The HP Pavilion dv7-6101sa's aluminium shell makes it both sturdy and attractive. With a 17.3-inch screen and Beats by Dr Dre speakers, this laptop is also well suited to movie playback. But, at around £560, is its performance any cop?
Big body, big sound
Measuring 416 by 36 by 275mm, the dv7-6101sa is no commuter's friend. You'd be hard-pressed to squeeze this laptop into a rucksack. In fact, if you're going to stuff it into a bag, you might like to consider one that has wheels -- this machine weighs a not inconsiderable 3kg.
The 17.3-inch screen begs to be your media buddy. It's bright, with decent contrast and colour levels, making this laptop a good choice for watching flicks.
The dv7-6101sa bears 'Beats Audio' branding, after Dr Dre's line of bass-heavy Beats headphones. We tested the speakers with some dirty dubstep tunes. Compared to the utterly appalling speakers on most laptops, these ones provided plenty of volume, as well as more bass, thanks to a small subwoofer on the underside of the machine.
While the speakers are definitely better than average, you'll still need to hook the laptop up to a proper speaker set, or use some good headphones, if you want to fully enjoy your music and movie soundtracks.
Full metal jacket
The dv7-6101sa is wrapped in a very sturdy brushed-aluminium shell. The sleek metal is also found on the keyboard surround and wrist support. The whole package looks rather stylish and up-market. If it's important to you, most people will probably think you paid more than £560 for this machine.
The keyboard itself has isolated, square keys that are set slightly too far apart for our liking. They're decent enough to type on, but it took us a while to get used to the feel of them. Thanks to the large chassis, HP has been able to whack in a numeric keypad to the right, but, for some reason, felt it necessary to make the up and down arrow keys half-size, so they're awkward to use.
The trackpad is of an average size. We aren't keen on the coating, though, as it makes the trackpad feel stickier than it needs to be. The buttons are fat and wide but feel pretty cheap and unpleasant to click. It's not a major point, but we do appreciate the click of a good button.
You'll find a decent set of ports around the side, including two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 sockets, HDMI and VGA outputs, two headphone sockets, a mic socket and a multi-format card reader. We were disappointed to see a DVD drive, rather than Blu-Ray drive, on this guy -- if it really wants to be a movie mogul, it should let us use our high-definition discs. At this price, we can't complain too much though.
The dv7-6101sa packs a 1TB hard drive, so you can safely download as much hi-def content to your machine as you want, without worrying too much about it eating up of all your storage space.
Unsurprisingly for a 17-inch laptop, it gets through battery power like we get through cake -- it only lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes when we subjected it to our brutal battery benchmark test. This test runs the processor at 100 per cent until the battery conks out, so you'll get better results with more cautious usage.
The dv7-6101sa may look the part with its fancy aluminium coat and clear, wide screen but it lets itself down on the performance front.
Inside, you'll find a 2.1GHz, dual-core AMD A4-3310MX processor, teamed with 6GB of RAM. When we put the laptop through its paces in the PCMark05 benchmark test, it returned a score of 5,506.
That score is below what we'd expect from a machine of this price. The similarly priced Toshiba Satellite L775-119 racked up a score of 6,797 in the same test, and the MSI CX640 achieved a very impressive score of 7,183.
The dv7-6101sa should still cope well with browsing and general office tasks, but it may struggle with multitasking and video editing. It's fair to say that the aluminium casing, rather than the components within, accounts for a healthy portion of the £560 price tag.
To test how the dv7-6101sa handles graphics, we put its Radeon HD 6515G2 GPU through the 3DMark06 benchmark test. It achieved a fairly pleasing score of 5,091. That's slightly above average for a laptop of this price. You won't be able to run top-end games at the maximum settings, but this machine could cope with slightly older titles if you knock the settings down a tad.
If you're after a low-priced laptop with more impressive gaming capability, you may be better off with the Dell Inspiron 15R, which scored an admirable 8,098 in 3DMark06.
The HP Pavilion dv7-6101sa looks good and makes for a decent movie-playing machine. Its performance is pretty average though. If you're after a powerful laptop but don't want to empty your bank account entirely, your money could definitely be better spent elsewhere.
Edited by Charles Kloet