (we didn't test it). It includes built-in Altec Lansing speakers and serves both as a port replicator and as a stand to elevate the notebook screen to eye level. The notebook docks front-end first into an upright sleeve and connects via a proprietary connection located on the left side. Also included in the package are a wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse.

Home users looking for a desktop replacement that can double as a digital video recorder would like the HP Pavilion Zd7000; it would be ideal for college students who want both types of devices but have limited space. It is a heavy notebook with a weak battery, but these issues won't be important if you stay put most of the time.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • HP Pavilion ZD7000

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