Right before I finished up the HP Pavilion dv2 laptop review, I was sent a couple of boxes containing an HP Pavilion dv6z-1299lx and an HP Mini 110-1036NR. Even though I knew the purpose of the experiment which was about to happen, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone in the world would need two laptops?
The answer to that question is actually quite simple…
Having a larger desktop replacement laptop allows me to do everything that I would on a desktop computer, without giving up valuable desktop real estate. When company comes, I can put away the laptop; when the workday is done, I can can shut the lid and walk away. Because I don’t have a dedicated workspace, using a laptop allows me to work anywhere I choose – on the dining room table, on the couch, outside on the deck…you name it.
Using a larger laptop as my desktop replacement is both liberating and convenient. But there are times when a larger laptop is simply too large.
That’s when a netbook can come in handy. I can grab it and go, and hardly even realize that I am carrying a computer; a netbook can be there when I need it in a way a larger notebook can not.
The downside to this comes when I have files on the larger laptop that I need to carry with me, and that wherecomes in. So first let’s take a look at the hardware I’m using, and then we can talk about how the two laptops have been taught to communicate.
This is the HP Pavilion dv6z-1299lx, a laptop which measures approximately 15″ long x 10″ deep x 1.3 to 1.6″ tall; it’s shaped a little bit like a wedge, after all. Weighing in at a little over 6 pounds, the dv6 is no lightweight; but it’s not quite a beast, either.
Available in Espresso Black or Moonlight White, the body of the dv6 is a contrast of glossy white and black plastic with chrome accents. The keyboard and interior are color-matched to the exterior, and for those who like that sort of thing, there is even an HP logo on the back which will light up when the laptop is on.
On the left side there are ports and connections for external monitors, ethernet, HDMI, USB/eSATA, USB, 4 pin Firewire, an Express Card slot, and an SD/MMC/Memory Stick/MSPro/xD card reader.
The dv6 is billed as an Entertainment PC, and as such it includes a Media Center remote control which fits perfectly in the Express Slot.
The dv6 has many tricks up its sleeve; besides being a very nicely appointed laptop with a plethora of ports, a 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM, it also has 1GB dedicated graphics memory and a Blu-ray ROM with LightScribe. In other words, in a tight space (or money) situation, this laptop could function as its owner’s computing, music, movie and gaming center.
Here are the this particular dv6’s full specifications (lifted from the box):
•Model HP Pavilion dv6z-1299lx
•Intel Core Duo processor P7350 (2.0 GHz)
•16″ Diagonal High-Definition BrightView Widescreen Infinity Display
•500GB (5400RPM) Hard Drive
•4096MB DDR2 SDRAM (2 Dimm)
•Intel WiFi Link 5100 Network Connection
•Blu-ray ROM with LightScribe SuperMulti DVD ±R/RW Double Layer
•High Capacity 6-Cell Lithium-Ion Battery
•HP Mobile Remote Control
•ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650 Graphics with 1024MB DDR3 dedicated graphics memory
•5-in-1 Digital Media Reader
•ExpressCard/54 PC Card Slot
•Windows Vista Ultimate (64-bit) with Service Pack 1
•Expansion Port 3
On the front of the laptop, there are three LED indicator (power and hard drive status) lights on the left and four ports (Infrared, microphone and two headset jacks) on the right.
On the right side of the laptop is the built in Blu-ray ROM, followed by two USB ports, a Kensington lock slot, and the power port.
There are no ports or buttons on the back of the laptop, it’s not even part of the battery pack (which seems to always be the case, anymore).
Before we flip the dv6 open, I wanted to show you the glowing HP logo…
…okay. Now you can say you’ve seen it.
The interior of the dv6 is really beautiful, the color-matched wrist rest and keyboard are Moonlight White, and there is a glossy back plastic bar directly in front of the black framed screen which contains a nicely blended power button. Touch-responsive buttons are built-in to mute sounds, adjust the volume, and turn on or off the laptop’s WiFi.
Notice the full size keyboard with numeric pad on the side? I didn’t think about how convenient this is for spreadsheet data entry until Kevin asked if he could use my laptop when he did his taxes.
