HP Pavilion dv5z First Look

HP Pavilion dv5z First Look

by Jerry Jackson

The newest 15-inch notebook from HP arrives just in time to make a big impact for back-to-school shoppers in 2008. The HP Pavilion dv5zfeatures the latest AMD dual-core processors, cutting edge graphics that slaughter the competition, and a price that’s so competitive you’ll have a hard time coming up with reasons not to buy this notebook. Let’s take a quick look at what makes this laptop so impressive before our full review.

Our HP Pavilion dv5z has the following specifications:

  • Processor: 2.1GHz AMD Turion X2 Ultra dual-core processor ZM-80
  • Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 3200
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium with SP 1 (64-bit)
  • Screen: 15.4″ WSXGA+ High-Definition HP BrightView Widescreen Display (1680 x 1050)
  • Memory: 2GB (up to 4GB configurable)
  • Storage: 160GB SATA HDD (5400rpm)
  • Optical Drive: SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-R/RW with Double Layer Support
  • Wireless and Communications: 802.11b/g WLAN
  • Battery: 6-cell Li-Ion
  • Dimensions: 14.05″ (W) x 10.2″ (D) x 1.37″ (min H)/1.65″ (max H)
  • Weight: 5.84lbs
  • Warranty: 1-year

The pricing on the dv5z starts at around $699.99, and our configuration has a few upgrades that brought the final price to $849.99 at the time of this writing. Needless to say, this is a fabulous price point for back-to-school shoppers.

Build and Design

The dv5z has a new and improved design, replacing the long-lasting and much-loved dv6000 series chassis design. The display cover has the durable plastic Imprint finish, which holds up quite well to minor abrasion without scratching. The body of the notebook is smooth with rounded edges, making it extremely comfortable in your hand while carrying it around. The screen also sports a latchless design, making it easy to open the notebook with one hand. Although the lid lacks any latch to keep it held shut, the hinges feel fairly strong, keeping the lid secure. Pressing firmly onto the back of the screen cover will produce some ripples on the screen … but you must apply significant pressure to cause this.

The plastic chassis is quite rigid and suffers from no flex or creaks even when twisted between my hands. Although I don’t recommend tossing your notebook down a staircase, the dv5z should survive years of daily travel in a backpack or the occasional drop off a desk.

Our dv5z features the “Mesh” Imprint Finish which looks the name implies: a fine gray mesh pattern over a black surface. The Imprint Finish on the dv5z is much more subtle than the previous designs we’ve seen on HP notebooks. I suspect most average consumers will find the mesh pattern more acceptable in workplace environments than the older generation patterns. While the dv5z still looks like an attractive consumer notebook, the Imprint Finish isn’t quite as “splashy” or “busy” as it used to be.


The 15.4-inch diagonal WSXGA+ High-Definition HP BrightView Widescreen Display (1680 x 1050) is quite simply one of the best 15-inch screens I’ve seen on any notebook. Detail is amazing, colors are rich with deep contrast, backlighting is even across the entire surface, and viewing angles are good. There is some color inversion when you view the screen from below … but how often do you tilt your screen back and view it that way?

Input and Output Ports

The dv5z has an impressive number of ports with some nice additions you won’t find on most consumer notebooks. Here’s a run down of the ports:

  • 3 USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 eSATA port/USB port
  • ExpressCard/54 slot
  • HDMI 1.3 connector
  • 5-in-1 multi-card reader
  • Microphone in, two headphone/audio out ports
  • 1 Expansion Port 3 Docking Station Connector
  • 1 RJ -45 (LAN)
  • 1 VGA out
  • Kensington lock slot

While three USB ports might not sound like enough for a 15-inch notebook, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, this budget notebook comes with an eSATA/USB port which allows you to connect either a USB device or an eSATA device. Although USB is still a great connection method for accessories USB cannot provide fast data transfer rates for huge amounts of data. We need a faster way to transfer files as more and more consumers start storing their family videos, digital photos, and personal media collections on 2TB and larger external hard drives. This is where eSATA comes in. Without getting too technical, an eSATA port can transfer data to and from an eSATA-equipped external storage drive six times fasterthan USB.

The second important feature to consider on the dv5z is that HP still includes a dedicated docking station connector on their laptops for those of us who use our laptops as desktop replacements. This is far more important than most people realize. Most other notebook manufacturers have removed dedicated docking ports and now only offer USB docking stations. USB is great for connecting one or two devices at the same time, but if you are trying to transfer data, video, audio, and perhaps even your Ethernet connection over a single USB port you will suffer a major reduction in speed. The dedicated Expansion Port 3 on the dv5z can handle all of your docking station needs all at the same time with virtually no reduced performance.

HP deserves serious praise for adding the eSATA port and keeping the dedicated docking port when most of the competition doesn’t offer these features on consumer notebooks.

