HP Pavilion dv4t-5100 Review

The HP Pavilion dv4t-5100 is a 14-inch screen laptop that can be configured with up to a 3rd generation Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia 650m dedicated graphics.  That makes the dv4t-5100 one of the more flexible to configure and potentially powerful 14” laptops on the market.  With the base configuration of a 2nd generation Intel Core i3 processor and integrated graphics the dv4t price starts at a very reasonable $549.99 on HP.com.   The price goes higher if you choose a powerful processor and graphics card such as the Intel Core i7 and Nvidia 650m, but whatever specs you choose, you still get the same handsome looking design and sturdy build that’s standard with the dv4t-5100.

HP Pavilion dv4t-5100

Design and Build

The Pavilion dv4t-5100 is not just a smaller clone of the recently released dv6t-7000 we reviewed.  Instead of a brush metal finish, the dv4t has a glossy plastic case with three different color options.  The laptop under review has what HP calls a Carmine Red coloration and nova pattern, the default color is black licorice and there’s an option for linen white that has a strata pattern.  The carmine red nova pattern is actually a very cool look, while I’m not a huge fan of glossy plastic that picks up fingerprints this design tends to hide prints and just plain looks nice.

HP Pavilion dv4t-5100 lid

You’ll notice that the red fades to a black coloration on the lid, there are also thin red lines throughout, this same style is used on the keyboard area.  The finish is glossy so it does pick up fingerprints, a micro fiber cloth is a handy accessory to clean those of.  The red or white color upgrade cost an extra $25 over the standard black licorice color.

The corners of the dv4t-5100 are all rounded, there are no sharp edges.  There is a silver trim used on both the lid and ports area that provides a nice contrast.  The screen has a black glossy bezel, it’s again another area prone to picking up fingerprints.  Another nice design touch is the Beats audio speaker grille at the top of the keyboard.  The look is all rounded out with a chiclet style keyboard that offers a modern and clean look.

The build quality of the dv4t is very good.  The only area of flex in the body I could really find was above and below where the optical drive is located, this is typically a weaker spot on most laptops as the optical drive is by necessity a hollow area and there’s no way to reinforce there.   Because of this there’s a slight amount of flex on the right side of the keyboard, but nothing you’ll really notice in typing unless you’re a punishing keyboard typist.  While the laptop isn’t made of a fancy aluminum or magnesium chassis it still has a sturdy build that I wouldn’t hesitate to throw in a backpack and carry around campus all day if that’s your intention.

Speaking of carrying around, the weight of the dv4t-5100 is pretty reasonable at 4.79lbs, that’s not exactly Ultrabook light and heavier than the similar ENVY 4t but it is more portable than a typical 15” laptop.  It’s also got a smaller footprint than a standard 15” laptop and yet is just as powerful.  Consider the fact the 15.6” screen Pavilion dv6t-7000 weighs about a pound more and is larger in size yet the internal specs are about the same as this smaller 14-inch laptop.   If you care about portability more than the extra options the dv6t comes with (such as a higher resolution screen) then the dv4t might be the better option.

Performance

We mentioned that the dv4t-5100 can be a real performer so let’s dig into what the options are there.  First of all, the specs for the review unit are as follows:

HP dv4t-5100 Specs

  • Screen: 14.0” 1366 x 768 resolution glossy
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-3210M 2.50GHz (3rd generation)
  • Graphics: Nvidia GT 650m
  • Memory: 8GB RAM
  • Storage: 1TB 7200RPM HD
  • Ports: Three USB 3.0, RJ-45 Ethernet Port, headphone jack, microphone jack, VGA Monitor out, HDMI, media card reader
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Optical Drive: Blu-Ray drive
  • Weight: 4.79lbs
  • Dimensions: 13.54 x 9.21 x 1.32 in (Width x Depth x Thickness)
  • Warranty: 1-year

This is a pretty high end configuration and if you price the dv4t-5100 out on HP.com it comes to $945 before any coupons or discounts are used such as the HP student discount which bumps the price down to the low $900s.

With the Intel Core i5 3rd generation or above and Nvidia 650m graphics the dv4t can serve as a portable style gaming laptop.  Playing demanding games such as Skyrim are no problem for the Nvidia 650m, you can play such games on medium to high settings and easily get above the all important 30 fps.  However, if you’re running demanding applications such as 3D games be aware that the fan is going to kick into high and be fairly loud as shown by the video below:

Fan noise demo on HP dv4t-5100

Don’t be too alarmed by that video though, under more normal operating conditions such as surfing the web or typing up a report the fan will be barely audible.  If there’s ambient noise in the room then you won’t hear it at all unless you’re gaming or running some other demanding 3D application.

For those who are into benchmarks and like to see a comparison of how laptops compare, here are some scores from PCMark and 3DMark to give you an idea of system performance.

