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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
HP dv6t-7000 Quad Edition, Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GT650M, 7200RPM HD
HP Envy 17-3000, Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD
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.
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:
On the left side you get a VGA Monitor out, HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports, microphone jack, headphone jack
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.