By the time you read this, I’ll be at a parent-teacher conference. Since I had to run out anyway, I decided to take the HP dv2 on the road for some initial thoughts. I also just signed up for a paid Boingo Wireless account last weekend, so I’m leaving the EV-DO adapter at home. The dv2 actually has a Qualcomm (s QCOM) Gobi chip in it, so customers won’t need a USB adapter for the dv2. There are included activation instructions for both Verizon Wireless (s VZ) and AT&T (s T) and there’s a SIM slot in the battery bay. I won’t be activating the radio for my testing, but I wanted to point it out.
As I sit here in a local Barnes & Noble (s BKS) using the Wi-Fi over Boingo, here are some very first, high-level impressions of the HP dv2.
- The initial out-of-box-experience left much to be desired for me. After we shot our unboxing video yesterday, I had planned to get going with the dv2 right away. My intentions were good, but software got in the way. Like many new computers, the dv2 had to run through over 1.5 hours of Windows Updates. That’s not a flaw of the device per se, but it’s a general turn-off. Making matters worse are numerous HP software registrations and activations, i.e.: Norton AntiVirus, HP Total Care setup, etc. I can appreciate that HP puts time and effort into useful software services, I really can. And for many folks who aren’t technically savvy, these helpful applications add tremendous value. But I had a thought and it actually came from HP’s tagline of “The computer is personal again.” For a truly personal experience, why not allow customers to choose these services at the point of online purchase? Perhaps I could configure my system and more of my computer environment right through HP’s web site when I place an order. I don’t mean to digress off the topic of the dv2 as hardware, but the software is just as much of the overall experience. In any case, I really couldn’t use the device until today as a result; initial startup times are hampered as well. Out of the box, the device takes a good 3-4 minutes before you can get moving. Obviously, that can be addressed by reducing the startup processes and applications.
- Some folks are touting AMD’s Neo platform as a competitor to Intel’s Atom. I personally think they’re off base a little. With the ATI graphics in the dv2, the overall platform is generally more potent and responsive than in the Atom-based netbooks I’ve owned. Running Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium SP-1, the basic environment runs very snappy. The CPU cycles between 800MHz and 1.6GHz as needed, which offers power when required. The platform also supports up to 4GB of RAM, while the Atom tops out at 2GB. I wouldn’t call this device a netbook either, and not just because of the starting price of $749. There’s far more power here than in today’s netbooks; you’ll pay for it in the price and also in the battery life. HP even brands it as an HP Pavilion Entertainment PC. That’s no netbook.
- About that battery life. I haven’t run any tests just yet, but of course, I will. For now, just some observations. Here on the road, I inserted the 6-cell battery: it’s a 10.8V, 5060mAh, 55Wh unit. I have Wi-Fi on but disabled Bluetooth since I don’t need it. The screen brightness is at 40 percent and the Power Setting is set for “HP Recommended”. I only have Firefox 3 running although I do have four or five tabs open at any given time. In the 40 minutes I’ve sat here so far with the device under this configuration, I’ve seen the battery drop to 75 percent from 100 percent capacity. No, that’s not a scientific test by any means and there are some other optimizations I could do. I’m simply taking a high-level first look at the run-time for now.
- Heat. It’s been a while since I found a device that constantly has its fan running, but I did find one. In a public environment like the one I’m in now, you won’t hear it, but at home in my quiet office I could hear the fan constantly running. I wouldn’t consider that uncommon for a thin device like this, but it might be gotcha for some. For what it’s worth, it’s a relatively quiet fan when I compare the noise level to the Acer Aspire One netbook I used to have. The fan does its job well, though: The device isn’t too hot to use on a lap. That could change if using it for high-def video playback, however. More to follow…
- CSI would love this device. Why? My fingerprints are crystal clear and all over this machine — the individual keys, the bezel, the lid, the trackpad and the mouse buttons. I kid you not. As nice as this device looks from a design perspective, it’s a major fingerprint magnet. Here’s a quick pic to illustrate:
- I am thoroughly impressed with how much HP was able to fit into a nice-looking, thin and relatively light package. Toting the device and two batteries in a messenger bag wasn’t much different than carrying my netbook around. I feel like I’m getting most of the size & weight benefit provided by a netbook without sacrificing too much on the horsepower and features side.
- I absolutely love this display. The 12.1-inch LED backlit display offers 1280×800 resolution which is just right for me at this size. It’s the same resolution I use on my MacBook, so I’m already used to it. There’s minimal scrolling involved when doing my web work and sites fit just fine horizontally. I haven’t used the device outside, so I can’t comment on the usability in sunlight. Since the screen is very glossy, I’m not expecting positive results. It looks like there’s around 10 brightness steps and I can easily use this device with the brightness at 40 percent, if not 30 percent.
- A quick update on the battery life, per Windows. I’m now at one hour with the device and battery life is reported at 62 percent remaining on the 6-cell unit.
- Build quality looks excellent. The device is solid and I see no flex in the chassis. The dual-hinge display is pretty tight as well. The screen angle stays where you set it until you physically move it; it doesn’t flap around if you move the dv2.
- The shiny trackpad works well, but seems more resistive than others I’ve used. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I feel like my fingers have to work harder to scroll around; perhaps its the material used to make the trackpad. I’ll be very curious if other reviewers make similar comments. If not, then I’ll just chalk it up to my own personal preferences. I’ll have to play with the touch sensitivity settings, as well. You can press a button to turn the trackpad off; that’s useful if you hook up a USB or Bluetooth mouse. You can also assign functions for the top left and right corner of the trackpad, plus there’s a vertical scroll area on the right.
- As I said in our unboxing video, the keyboard reminds me of the one HP uses for their Mini netbooks, only bigger. I had no problem getting used to the big, square keys and I don’t see any strange sizes or placements.
- I mentioned HD video playback before. I decided to download and view some 720p content before closing out this post. Hitting up the Microsoft WMV HD Content Showcase, I downloaded the “Super Speedway” video; something I wouldn’t even bother doing with a netbook. I expected playback to be superb and the dv2 didn’t disappoint. It was a joy to watch: I couldn’t detect any stutter or dropped frames.
That’s probably enough to give you an idea of my very first impressions. My gut tells me that this device sits at a nice price-point for the performance potential in a small and light package. I’ll go out on a limb early and say that if you’re simply looking for a small notebook for basic tasks and browsing, this might be overkill. If you want a device you can easily carry all day and use for some more demanding tasks or video-intensive activities, this is a definite contender. I don’t normally try to make those generalizations early when looking at a device, but I think it’s important to make a distinction between the dv2 as an Entertainment PC and a low-powered Atom-based netbook. If this device was going to be marketed as a netbook, it would be a part of HP’s Mini line and not the Pavilion line. Something to keep in mind.
I’ll have more thoughts and some actual testing results over the next week, so stay tuned!