New HP Laptop Coupon Codes for Holiday Savings, up to $200 Off

Here has issued new coupon codes for the Holiday 2012 laptop shoppers out there.    The new coupon codes offer savings on the customized ENVY dv6t-7200 and dv7t-7200 Quad Edition laptops and there is also a $100 off coupon for other customized laptops priced $599 or more.  Here’s a complete rundown of the deals available through December 8, 2012:

So let’s take a look at what the starting prices will be on some of the hottest HP laptops after coupons tomorrow:

  • HP ENVY dv6t-7200 Quad Edition: Regularly $879,  -$175 coupon NB6291 = $704.99

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  • HP ENVY dv7t-7200 Quad Edition: Regularly $999, – $250 coupon NB5431 = $779.99

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  • HP ENVY Ultrabook 4t Touchsmart: Regularly $799, – $150 coupon HOLIDAY150HP = $699.99

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These deals do not stack with the instant off offers or Free Nook eReader, but they are better than either of those other deals HP is offering so I’d recommend using coupons instead anyway.  The dollars off amounts are also not as good as last weeks Black Friday deals from HP, but then that’s always the time to get the biggest discounts.  Either way, even though these coupons aren’t huge dollar or percent off amounts, a savings of $200 on laptops like the dv7t is still better than no discount at all!

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Sony Cyber Monday Laptop Deals!

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Dell Cyber Monday Deals!

Dell has kicked off their Cyber Monday deals with various coupons and door busters, below is a rundown of some of the hottest offerings via Dell.com:

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Lenovo Cyber Monday Laptop Deals!

Lenovo has already started with their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for 2012, here’s a list of the pricing available on all ThinkPads that are on sale – use 20% off coupon code CYBERMONDAY to score the deal:

These ThinkPad deals all last through 11/30/2012 which is Sunday.

And of course there are some IdeaPad deals going today, though not quite as many, here is a list of the promos available through 11/30/2012:

One of the best deals among these has to be the ThinkPad X230 for under $700, that’s a great little laptop for a little price!

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Lenovo ThinkPad and IdeaPad Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals 2012

Lenovo has already started with their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for 2012, here’s a list of the pricing available on all ThinkPads that are on sale – use 20% off coupon code BLACKFRIDAY to score the deal:

These ThinkPad deals all last through 11/25/2012 which is Sunday.

And of course there are some IdeaPad deals going today, though not quite as many, here is a list of the promos available through 11/28/2012:

Also worth a mention is the fact the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist is going to be on sale for the incredible price of $699.99 at Stapes on Black Friday on 11/23 as a Door Buster item, it’s currently $899.99 at Staples.  The ThinkPad Twist is a Windows 8 convertible laptop to tablet machine and that should be a pretty hot deal.  It has a 12.5” IPS screen and all the typical ThinkPad features you would expect.

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Black Friday 2012 HP ENVY Laptop Coupons are Here!

Here they are, the new coupon codes from HP for the Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping bonanza.   The coupon codes actually start tonight at midnight 11/22/2012 as soon as Thanksgiving arrives so you don’t even have to wait until after the Turkey dinner.  Here’s a rundown of the deals available:

  • Save $220 instantly + FREE shipping using coupon code HOLIDAY220HP for the purchase of a customized HP Envy dv6t Quad at the HP Home & Home Office Store. Offer limited to the first 2000 coupons redeemed. 1 redemption per person or address.
  • Save $250 instantly + FREE shipping using coupon code HOLIDAY250HP for the purchase of a customized HP Envy dv7t Quad laptop at the HP Home & Home Office Store.  Offer limited to the first 2000 coupons redeemed.  1 redemption per person or address.
  • Save $50 instantly + FREE shipping using coupon code HOLIDAY50HP for the purchase of select customized  laptops at the HP Home & Home Office Store $499 and above.  Offer excludes HP ENVY x2 laptop.  Offer limited to the first 1000 coupons redeemed.  1 redemption per person or address.
  • Save $100 instantly + FREE shipping using coupon code HOLIDAY100HP for the purchase of select customized laptop at the HP Home & Home Office Store $599 and above.  Offer excludes HP ENVY x2 laptop.  Offer limited to the first 1000 coupons redeemed.  1 redemption per person or address.
  • Save $150 instantly + FREE shipping using coupon code HOLIDAY150HP for the purchase of a customized HP ENVY Ultrabook 4t, HP ENVY Ultrabook 4t TouchSmart, HP ENVY Ultrabook 6t, HP Spectre XT 13t, and HP Spectre 14t laptop at the HP Home & Home Office Store.  Offer limited to the first 1000 coupons redeemed.

