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Help Repairing HP DV7 Series Entertainment Notebook

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December 4, 2012 11:51:23 PM

I have an HP DV7 series entertainment notebook that is still for the most part functional, but does require a few repairs (described below). This DV7 is the only system I have ready access to other than a very low end value notebook that craps out under the slightest stresses, and I won't be able to afford a new book for some time. As such, I would like some thoughts on how to approach repairing my DV7 to a serviceable level - or even if it would be worth it at all.

Just for background, the DV7 basic specs are: AMD Turion 64 X2 @ 2.0GHz, 1MB L2 Cache, 6GB DDR2, HDD Bay 1: 500GB SATA, HDD Bay 2: Open (I have a free 500GB SATA drive I can put in there), Super Multi DVD+/-RW/RAM with LS, ATI Radeon HD GPU with 2GB dedicated DDR2 + Variable System Memory access, 802.11 a/b/g/n adapter, 10/100 LAN RJ-45, 56K voice/fax modem RJ-11, 4X + 2 USB 2, eSATA, HDMImini Out, VGA Out, S-Video Out, Notebook Docking Port, Front Facing IR, Multi-Card Reader, 2X Headphone/Audio Out, Mic In, and of course screen bevel Webcam, Integrated Mic, 17.7" LCD Display, and QWERTY + NumPad Keyboard.

I realize the core components (chipset/CPU/RAM/etc) are somewhat dated, but to get a comparable system (performance and interface wise) new and in today's market would I imagine be upwards of $800 on the low end. The Turions run hot and draw power, yes, but they always delivered the power I needed in demanding circumstances. Here are the problems:

The system is functional enough to use (and will boot fine), but some aspect of the display is damaged which requires me to plug in an external monitor to see anything I am doing. In addition, the optical drive (DVDRW) is not fully operable, nor is the battery (requires direct AC power). It is important to note that these are the *symptoms* - not what I have conclusively identified as causative problems. Here are some details on each issue for clarification:

Battery: This is a story that seems to be not infrequent to this series, HP, or laptops in general. After I had the notebook awhile, it suddenly stopped taking a charge. The notebook runs fine when connected to AC power, but will shut off if unplugged. I do not know if this is caused by a now bad battery, battery controller or charging problems on the main board, or some other issue. System utilities indicated the battery health was problematic, and I am inclined to think it is likely a battery issue simply due to their nature. On the other hand, I don't know how to rule out causes not linked to a bad battery such as charging circuits on the main board, etc (is there a way?).

Display: Awhile back the integrated 17" LCD ceased to function within days after a liquid spill on the notebook (NEVER will I let friends drink near my computers again!). When I was first trying to diagnose and repair the issue I determined the graphics card was still working from the positive display shown on a connected external monitor. Once able to control the computer via the external screen, I was able to switch graphics output between the onboard LCD and external. I noticed at this point that I could get a very faint image on the notebook's native display in a dark room, but nowhere near enough to use without another monitor. I am thinking it may be the LCD inverter causing the display difficulty due to this phenomenon, but can't be sure as I haven't checked with a new inverter.

Optical Drive: The DVDRW drive just seemed to not work one day, and remained inoperable for the next several weeks so I stopped trying to use it. It will eject on command, and sounds like it tries to scan for optical media when the caddy is reinserted, but doesn't seem to do much more. I haven't tested it in quite a while, but would be surprised if it works at all now. What I don't know is if this is a drive issue, or a controlled/main board issue. What makes me suspect the drive is the fact it doesn't seem to be able to fully spin up a disc to read/write speed (almost as if the motor isn't spinning the disc at operational speed). On the other hand, I worry again about main board issues that a new drive may not fix.

The reason I am concerned about main board damage causing any of the problems is due mainly to the constant exposure to heat. The Turion cores run hot inherently, but even greater heat buildup probably occurred because the system was hardly ever shut down or in a hibernation state, the form factor/design/exhaust of the notebook itself is in a less than optimal location and of limited capacity (especially for hot running CPUs), and there was often poor heat dissipation on the surfaces the notebook occupied.

Are there any thoughts on how feasible it might be to replace the LCD inverter, replace the battery, and replace the optical drive? Or even thoughts on possible alternate considerations, problems I might face, or really anything I have failed to conceive. From what I have seen online, I might be able to find an LCD inverter and battery for < $30 each, and the DVDRW I would presume to be in the $30-$60 range (or in other words, about $100 in parts combined for this fix). What would be the best way to go about this process?
December 5, 2012 2:51:05 AM

As a hobby, or learning experience you can try to repair the laptop. There are 50 or so auctions for " 'Hewlett-Packard HP Pavillion DV7-3079wm FOR PARTS ONLY'" most less than $100. This would let you swap parts for LCD, MB, the LCD cold cathode tube (light), etc. Somewhat risky, but reasonably cheap.

