The 17in screen and high quality keyboard are tempting but there's no excuse for such poor performance or the unusable touchpad.
17.3 in 1,600×900 display, 3.7kg, 1.8GHz AMD Phenom II X3 P820, 4.00GB RAM, 500GB disk, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
HP’s dv7-4035sa has a 17in screen and a dedicated graphics card, as well as a triple core AMD processor. It’s fitted with two ATI graphics chips: one is an older 4250 part integrated onto the motherboard, while the other is a dedicated 5470 chip that supports DirectX 11. Both can handle HD video decoding. The idea is that you can use the dedicated graphics cards for playing games with the laptop plugged in, but when you’re on the move you can switch to the integrated graphics chip to save power.
This logic is undermined by the fact that the 5470 isn’t that powerful a chip: a score of 20fps in our Call of Duty 4 benchmark means that you’ll have to turn down graphics quality settings to get playable frame rates in action games. Older games, or those optimised for network play such as World of Warcraft, should be fine.
Using the low-power 4250 gave four hours battery life instead of three, which is a significant improvement but still isn’t that impressive. In any case, few people are likely to want to lug this 3.7kg laptop very far from a mains socket.
The dv7-4035sa scored poorly in our benchmarks, getting 57 overall and scoring only 58 in the single-threaded image-editing test. Although this is plenty for office and web use, it’s not so promising for creative tasks such as photo and video editing. Laptops at this price that are built around Intel Core i3 and i5 processors manage scores of between 79 and 93.
Build quality is superb. The khaki-coloured case is made from a metal alloy with a smart pattern etched into its surface, which feels sturdy and partly explains the laptop’s weight. Inside, the design is tastefully unadorned, and the only indicator lights are on the relevant keys, such as Caps Lock. There’s a numberpad on the right side of the keyboard, and the flat, isolated keys have a crisp, light action.
Sadly, the dv7-4035sa’s touchpad is the same flawed design as on the HP dv6-3065ea. The left and right click buttons are simply marked out by a T-shaped line drawn on the touchpad. Because the whole thing is a just a single surface, we often found ourselves moving the mouse pointer when trying to double-click, or clicking on something when we meant to move the pointer. It’s a shame as otherwise it’s a large and responsive pad, but in its current form it’s virtually unusable.
The 17in screen has a 1,600×900 resolution that gives significantly more desktop space than 15in laptops with 1,366×768 resolutions. While it seemed dimmer than other LED-backlit screens, contrast and colour accuracy were better, especially where flesh tones were involved.
The screen is probably the biggest attraction in this package, with the decent keyboard coming in second. The dual graphics chip setup is a waste, though, as the dedicated card isn’t powerful enough and there’s not much need for a power-saving integrated chip on a 3.7kg notebook. Performance is poor considering the price, and the frustrating touchpad is the last straw. The Dell XPS 15 is only a little more expensive, but it’s far more powerful in both 2D and 3D and a joy to use.
|Processor||AMD Phenom II X3 P820|
|Processor clock speed||1.8GHz|
|Memory slots free||0|
|Sound||IDT HD Audio|
|Viewable size||17.3 in|
|Graphics Processor||ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250/ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470|
|Graphics/video ports||VGA, HDMI|
|Total storage capacity||500GB|
|Optical drive type||DVD+/-RW +/-DL|
Ports and Expansion
|Wired network ports||1x 10/100/1000|
|Wireless networking support||802.11b/g/n|
|PC Card slots||none|
|Supported memory cards||SDHC|
|Other ports||eSATA (shared with USB socket), minijack audio output, minijack microphone input|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|Operating system restore option||restore partition|
|Software included||Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3, Corel VideoStudio Pro X3, CyberLink DVD Suite Deluxe 7, Microsoft Works 9 SE|
|Warranty||one year collect and return|