HP Pavilion dv7-6b51ea

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 HP Pavilion dv7-6b51ea

It’s not often that a laptop will get everything right when it comes to media playing. It might have a fantastic screen, for example, but the speakers could be inadequate, especially if you want to get the most out of Blu-ray’s DTS HD and Dolby HD goodness.

The HP Pavilion dv7-6b51ea is different, however, and ticks all the boxes that are required of making a fantastic media playing laptop. But before you get to appreciate its media playing chops you need to go through a tedious setup procedure when you first turn it on.

Setting up Windows 7 Home Premium with a username, time zone and connecting it to a wireless network – plus setting when to automatically update Windows – is a necessary step, but after all that it was frustrating – to put it mildly – to be faced with another set of installation steps – this time for HP’s own Total Care service. All it does is end up delaying you from what you really want to do – which is to get started with your brand new laptop.

Another thing that annoyed us was that if you don’t want updates from HP Support Assistant, or for your laptop to be tuned up automatically, you can’t just select ‘No’ but have to choose ‘No, remind me later’. Even if you’re not interested in the service, you’re going to be nagged about it in the future. In the grand scheme of things this is a small irritant: once you’ve finished the setup process you won’t have to worry about it again, apart from the odd reminder.

Media mogul

HP dv7

Finally, we can enthuse about the dv7-6b51ea’s media prowess. For a start the 17.3 inch LED screen looks amazing, with a not inconsiderable 1600 x 900 maximum resolution. As you’d expect from an LED screen, colours and contrasts are brilliantly reproduced and high definition media looks great – just as well considering the HP Pavilion dv7-6b51ea features a Blu-ray drive.

All good so far, but what about the Achilles’ heel of so many laptops – the speakers? Once again the dv7-6b51ea triumphs thanks to HP’s partnership with Beats Audio, resulting in some excellent compact speakers that sound amazing. Little details in our test Blu-ray’s soundtrack were picked up and reproduced perfectly. There is even a built-in subwoofer on the base of the laptop that gives low frequency sounds a real depth and impact.

Another nice feature when it comes to media is the 1TB hard drive which offers loads of space for holding photos and MP3s and high definition movies – saving you from having to carry around CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays and having to use the optical disc drive, which can save precious minutes on the battery life.

While the AMD Radeon HD 6490 graphics card is no slouch, it’s not quite powerful enough for the latest games, but for the odd less-demanding game it’ll cope pretty well. Also the 8GB of RAM supplied is huge and means almost all tasks will open and run smoothly, whilst multitasking won’t be a problem at all.

Whilst running a Blu-ray movie we had Skype running and Internet Explorer open on a number of websites, and the HP Pavilion dv7-6b51ea didn’t miss a beat.

So where else does the HP Pavilion dv7-6b51ea excel? Well, at the risk of appearing shallow it is a stunner in the looks department. From the brushed aluminium outer shell, to the soft, understated light that glows around the mouse pad, this is a laptop that you would be keen to whip out and show off.

At 3.45kg it’s not very portable, and it’s nowhere near as thin or light as the latest Ultrabooks.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 195 minutes
Cinebench: 5259
3DMark 2006: 5715

Just the type

The keyboard is large enough to type on comfortably and the aforementioned gorgeously-lit mouse pad is large, responsive and supports multi-touch gestures. There is a fingerprint reader for extra security to boot.

Next to the power button is the ‘web’ button. When we first saw this we excitedly thought it could be for booting into a light Linux operating system designed solely for browsing the web – as found on a lot of Sony VAIO laptops. However, all it does is open up the default web browser when in Windows 7. It’s a feature that manages to be handy and a little bit useless all at once.

Also, at first glance it appeared that the HP Pavilion dv7-6b51ea didn’t have any USB 3.0 ports, with the familiar blue colour code missing from all of the USB ports. This couldn’t be right, not in 2012 with a laptop just shy of £1000. We checked the specs, and indeed there are USB 3.0 ports.

On closer inspection the two USB 3.0 ports were on the left of the laptop’s case. Not highlighted by blue, but with a subtle ‘SS’ next to the USB icons. Again not a big problem, but it makes it a little harder to find the USB 3.0 ports in a hurry.

Also as a laptop positioning itself as an ultimate entertainment laptop, there is no 3D support. If you’re not too into 3D then this won’t be a problem, and the lack of 3D helps keep the price south of £1000, but if you want a laptop that can handle the latest media, while future-proofed, then the absence 3D out of the box could be a blow.

However, the AMD Radeon HD 6490 graphics card does support AMD HD3D, so if you plugged it into a 3D monitor or TV you might be able to get 3D working.

A battery life of just over three hours is good for such a power-hungry machine, but not astounding.

Overall, the HP Pavilion dv7-6b51ea is a fantastic laptop for media and entertainment, if a little on the expensive side.

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Review: Asus Automobili Lamborghini VX7

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Review: Asus Automobili Lamborghini VX7

There was a genuine air of excitement when the Asus Automobili Lamborghini VX7 rolled into the office.

A Lamborghini Gallardo boasts a 552bhp V10 engine and its namesake is running the laptop equivalent – an Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 460QM GPU and 8GB of RAM.

The lid is sculpted to resemble the front of a Lamborghini, complete with the famous badge on the front. The base of the laptop protrudes out behind the screen hinge and sports mock Lamborghini rear lights and two gigantic vents.

Although our review unit was black, this laptop is also available in a striking orange finish that we think looks even better. The inside of the laptop is also designed to mimic its four-wheel counterpart with a black and chrome finish – and the power button even reads ‘start engine’.

Asus lamborghini vx7

Better yet, the palmrests either side of the matt-black touchpad are stitched leather, just like the upholstery of a proper super-car.