My laptop doesn't even have an optical drive. IF you need one, a USB attached DVD drive is cheaper than worry about getting your current optical working. (Assume you've blown the dust off the lens already). If you get a parts DV7 then you can probably salvage the DVDROM.

Batteries are consumable. The battery symptoms are what you'd get if the laptop stayed plugged in with battery at 100% power for a few years... dead battery. IF you get a parts DV7 with a mostly working battery then you can confirm it's the battery. IF you typically just leave the lappy plugged in then look into setting the battery charge limit to 50% capacity rather than 100% -- that gives long Lion battery life.

re "... due mainly to the constant exposure to heat..." Run a temp monitor program like HWMONITOR by CPUID (google it, free, basic, does nothing but report temps). Assume you have a clogged heatsink with dust if you've been running a while and temps are high. With laptop powered off blow compressed air BACKWARDS into the exhaust port counter to the normal air flow. Then power up and run the CPU fan. Power off, let cool a bit and repeat. (a can of compressed air costs $7 at staples or office depot)

A decent new laptop is $350-$400, so consider if you are doing this for fun/hobby/learning or if you are making a real $$ tradeoff by getting the older PC to work. For example: $370 = a few different amd a6 based laptops at bestbuy.
December 5, 2012 8:28:20 PM

tsnor said:

A decent new laptop is $350-$400, so consider if you are doing this for fun/hobby/learning or if you are making a real $$ tradeoff by getting the older PC to work. For example: $370 = a few different amd a6 based laptops at bestbuy.


Thanks so much for the reply, firstly. I have indeed been browsing some of the parts only systems in ebay, and am in contact with the seller of one specifically that would meet all the requirements as best I can tell. The battery - as you said - is probably a brick for the aforementioned reasons (I have only had 1 laptop of 7 that didn't eventually have a bricked battery). Due to the need for mobility a desktop is impractical for me for the near future, but seeing the tech available currently, I would go ape and then some in a little Godbox home build for myself. I read and write a lot of optical media as it is a common standard for digital transfer and storage of healthcare information, so internal drives come in handy for that anyway.

I had to do a double take when I saw some of the performance and benchmark data on the currently available hardware, though. I knew quad core had migrated out of the desktop market to laptops in a limited capacity at least, but am dumbfounded at the vast number of available quad core mobile CPU/APUs in so many ridiculously affordable notebooks. When I built my first desktop I was dreaming of quad core tech just to migrate from server systems to desktop chipsets, much less laptops. With such affordable multi core systems, clocking so fast, and most importantly performing so well in benchmark testing, I don't think I can resist dumping whatever older stuff I can to help finance a new notebook. I just have been out of the market for so long I might need some pointers on a few topics. I don't know if I would do better posting a new thread or posting here, but I'll add it here anyway...

Firstly, there are so many more Intel notebooks (at BestBuy anyway, but they usually have a fair representation of the market) than AMD based books. Back when I learned IT and first began building (and ever since for that matter), I have always though of AMD as the first choice for and IT junkie due to performance:p rice ratio, flexibility (I don't have a clue about the current cores, but back in the day AMD was synonymous with overclocking and performance), and on and on. Benchmarks seem to put Intel's cores ahead of AMD for the most part (among mainstream units), but I would think AMD is still probably ahead of Intel in bang for your buck - performance for the money spent. Is there anything I should know about preferring (or avoiding) either of the two in the current market?

A lot of the notebooks seem to have APUs these days, sharing either processing power, system memory, or both, instead of dedicated graphics memory and GPUs. Are there any nuances or tips to navigating this market to achieve maximum performance? I am still to accustomed to judging my graphics processing and memory needs as independent from the system. I also don't know how hardware intensive some of the current more taxing software is, thus don't have an aiming point. I used to consider 6-8GB DDR2/DDR3 system memory with an additional 1-2GB DDR3 dedicated graphics memory as sufficient for 99% of the more taxing applications, with a CPU:GPU clock ratio of at least 4:1 but better 3:1 or 2:1 (so a 2.0GHz CPU dual core w/ ~550mhz GPU total clock, preferably near 1GHz).

AMD has always been (IMO) THE industry with regard to pushing the envelope and outside the box development in processing power, GPUs maybe even more so than CPUs (so much new tech came from things like factory overclocking and multi core die). In fact, if memory serves, I believe AMD developed the first 1GHz CPU, the first 1 GHz GPU, the first multiple core die (dual core), the first quad core die, the first 6 and 8 and 12 core die (most of the multi core designs debuted in the server market), the first multiple GPU platform, the first embedded APU, etc etc I could go on...

