In this posting, I am going to review the HP Pavilion DV5-1142EG (E = Europe, G = German keyboard and Vista version) with a strong emphasis on use with nVidia CUDA. This is a consumer type laptop, so the low price mostly manifests itself in a shorter battery life (the consumer type graphics chipset pulls a lot of power) - and you will find a 32 bit Vista Home Premium operating system and lots of other applications preinstalled. Unlike some other HUGE consumer laptops, this model has a display size of 15.4 inches and can still be considered portable.
Windows XP driver support is NOT provided by Hewlett-Packard, but some third party web sites offer driver downloads for all hardware components. You will find drivers for 32 bit and 64 bit Vista versions on the HP support pages.
If you cannot find this HP model in your country, note that HP Models with very similar specs are available in the US and worldwide - for CUDA use you should make sure that you get one with 9600M GT graphics. The various DV5 Models differ mostly by added BluRay support, DVD LightScribe feature, CPU model, RAM and hard drive capacity.
The price point for this particular model in Germany is 666 Euros at some retailers - the high CPU and graphics specs are offset by some reduced installed memory and hard drive capacity compared to other DV5 models. But if you are going to get this laptop mainly for portable CUDA development, this should not be your primary concern. Hard drive and memory are easy enough to upgrade. Note that HP chose to use DDR2/GDDR2 (over DDR3 and GDDR3) memory for graphics and system RAM, which can not be upgraded to DDR3.
The CPU fan runs all the time at low speed, and at a very tolerable volume (unless you start 3D games where it notably spins up). There is a BIOS setting that will allow the fan to stop when under low load.
The stock battery does not provide a large battery life (~2 hours), especially when gaming, so I got the larger 12 cell battery pack accessory. This adds a bulge at the laptop’s bottom side and makes the laptop stand at an angle (some may actually prefer it this way, as it facilitates typing). This accessory roughly doubles the battery life.
The GPU is fast enough to run just about all modern games at the native resolution of 1280x800 pixels at least on their medium detail level. It is a DirectX 10 compliant part and supports CUDA with 32 Stream processors (4 multiprocessors with 8 ALUs each). Its 512MB dedicated GDDR2 memory should be good enough for gaming use as well as most CUDA needs. Memory bus width is 128 bits, GPU-Z reports 12.8 GB/s bus bandwidth. Clocks are 500MHz Core, 400 MHz Memory, 1250 MHz Shaders. The CUDA compute capability is 1.1.
CUDA Device Query (Runtime API) version (CUDART static linking)
There is 1 device supporting CUDA
Device 0: "GeForce 9600M GT"
CUDA Capability Major revision number: 1
CUDA Capability Minor revision number: 1
Total amount of global memory: 536870912 bytes
Number of multiprocessors: 4
Number of cores: 32
Total amount of constant memory: 65536 bytes
Total amount of shared memory per block: 16384 bytes
Total number of registers available per block: 8192
Warp size: 32
Maximum number of threads per block: 512
Maximum sizes of each dimension of a block: 512 x 512 x 64
Maximum sizes of each dimension of a grid: 65535 x 65535 x 1
Maximum memory pitch: 262144 bytes
Texture alignment: 256 bytes
Clock rate: 1.25 GHz
Concurrent copy and execution: Yes
Run time limit on kernels: No
Support host page-locked memory mapping: No
Compute mode: Default (multiple host threads can use this device simultaneously)
Windows and CUDA compatibility:
The nVidia notebook drivers 186.03 released on June 9th 2009 installed flawlessly and provide PhysX and CUDA 2.2 support.
A word of warning though: The nVidia control panel started to hard-lock the computer after installing nTune (formerly nVidia System Tools). Normally this tool would allow you to fine-tune your GPU’s clock settings when idle and when under load - but on this laptop nTune is a no-go.
