The 15.4in HP Pavilion dv5-1108AX_01 is a very attractive laptop that features a great range of expansion ports and a full-sized keyboard that is a dream to use. Unfortunately, its underwhelming CPU detracts from what should be an excellent notebook.
If you’re looking for value-packed notebooks that are easy on the eye, then HP is usually a reliable source. From the mid-range Pavilion dv6800 (dv6837tx_02) Influx Special Edition Entertainment Notebook PC with its Blu-ray drive to the very stylish Pavilion dv3539TX (FZ917PA#ABG), HP has often delivered attractive units that don’t break the bank, and it's this heritage that will attract many users to this entry-level notebook.
Before we blast the HP’s processor, we should point out that this laptop's use of an AMD processor is largely what saves you money. If you’re willing to pay an extra $500, HP offers the dv5-1143tx, which features a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, a larger hard drive, more RAM and a better graphics card.
This unit, however, is equipped with a 2GHz RM-70 AMD Turion X2 Dual-Core Mobile Processor, 2GB of DDR2 RAM and a 250GB hard drive that spins up at 5400rpm.
Our WorldBench 6 testing showed the system’s lack of speed by returning a score of 63. Although this means that programs like Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer will run smoothly, operations in programs like Adobe Photoshop or conducting 3-D rendering will be somewhat painful.
Our Blender 3D and iTunes tests highlighted the weakness of the CPU. Blender 3D rendered our trial image in 1min 50sec, and our iTunes benchmark, in which we convert 52min of WAV files into MP3s, was completed in 1min 54sec. In comparison, the similarly priced Toshiba Tecra A10 did the iTunes test in 1min 12sec.
Although the Pavilion comes with an ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics card, its 3DMark06 score of 1741 means that any game more graphically intensive than F.E.A.R. will not run smoothly.
One thing the dv5-1108AX_01 deserves credit for is its relatively large hard drive: 250GB will satisfy most casual users, and the majority of entry-level units with a 15.4in screen will provide 50-100GB less storage at this price point.
The unit’s display, with its native resolution of 1280 x 800, is also a positive, with good horizontal and vertical viewing angles and vibrant colour contrasts. However, the Pavilion's screen and bezel are both quite glossy, which means it will be reflective and somewhat hard to see outdoors.
Another very reflective surface is the HP’s chassis. It is advertised by the manufacturer as a "liquid metal" design, which is an accurate description; the touchpad can even double as a mirror.
Most of the Pavilion’s expansion ports are found on the left side of the chassis. The impressive array includes an HDMI output, a D-sub port, ExpressCard/54 slot, a 5-in-1 card reader (SD, MS, MSPro, MMC, xD), three straight USB 2.0 ports and the increasingly common (and very much appreciated) dual-purpose e-SATA/USB 2.0 port. This allows for very fast connections to devices like the WD My Book Studio Edition II (WDH2Q20000).
The HP comes in at a hefty 2.6kg without the power supply. When the power supply is included, it weighs a whopping 3.1kg, which means that travelling with the notebook might be physically taxing. Because of its below-average battery life, as indicated by our DVD rundown test time of 1hr 16min, you should also try to stay near power points instead of using the HP on the road.
Network connectivity is well catered for, thanks to 802.11n wireless and Gigabit Ethernet. If you can't access either of these types of connections, then you may find the notebook's dial-up modem useful.
The bottom line is this: HP has created a good-looking entry-level notebook with a fantastic range of expansion ports, but unfortunately it has a weak CPU. If you want to buy something that looks great and you don’t need to perform hardware-intensive tasks on it, the dv5-108AX_01 is definitely worth thinking about.