So let’s take a look at what the starting prices will be on some of the hottest HP laptops after coupons tomorrow:

  • HP ENVY dv6t-7200 Quad Edition: Regularly $899,  -$220 coupon HOLIDAY220HP = $679

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  • HP ENVY dv7t-7200 Quad Edition: Regularly $999, – $250 coupon HOLIDAY250HP = $749

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  • HP ENVY Ultrabook 4t Touchsmart: Regularly $799, – $150 coupon HOLIDAY150HP = $649

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  • HP ENVY Ultrabook 6t:  Regularly $799, – $150 coupon HOLIDAY150HP = $649

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Not bad deals there at all, the $220 off on the base price of the ENVY dv6t-7200 is essentially the same as a 25% off coupon while the $250 off of $999 ENVY dv7t-7200 deal is again the same 25% equivalent discount.  Not as good as the 30% or more coupons we once saw from HP, but we just haven’t seen those size discounts recently and this is the best we’ve seen in several weeks.  All coupons are good through next Tuesday and will be the best offer between now and the end of December.

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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
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Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Review

With the much repeated phrase “the PC is dying”, compliments of tablets and smartphones replacing their functionality, savvy PC manufacturers knew they had to come up with fresh designs and functionality to make their products appealing again.  Lenovo happens to be one of those smart companies that is not sitting pat, but rather innovating their way to staying relevant and ahead of the competition.  The IdeaPad Yoga 13 is one such product, it’s essentially an Ultrabook that serves well as both a laptop or tablet, and a few modes in between.

The IdeaPad Yoga 13 I have on hand is the same as that being sold in Best Buy stores, it comes with an Intel Core i5-3317 1.7GHz processor, 128GB SSD, 4GB of RAM and has an impressive 13.3” IPS display with 1600 x 900 HD+ resolution.  For the uninitiated, IPS stands for In-Plane Switching and means you can view the screen from any angle and colors will remain the same, the Apple iPad is probably the most familiar example of this to many.  While the hardware specs of the Yoga 13 are impressive in and of themselves for a 3.3lbs thin and light 13.3” screen Ultrabook, it’s really the unique form factor functionality that makes the IdeaPad –Yoga a standout.  The patented hinge is designed in a way that the screen can rotate 360-degrees.  What this means is that you can go from a laptop type mode, to tablet mode, to tent mode, to stand mode.  It’s easier to demonstrate via imagery what each of those modes actually mean:

Laptop mode

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Tent mode

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Stand mode

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Tablet Mode

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Now, none of these new modes would be possible without a touchscreen and an OS that makes touch input easy to do.  The Yoga 13 screen has 10-point multi-touch (go ahead, put all ten fingers on the screen at once) and the new Windows 8 OS.  Windows 8 offers big tiles on the start screen to easily access programs and apps, it’s much easier than poking at the small icons present in Windows 7 that are more conducive to mouse input.  That said, there is a learning curve to using Windows 8 for those coming from any prior Windows version, so a fair warning there.  The most cited difference is the fact the Start bar we’ve become used to for accessing programs and utilities is gone and there’s no built-in option to get it back (though a few 3rd party program hacks are out there).