Linux and CUDA compatibility:
Before installing any Linux (and its boot loader) make sure you install the Vista SP2 - the service pack would otherwise fail to install when it detects that the MBR has been replaced with a GRUB boot loader.
OpenSuse 11.1 (ix86) installed without a hitch, graphics and sound worked out of the box (I tested after running an online update as part of the installation procedure). WIFI also worked out of the box. To get 3D acceleration it was necessary to download the closed source nVidia driver.
The nVidia CUDA 2.2 release graphics drivers installed just fine after installing gcc and kernel sources because the installer needed to compile the nVidia kernel module. I got the CUDA SDK 2.2 and some sample applications running within 15 minutes. I did not test the OpenSuse x64 version or any other Linux distributions yet.
-Hard drive: 250 GB hard drive 5400 RPM (less capacity than in most other Pavilion DV5 models)
-CPU: Core 2 Duo P8400 2.27GHz
-RAM: 2GB DDR2 800 (2 x 1 GB), 8 GB max.
-Video: nVidia 9600M GT, 512 MB dedicated GDDR2 RAM
-LCD: Glare display, 1280x800 pixels (WXGA), 15.4 inches,
-Optical Drv: Lightscribe capable CD-R/Multi DVD +-R, +-RW burner with dual layer support
-Weight: 2.65 kg
-Wireless: Intel Wifi Link 5100 (802.11 b/g/draft N)
-Other notable features: -Webcam and array microphone included
-Gigabit LAN port (manufactuerer RealTek)
-one HDMI, one eSata port, one Mini Firewire port
-Multi card reader (manufactuerer JMicron)
-HP proprietary connector for HP docking or port extender
-Dual headphone jack allowing 2 people to listen in
-Remote Control for Media Center that can be stored in the Express Card Slot
-Features that this laptop does NOT include:
-No fingerprint reader was installed
(some product shots e.g on amazon give a false impression)
Optional accessories: a larger 12 cell battery pack instead of the default 6 cells,
Quick Dock 2.0 (basically a port extender with a single cable link
that can also power and charge the laptop)
-Stylish metallic look with a black display lid, attracts fingerprints like mad. A soft wipe cloth is included.
-Lit sensor buttons for volume control as well as media control right above the keyboard
-Stickers next to touch pad: HP Protect Smart, HDMI, QuickPlay, eSATA, energy Star, “Read the handbook for safe use”, Intel Centrino 2, Graphics by nVidia, Windows Vista, lightScribe - could I have some more useless stickers please?
-OS: Vista Home Premium 32bit (SP1 delivered on my machine)
-BIOS and most drivers were a bit outdated - the HP support web site had more recent downloads available.
-System recovery from BIOS is possible by means of a 9GB recovery partition.
-Does not ship with recovery DVD, but a provided software allows to burn one set of recovery CDs/DVDs.
Preloaded Software (if you’re going to clean reinstall the OS, this won’t be a concern to you)
-Adobe Reader 8
-Cyberlink DVD Suite
-Cyberlink Power2Go (CD Burner Suite)
-Cyberlink PowerDirector (Video
-HP Total Care Advisor
-Norton Internet Security with a short trial subscription
-Microsoft Office 2007 60 day trial
-HP Games (30 casual games of all genres preloaded,
decompress on first use to save hard drive space)
-QuickPlay (some kind of alternative media center)
-Skype (Installer only)
-Viewpoint Media Player
-“For Kids”: some kind of parental control mechanism (installs itself on first use)
I uninstalled Norton Internet Security, AIM and AOL toolbar, Viewpoint Media Player, and the “For Kids” application, but the other products seemed to provide enough value to me to justify keeping them.
Overall this machine should make a decent development and gaming machine that also allows for CUDA use and development on the go. HP have found a good tradeoff between price and performance - which can be shifted a bit more towards the performance edge as needed by upgrading some parts and getting extra accessories. This may just be the desktop replacement that I’ve been waiting for.
This review will be updated and amended with some more information and benchmarks soon.