The HP Pavilion dv6-3013 Delivers an Affordable and Robust Media Experience
At a Glance
HP's Pavilion dv6 line targets mobile-PC buyers who have an interest in rich media content. The line ships in various configurations; the dv6-3013 reviewed here is the entry-level version. Unlike pricier members of the dv6 family--which are based on Intel CPUs--the dv6-3013 ships with a triple core AMD Phenom II N830 CPU. Currently, this model is listed for $649 online. That's $100 more than the Toshiba Satellite L645D, but the additional investment looks to be money well spent.
The dv6-3013 isn't perfect, but it does include a robust set of features for playing back video and audio content. Audio was especially pleasing. Though the overall volume at maximum levels wasn't particularly loud, and bass was muted, I noted clean overall sound and crisp stereo imaging. Sound quality through headphones was superb--no surprise given the iDT-based codec chip and drivers.
Video didn't fare quite as well as audio. High-definition content through Windows Media video files looked quite good. But the LCD display had one of the worst vertical viewing-angle ranges I've seen--even moving my head slightly down or up would make the images fade almost completely. When I watched high-def video from the sweet spot, colors on the 1366-by-768-pixel-resolution display looked correct and the overall effect was pleasing. Regular DVD playback suffered by comparison: Noise was visible--and somewhat distracting--in some of the sky scenes in Serenity and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The display performed worst in normal desktop use. For whatever reason, the LCD contrast is way off, rendering scroll bars difficult to see. Reducing the screen's brightness levels helped a bit, but the display quickly became too dim.
This laptop offers numerous connectivity options, including gigabit ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, four USB ports (two on the left, and two on the right), and a flash memory card reader. The decision to put the USB ports on the right side is a bit odd--one port appears on either side of the optical drive tray. Audio jacks, VGA, and an HDMI digital video output port round out the left side.
I had no trouble typing on the dv6-3013's keyboard, and the oversize trackpad was responsive and accurate. The laptop doesn't have dedicated media transport keys; instead, it doubles up the function keys, defaulting to the special uses (play, skip, brightness, volume, and so on).
The system's responsiveness seemed adequate for a laptop of its class; it opened a browser with 31 tabs without seeming sluggish. The dv6-3013 isn't a performance powerhouse, as demonstrated by its comparatively low WorldBench 6 score of 71. The included 320GB, 7200-rpm Western Digital hard drive offered plenty of fast storage to round out this unit. We tried running several current-generation games (the laptop relies on the Mobility Radeon HD 4250 integrated graphics), but the laptop's overall performance on games was disappointing. You'll have to reduce detail levels and resolution substantially to achieve any reasonable gaming experience.
This model ships with Microsoft Works and trialware for Microsoft Office. Also bundled is CyberLink's DVD suite for creating DVD content and burning audio discs, and HP's own MediaSmart digital media management tool.
At just under 5.5 pounds, sans power brick, the dv6-3013 is reasonably light for a 15-inch notebook; and even with the power brick, the unit barely hits 6.25 pounds--not bad for a unit with an integrated optical drive.The term "thin-and-light" tends to be overused, but it certainly applies to this laptop.
HP has delivered an impressively polished, media-smart laptop at an affordable price. The odd contrast behavior and poor vertical viewing angles were somewhat disappointing, but the overall package works well for handling rich media content, whether Web-based or stored locally. Be sure to try it out before buying, so you can check out its visual fidelity with your own eyes.