Fast Core i5 processor. Fast hard drive. Above average battery scores. Sleek, metallic design. Lightweight. Blu-ray drive included. 2 year Costco warranty.
Erratic click touchpad. Integrated graphics only.
HP is the biggest purveyor of metal-clad laptops, even outnumbering the offerings from Apple and Asus. The HP Pavilion dv6-3033cl ($899.99 list), available at Costco, is among the growing bunch that uses this sleek, lightweight, and remarkably durable material. This system is an ideal fit for budding video editors and film buffs, thanks to a powerful Intel Core i5 processor and built-in Blu-ray drive.
The dv6-3033cl is arguably the best looking design to ever bear the Pavilion name. The frame is derived from aluminum metal, which is the same stuff used in the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Core i5) ($1,799 direct, ) and Asus UL50VF-A1 ($850 street, ). Metal-clad laptops are also among the lightest, as the dv6-3033cl (5.3 lbs), MacBook Pro 15-inch (5.5 lbs), and UL50VF-1A (5.2 lbs) weigh just over 5 pounds. They're also more scratch- and smudge-resistant than the plastic-coated cases found on the Gateway NV59C09u ($800 list, ) and Samsung R580 ($830 list, ).
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The 15.6-inch widescreen doesn't quite deliver the cinematic experience as the HP Pavilion dv7-4053cl's ($830 list, ) 17.3-inch does, but a smaller screen is less burdensome on the road. It's as big and bright as the screen found on the R580, UL50VF-1A, and NV59C09u. This 15-inch group also shares a common 1,368 by 768 resolution, which, in high definition lingo, is capped at 720p.
The dv6-3033cl now sports the new chiclet format, where every key is isolated and generously spaced apart, so that even those with the portliest fingers won't complain. The new keyboard is accompanied by a new touchpad that clicks. In other words, the mouse buttons are integrated into the touchpad like those of the MacBook Pro 15-inch, though their navigating experiences couldn't be more different.
The cursor jumps frequently when two fingers are placed on the click touchpad. Those who use the tapping feature or surf with a single finger aren't affected. HP has already issued a driver patch that alleviates some of the erratic behavior, but it's far from fully fixed.
The dv6-3033cl includes a terrific balance of ports, slots, and connectivity options. The 4 USB ports are spread apart, so that no two peripherals will get in the way of each other. One of the USB ports doubles as an eSATA port, in case you want take storage beyond the included 500GB hard drive.
For performance enthusiasts, the 500GB drive spins at 7,200 rpm when laptops like the Gateway NV59C09u and Samsung R580 have 5,400 rpm drives. The included Blu-ray drive is a real treat for high-definition fanatics, and it also doubles as a DVD burner and player, in case you have a mix of DVD and Blu-ray content. However, the Samsung R580 ($830) and Gateway NV59C09u ($800) are including this same drive for less.
A 2-year warranty is the best part about buying a laptop from Costco, given that many retailers and parent companies only offer a year's worth. The dv6-3033cl includes Costco's Concierge Services, a free service to Costco members who purchase electronics at the store. The service gives you access to technicians who can walk you through system setup and troubleshoot any problems. Lastly, the store accepts returns within 90 days, and there's no need to bring your receipt; just present your Costco Club card, since all your purchases are stored on it.
Video and photo editing are processor and memory intensive tasks, which are where the dv6-3033cl's 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-450M processor and 4GB of DDR3 memory come in handy. It's a marginally faster combination than the one found in the Samsung R580 (Core i5, 4GB DDR3), and much faster than that of the Gateway NV59C09u (Core i3, 4GB DDR3) and Asus UL50VF-1A (Core i3, 4GB DDR3). Our video encoding test was a good indicator, as the dv6-3033cl took 47 seconds to complete it—tops among this group. Tests like Cinebench R10 (7,911) and PCMark Vantage (5,171) factor in overall system performance, and the dv6-3033cl had little trouble zipping through them, placing second behind the Samsung R580.
What the dv6-3033cl doesn't include (and the Samsung R580 does) is a decent 3D graphics chip. The lack of one would explain why PCMark Vantage tests trailed the Samsung R580 and why it wouldn't be a good candidate for hardcore gamers. However, Intel's integrated chipset is a perfectly fine solution for non-3D intensive games, and it handled Blu-ray playback beautifully.
It's also a more energy-efficient solution than laptops that run exclusively on ATI or Nvidia chips. Case in point: The dv6-3033cl tallied a better battery score (4 hours, 29 minutes) than the R580 (3:42) and NV59C09u (3:42). Laptops like the HP dv7-4053cl (7:06) and Asus UL50VF-1A (7:55) came with bigger batteries, and thus better battery scores.
Touchpad kinks aside, the HP Pavilion dv6-3033cl ($899.99 Costco) is priced very reasonably for a desktop replacement that can sift through video encodes and playback Blu-ray flicks. Very few laptops are willing to give you a sleek metal design at these prices. If you don't mind the thick plastics, the Samsung R580 ($830 at Best Buy) is a better deal, throwing in a comparable Core i5 processor, Blu-ray drive, and an Nvidia gaming chip.