While the theory of the APU (defined as CPU and GPU cores colocated on a single die as I understand it) makes sense to me on paper, in effect bypassing all of the intermediaries and minimizing distance, I'm not clear on some of the specific architecture that can be used. For example, my understanding of AMD's notebook A6 series is that the A6 APU die consists of 4 CPU cores each in the GHz range plus a dedicated GPU in the 400-600MHz range. In order to support the GPU functions native to the APU efficiently, the chipsets seem to have integrated graphics native to the board with indeterminate graphics memory - I am assuming its not actually dedicated, but shared from the total system memory. This apparently integrated graphics capability is claimed to deliver "discrete level performance" by AMD, although if it shares system memory (DDR3), optimal GDDR5 performance would not be available (do the integrated graphics in the A series have dedicated GDDR5?). There is the option for addition of a discrete graphics card which would enable multi-GPU performance, and I would hope support dedicated GDDR5 graphics memory for the discrete GPU to access at least. My best understanding is that the addition of a discrete card works though a very similar technology as AMD's original CrossFire (which was a desktop limited capability when last I was current on the tech).

All that said, since my knowledge and background is heavily weighted towards AMD, how do the current mobile AMD A series APUs with integrated graphics alone fair when compared to Intel's capability; How about with an AMD addition of discrete graphics and multi GPUs? Should I look into crossing over to the dark side and checking Intel out? I noticed all the touch screen notebooks BestBuy seems to sell are based on Intel processors and chipsets. I have often thought the touch screen aspect of a tablet to be convenient at times, but not enough to buy a separate device. A touch sensitive laptop seems the perfect hybrid for things I might use it for, but convenience of touch screen is secondary to performance...

Finally, how do the current flavors of Linux (Ubuntu for example) agree or disagree with any of the newer AMD and Intel technology - specifically in dual-boot or multi-boot? Just an errant question as it would be nice to have the ability to boot Linux when not requiring Windows...

To anyone reading and/or replying, this is terribly long and for that I do so sincerely apologize. Maybe I should re post this as a singular topic...
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December 5, 2012 10:13:01 PM
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I remember when amd athlon was king over p4 also. Unfortunately times have changed.

Intel has a commanding lead in CPU single thread performance.

AMD has countered with high core counts (for throughput computing) and tradeoffs that drive high power consumption to get more performance. Not the best tradeoff for a laptop.

AMD has also countered by buying ATI (video card maker) and merging ATI video card know-how onto the CPU chip. The AMD Fusion chips (A4, A6, A8, A10) all are an OK CPU with a really good graphics part. Compares to intel notebook parts that have really good CPUs and terrible gaming performance & driver issues. (Aside: you are correct, the CPU chip access to DRAM is shared between the CPU and GPU and is a bottleneck).

For notebooks, If you mainly do CPU chores Intel is the best bet. If you game or used application with GPU acceleration the expensive best choice is Intel with a discrete graphics part that only gets power when needed, the rest of the time it uses the cpu's integrated GPU. The best price-performer for gaming is a fusion based CPU. A8 and A10 fusion processors can game. A6 can mostly get by.

For me, the sandy bridge/ivy bridge intel processor chips are wonderful. My work laptop is an i5-2300 based system and has run 6 to 8 hours without recharge daily for the year or so I've had it. It has discrete nvidia graphics. My personal laptop in an AMD fusion E450 based system -- it's CPU too slow even with a Samsung 830 SSD to make the IO fast. I suspect an A6 or A8 based fusion would have made a huge difference. It's painful watching the CPUs sit at 100% for seconds when doing a task in open office.

Given your appends, you have deep but dated technical knowledge. Pop over to the notebookcheck website and read a few articles and do a few compares. Its a good time to get a great laptop. In a few years we'll be stuck with touch screen tablets with closed ecosystems. grin.
December 7, 2012 1:48:57 AM

After doing some looking around and at least getting my bearings with the current offerings in the market, a final decision was agonizingly tedious to reach. Probably the most complicating factor is a desire to have a respectable graphics capability. A majority of the time I would be multitasking several CPU / memory intensive software packages (both commercial and proprietary to my field) along with multiple tabs in browser and other more typical utility / varied purpose applications. On the occasions that I do have the opportunity to get back to the graphics intensive gaming of my youth, though, the LAST thing I want is to be cruising along in *insert game here* with zero details and effects, or wasting most of my already limited free time trying to make do with 12 or 14 FPS. On top of all that is the need to balance performance with absolute minimum cost possible until family financial situations improve.