The fingerprint scanner is a feature that I haven’t had since my Toshiba X205 days, and I had forgotten how nice biometrics could be. I always keep a password on my laptop, and there are plenty of programs that I use which require them as well; the fingerprint scanner allows me to just slide a finger across and open everything without typing a thing. It’s a true marriage of security and convenience.
The location of the WiFi control counts as one of the few niggles I have with this laptop. More times than I care to recount, I have been adjusting the volume and unconsciously turned off the WiFi. Some time later, I’ll discover that the internet is dead; like Pavlov’s dog, I’ll immediately look to the lights on my satellite modem only to find that all should be well. Then the scrambling starts as I try to figure out what the heck happened.
It’s taking me less and less time to realize what I’ve done when I’ve inadvertently turned it off, but it is still annoying when it happens! Surrounding the black plastic bar is a color-matched perforated area which houses the Altec Lansing speakers. This is as good a time as any to say that sound through the dv6 is better than most others, but it’s not the same thumping action that you would get from a larger laptop with a built-in subwoofer. As long as you don’t go in expecting that kind of sound, you should be quite pleased.
The touch pad is a smooth mirrored surface similar to the one that gave me fits on the dv6, but this one is slightly larger, and I have not had the same issues with this one that I had with the other – namely my finger seems to get whatever traction is needed so that my movements are perfectly tracked by the pad. Above the touch pad is a button, which when pushed disables the mouse from tracking; this way, if you are someone who types with your hands resting on the base of the keyboard, the heel of your hand won’t send random mouse arrows shooting all over the screen.
As I previously mentioned, the included Media Remote is conveniently tucked into the Express Slot. What I love about the Media Media Center is that it is a beautifully executed way to organize and experience pictures, music and movies on the PC; having the remote just makes everything all the nicer. What isn’t so convenient is that I use iTunes to organize my music, and the remote won’t control anything other than volume when using iTunes. In the same vein, the dedicated player buttons on the dv6’s Function keyboard won’t work with iTunes, either. Feh.
Battery life on the dv6 is something that I should talk about, but it’s not really a feature or deal-breaker either way, since this is basically now my “desktop” machine. With that said, three hours is about the best I’ve got from it, which is a respectable amount when I want to work on the back deck without plugging in, but nothing to write home to mother about, either.
The dv6 runs on Vista Ultimate, and this is finally the hardware that I’ve been waiting for to dispel any trepidation I may have once had about the operating system. The dv6 is more than capable, and on it Vista is a joy! I also manage to get a 5.0 on the Windows Experience Index.
For all of you who love to live chat, the web camera on the dv6 won’t disappoint. It’s easily as good as the one on my MacBook Pro, but it is infinitely more fun to use because of the HP MediaSmart Webcam software’s built-in features.
With that startling image now seared into your brain, let’s move on to the portable portion of my setup…
This is the HP Mini 110-1036NR, a laptop very similar to the HP Vivienne Tam Mini that I used at CES and in NYC earlier this year, but there are a few notable differences, the most obvious being that it is not covered in Ms. Tam’s striking peony pattern. Still present is the compact size and efficient design which made the Tam such a winner.
The Mini measures approximately 10.3″ long x 6.75″ deep x 1.0″ – 2″ tall. Why the huge jump in the tallness? Because this Mini has the six-cell extended battery, which not only gives it about 8 hour’s life (!!!), but also adds a built-in ergonomic incline. The Mini still manages to weigh under 3 pounds, and I can slide it into most the medium sized purses that I carry.
Here’s a better shot of the incline I was talking about, and while we’re here we might as well do a walk-around: this is the right side of the laptop, where there are two USB ports, an SD/MMS/Memory Stick/MSPro/xD card reader, a VGA port and an ethernet port.
This Mini has a rather huge 160GB hard drive, but it is still only 1GB RAM. I would love to find a way to slip another one or three GB in there, but for casual surfing and numbers crunching, this is perfectly adequate.
