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Long term hardware review : HP Laptop dv6285eu (DV6200 series) Entertainment Laptop

I've had my HP laptop for nearly two years now. Here is a review of how it's faired up over those 2 years and the support that I've received. The laptop is a DV6285eu (dv6200 series) Entertainment Laptop. It comes with a AMD 64bit dual core processor, 160GB disk drive (since upgraded) and 2GB RAM (maximum supported).

Windows Vista

The laptop came installed with Windows Vista Home Edition. The only thing I can say about Windows Vista is avoid it if at all possible. Unfortunately I couldn't install Windows XP (see later), but I have installed Linux which I use far more than Windows Vista.

Windows Vista is very slow and does not run a significant amount of software that I was previously using on Windows XP.

Problems installing Linux (resolved)

One of the first things that I tried to do with the laptop was to install Linux on it. I first tried booting with a Live CD to try it out before installing. Unfortunately this was not possible at the time due to the graphics drivers not being included as the ones provided by nVidia are proprietary.

The good news is that this has now been resolved and the laptop runs the latest versions of the Live CDs for most distributions.

Another problem I had was that I ended up with a corrupt disk drive when originally trying to install Linux. I am now convinced that this was a hardware fault on the hard disk drive as I've not been able to recreate the problem. The laptop was bought from a local store so was returned and swapped for a replacement (this may have been part of the reason for HP managing to lose someone else's laptop - more later). Since then I have not had any problems with installing Linux.

I can now confirm that not only does the laptop support Linux, it runs the 64bit version with no problems and runs much faster than Windows Vista. The laptop also works with virtualization and has run Linux as a virtual machine under Windows Vista (although very slowly).

Ubuntu includes the proprietary drivers for the Nvidia graphics card (optional) and even supports the multimedia remote control and soft touch buttons on the keyboard.

Installing Windows XP (not successful)

Installing Windows XP was a failure. Although I had an original Windows XP install CD there are not drivers available for some of the components. In particular there are no graphics drivers available and it is a waste to run as the basic resolution that was available without the correct graphics drivers.

As a result this laptop is unable to run Windows XP.

Wireless problems - HP Warranty Support

After having the laptop for about 7 months I started to get intermittent problems with the wireless network connection. At first this appeared to be a Windows problem as I was able to get this working again by using a restore point. This turned out to be a hardware error as it then stopped working completely. Fortunately the computer was set to dual boot and it was by identifying that it did not work in both Vista and Linux that I confirmed that this was a hardware problem.

After raising a warranty support issue with HP they collected and returned my laptop fairly quickly.

Later HP issued an announcement (through HP update on the laptop) that there was a generic problem with the dv6200 series laptops where overheating had caused problems with the wireless etc. The fix was a firmware update to improve the fan cooling of the computer, but they also offered to repair laptops that had already suffered the problem even if out of warranty.

Multiple Laptops

Shortly after I got my laptop back from repair I was sent someone else's laptop as well. Even when I spoke with their Technical Support department it took a lot of convincing for them to believe that the laptop was not mine. After failed pickups and letters they finally retrieved the laptop only to attempt to send it back to me again. I refused this later delivery and then didn't hear of the problem again.

I believe the reason for this being associated with me may be that it was the laptop I returned to the shop as faulty on the day after I bought the laptop that had then be sold as refurbished. It's a bit poor of HP not to reset the registered owner when they decide to resell the laptop.

Unfortunately it meant that someone was without a laptop for some time whilst HP sorted out their internal problems.

Battery and power supply problems (still a problem)

Finally this laptop has had lots of problems with booting from a flat battery. If the battery is left to drain and then connected to the mains it will not always boot up. Pressing the power button will sometimes cause the laptop to power up and then power straight back off again (without even showing the HP logo / Boot options). After then any presses of the power button are ignored until the computer power is disconnected, the battery removed and then reconnected.

This came particularly bad just after the 1 year warranty had expired as the battery held hardly any charge (my guess is that this may have been due to the overheating problem that broke the wireless, but I cannot be certain). This meant that even if the battery was fully charged if the laptop was not powered on for a while (e.g. a day or two) then the problem occurred. I purchased a replacement battery which cost about £80 which helped as it means that the battery keeps it's charge when not in use, but the problem still exists when the battery is flat.

When trying to boot with a flat battery it could take anything from 1 minute to about 20 minutes to get the laptop to boot again.

For some reason the laptop will not boot without a battery either. I did think that this may have been down to a problem with the power supply, but even having purchased a separate universal power supply (120W rather than the supplied 90W) it still had the same problems.

I think I may have found a sequence to boot the laptop from a flat battery, but I've not tried it enough times yet.

The laptop will then work normally until the battery is flat again.

Conclusion

Apart from performance issues with Windows Vista it is a very good laptop. It looks good, performs well (Linux) and has some nice features such as remote control and soft buttons above the keyboard. The warranty support was also good and the laptop fixed fairly quickly.

The one thing that lets this laptop down is the battery / power supply problem. This is however a big problem. Normally with a laptop even when the battery is completely dead and refuses to take charge it is still possible to use the laptop on the mains supply. I have some old laptops that I use in this manner as desktop computers (streaming music to my bedroom / living room) or as portable laptops for use at the theatre. Unfortunately this does not appear to be the case with this laptop. It appears that when my 2nd battery dies and the cost of replacing the battery is more than the value of the laptop this will be destined for the junk pile, whereas my other laptops have kept going for years.

It is because of this power problem that I would not recommend a HP laptop and I am unlikely to buy one again.

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