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Just over a year ago I needed a new notebook, and ended up buying an HP DV1000 series. The model I bought, a DV 1040, has a Pentium M 1.6GHz processor and came with a 60G hard drive, 512M of RAM and built-in Bluetooth and Wifi. At the time it was more of a compromise purchase: right price, acceptable features, not hideous. I didn’t love it, but it seemed to work well. It’s the first widescreen notebook I’ve owned and over time that’s become my favorite feature — 4:3 is so 2001.

So over the past couple months I’ve been using VMWare more, running virtual machines to test software on Windows as well as Linux, and was really starting feel the performance limitations of the machine. At about the same time my braindead partitioning scheme I dreamed up a year ago came back to bite me and I ran out of space on two of the partitions (there’s an entire “make sure partitions align to cylindar boundaries” lesson here, but I’m just too tired to go into it now). So I started shopping for a new notebook. And what I found was that $2000 would buy me the same notebook with a marginally faster processor, a 100G hard drive, and (in many cases) no Bluetooth. Right.

So I decided to upgrade the DV1040 instead. I replaced one of the SO–DIMMS with a 1G chip, giving me 1.25G RAM, and replaced the 60G hard drive with a 100G model. In the process I found out that the existing drive was a 4200 RPM, and replaced it with a 7200 RPM model. Total cost: $250. And I can’t believe how much faster it seems now. VMWare suspends and restores virtual machines in a fraction of the time, and apps launch faster — I have to believe that’s as much a result of the faster hard drive as additional RAM. I also added the double capacity battery. The weight addition isn’t that noticeable, especially when you consider the fact that I can now get 6 hours of run time off a charge. The moral of the story, though, is that for a consumer grade, “entertainment notebook PC”, the Pavilion DV1040 is incredibly easy to upgrade. The hard drive and RAM are easily accessible and it was relatively easy to find information on what sorts of drives were compatible, etc. Maybe it wasn’t such a compromise after all.