HP ENVY dv6t-7200 Quad Edition Review


The HP ENVY dv6t-7200 is a new Windows 8 equipped laptop release, but for those familiar with the earlier Pavilion dv6t-7000 you might be scratching your head wondering what the difference is between this new ENVY and the Pavilion it’s replacing and what warrants the branding change?  The quick answer is that the only real difference turns out to be the new Windows 8 OS and a very slight processor speed bump up, so you’ll have to excuse me if this review sounds a lot like earlier HP Pavilion dv6t 2012 edition reviews you may have read!  HP is apparently broadening the ENVY lineup to include anything with a premium design or powerful specs, while the Pavilion line will be purely budget laptops that cost under $600.

HP ENVY dv6t-7200

All that aside, the Pavilion dv6t-7000 Quad Edition has been the best selling laptop for HP year to date, so there’s no doubt that the ENVY dv6t-7200 is going to pick right up where the Pavilion left off and will be the most popular model for HP going into the holiday season.  The popularity of the dv6t is no accident, it’s a very powerful laptop that can be had for a reasonable price and is more durably built than your average consumer laptop.  When configured with an Intel Core i7 Quad Core processor, Nvidia 650M graphics and 16GB of RAM you then have a fairly formidable gaming laptop for under $1,000.

For those curious as to what the unboxing experience is like with the ENVY dv6t, I put together a video detailing that:

HP ENVY dv6t-7200 Unboxing

Note, during bootup the dv6t had a big old Windows 8 error, it turns out I was able just to hit Enter and be on my merry way despite this error message, HP assured me it was not normal and a possible glitch due to the fact this was an early order system (I ordered it the first day of availability) but all the same it was not a reassuring way to start out ownership of a laptop!

You don’t get the luxury unpacking experience that the previous HP ENVY 15 and ENVY 17 laptops offered with their black box and fancy packaging, it’s a shame to see that go, but it’s not really an important aspect of why you buy a computer.  Inside the box you get the following contents:

  • ENVY dv6t-7200 Quad Edition Laptop
  • Power brick and charge cable
  • Documentation and warranty
  • Battery (6-cell standard)

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You don’t get recovery discs, you’ll have to burn those if you want them.  No manufacturer includes restore discs these days, so it’s not just HP shorting you here. Before going any further let’s go over the specs of this dv6t Quad Edition under review:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3630QM 2.40GHz Quad Core processor (6MB L3 Cache, Turbo Boost to 3.40GHz)
  • Screen: 15.6” HD (1366 x 768 resolution) with glossy finish
  • Graphics: Nvidia GT 650M with 2GB GDDR5 memory
  • Memory: 8GB DDR3 (2 DIMM)
  • Storage: 750GB Hybrid HD
  • Battery: 6-cell Lithium Ion, quotes 6 hours of battery life
  • Built-in WebCam
  • Weight: 5.5lbs
  • Ports: monitor out, HDMI, Ethernet LAN (RJ-45), three USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, headphone jack, microphone jack, media card reader
  • Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Optical Drive: Blu Ray player & SuperMulti DVD burner
  • Dimensions: 14.88” x 9.71” x 1.22” (Width x Depth x Height)

Design

HP implemented a new design for the dv6t earlier in 2012 with the Pavilion version and no changes have been made with this ENVY model.  The ENVY dv6t features precise lines and tapered profiles and includes premium build materials such as aluminum and magnesium.

ENVY dv6t-7200 lid

The dv6t Quad Edition is offered in just one color, midnight black.  Last year they offered a dark brown and silver design for the dv6t, but HP found that black is the most popular color option so just settled on that to simplify things.  The black design is classic and the subtle aluminum brush strokes are a nice touch.  The lid has a silver rim and features an illuminated HP logo, it’s a classy look from up above and it doesn’t pick up fingerprints too much.

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Inside the look is again all black, the bezel around the screen has a glossy finish that picks up a lot of fingerprints, which is sort of annoying.  The keyboard tray area has the same glossy finish, though the keys themselves are a matte finish.  The palm rest areas have the same brush metal finish you see on the lid.  The sides of the laptop where the ports are located have a silver color finish, the material used here is plastic, but it’s solid and durable feeling nonetheless.  At the top of the keyboard and below the screen are two mesh like speaker grilles, beneath these grilles are four speakers offering quad audio output.

HP dv6t-7200 speakers

The bottom of the dv6tqe is made of what seems to be a very rigid and durable plastic.  There’s a subwoofer located down here too.  You can easily remove the battery using a release button and accessing the hard drive, wireless card and memory is easily done with the removal of just one screw.