Design and Build

The Yoga 13 comes with two color options for the case, graphite gray or clementine orange.  The Best Buy model selling for $999 is graphite gray, and in fact that’s all you can get on Lenovo.com at the current time, there’s a short supply of the orange.  The gray color is professional looking and classy, just the thin form factor and unique hinge abilities still makes the Yoga 13 eye catching.  However, there’s no doubt the orange case might turn a few more eyes and is more unique, so there are going to be some disappointed it’s impossible to find that option at the current time.

Whether you get a silver or gray lid, the keyboard and keyboard deck area will be black in color on the inside along with the screen bezel.  One cool finish feature I really like is the rubberized textured palm rest area, it really makes it easy for resting you palms on and prevents any hand slipping that’s common on all metal construction notebooks.

The build quality of the Yoga 13 is excellent, this thing feels solid with its magnesium aluminum alloy constructed case.  It’s really hard to find any flex on the body, despite the fact it’s extremely thin and 0.67”, Lenovo managed to make it rigid.  The unique 360-degree swivel hinge is also very rigid and tight, whatever position you put the screen into is where it stays, there’s no wobble or give whatsoever.  Overall the fit and finish lives up to the premium billing associated with the Yoga 13

Weight

If you’re on the go weight matters, I used my handy Salter kitchen scale (good for more than just weighing flour) to see what the stand alone and travel weights were for the Yoga 13.  Without the power cord and adapter it comes in at 3lbs 6..8 oz (3.425 lbs).

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Add in the power adapter and cord and the weight goes up to 4lbs 0.9 oz (4.056lbs).

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Not bad weights for carrying in a backpack, you’ll barely notice the 3.3lbs on top of some books.  However, 3.3lbs is too heavy to use in slate tablet mode while standing up for long periods of time.  You need a smaller slate style tablet if you’re a doctor or field worker looking for a work machine to be held 8 hours a day.

Screen

Let’s talk about the screen a bit more.  Already mentioned is the fact it’s IPS, 13.3” diagonally and offers touch input.  It also uses what Lenovo calls “Direct Bonding” of the protective glass layer on top of the LCD panel, this allows for more light to come through than the typical air bonding, Lenovo claims it’s only a 4% loss of light versus a typical 12%.  To help the brightness out further the Yoga 13 has a bright 300-nits backlight, which is brighter than an average laptop that would offer around 250-nits of brightness.  The glossy screen also helps to enhance the colors, the downside to the glossy finish is the fact it’s quite reflective, if you have a strong lighting source behind you the screen can become mirror like.  On the whole this screen is quite gorgeous though, I especially like the high resolution display that gives you enough screen real estate to fit two open windows next to each other.

Check out the viewing angles of the screen, as you can see, no matter from what angle you look at the Yoga 13 the colors appear the same:

DSC00235 Screen tilted back
Screen tilted forward Side view of screen

Performance wise you should be very happy if you like fast bootup times.  With the 128GB SSD I’m getting around 10-seconds to boot to the desktop in Windows 8.  Shut down is faster at around 3 seconds.  The fast SSD helps to overcome the somewhat limited 4GB of RAM, I really wish Lenovo had made 6GB of RAM the standard base configuration for this premium product.  You can get up to 8GB of RAM at purchase via Lenovo.com, but it’s a pricey upgrade.  Upgrading RAM after market is possible if you’re brave enough to pry off the keyboard, but be forewarned this could void your warranty and there’s no guarantee you’ll get the keyboard to go back in right, an adhesive is used to help the keyboard stay in place and once removed you’ll lose some of that adhesion.

The Intel Core i5 1.7GHz processor and Intel HD 4000 graphics are fast enough to allow for some light gaming, but I don’t think many buyers will have 3D gaming in mind when buying the IdeaPad Yoga.  It’s meant more as a versatile machine that has snappy response so you can easily multi-task by typing up documents, watching video and browsing the web with multiple tabs open and never run into any slowdown.  To test overall performance I ran PCMark 7 and got a score of 4,333, this is a very respectable number and stacks up well against other modern laptops.  The overall score in 3DMark Vantage for the Yoga 13 came in at 2,739, if you want high frame rates in games like Skyrim or Battle Field 3 then you might consider reducing the resolution, while the HD+ 1600 x 900 resolution allows for more detail, it does stress out the GPU more.