PCMark Vantage – this benchmark measures overall system performance, you can see that the dv4t holds its own against larger more powerful Core i7 15” laptops such as the Lenovo Y580.  The 7,304 score is very respectable.

image

Laptop PCMark Vantage Score
HP Pavilion dv4t-5100 (Intel Core i5-3210M, Nvidia GT 650M, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD) 7,304 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GTX 660M, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD) 9,256 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y570 (Intel Core i7-2670QM, Nvidia 555M 1GB, 8GB RAM,5400RPM HD) 8,771 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD) 8,634 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y470p (Intel Core i5-2450m, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 5400RPM HD) 6,727 PCMarks

 

PCMark 7 – this benchmark is simply a more recent version of the PCMark Vantage software, again the dv4t performs well relative to other more powerful laptops and beats out older systems with dedicated graphics such as the Dell XPS 17

image

Laptop PCMark 7 Score
HP Pavilion dv4t-5100 (Intel Core i5-3210M, Nvidia GT 650M, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD) 2,267 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GTX 660M, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD) 2,622 PCMarks
HP dv6t-7000 Quad Edition, Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GT650M, 7200RPM HD 2,877 PCMarks
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 Vantage – this benchmark focuses purely on system graphics performance, the score of close to 9,000 means the dv4t is a gaming capable laptop with the given configuration.

image

Laptop 3DMark Vantage
HP Pavilion dv4t-5100 (Intel Core i5-3210M, Nvidia GT 650M, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD) 8,993
Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GTX 660M, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD) 10,153
Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD) 5,587
HP dv6t-7000 Quad Edition, Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GT650M, 7200RPM HD 10,108
HP Envy 17-3000, Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 6,970

While those scores are impressive, they won’t be the same scores as what you’ll get on say an Intel Core i3 processor with integrated graphics configuration that costs $550.  Most people don’t need dedicated Nvidia graphics or the fastest processor for a simple productivity laptop used to browse the web, write reports or communicate with others via email or video chat.  If you do go for the entry level dv4t-5100 that costs $549.99 you’ll get fine performance with an Intel Core i3-2350m, Intel graphics, 4GB memory and standard black design.   We’d recommend at least upgrading to the 3rd generation Intel Core i3 for an extra $30 over the 2nd generation Core i3, but other than that if you’ll just be using the dv4t for basic tasks there’s no need to add dedicated graphics and a Core i7 processor.

Ports Selection

The dv4t comes with a fairly standard array of input and output ports that should cover most people’s needs.  Here’s a tour around the laptop to see what you get and where:

dv4t-5100 left side ports

On the left side you get a VGA Monitor out, HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports, microphone jack, headphone jack

dv4t-5100 right side ports

On the right side you get a USB 3.0 port, Ethernet port and power jack

There’s also a media card reader for such things as SD cards on the front side of the dv4t.  It’s nice that all of the USB ports are the latest USB 3.0, there’s really nothing missing here.

Screen

The screen on this laptop is 14” diagonally in size and has a standard resolution of 1366 x 768 and glossy screen finish.  There is no resolution upgrade, which is disappointing given that last years model offered a 1600 x 900 upgrade option.  There’s nothing to really write home about with the screen, if you’re not picky with screens you’ll probably find not fault.  For those that are more discerning, you’ll notice that vertical viewing angles are somewhat limited, typical of most laptop screens, and the brightness at the top level is somewhat lacking.  Here’s a look at the viewing angles:

dv4t screen straight on dv4t screen tilted back
dv4t screen tilted forward dv4t screen side view

Keyboard and Touchpad

The dv4t keyboard uses a chiclet style design, the keys are flat and squared off.  While the keyboard tray is glossy and reflective, the keys themselves are matte and will not pickup fingerprints.  The keyboard is full sized and each alphanumeric key is generously sized (17.5mm x 19mm).   The key travel is quite shallow, meaning the you hit the bottom of the keyboard soon after pushing the key down, but the overall typing experience is good though not the greatest there is.  I prefer the typing feel on a ThinkPad keyboard for instance.  I do like the fact that the top row of function keys are primarily media buttons, so you can quickly hit the F11 key to mute sound or the F3 key to turn up screen brightness.  The one let down of the dv4t-5100 is there’s no option for a backlit keyboard like you get in other Pavilion laptops, I’m not sure why HP decided to withhold that feature as an option.

dv4t-5100 keyboard

The touchpad is an adequate size, though nowhere nearly as big as the MacBook Pro 13” provides.  There are two dedicated mouse buttons below the smooth surfaced touchpad.  The touchpad is comfortable to use and works well for all basic tasks such as moving the cursor or two finger scrolling through documents and web pages.  There are also advanced features such as pinch to zoom that are slightly harder to use.  The touchpad itself is not clickable like a Mac, instead you use the dedicated left and right mouse buttons below to register clicks.  These buttons are a little on the small side, but the tactile feedback is good.