HP ENVY dv6t-7200 bottom HP dv6t-7200 upgrades

The overall look of the ENVY dv6t-7200 is nice, it’s clean and appealing, the red Beats Audio logo branding at the top is subtle but actually looks cool against the black.

 Beats Audio branding

Build Quality

As mentioned previously the materials used in the dv6t-7200 are a mix of aluminum and plastic, making it a rigid and solidly built notebook.  The lid and palm rest areas use an aluminum chassis while the side of the laptop are a rigid plastic material.  The bottom appears to be a rigid plastic as well.  There’s no flex to be found anywhere on the body of the laptop.  If you do have any issues with the build quality or fit and finish issues HP will stand behind their product and fix or replace what’s wrong, you can do a return for full refund and free shipping within 21-days of receiving the laptop, no questions asked.

Screen

HP offers two options for the 15.6” screen, the standard screen is a glossy 1366 x 768 while the premium upgrade is a 1920 x 1080 resolution matte finish screen.  The dv6t-7200 Quad Edition under review has the regular HD 1366 x 768 screen but I also happen to have a dv6z-7200 with the 1920 x 1080 screen on hand so can offer a comparison of the two.  This is best done via use of a video demonstration I put together:

Comparison of ENVY dv6 Full HD 1920 x 1080 Vs. HD 1366 x 768 Screen

I think most will agree that the $150 upgrade to the Full HD screen is probably worth it, the difference in quality of the screens is really stunning.  The 1920 x 1080 screen offers not only a higher resolution, great for detailed graphics and 1080p movie watching, but it also features what I can only assume is an IPS panel (though not advertised as such) with very wide viewing angles and a matte finish to reduce reflection and glare.

For a look in pictures at the 1366 x 768 viewing angles see the images below, notice how the screen colors look a bit washed out and colors distort at various angles, especially relative to the Full HD matte screen:

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Below are pictures of the Full HD 1920 x 1080 screen option for the ENVY dv6t using the same desktop wallpaper:

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It’s a no brainer to get the upgraded 1920 x 1080 screen if you can afford it, it’s one of the better screens I’ve seen in awhile and the viewing angles are so good it behaves like an IPS screen.

Performance

One of the big reasons people are interested in buying the dv6t-7200 Quad Edition is due to the powerful Intel Core i7 Quad core processor that uses the 3rd Generation Intel Ivy Bridge platform.  That, combined with the Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics card makes this a veritable gaming machine, and at a price of under $1,000 after coupons it’s also affordable.  Needless to say, for typical work tasks such as using the web or office applications this machine flies.  You really don’t need as much power as is under the hood here to do regular work.  If you’re into photography and do a lot of rendering or video processing, the Core i7-3630QM on board will shine and churn through that type of multimedia software too.  You can upgrade to even faster Core i7 offerings, but for most that’s really not going to be necessary.  The base level processor Core i7-3630QM in this ENVY model is actually a step-up from the Core i7-3610QM that was the default processor in the older Pavilion version, so that’s a nice little freebie upgrade.

I ran a few benchmarks to see how the dv6tqe stood up to laptops I’ve reviewed in the past.  You might say the comparison is unfair as there’s new technology on board, but it at least demonstrates the fact you’re getting a nice performance jump by buying the latest Intel and Nvidia hardware.

PCMark 7

PCMark 7 measures the overall system performance, the dv6t beat the ENVY 17-3000 from earlier in the year making it the most powerful HP notebook we’ve reviewed.

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Laptop PCMark 7 Score
HP ENVY dv6t-7200 Quad Edition, Intel Core i7-3630QM, Nvidia GT650M 2GB, 8GB RAM, Hybrid HDD/SSD 4,101 PCMarks (http://www.3dmark.com/pcm7/484549)
HP Envy 17-3000, Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 2,703 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y570 – Intel Core i7-2670QM, Nvidia 555M 1GB, 8GB RAM,5400RPM HD 2,573 PCMarks
Dell XPS 17 (Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, Nvidia 550m, 6GB RAM, HD 7200RPM) 1,995 PCMarks
Sony VAIO SA (Intel Core i5-2430M 2.50GHz, AMD Radeon 6630M, 4GB RAM) 2,002 PCMarks

 

3DMark 11

Measures 3D graphics performance  and is the most recent 3D testing benchmark from FutureMark.  The Nvidia 650M did well, it easily trounced the Nvidia GT640M LE in the Lenovo Y480 I’ve reviewed. 

