HP Pavilion dv9000t HD DVD Notebook HTPC

Have HD DVD; will travel

Having an HD DVD player in a notebook isn't a new, revolutionary idea. There have been a couple of notebooks released with one inside, but it is the next logical step in the ever-changing computer market. Not only is high-definition video and audio now a portable possibility, but the ease of mass storage makes backing up loads of vital information a one-disc prospect. The Pavilion dv9000t is HP's offering for on-the-go HD DVD.

At first glance, the dv9000t looks like a regular black notebook computer. Yes, the softly curved edges give it a more approachable feel, but it's basically a black box. As the light catches the case in the right way, there's a little surprise. Waves of lines subtly weave in and out of each other in a design imprinted on the cover of the notebook. When you lift the screen open, the design continues around the keyboard and mouse pad. When you turn on the computer, you'll find that it also stretches across the desktop image. It's a nice way to unify the look of the notebook in a subtle way.

The keyboard area is quite striking, using sharp contrasts of silver and black to separate different sections. The keyboard is an oddity for notebooks—it includes a full-sized number pad on the right side. The extra real estate afforded by the screen's width allows for this welcome addition. Below the keyboard, naturally, is the mouse pad. Initially, its orientation looks strange, being off-center with the display, but, the second you place your hands down to type, it all becomes clear. If it were anywhere else, your palm would rest on the middle of the mouse pad. If you prefer not to use it, there's a button directly above it that will turn it off so you can connect an external mouse to one of the four USB ports; there are two on either side.

Above the keyboard is the power button next to a thin black strip. This strip has touch sensors for launching the QuickPlay media player, the player's function controls, and a volume slider. The fact that it's a black touch-sensor strip adds further to the striking design. There's also something satisfyingly futuristic about using touch sensors to start and stop. For those who prefer a push button, the function keys can perform the same tasks and provide the tactile confirmation.

Not Just a Pretty Face
While HP has been delving deeper into the living room and blurring the line between computers and home theater equipment, they are a computer company. They know how to build a computer, and the dv9000t is a perfect example. It's driven by an Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 processor, 2,048 megabytes of DDR2 SDRAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 video card with 256 MB of dedicated DDR memory. In other words, this notebook will keep you going for a few years, barring the introduction of alien technology. It needs that much power to handle HD DVDs and the encoding that's being used.

Aside from HD DVDs, the drive (located on the right side of the notebook) will read and write DVD+R/+RW and DVD-R/-RW. To keep you connected to the world, there's an Intel PRO/Wireless 802.11 a/b/g Wireless LAN card that you can turn on and off with a flip of a switch on the front of the notebook. This helps save battery power when you're not plugged into the wall.

Two 100-gigabyte hard drives hold all the information. In their literature, HP recommends that you use one of the drives as a backup in case something goes wrong with the primary drive—something we should all consider doing with any of our computers. A Vista-capable version of Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition 2005 runs on the main drive. With the recent release of Vista, chances are that the operating system will soon be available for upgrade.

Seeing Is Believing
To allow you to interface with all that's inside, the notebook comes with a 17-inch WXGA+ High-Definition Ultra BrightView Widescreen display. This is not a misnomer—the screen is bright. After about an hour of using it inside with the factory presets, I started to experience some eye fatigue and a little headache. The brightness also seemed to accentuate some noise and bit-depth problems with some of the test material. After I adjusted the brightness and gamma with the NVIDIA control panel, the problems cleared up a little but not completely; this helped most notably with HD DVD content. The dark areas of The Phantom of the Opera in chapter 8 still contained a far bit of noise, and, as the lights went out, there were visible gradations.

The best aspect of the dv9000t is its versatility as a player. It's a notebook, so, by definition, it's portable; but, with an HDMI output connection, it can also become your home theater's high-definition player. All of noise and bit-depth problems should disappear when you connect the notebook to an external display via HDMI—barring any inherent issues with the external display. Not only that, it outputs the HD DVD in 1080p.

What makes the notebook work so well as a player for your home theater is the QuickPlay software, developed by Cyberlink, in conjunction with the NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600, which features PureVideo HD technology. NVIDIA worked closely with HP to develop the dv9000t, and it is the first notebook to carry NVIDIA's PureVideo HD logo. (See the Audio/Video Cards section of our "Blue Note" Hook Me Up for more information.) You can start the software by opening the program through Windows, by pressing the QuickPlay touch sensor above the keyboard, or by using a small included remote that stores in the notebook's PCMCIA slot. Updates are easily accessible through a link in the player. The QuickPlay software's most interesting feature is its ability to start without booting up Windows. When you press the QuickPlay button on the remote, the program will start up, just like turning on a DVD player. It takes about half a minute to boot directly to the player.

The notebook's most significant drawback is its heft, although, admittedly, HP's Pavilion Entertainment PC line is not designed solely with weight in mind. You should still be prepared to get tired after carrying it around for a while.

It's important to note that the dv9000t is highly customizable on HP's Website. The site helps not only to fit your personal computing needs, but also your financial limitations. Pre-built models are available for those who don't feel the need to customize.

The dv9000t is a great solution for someone who wants the most flexibility with an HD DVD player. The ability to use it as a player without booting Windows is a smart decision that makes it easy for anyone in the household to use. Plus, the fact that it's portable lets you share the wonder of high-definition discs with all of your friends at their houses.

• Outputs 1080p through HDMI
• Beautiful imprint on the case

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