From the metal piped trim around the edges of its chassis to the slick and solid feel of the keyboard, the design of the HP dv2 wouldn't be out of place on a super-pricey super-portable like the Sony Z-series. And yet the basic specification of this 12 incher costs just £500.

That brings it within range of some of the more expensive netbooks we've seen, and even this enhanced version undercuts the recent MSI X-Slim by over £100.

The small screen

Admittedly, the screen is smaller than the MSI X-Slim X340 and it's a good deal heavier than either that machine or the similarly proportioned Samsung X360.

But it feels exponentially more rugged than either of those slender silicon sylphs. And by comparison, it's got value for money by the bucket.

Shiny mousepad

If there's one thing we'd change about the DV2’s overall look, it's the mirrored mousepad. It's bad enough that even the driest finger leaves a chip shop trail of grease every time you move the cursor, but the first time you look down at the keyboard and simultaneously up your own nostrils could emotionally scar you for life.

Still, it's hard to fault HP for trying too hard, given the overall quality of the casing. And it’s even harder to find fault with what's inside.

Neo engine

This is the first notebook we've seen that's powered by AMD's Athlon 64 Neo processor. It's a low speed single core CPU, which is roughly analogous in performance to the new low voltage Core 2 chip from Intel inside the MSI X-Slim.

It's coupled, however, to an Radeon HD3410 graphics chip, which is considerably more powerful than the Intel X4500 GPUs in the dv2's rivals.

Gaming goodness

It doesn't do a lot for the HD video capabilities of the notebook – it failed miserably to play back our test 720p Watchmen trailer – but it does give it a surprising amount of gaming grunt.

We got Fallout 3 running smoothly at the native 1280x.800 resolution, albeit with most effects turned down low. It's not necessary for the bundle of casual games from the likes of PopCap that comes pre-installed, but they're a welcome extra all the same

Low on juice

The only problem is that if you do try and run a game, you'd better be plugged into the mains. Even under normal usage the dv2 only offered up around three hours of power. Once the external DVD drive is running and the graphics challenged, that drops to almost nothing.

It's a problem that prevents the dv2 from getting that almost deserved fifth star, because a laptop may be light enough to take anywhere, but if it has no juice it's still just a deadweight.

But if you can live with that then it's a great compromise between the lower cost but cut down performance of a netbook, and the slimmer, longer lasting but more expensive X-Slim. If the price drops by just a little bit over the coming months then it'll be an out and out winner.


Stuff says... 

HP Pavillion dv2 review

Slightly too expensive for such a short battery life, but otherwise a brilliantly built machine that's faster than its rivals