Laptop 3DMark 11
HP ENVY dv6t-7200 Quad Edition, Intel Core i7-3630QM, 16GB RAM, Nvidia GT650M, Hybrid HD/SSD 2,465
Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD) 1,333
Lenovo IdeaPad Y470p (Intel Core i5-2450m, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 5400RPM HD) 1,339
Dell XPS 17 (Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, Nvidia 550m, 6GB RAM, HD 7200RPM) 1,041

 

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is an older but more popular 3D benchmarking suite, the ENVY dv6t soared past the 10,000 score mark on this which is quite astounding. 

Laptop 3DMark Vantage
HP dv6t-7200 Quad Edition, Intel Core i7-3630QM, Nvidia GT650M, Hybrid HD/SSD 10,108
Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD) 5,587
HP Envy 17-3000, Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 6,970
Dell XPS 17 (Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, Nvidia 550m, 6GB RAM, HD 7200RPM) 4,747
HP Pavilion dv6t Select Edition – Intel Core i5-2410m, Intel HD 3000 Graphics, 6GB RAM 1,845

Another really beneficial upgrade is the 750GB Hybrid hard drive HP offers for a $10 upgrade over the standard 1TB 5400RPM drive at the current time.  A Hybrid drive is essentially a hard drive and SSD combo that has built in “intelligence”, it uses the SSD portion for frequently used applications and the OS while the HDD portion is used for things like large media files that don’t get accessed as frequently.  Although the capacity is lower, the performance boost is well worth the trade off.  Windows 8 bootup times were around 20 seconds, that’s excellent performance and will save you meaningful amounts of time over the long run.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The ENVY dv6t-7200 uses a chiclet style keyboard and has enough space to accommodate a number pad on the right side.  The keys have a fairly short travel distance, which is good for fast touch typists but if you’re a clumsy typist this could result in more key press mistakes.  The keyboard is firm, you really have to push down to find any flex.  My favorite aspect of the keyboard is most definitely the backlighting option.  It is $25 extra to get the keyboard backlight, but the cost is well worth it.   The look is cool and it’s all the more usable in a dimly lit room. HP includes is a fingerprint reader as a standard feature, this is nice as an alternate form of login for Windows and can be used on any website that requires use of login, the software will store your login credentials after you login to a website for the first time and from then on a finger swipe can be used to login. The top row Function keys (F1 – F12) act as dedicated media type buttons, for instance you can just push F10 to turn up the volume,  you don’t have to hold Fn + F10.

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The touchpad is a decent size and works well, it uses synaptics drivers and has all the scroll and multi-touch features you’d expect.  Unfortunately the touchpad area is not backlit like the keyboard.  The mouse buttons below the touchpad are a let down, while they work fine, they have very little travel distance and don’t give convincing feedback – the feel is pretty chintzy.

Battery Life

While battery life isn’t the most important aspect of a desktop replacement style laptop, it’s still nice to have a long lasting battery in case you need to be mobile and away from a power outlet.   You can choose between either a regular 6-cell or larger 9-cell battery.  HP quotes the 6-cell battery as offering 6-hours while the 9-cell should offer around 9 hours.   This review unit has the regular 6-cell.  I put it to the test by putting the Windows power setting to “Power Saver”, screen brightness on the 3rd notch, wireless on and had a web browser open that refreshed the page every 60 seconds.  Under this light usage scenario the dv6t-7200 was able to achieve 5.5 hours of battery life.  I consider that a pretty good number considering this is a large laptop and you probably won’t be trying to use it on a long flight, more than likely it’ll be desk bound.

For those curious to see a comparison of the 9-cell versus the 6-cell battery, check out the images below, the 9-cell protrudes down with a bump so it actually elevates the laptop and adds some thickness and weight:

HP dv6t-7200 9-cell battery

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HP dv6t-7200 6-cell battery

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Ports

As you would expect with a 15.6” screen notebook designed to be a multimedia / gaming machine you get a good selection of ports. On the left side you have a monitor out port, HDMI, Ethernet LAN (RJ-45), two USB 3.0 ports, headphone jack, and microphone jack:

HP ENVY dv6t-7200 left side

On the right side, you get another USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port, the power jack and the optical drive which is Blu-Ray in this case:

HP ENVY dv6t-7200 right side

On the front side you get an SD card reader:

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Heat and Noise

One important aspect of a laptop often overlooked is how well it manages heat and stays cool.  This is especially a concern in a laptop designed for performance as they tend to use a lot more power.  I’ve read varying experiences in online forums for the earlier Pavilion dv6t model with some complaining of unexpectedly hot surface areas and processor temperatures but I can’t say that’s been my experience.  Granted, if you do some intense 3D gaming for an hour or more the notebook will get warm and you really need to make sure it’s on a flat surface with proper ventilation.   Below is a video of the ENVY dv6tqe with the temperature measured using an infrared heat laser in different areas after running a benchmark (measured in Fahrenheit):