Not everyone will be a fan of the chunky design and, if you like your laptops slim and svelte, this isn’t the machine for you. The design also means that it’s incredibly heavy at 3.9kg and even if you wanted to carry it round, the dimensions make it hard to fit comfortably into a bag.

Even though you’re consigned to a desk, usability is fantastic. The 15.6-inch Super-TFT screen is bright and it runs at a native pixel resolution of 1920 x 1080, so even the most complex websites and dense pictures are rendered in extremely sharp detail.

Cool running

Aside from looking the part, the two large vents at the rear of the VX7 keep it cool during prolonged gaming sessions and we had no problems with excessive heat during our tests.

If you want to up your usage from pictures and web browsing to editing video and playing games, then the Asus really comes into its own. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 460QM is one of Nvidia’s top GPUs and when we tested Need for Speed: Shift and Tom Clancy’s HAWX, each on the highest detail settings, the VX7 showed no signs of lag.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 119 minutes
Cinebench: 16,760
3DMark 2006: 7653

The VX7 also boasts a Blu-ray drive and dual 750GB hard drives, adding up to well over a terabyte of storage space.

Asus is keen to label the VX7 as a high-performance laptop rather than simply a gamer’s machine, and both the usability and range of features reflect this. The isolation-style keyboard is very comfortable to use and backlit for when you end up working late.

The VX7 also features four USB ports for transferring data and documents, one of which uses USB 3.0 technology for twice the speed. Elsewhere, HDMI and VGA-Out ports let you connect to another monitor for presentations or even an HDTV.

As is always the case with high-performance machines, the battery life suffers badly. The VX7 managed only 119 minutes on battery, giving enough time for one high-definition (HD) movie. This fact, as well as the aforementioned weight and dimensions, means you won’t be taking this away from the mains for any great length of time.

Understandably, cost is a factor and, although it’s not quite the £160,000 needed for a real Lamborghini, the asking price of the VX7 is pretty steep. But if you can afford it, this is a fantastically designed piece of kit that will easily satisfy all your computing needs.

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Review: Toshiba Tecra R840-11E

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Toshiba’s Tecra range strikes a fine balance between consumer and business laptops. The Tecra R840-11E offers tons of business features and great performance in a light and slim body, but at a price that isn’t out of grasp for the average consumer.

The first of the business features is a built-in fingerprint scanner wedged between the mouse buttons. You can use this to log on to your laptop, which saves the hassle of remembering complex passwords.

An ExpressCard slot allows you to add peripherals, such as graphics cards, TV Tuner cards and extra storage, while an eSATA port can be used to back up your files to an external hard drive.

DisplayPort and VGA ports mean you can hook up an external monitor or projector. You can even connect wirelessly with compatible televisions.

Your data will be protected from theft by the aforementioned fingerprint scanner, but it’s also protected against accidental damage by the hard drive. If the drive detects an unexpected motion (for example, the laptop plummeting off a desk), it will reset itself. This lowers the risk of failure on impact.

While 320GB of storage space isn’t a lot, it should still suit most users who simply want to carry their important files around, as well as a modest collection of songs and photos.

More impressive is the fact that Toshiba has squeezed in a DVD drive. Not a bad effort, considering the slender body measures just 31mm at its thickest point and weighs a modest 2.1kg. With its compact chassis, it fits with ease into most bags.

You can find more portable business machines out there, such as the Samsung 9000 Series and Sony’s VAIO Z-Series, but they tend to cost more than the Tecra R840’s price tag.

However, while the Tecra may be slim and light, we weren’t exactly excited by the plain black design. The frame and lid have a bevelled plastic texture, which does a great job of hiding fingerprints and scuff marks, but isn’t visually appealing. Thankfully there isn’t much flex, and the lid is particularly solid.

One of Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge Core i5 2520M 2.5GHz processors is the brains behind this laptop. Combined with 4GB of memory, performance is even better than we expected. Not only can you run all of your business software, you can often run them together at the same time, with no kind of slowdown evident.

Basic integrated graphics mean you can’t run the latest games, but then you would rather be working on a spreadsheet, right? We still found some down-time to watch a high-definition (HD) movie, which played perfectly, and you can even edit photos from your collection and movies.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 239 minutes
Cinebench: 10,650
3DMark 2006: 3741

Of course, with its matt TFT finish, the 14-inch screen was not designed for enjoying films. Images are crisp, but the best part of this display is the lack of reflections when used outside or in bright offices. If you’re constantly on the move and need a machine for staying productive, then consider this laptop.

Portability is further improved by the excellent battery life. We watched movies for four hours before the Tecra died, while less power-sapping activities such as browsing the web stretches battery life out to five or six hours.

Sleep-and-charge technology means you can connect your portable devices via USB, such as smartphones and MP3 players, and charge them even when the laptop is hibernating.

Usability is another important consideration and while the keyboard looks and feels rather plasticky, it’s well-sized with covered gaps between the keys. The keys have a shallow travel when you hit them, which we weren’t huge fans of, but it didn’t stop us touch-typing at our usual pace. You also have an ‘eco mode’ shortcut key which lets you fiddle with power settings.

The touchpad is a generous size and perfectly smooth. The mouse buttons are firmly mounted, but are strangely sunken into the palmrest, which makes them awkward to push at times. Toshiba has included a pointing stick alternative to using the touchpad, which is a tiny nubbin mounted in the middle of the keyboard. Pushing it around moves the on-screen cursor, but we personally prefer the touchpad.

Managing to cram impressive performance and a mass of excellent business features into a slim and light body, Toshiba has impressed with the Tecra R840. The design is basic and there are some slight usability issues, but if you need a portable business solution on a limited budget, you could do a lot worse.

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