The clue, as ever, is in the name. All of HP’s laptops that end in the “ea” suffix are primarily designed to be entertainment machines, which means you can forget tucking them into your student rucksack and concentrate instead on providing a powerful and fun replacement for your desktop PC.
Entertainment laptops are as much about style as performance and certainly the smooth copper-silver aluminium casing with its intricate engraved rope patterning scores high on the cool leader-board. Flipping up the lid reveals a 17.3-inch HD+ High Definition BrightView LED display and a full-size black keyboard unusually lacking many of the usual peripherals: just a slim power button, a fingerprint reader and a large, highly responsive touchpad.
A tour of the outside reveals three USB 2.0 ports, VGA, HDMI, an eSATA/USB port, Ethernet, a multi-card reader and surprisingly a Double Layer SuperMulti DVD player. We say “surprisingly” because an entertainment machine that looks this good, costs a shade under £1,000 and packs an Intel Core i7 720QM Quad processor with 4GB of memory under the bonnet ought to be able to provide at least a basic Blu-ray drive. Why else have HDMI output? The sound quality, however, is much fuller than the usual laptop fodder, thanks to the integrated subwoofer, and the notebook comes pre-loaded with Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.
The more you examine it, the more the Pavilion dv7-4050ea appears to be the Nearly laptop. The native resolution, for instance, is 1600 x 900 and, while you can watch movies quite enjoyably on the bright screen at 1280 x 720, you’re still falling well short of the 1920 x 1080 resolution of Full HD. Thankfully the CPU is linked to an impressive ATI Mobility Radeon HD5650 graphics card which has 1GB of dedicated DDR3 memory, so multitasking is relatively easy, as the more than respectable PCMark05 benchmark score of 6,935 illustrated.
Personally we would have liked to have seen more functions around the keyboard for quicker access to the Internet and entertainment features, and a slightly smaller number pad to allow for a more prominent layout of the cursor arrows. On the other hand, the keys themselves were firm, smooth and comfortable to glide over.
Battery life, though, was a shocker at a maximum of 1 hour and 25 minutes, so don’t plan on watching any movies on the go. Another reason for keeping it firmly on the desk is the heat that rapidly builds up in the left underside, which would soon become painful if the machine were balanced on your thighs.
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