capsule review

HP Pavilion dv7 QE: A Gorgeous Laptop That Falls Short in Performance

At a Glance
  • HP Pavilion dv7 Quad Edition

    PCWorld Rating

    The HP Pavilion dv7 QE is undoubtedly an attractive machine, but it struggles to match other desktop replacements' performance scores.

HP Pavilion dv7 Quad Edition desktop replacement laptop
The HP Pavilion dv7 Quad Edition is HP's higher-end model in its dv7 series. It's undoubtedly a gorgeous machine, but in performance it doesn't quite measure up to other desktop replacement laptops. Still, it's lighter than most 17-inchers, and it has a fairly long battery life, so it's worth a look.

Our review model, priced at $1495 (as of October 20, 2011), features a second-gen Intel Core i7-2630QM processor, 8GB of RAM (upgradable to 16GB), and a 500GB hard drive. The dv7 also has a 160GB solid-state boot drive for quick startup. HP bills it as a performance machine, and it includes all the perks, such as switchable graphics (an AMD Radeon HD 6770M discrete graphics card is in there) and a Blu-ray Disc player. The dv7 runs the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium.

Though this laptop is large, it's also surprisingly sleek. It weighs just 7.0 pounds by itself (light for the desktop replacement category), and 8.7 pounds with the power brick. Luckily, the dv7 also has decent battery life: In our tests the dv7 lasted about 4.3 hours, a good 30 minutes longer than the average battery life we've seen from recently reviewed desktop replacements.

The black lid is simple brushed aluminum, with a small HP logo in the lower-left corner. The logo appears mirrored when the computer is closed, but lights up when the computer is turned on. Regrettably, although the brushed aluminum initially looks rather sexy, it's prone to fingerprints.

The interior of the dv7 is as attractive as the exterior: The deck features the same black brushed aluminum as the cover, and slopes gradually downward into the glossy keyboard area. The keyboard offers matte-black island-style keys against a shiny black background, and is full-size with a ten-key number pad. It’s quiet and easy to type on, and the keys give good individual feedback despite having a soft touch. The arrow keys are a little small, no doubt to allow room for the number pad. This arrangement might annoy some people, though you can of course use the 2, 4, 6, and 8 number-pad keys as arrow keys too.

Below the keyboard is a smooth black touchpad with rounded corners and two discrete mouse buttons. The touchpad is large and responsive, and both mouse buttons are big and easy to press. A thin white light surrounds the touchpad and mouse buttons, but you can turn it off by pressing the Fn key and the spacebar. Pressing and holding the upper-left corner of the touchpad allows you to disable it should you happen to use an external mouse.

The rest of the interior is very simple--not overwhelmed with lights or buttons, thank goodness. Above the keyboard is a power button, as well as an Internet button (pressing this button opens a new Internet Explorer window). A fingerprint reader resides in the lower-right part of the deck.

As for ports, the dv7 is all decked out, with two USB 3.0 ports (curiously, these ports are black--not the usual blue--perhaps to blend in with the rest of the design), two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI-in, VGA-out, gigabit ethernet, two headphone jacks, and a microphone jack. For handling media, you get the aforementioned Blu-ray Disc drive, as well as a multiformat card reader on the front of the machine. And those users who prefer to lock down their laptop will appreciate the Kensington lock slot.

So far, the dv7 shapes up to be an excellent machine. When it comes to performance, however, the dv7 is just average, as it reached a WorldBench 6 benchmark score of 134. That isn't a bad score (we've seen some desktop replacements hit below 100), but it isn't terribly impressive either, especially for a laptop with an SSD.

Its performance on graphics tests was better, but still below the average scores of the past five desktop replacements we've reviewed. In our Dirt 2 graphics tests (high quality, 1024 by 768 resolution), the dv7 managed a frame rate of 52 frames per second. The average frame rate of recently reviewed desktop replacements we've tested is 80 fps--a significant difference. However, in our low-quality Dirt 2 tests (at the same screen resolution), the dv7 produced a rate of 128 fps, while the other recently reviewed desktop replacements scored only a little higher, at 130 fps.

Basic multimedia on the dv7 is good, and video playback looks decent on the dv7's 17.3-inch glossy screen. The display is nicely bright, though colors can look washed out. (I wouldn't mind a little more contrast, too.) The glossiness means that you have to contend with a lot of reflections, and off-axis viewing angles are less than ideal. Nevertheless, video playback--both streaming HD and Blu-ray Disc media--runs smoothly.

Audio sounds okay, but it isn't what I was expecting. HP touts the dv7's “premium Beats audio with quad speakers and triple bass subwoofer,” but although the speakers produce loud, acceptable sound, the audio is still a little thin, and I can barely hear evidence of the subwoofer.

HP bundles a lot of software, including three CyberLink suites, a bunch of HP-branded programs, and random items such as "Online Services." Also present is HP SimplePass 2011, which allows you to use the fingerprint scanner to the max: Through SimplePass 2011 you can scan each of your fingers and assign passwords or shortcuts to various Web apps, such as Flickr or Twitter. While this is a cool, futuristic feature, I'm not entirely sure how useful it will be.

The HP Pavilion dv7 QE is a sleek, sexy, and relatively lightweight desktop replacement. The only problem: It's a desktop replacement. And for desktop replacements, prettiness and portability aren't exactly the most important features--performance is. That said, the dv7 QE performs pretty well and has lots of upgrades (a Blu-ray player, USB 3.0 ports, 8GB of RAM), so if you're in the very small percentage of people who are looking for an attractive, portable desktop replacement, look no further.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The HP Pavilion dv7 QE is undoubtedly an attractive machine, but it struggles to match other desktop replacements' performance scores.

    Pros

    • Attractive chassis
    • Lightweight for its category

    Cons

    • The speakers disappoint
    • Lower-than-average performance
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