It has only taken six months, but HP's Pavilion dv3000 (dv3021TX) has already been refreshed. The new and improved model, the dv3539TX (FZ917PA#ABG), has a more impressive design as well as tougher guts under the hood, making it faster than its predecessor by approximately five per cent.
The specifications of the dv3539TX aren't dramatically different to the dv3000 — in fact, it has the same CPU speed and the same amount of RAM — but it has a 1066MHz front-side bus speed and a slightly faster graphics adapter. It runs a GeForce 9300M GS with 512MB of RAM instead of a GeForce Go 8400M adapter. With 3GB of DDR2 RAM and a 320GB hard drive, in addition to the afore-mentioned specifications, the dv3539TX scored 90 in WorldBench 6, and it also recorded good times in the Blender 3D and MP3 encoding tests (1min 20sec, and 1min 17sec, respectively).
But it's the outside of the laptop that will garner most attention. Its bronze-coloured base and lid are elegant, and the same colour is used on the keyboard keys. The dark-printed letters mean that the keys are a little hard to read from most angles, so a lighter colour would have been a better choice. That, or backlit keys, which would make this thing really stand out. In fact, it has some illuminated media touch-keys, which reside above the keyboard. They can be used to navigate movies and manipulate the volume. There is also a shortcut key for HP's MediaSmart interface, which lets you quickly launch photo, music, TV and video applications.
The dv3539TX's size makes it easy to carry to and from the office, but it's so nice you probably won't want to use it on public transport or anywhere else where it might get damaged or nicked. It has a 13.3in screen, ships with a 6-cell, 55Wh (Watt hour) battery, and weighs 2.2kg without its power supply. In our DVD run-down test, the unit lasted for 1hr 58min, which is a decent time for a 13.3in unit with a standard battery pack; you should be able to get more out of it if you implement a power-saving scheme and reduce the brightness of the screen.
HP calls this an Entertainment PC because of the media buttons and MediaSmart software, and you also get a built-in DVD drive and an HDMI port. There is an option for a TV tuner as well, which fits into the unit's ExpressCard/34 slot, but you could always buy a non-HP TV tuner and plug it into one of the unit's three USB 2.0 ports. One of the USB ports is a combination USB 2.0/eSATA port, so you can easily expand the laptop's already generous storage space.
Its hard drive spins at 5400rpm, and it recorded a transfer rate of 22 megabytes per second in our data transfer test, which is a standard speed. It supplies a formatted capacity of 287GB for your operating system, programs and files, and 10GB is reserved for the backup partition as the unit doesn't ship with recovery discs.
During regular use the laptop didn't make too much noise, although its hard drive could be heard ticking slightly when it was writing data, and its cooling fan did emit a slight whirr. Some heat travelled up through the palm rest, which is due to the 802.11n wireless adapter. The hard drive and RAM are located underneath the keyboard area, which helps disperse the heat across the chassis, making it a pleasure to use on your lap. The keyboard keys produced adequate travel, although they did feel a little shallow and slippery. The touchpad also felt a little too sticky, but it got easier to use as time went on.
The glossy bezel around the screen is a little distracting in a well-lit room or when you're outdoors, and the screen itself is also glossy, which makes it prone to reflections depending on the viewing angle. The screen is latch-less and can be easily opened, and this adds to the overall aesthetic appeal and ease of use of this laptop.
What we don't like about this laptop is its long set-up time. It tries to push ISP deals and Symantec Anti-Virus onto your Desktop, and it also ships with a trial version of Microsoft Office. It's not a good impression when it takes so long to use the laptop after getting it out of the box, so we wish HP would lighten the load and improve this aspect of the product.