Battery Life

The dv4t-5100 comes with a 6-cell lithium ion battery, it is easily user replaceable and is not sealed inside like with the HP ENVY 4t we reviewed.  Battery life is important with a laptop designed for portability, and the HP dv4t did not disappoint.  With the screen brightness set to level 3 of 10 (30% brightness), wireless on and a browser set to refresh every 60 seconds the battery lasted 6 hours and 30 minutes.  That means if you set the screen to low brightness you can browse the web and do simple things such as research or reading news for over 6 hours with ease.  If you’re streaming and watching HD movies online the battery life will decrease as that is more demanding.  And if you’re gaming playing something like Skyrim with screen brightness all the way up you’ll probably be lucky to get over 2 hours of battery life as that’s a very processor and graphics intensive game.    Still, the potential battery life under a light usage scenario is excellent even on our higher end configuration so the dv4t-5100 gets kudos for that.

Speakers

dv4t-5100 speakersThe dv4t-5100 has Beats audio integrated, the same as that seen in the dv6t and dv7t.  While the dv4t does not have the same quad speaker setup that the larger Pavilion laptops do, it still offers dual stereo speakers on top and a subwoofer on the bottom.  While the Beats branding is more marketing than real substance, on the whole the speakers are way above average for a 14-inch laptop, especially given the extra bass provided by the subwoofer.  The integrated speakers provide more than enough volume and if the sound isn’t rich enough from the speakers themselves you can easily plug in a premium set of headphones to the headphone jack on the left side.

Heat & Noise

The heat vent and fan for the dv4t-5100 is on the left side toward the back.  As previously mentioned, when the system is under stress the fan does rev up to a high speed and you can hear it.  However, under normal usage the fan is quiet and hard to hear at all if there is ambient noise in the room such as a TV, air conditioning or just the general dim in an office.  The cooling system does a good job of keeping the laptop at a comfortable temperature.  After running benchmarks the only particularly warm area was the left palm rest which got up to 94.5F at it’s warmest point, I’m guessing the processor or graphics card is in that general area.  Under normal usage the left palm rest is cool to the touch at around 80F.

As far as processor temperature, the Cores went up to an absolute max of 74C when running benchmarks.  Under normal usage or idling the Core temp was closer to between 40C to 50C.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a back to school laptop that’s both portable and has the flexibility to be configured as a gaming laptop the dv4t-5100 could definitely fit the bill.  It has a unique design with some interesting color options, good audio quality, excellent battery life and a nice selection of ports.  The only real downsides are the fact the screen cannot be upgraded to anything better than 1366 x 768 resolution and the keyboard backlight option is missing from this model, it’s strange that in last years 2011 dv4 model there were such options.  The price is also a big part of what to consider here, the starting price at HP.com is $549.99, a pretty outstanding deal for a high quality laptop.  Though the ENVY 4t we reviewed is thinner and lighter than this dv4t model, it underperforms with its undervolted processor and has a sealed non-replaceable battery which is somewhat annoying.

Pros

  • Great starting price of $549.99 at HP.com
  • Powerful upgrade options such as Intel Core i7 and Nvidia GT 650M graphics
  • Appealing design with different color options to fit various tastes
  • Good audio for a laptop, sub-woofer built-in
  • Battery life of over 6 hours possible

Cons

  • Screen is just so-so, no upgrade option available
  • No keyboard backlight option that’s found in other Pavilions
  • Glossy surfaces tend to pick up fingerprints

Where to Buy

The HP dv4t-5100 can be purchased via the HP Academy store starting at $536.99, if you spend over $699 there’s currently a free XBox 360 offer available to students.

Here are links to the latest HP Laptop Deals!



4 Responses to HP Pavilion dv4t-5100 Review

  1. jeff greene August 3, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    Hi Andrew, nice review! Looks like this hp could compete with alienware’s m14x but cost a lot less! Was just wondering if it has the mangled arrow keys hp has been using lately?

    • Andrew Baxter August 3, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

      Hi Jeff, I’m not exactly sure what you’re referring to by “mangled arrow keys”, but if it’s regarding the shrunken nature of the up and down cursor keys then yes that is the case here. If it’s regarding the left and right arrow keys that have stopped working in some HP laptops from a couple years back, that is a non-issue and has since been resolved in current HP laptops.

  2. Nathan October 27, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    Hey Andrew, the review is great.
    Any chance you will review the new dv4t-5200 anytime soon?
    I’m interested in seeing how Windows 8 works on this laptop. I think it is essentially the same thing, but with Windows 8. Things like battery performance and speed of the OS are things I am interested in knowing.

    • Andrew October 29, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

      Hi Nathan, I hope to review the updated dv4t soon yes. The hardware is the same, but as you say with Win 8.

Leave a Reply