Good graphics power
Good build quality
Screen not full-HD
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If you're looking for the right laptop to help create your next masterpiece - whether it's composing a new song, writing a new story or programming a new application - then there's a strong case to be made for the HP Pavilion dv7-6c55sa.
This 17-inch black-and-silver beast has both the processing and graphical power to help you create, and a good enough screen and speakers to enjoy the fruits of your labours.
Like the Dell XPS 17, it's unlikely you'll be taking the HP Pavilion dv7 away from your desk and the safety of the AC adapter for too long. It weighs a portly 3kg and the battery only managed to keep alive for 182 minutes during our high-stress benchmark test.
Physically, it's an imposing machine with a large, black chassis. We couldn't find any degree of flex and traditional weak points - the optical drive and screen hinges feel very solidly built.
The keyboard has a numeric keypad added on and each key feels nicely weighted and well-sized. HP's standard keyboard is very similar to that found on an Apple MacBook, although we'd say the travel is slightly shallower. If you're a writer and spend hours hunched over your keyboard then you'll appreciate the firm keys and sizable trackpad here.
Power is handled courtesy of a quad-core Intel Core i5-2450M and a more-than-generous 8GB of RAM. This, coupled with the Nvidia GT630M GPU, means the HP Pavilion dv7 can handle pretty much any creative software you throw at it. Loading up Photoshop, Dreamweaver or ACID Pro is easy and the dv7 comes with Evernote, Snapfish and Blio already installed.
While a 17.3-inch screen might be too much for some users, we found it extremely useful when we had several windows open at once and needed extra screen real estate. The 1,600 x 900 pixel resolution isn't quite Full HD, but the difference is negligible because the screen is bright and colour reproduction fantastic. And, if you feel you want even more screen space, you can always use either the HDMI or VGA connection to hook up a second monitor.
Sound quality is just as impressive and the dv7 comes with Dr Dre's Beats Audio technology fitted as standard. It's difficult to miss the Beats branding on the speaker grille above the keyboard and at the top left corner of the screen. The tangible benefit is an extra subwoofer on the underside of the laptop that gives the bass a mighty kick. A dedicated Beats hotkey on the chassis would have been a nice addition, but unfortunately doesn't exist.
However, there is a fingerprint scanner that will allow you to lock the laptop and open it with just a sweep of your finger. Safer and quicker than passwords, this is a nice feature that gives you that extra reassurance that your confidential documents will stay that way.
A search for a creativity-driven laptop is a search for a laptop that can handle pretty much everything you throw at it, and the HP Pavilion dv7 fits that description. Neither the most powerful nor the most expensive 17-inch machine we've seen, the dv7 nonetheless excels and is one we happily recommend for anyone on a creative course.