Of all my previous systems, my AMD Athlon series dual core CPU on an nVidia board with added discrete nVidia SLI graphics was by far the best performing (with respect to the technology of the time) and most complete all around package I have had. Ever since I have favored GeForce (nVidia) over Radeon (ATI - now AMD/ATI) as far as pure graphics. One of the final factors is the CPU tasking; I am in a community of tapers and traders that record live music (with the artists' explicit permission always), and encoding the audio to compressed formats such as FLAC is very time consuming as only one track can be encoded per CPU at once. Since AMD offers quad core CPUs much cheaper than a high end Intel, AMD would have allowed 4 simultaneous encoding operations much cheaper than a quad core Intel at face value. After a little digging, though, I discovered that Hyper-Threading allows each Intel core to in effect behave as two logical cores independently - thus a dual core Intel would accomplish 4 encoding operations as well (and a high end quad core could in theory handle 8 at once).

After weighing all the facts and considerations, while it is indeed more expensive than going with AMD (or even with Intel and integrated graphics), a setup with a mid range Intel Core series CPU and nVidia discrete graphics looks to be the best combination for all around performance. I am trying to now figure out how to maximize power and stay under (or not much at all more than) $450-$600. One thing I can't make sense of is whether it would be more effective to use a higher series 1st/2nd gen i5/i7 or a lower series 3rd gen i3/i5. Either way, I would prefer factory enabled overclocking (Turbo is not supported by Core i3 it seems), so an affordable 3rd gen Core i5 with 2 cores and decent performance (without excessive price) seems about right. The Intel Core i5 3210M offers about a 20% performance advantage (+/- 10% depending on the benchmark) to the AMD A8-4XXXM series CPUs (which are in a number of the AMD systems I have scouted), but is also significantly more costly (keeping with Intel's tradition of higher cost). Something from Intel that can perform in the range of these two with minimal cost is probably about right. I have noticed some 1st gen Core i7's in this performance range, as well as a few lower end 2nd gen Core i7's. I don't know what technologies were added between generations that might prove hidden pitfalls, so anything significant like onboard graphics (that can take over when discrete isn't needed), Hyper-Threading, Turbo overclocking, etc etc might make a critical difference. On the other hand, an earlier generation Core i5 / i7 with 4 cores that support Hyper-Threading might give comparable performance at a comparable cost with the addition of allowing 8 simultaneous threads.

On the graphics front, I have had a lot less time to do my homework, but my early impression is that the GeForce GT 540M falls right in the range of performance benchmarks as the AMD/ATI GPUs that were most common on the AMD systems I scouted (Radeon 7520G was a common finding). Even though the performance ratings of the native Radeon GPUs were higher than that of Intel's native graphics, I couldn't help but lean toward preferring a discrete Radeon GPU. For that situation I have no baseline to compare, performance or price. At this point I begin to have to split hairs, and go with a slightly less costly CPU in favor of more robust graphics, or decide decent graphics will suffice since I get a slightly better CPU.

Of course none of this is to mention that once I figure out what the best combination of CPU, GPU, and price will be for me, I then have to find a laptop with hardware in it that comes as close as possible to the target specs while staying in a decent price range. The aforementioned ranges in performance level are pushing the edge of the top of my preferred price range in most circumstances (mainly due to the extra expense of a GeForce card and Intel's inherently more expensive CPUs), and this is by design to maximize power for the price - there are usually 2 or 3 systems around that are $100-$200 less expensive than all the others in the same performance class (usually only available for a limited time or as a promotion), and I am aiming to hit this sweet spot...

***EDIT***

After scouring the websites of Best Buy, OfficeMax, and Walmart (the 3 nearest stores in the event I went to buy one), I found one that seems fairly well packed without needing to shell out a ton of green...

Price: $778

HP ENVY dv6 Series 7267cl
15.6" LED HD Display
Intel Core i7 3630QM 2.4GHz Quad Core 8 Thread CPU
6GB DDR3 System Memory
750GB 5400rpm HDD
GeForce GT 630M Discrete Graphics with 2GB dedicated DDR3 VRAM plus an additional 1.6GH shared VRAM
DVD Duper Multi Dual Layer
Beats Audio 4.1 Quad Speakers with Subwoofer
HD Webcam, Microphone, Fingerprint Security Scanner, Multi Card Reader
3X USB 3.0, 1X USB 2.0, Audio Out, Mic In, RJ-45 NIC, VGA Out, HDMI Out
B/G/N 802.11 Wireless Network Interface


Now the $770 price is a little bit more than I was aiming for, but the Core i5 systems were only about $50 cheaper. Unfortunately there is only 6GB DDR3 system memory (I would probably want to up it to 8GB), but the Core i7 3630QM quad core CPU and the GeForce GT 630M with 2GB DDR3 dedicated VRAM certainly offset the lower system memory. I will keep looking but this one really caught my eye for the price...




December 26, 2012 12:56:56 PM

Best answer selected by SteverDMB.
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