For those that like to see comparison score benchmarks, check out the tables below:

3DMark Vantage – Measures 3D graphics performance, higher scores are better

Laptop 3DMark Vantage
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 – Intel Core i5-3317 1.7GHz, Intel HD 4000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD 2,739
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon – Intel Core i5-3427 2.3GHz, Intel HD 4000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD 2,755
HP ENVY 4t-1000 – Intel Core i3-2367M 1.4GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB 5400RPM HD, Intel HD 3000 1,320
Lenovo ThinkPad X230 – Intel Core i5-3320M 2.60GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 3,165
Lenovo ThinkPad X220 – Intel Core i5-2410M 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 1,611
Dell XPS 15 (Intel Core i7-2670QM, Nvidia GT 525M 1GB RAM, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD) 4,211
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

 

PCMark 7 – Measures overall system performance, higher scores are better

Laptop PCMark 7 Score
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 – Intel Core i5-3317 1.7GHz, Intel HD 4000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD 4,333 PCMarks
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

I’d be remised in not mentioning the rather odd partition setup of the 128GB SSD.  Out of the box with the 128GB SSD you only get around 64GB of space on the C: drive partition, after you back out the space taken by the Windows 8 OS and other utilities pre-installed, it’s just over 40GB you have left to deal with.  The Lenovo recovery partition on the D: drive takes up 25GB of space, yet it indicates 14GB of that is free.  Seeing as there’s so little capacity already it’s a rather odd thing to see and one that you’ll probably want to remedy.  Your options are to burn recovery disks that can be used with an external optical drive and then blow away the D: drive or simply purchase a high capacity SDXC card, say 64GB – 128GB capacity, and put it in the card reader and use that for extra storage of files.  There is a 256GB SSD version of the Yoga 13 but right now it’s not available at Best Buy and purchasing from Lenovo.com indicates several weeks of waiting.

image

Battery

Battery life is an important consideration with any Ultrabook as they’re by definition designed to be used on the go.  Lenovo quotes the 4-cell Lithium-Polymer battery as offering 8-hours of battery life.  The internal battery offers a capacity of 3860mAh.  There’s no way to replace or remove the battery, it’s sealed inside.  There is also no extended or external battery option, so what you have is what you get.  Though I haven’t been able to achieve the 8 hours of battery life Lenovo quotes, I do get between 6 – 6.5 hours under normal usage that includes having the screen set at half brightness and then simply browsing the web, typing up documents and watching a short video or two on YouTube.  Getting over six hours is pretty respectable, you could certainly stretch the battery life out more if you’re willing to dim the screen and change your Windows power settings to energy saver.

Ports

With many Ultrabooks the port selection really suffers, but the Yoga 13 has the most important ports you’ll need.  It offers one USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, 2-in-1 media card reader (S, MMC), headphone out/microphone in combo jack and an HDMI port.  The media card reader allows an SD card to go in fully so it’s almost flush with the body and doesn’t protrude much at all, this is great if you were thinking about getting a large capacity SDXC card to help supplement the limited 128GB storage on the SSD.  The presence of an HDMI port is great, it makes it easy to output video and audio to a larger sized high definition monitor or TV.  While there is only one USB 3.0 port, it’s critical to have a fast data transfer port for faster file transfer to a portable hard drive.  There are also several peripherals coming out now that require USB 3.0, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock.