Performance and Benchmarks

HP offers the new Pavilion dv5z with a range of AMD processors, including the older generation 1.9GHz Athlon X2 QL-60 dual-core processor. However, the big news this year is the availability of AMD’s new “Puma” platform with improved processors and graphics. The new AMD Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80 2.1GHz dual-core processor is an obvious evolution of AMD processor technology, but the real news is the integrated graphics.

It isn’t very often that we get excited about an integrated graphics processor (IGP). Every IGP on the market is painfully inferior to a dedicated graphics card and every IGP on the market struggles to handle high definition video and 3D video games. Not so with the ATI Radeon HD 3200. For the first time ever consumers have a low-cost IGP that offers flawless 1080p video playback and can even play many 3D video games at reasonable frame rates!

Let’s take a look at a few basic benchmarks so you can get an idea of how the dv5z stacks up.

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, this processor benchmark program is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, it measures the amount of time to run a set amount of calculations.

wPrime comparison results (lower scores means better performance):

Notebook / CPUwPrime 32M timeHP Pavilion dv5z (Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80 @ 2.1GHz)


Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz)43.569sDell XPS M1530 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)

37.485sHP Pavilion dv6500z (Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz)40.759sSony VAIO NR (Core 2 Duo T5250 @ 1.5GHz)58.233sToshiba Tecra A9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)38.343sToshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)37.299sHP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz)40.965sSony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz)76.240sZepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz)42.385sLenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)37.705sAlienware M5750 (Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz)38.327sHP Pavilion dv6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz)38.720s

You can see from the results in WPrime the new Turion X2 Ultra processor from AMD’s new “Puma” platform provides a respectable amount of raw processing power but isn’t significantly faster than the previous generation processors when it comes to basic calculations.

We’ll have a full set of synthetic benchmarks in the full review coming next week, but we know that many of our readers are sitting on pins and needles waiting to find out how the new ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics perform. I decided to publish some 3DMark06 benchmark numbers … just to keep you happy.

3DMark06 comparison results for graphics performance (higher scores are better):

Notebook3DMark06 ScoreHP Pavilion dv5z (2.1GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80, ATI Radeon HD 3200) 1,599 3DMarks Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100)545 3DMarks HP Pavilion dv6500z (2.0GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60, NVIDIA 8400m GS) 1,551 3DMarks Sony VAIO NR (1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, Intel X3100)504 3DMarks Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB)4,332 3DMarksDell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT)2,905 3DMarksDell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)1,408 3DMarksAlienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB2,183 3DMarksHP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)827 3DMarks

All of the 3DMark06 scores for all of the systems listed above were run at 1280 x 768 resolution. Bottom line: AMD is speaking truthfully when they claim that the new ATI Radeon HD 3200 IGP provides roughly three times the performance of the Intel X3100 IGP and rivals the performance of low-cost dedicated graphics cards.

Just for laughs, we also ran the 3DMark06 benchmark at the full screen resolution on our dv5z (1680 x 1050) and the system returned a score of 1,131 3DMarks. Even when running a higher resolution display the integrated graphics on the dv5z provides more than double the performance of Intel’s current integrated graphics!

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the Pavilion dv5z has zero flex and excellent key travel with quiet presses. I can’t say with absolute certainty, but I suspect the keyboard is the same part used on the dv6700t (or at least the dv6780se we previously reviewed).

The keys have a durable coating which makes the keyboard look and feel better when typing. The slight glossy texture of the keys won’t develop the typical “shine” that begins to show up on keys after extended use.

The palm rest area features the same “Mesh” Imprint Finish used on the lid. The touchpad is nice and large and features a durable and responsive surface that is also covered in the HP Imprint Finish. The marked vertical scroll section is likewise accurate and responsive. The touchpad buttons have deep feedback and produce quiet, cushioned clicks.

One of the nice features found on HP touchpads is the touchpad on/off button. If you press the small button above the touchpad you can disable it … perfect for people using an external mouse. Although the touchpad is quite nice I would have liked to see the same style of touchpad that HP started using on the tx1000z, tx2000z, tx2500z and HDX notebooks … perhaps on next year’s notebooks?

First Impressions

As of this writing we’ve only had the HP Pavilion dv5z in our office for a short while now. Still, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about this notebook. First, we’re just glad to see HP release a new notebook chassis design since they were using the same old dv6000 series design for several years. More importantly, we’re in complete awe over the performance of the integrated graphics on this machine.

Sure, you can get better gaming performance if you spend the money for a notebook with a good dedicated graphics card, but you would have to purchase a mid-range or high performance dedicated card to surpass the performance of the integrated graphics in the dv5z. For the first time consumers shopping for a budget notebook don’t have to sacrifice performance in order to have a low-cost laptop.

We reserve final judgment for the full review, but right now it’s hard not to recommend this notebook to anyone and everyone needing a laptop for less than $900.






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