•Intel Atom N270 Processor (1.60 GHz)
•160GB (5400RPM) Hard Drive
•1024 DDR2 SDRAM (1 Dimm)
•Microsoft Windows XP Home Service Pack 3 for ULPC Program
•10.1″ Diagonal SD Anti-glare Widescreen Display
•Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 with shared graphics memory
•5-in-1 Digital Media Reader
•6-cell Lithium-Ion battery
Here you can see the back of the Mini, which is basically made up of the removable extended battery.
On the left side there is a Kensington lock slot, the power port, a fan vent, a USB port, and the combo microphone/headset port. Am I the only one who thinks it is a crying shame that the MacBook Air can only fit one USB port in, and the Mini gets three? For that matter, the mini has a card reader which the Air will never see. Oh well, I guess in trade you get the backlit keyboard (love!), larger touch pad (love!) and multi touch on the Air. Okay…fair trade, except that the Air starts at over $1000 more than the Mini! Gah!
Just as my Tam was, the interior of the Mini is color-matched to match the White Swirl exterior. If white isn’t your thing, the Tam is also available in Black Swirl or the tres belle Pink Chic. The power button is on the bottom left, and on the bottom right is the wireless switch.
Here’s another view of that removable extended battery…it just keeps popping up!
The keyboard is 92% the size of a full one, which means that touch typists may need a moment to get their bearings, but they should soon be fine. The small-ish touch pad has a button layout that you will either despise or soon get used to. I have no idea why moving the two buttons that are usually on the bottom of a touch pad to the sides makes everything “weird”, but it does – at least for a while. I am sure that it’s done for space reasons, as putting the mouse buttons on the bottom of the touch pad would have made the finger space ridiculously small.
The webcam on the Mini is the same tripe that was on the Tam; no, it has not been fixed. But guess what? There are ways around the problem, I am not worried about voiding my warranty…and that is all I am going to say about that.
And here is the dynamic duo. The dv6 could come along if I went on an extended trip and I needed all of my data, but most of the time I don’t even think about it. I walk out of the door with the Mini, and it’s perfectly adequate – as well as perfectly synced with the documents on my “desktop” computer. How did I manage that?
, which took about 15 minutes to set up.
Over my home’s WiFi network, I was able to establish a partnership between the two computers, select the folders that I wanted to keep synchronized, and when both computers are turned on, they automatically do the deed. The software is $39.99, and it not only works with Windows computers, it also allows Macs and Linux computers to share with others across the board as well.
So now I have the best of both worlds; perhaps the most amazing thing is that the cost of both laptops is less than the cost of the. Compare: For $999, you get the basic 13″ MacBook – 2.13GHz (which is nice!), a 160GB hard drive, 2GB RAM, a built-in CD/DVD drive, and…yes! The backlit keyboard and larger touch pad that I just can’t seem to shut up about! Oh! You’ll also get the magnetic power cord, which – let’s face it, is an awesome feature…I don’t want to leave it out.
Or for $979 after rebates, you can have both the dv6 and the Mini.
So unless you just have some hangup where you’ll only buy an Apple machine, or unless you honestly must have the _____ (<– insert missing Mac feature here), this just makes more sense to me – especially if you have a student or a telecommuter in the family. Thanks to the Syncables software functionality, these two very different pieces of hardware are giving me the type of flexibility I’ve never had before; flexibility that I am learning to love.
The HP Pavilion dv6z-1299lx is available directly from the manufacturer, and the dv6z models starts at $579.99. The HP Mini 110-1036NR is also available directly from the manufacturer, and the Mini 110 models starts at $329.99
What I Like: Great combo setup with a stay at home (most of the time) laptop and a netbook for commuting; the dv6 is an amazingly spec’d computer that can easily be a desktop replacement; the Mini is the perfect size to tuck into a purse or gear bag; both laptops have impressively large hard drives; Syncables software allows you to painlessly keep files up to date on both laptops.
What Needs Improvement: Location of the WiFi control on the dv6 is too close to the volume slider – I keep hitting it; the webcam on the Mini is still total crap (Bah!)