Left side: HDMI, USB 3.0 powered port, dual headphone/microphone jack

Left side ports

Right side: SD card reader, USB 2.0 port, power jack

Right side ports

Front side: One Recovery button, Power button, LED indicator light

DSC00222-001

A closeup of the power jack, it’s flat and looks a lot like a USB port connector

Power jack

Keyboard

The keyboard on the Yoga 13 was something I was skeptical about prior to actually having the system.  So many Ultrabooks have poor keyboards due to their slimness and real lack of depth to allow for decent key travel distance.  But with Lenovo being Lenovo and owning the ThinkPad name, one associated with the best keyboard in the industry, they of course put a focus on making the keyboard a good one.  While it’s not quite on par with a ThinkPad keyboard, the IdeaPad Yoga’s Accutype keyboard (as Lenovo calls it) is still pretty good as far as Ultrabooks go.  The key spacing is great, feedback from the keys are nice and bouncy so you know when you’ve struck a key, and the depth of key travel is above what I expected.  The only feature missing is a backlighting for the keyboard, it’s a really nice feature to have and in a lot of Ultrabooks and other premium machines these days.  But you can’t have it all, there’s a lot of technology crammed in here and I’m sure Lenovo had to make a conscious decision to leave it out as a tradeoff for other benefits.

keyboard

The touchpad is oversized and uses Synaptics drivers, for the basic task of moving the cursor it’s great as it’s oversized and has integrated buttons so the entire area of the touchpad can be used for navigating the cursor.  It of course also offers other multi-touch features such as scroll, zoom, rotate and a whole host of new Windows 8 touch gestures for the more advanced users out there.  Lenovo included a smart sensor that offers palm rejection, so should you brush the touchpad with your palm while typing it will just ignore that.  Interestingly, the touchpad is physically centered with the laptop and not the keyboard, most times manufacturers center the touchpad beneath the space bar of the keyboard  — aesthetically this is pleasing but in practice it might throw you off a bit when using it.  The integrated mouse buttons work quite well for right and left click, however folks (curmudgeons) like me still prefer to see dedicated physical buttons like you get on ThinkPads.  I think given the thinness of this machine and benefit of an oversized touch input area the integrated buttons make sense though.

Conclusion

I’ve used the word unique a lot throughout the review, but the IdeaPad Yoga 13 really is a unique offering in a world of laptops where so many other machines have a ubiquitous design, specs and components.  Seriously, how many more MacBook looking clones do we need from PC manufacturers?  The Yoga 13 will not be mistaken for a Mac or any other device out there for that matter.  The design and functionality sets it apart from anything else out there with its ability go from being a laptop, to tent/stand mode where it’s perfect for viewing movies, to a tablet that’s great for reading and interacting with the screen.  The fast Core i5 or i7 processor and SSD will mean you never see any slowdown, so no compromises are made with performance.  The keyboard is even pretty good, rarely said about an Ultrabook.

As with anything there are a few downsides to the Yoga 13, the 128GB SSD is small and strangely partitioned so you only get 40GB of space to install programs and put large files on there.  I would like to have seen a keyboard backlight, something pretty common to have in notebooks over $999 these days.  If you like to tinker and upgrade it’s a little hard to do with the Yoga 13, though some have managed to upgrade RAM or add an internal SSD, it’s not for the weak of heart and involves prying off the keyboard that could lead to permanent damage if  not done carefully.  The battery is also non-upgradeable.  But with all that said the positives for the Yoga 13 still strongly outweigh the negatives.  If you’re looking to be on the cutting edge of personal computing technology, want something built well and can use the functionality of a laptop and tablet (and other modes in between) the Yoga 13 is where it’s at.

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Lenovo USB 3.0 to DVI/VGA Monitor Adapter Review

Overview

You’ve just acquired a new ThinkPad laptop and have an external LCD monitor or several you’d like to connect to your ThinkPad. The new Lenovo USB 3.0 to DVI/VGA Monitor Adapter gives its buyers the ability to hook those monitors (up to six) to their ThinkPad via USB 3.0 with relative ease and is less expensive than a docking station. As the name implies, the adapter gives users the ability to use either a DVI or VGA connection to the monitor. The adapter supports a maximum resolution of 2048×1152, meaning all but the most expensive ultra high resolution monitors should be able to work with the adapter. In the review below we’lltake a look at the positives and negatives of the Lenovo USB 3.0 to DVI/VGA Monitor Adapter to hopefully help you decide whether it’s a good fit for your setup.