The palm rest areas remained cool while the left side of the keyboard did get warm, right above the heat vent the surface reached into the 90F – 100F range which is definitely warm, but not ridiculously so (remember, these temps are taken after running a benchmark).  While running benchmarks the processor cores reached the low to mid 50 Celsius range, which is again warm but far from extreme.  Under normal operating conditions (browsing, watching YouTube videos) the processor core temperatures were around 45C, this is the same temperature as the ThinkPad X220 I use with a Core i5 processor and much, much cooler than the two year old MacBook Pro I use which hovers around 55C when doing nothing. The fans did run pretty frequently in order to keep the ENVY dv6t cool, when gaming or running benchmarks the fans revved up to a high speed.  However, I did not find the fan noise to be annoying, there was no high pitched whirr or buzz, just a typical blowing noise you’d expect.  When idling the fans would turn off if not needed, but a majority of the time they were on at least a low level spin.

Speakers and Audio

The dv6t-7200 has four speakers on top, two above the keyboard and two on the screen, and then a subwoofer underneath.  HP uses the Beats audio branding on this machine and touts its superior audio capabilities.  I tested the speakers out by playing “Fort Battle” from the soundtrack of Last of the Mohicans, it offers a lot of bass and treble to test speakers out.  The subwoofer did give some nice bass, better than you’d expect from a laptop.  However, the quad speakers did not live up to their billing.  There was a good amount of tininess and nothing like the audio quality you’d get from using headphones, which is what I recommend to do if you’re an audiophile.

 Subwoofer

Ease of Upgrades

HP makes if fairly easy to reach internal components and make upgrades in the dv6t-7200.  You can remove a panel on the bottom of the laptop by removing one screw, by doing so you get access to the hard drive, memory slots and wireless card.  Before you ask, no the processor and graphics card cannot be easily upgraded aftermarket, so configure what you think you need there at the time of purchase!

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Windows 8

The only OS option you get with the ENVY dv6t is Windows 8.  Windows 8 is the boldest OS release from Microsoft in over a decade, it’s a totally different UI that has a lot of touch friendly features such as large tile icons that would be easy to tap on screen and launch an application with a touchscreen interface.   Unfortunately, though Windows 8 is well suited for tablets and touch screen PCs, the ENVY dv6t does not offer a touchscreen option.  Thus many of the advantages of Windows 8 are kind of lost without any touch capability, in fact navigating with a mouse and finding Windows utilities can be harder than in Windows 7.  And of course there’s not Start bar so you’re further handicapped from using a feature that many of us curmudgeons fell back upon when lost as a starting point to find things.  Anyway, I find those that are younger adjust right away to Windows 8 and even like it better, the above 30 crowd like me who have several decades (eek!) of Windows burned into the neural networks of their brains and are slower to adapt might feel a little lost at first. 

Windows 8 on the dv6t

In the above screen image of the dv6t showing the initial tiles available you’ll see HP still includes a bunch of bloatware such as eBay, snapfish and iHeart Radio apps.  You’ll need to get rid of them to clean up your start screen, maybe there are some you’ll actually use though.

Conclusion

The ENVY dv6t-7200 notebook is solidly built with an aluminum chassis and rigid feel all over and is highly configurable online, that’s becoming unique as Dell and Lenovo these days lean more towards just offering various fixed configurations.  The 3rd generation Intel Ivy Bridge processor combined with Nvidia GT 650M graphics makes this a capable gaming laptop, but if you have no interest in gaming then it can double as a powerful workstation for demanding applications.  The Full HD 1920 x 1080 screen is a dream, it has excellent viewing angles, color reproduction and anti-glare finish.  It’s not all golden though, disappointments include the cheap feeling mouse buttons, annoying glossy screen bezel and there is a lot of bloatware that will need to be removed.  No laptop is perfect, and these are small complaints for an otherwise excellent machine.  If you’re looking for a powerful laptop with a bit of mobility and don’t want to break the bank, look no further than the 2012 edition of the dv6t Quad Edition.

 Pros

  • Great price to feature ratio, look for coupons to get the price down
  • Excellent performance with the Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge processor and Nvidia GT 650M
  • 1920 x 1080 screen is gorgeous
  • Keyboard backlighting is a nice feature and recommended
  • Hybrid drive is a very worthwhile upgrade, low cost ($10 upgrade) but great performance benefits
  • Lots of upgrade options, easy to configure online

Cons

  • Mouse buttons below touchpad are chintzy
  • Fit and finish build quality issues for some people
  • Enough bloatware to warrant removing some, an annoying waste of time
  • Glossy screen bezel is a fingerprint magnet

Here are links to the latest HP Laptop Deals!



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