- Review Date: 07/22/11
- Bottom line:
The HP Pavilion dv6-6170us rivals some of the best desktop replacement laptops we've seen, offering quad-core performance and strong graphics for less than premium-priced laptops, but it has to trim a few of the finer features to do so.
Good looks and sturdy construction. Beats Audio. Blu-ray drive and WiDi 2.0. Long lasting battery. Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU and AMD Radeon HD 6770M video card provide outstanding performance. 750GB hard drive offers ample storage space.
Average display. Thicker and heavier than premium competitors. No backlit keyboard.
Looking at our top-rated desktop replacement laptops can leave you feeling a bit of sticker shock, with prices climbing upwards of $1,500. With an Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU and AMD Radeon HD 6770M graphics card, the HP Pavilion dv6-6170us ($1,049.99 list at Amazon) provides all the performance of these premium laptops for several hundred dollars less. However, you will have to sacrifice a few features to get those savings.
The dv6-6170us looks sharp, with a bare brushed aluminum chassis that we've seen on recent Pavilion models. Where other models have used bold colors to differentiate themselves from the iconic look of the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt) ($2,199 direct, 4 stars), the dv6-6170us embraces a bare, unvarnished look. Instead of smooth surfaces, the Pavilion dv6-6170us has a rough brush pattern similar to wood grain. The unpainted aluminum is tinted steel grey, and covers the lid and palm rest.
The aluminum construction is sturdy, with none of the chassis flexing seen with designs that rely on plastic. Measuring 1.4 by 14.9 by 9.7 inches (HWD) and weighing 5.66 pounds, it's not the lightest 15-inch laptop on the market, outweighing both the Dell XPS 15z ($1,534 direct, 4 stars) and Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (5.5 pounds ) and are both less than 1-inch thick. The lid is slightly contoured, with a lip running along the hinge that provides a secure grip when carrying the closed laptop. The palm rest is also contoured, curving down to provide a more comfortable typing experience.
The dv6-6170us features a chiclet-style keyboard, with square, matte-finish keys. An adjacent numeric pad is a boon to number crunchers, but you don't get the backlight seen on the Dell XPS 15z. The multitouch trackpad is smooth and responsive, and HP has ditched the glitchy clickpad found on last year's models. The two separate right and left mouse buttons click easily, but weren't as soft as those found on the XPS 15z.
The dv6-6170us is equipped with Beats Audio, a sound enhancement package that HP boasts will bring you "studio quality sound." The combination of hardware and software did indeed provide great sound when shuffling through music on Pandora. It produced brighter tones and better bass, though the bass was a bit anemic compared with laptops with a subwoofer.
The 15.6-inch widescreen display only sports a 1,366 by 768 resolution. In comparison, premium desktop replacements like the Dell XPS 15z offer 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, but this corner is one of the few HP has cut in order to make this well appointed laptop more affordable. The dv6-6170us's display will let you watch movies in 720p, but you won't be able to enjoy the 1080p picture available. That's unfortunate, given the system's Blu-ray drive. For that, you'll need to connect to an HDTV with either an HDMI cord or WiDi 2.0, Intel's wireless streaming alternative to HDMI, which can stream to any television, as long as it's equipped with a Netgear Push2TV receiver, a $99 option.
The dv6-6170us is stacked with an assortment of features including, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a multi-format card reader (SD, MMC, MS/Pro), a VGA connection for an external monitor or projector, Ethernet and 802.11n Wi-Fi. To secure the laptop you can use either a physical Kensington Lock or keep unwanted people out of your system with biometric security using the integrated fingerprint scanner. The dv6-6170us doesn't have WiMAX, a mobile broadband solution offered on pricier desktop replacements, like the Dell XPS 15z and the Sony VAIO VPC-F226FM/B ($1,389.99 list, 4 stars).
The 750GB 5,400rpm hard drive offers lots of space for programs and media, but premium systems like the Dell XPS 15z offer the same capacity with faster speeds. On the hard drive, you'll find several programs preinstalled on the new system, like a 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security and an abbreviated starter version of Microsoft Office 2010 that provides only word-processing and spreadsheet functionality while serving up ads for Microsoft products. You also find a few unwanted extras, like a Bing toolbar, a collection of game samples from WildTangent, Blio ebook reader, and Evernote. HP covers the dv6-6170us with a one-year warranty that also includes 1-year of toll-free hardware support, and registered owners also get one year of free software support.
HP didn't pull any punches when it outfitted the dv6-6170us, opting for some of the fiercest components available. It's equipped with a 2GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM quad-core processor, one of the top CPUs from Intel's "Sandy Bridge" line-up. Paired with 6GB of RAM, it makes the dv6-6170us a strong and versatile laptop, capable of handling any task you send its way. In PCMark 7, our general performance test, it scored 2,313 points, outscoring the top performing Sony VAIO VPC-226FM/B (2,236 points). It also rocketed through CineBench R11.5, our processor speed test, scoring 4.98 points, only a fraction of a point behind the category-leading Asus N53SV-A1 ($1,279 street, 4 stars) (5 points) and Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt) (5.07 points).
All that horsepower also makes the dv6-6170us a powerful tool for multimedia work. It completed our Handbrake video encoding test in 1 minute 36 seconds, and ran through our Photoshop CS5 test in 3;52, scores that could only be beaten by the very best of the best, the Dell XPS 15z (Photoshop 3:40) and the Sony VAIO VPC-226FM/B (Handbrake 1:36). Those speeds are definitely fast enough to satisfy the most demanding home video auteur.
The high-end selection of parts doesn't stop at the graphics processor, as HP has equipped the Pavilion with an AMD Radeon HD 6770M dedicated GPU, with manual switching between it and the already powerful integrated graphics processing offered by the Intel Core i7 processor. It bested all competitors in 3DMark 06, scoring 11,899 points at medium resolution and 9,944 at native resolution. By comparison, the closest matching score came from the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Thunderbolt) (10,878 medium, 8,671 native). The dv6-6170us didn't dominate our gaming tests, however, scoring 49.7 frames per second in Crysis and 17.5 fps in Lost Planet 2, both at medium resolution. Surprisingly, neither game test would run at native resolution settings. As these scores indicate, the dv6-6170us will play any game you want to run on it, but you may need to dial down the eye-candy.
The dv6-6170us offers some of the longest battery life in the category, lasting 6 hours 16 minutes in our MobileMark 2007 benchmark test with a 6-cell (55Wh) battery. While this is six minutes shy of the Dell XPS 15z (6:22 with a 64Wh battery), the Pavilion has the benefit of an easily accessed battery - meaning that you can pack along an extra to swap out for all day power. The Dell XPS 15z and the Apple MacBook Pro (which scored 4:40 with a 77.5Wh battery) both use non-removable batteries, sealing them inside the chassis.
The HP Pavilion dv6-6170us gives you some of the best components and performance in the desktop replacement category, rivaling the top dogs in several areas. But it trims a few extras, like WiMAX and a 1080p display. As a result, the Editors' Choice Dell XPS 15z still tops the category, but smart shoppers will definitely ask themselves whether it's worth the extra $500 dollars.