Specs

The specs of the Lenovo USB 3.0 to DVI/VGA Monitor Adapter are:

  • Model – 0B47072
  • Box Contents – USB 3.0 to DVI Adapter, USB 3.0 Cable, DVI to VGA Adapter, Driver CD
  • Maximum Resolution – 2048×1152
  • Maximum Monitors – Six
  • Ability to Rotate Screens
  • Works with Laptops or Desktops
  • Test Systems – ThinkPad X220i, Sony S13
  • Test Monitor – Samsung 2333T
  • MSRP – $79.99, Street Price $70

Lenovo USB 3.0 to DVI/VGA adapter

Setup and Use

The Lenovo USB 3.0 to DVI/VGA Monitor Adapter employs a very simple setup. I attached the adapter to my Samsung monitor, powered up the system and plugged it in. Windows popped up a dialog box saying it was installing the drivers and they were out of date, but when I went to update them, it said they were the newest. Once the drivers were installed, the wallpaper from the laptop popped up on the external screen in extended mode and I was good to go. It just worked as soon as I plugged it in. There was no need to adjust any settings as the monitor set itself to 1080 resolution. I don’t think you can get much easier than that. As for the performance, the external screen looked as nice as the laptop screen. Text was crisp and clear. I was able to watch some Hulu videos and DVD rips without issue. The screen rotated as advertised. I tested both DVI and VGA, and I had no trouble getting either to work.

DSC00029-001

Everything worked as planned, but according to the specs, the USB 3.0 adapter supports a maximum of six monitors. I’m not exactly sure how that works. No ThinkPad I know of has six USB 3.0 ports. Perhaps if you used it in conjunction with one of the docking stations or a powered USB hub, you could get it to work, but I unfortunately only have one adapter. You’ll also have to buy an adapter for each external monitor, which will add up very quickly. The specs also state that it’ll work with any USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 powered port, but when I plugged it into my X220i powered USB port, it did nothing. Perhaps that is a typo.

Conclusion

The Lenovo USB 3.0 to DVI/VGA Monitor Adapter worked great and was a breeze to install. As a stand alone product, I’m not sure the adapter makes much sense from a value perspective. Most ThinkPads are going to give buyers a DisplayPort and a VGA connector. Buying a cable to attach the monitor is far less expensive than the the adapter. Where the USB 3.0 adapter gets interesting is in the use of multiple monitors. According to the specs on the product page, the adapter supports up six monitors. Most ThinkPads support two external monitors, but the USB 3.0 adapter would potentially give you the opportunity to add a third, fourth or fifth external monitors. If you’re one of those people who can never have enough screen real estate, it’s here that spending the extra cash for the adapter seems warranted.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Very Easy Setup
  • Good Performance

Cons

  • Expensive for a Single or Dual External Monitor Setup

Where to Buy

The Lenovo USB 3.0 to DVI/VGA adapter retails for $79.99 on Lenovo.com

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New HP ENVY and Pavilion Laptop Coupons for Halloween!

HP has some new coupons for their updated ENVY and Pavilion lineups, a summary of these new coupons are below:

All these coupons are good through until November 4, 2012.  As an example of what price you can get at the base configuration, the new ENVY dv6t-7200 for $774.99 after applying coupon code NB42781:

image

With that base configuration of the dv6t-7200 you get an Intel Core i7-3630QM 2.4GHz processor, Nvidia 630m graphics, 8GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive and a 1366 x 768 resolution 15.6” screen.  Upgrades I’d recommend are to get the Nvidia 650m graphics ($125 upgrade) for a better gaming experience, a higher resolution 1920 x 1080 matte screen ($150 upgrade) and possibly the mSSD cache ($50 upgrade) for faster boot times.

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