HP's Pavilion dm1 (dm1-3010AU) is an 11.6-inch, 1.5kg netbook that runs AMD's Fusion platform. It's not a typical netbook though, and not quite a full-blown laptop either — it offers better CPU and graphics performance than an Intel Atom-based netbook, and it's slightly bigger and has better connectivity, but it's not as powerful as a cheap 15.6in laptop. You can use the Pavilion dm1 for basic office work, social networking, as well as for watching videos on your TV.
Specifications and performance
The Pavilion dm1 runs the AMD Fusion E-350 APU (accelerated processing unit), which has two cores, a frequency of 1.6GHz and built-in AMD Radeon HD 6310M graphics. It's an efficient chip that supplies decent performance and very good battery life. The rest of the configuration is comprised of 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM and a 320GB, 5400rpm hard drive. It's significantly more powerful than a netbook based on Intel's best Atom CPU, such as Acer's Aspire One Happy, for example, and this was shown in our tests.
It recorded 2min 43sec in our Blender 3D rendering test and 3min 21sec in our iTunes MP3 encoding tests. These results are slower than what the MSI U270 Fusion-based netbook achieved with the same APU; compared to the Dell M102z, which also uses the same Fusion APU, the HP was faster in Blender, but slower in iTunes. It wasn't as fast as the Sony YB Series in the Blender 3D test. However, all of these results are comparable and what they show is that the dm1-3010AU (and indeed all AMD Fusion E-350-based netbooks) isn't designed to run taxing tasks; it's fine for office work, social networking and other Web tasks, and even for watching videos on a big-screen.
In fact, the Fusion APU excels when it comes to video, thanks to its integrated AMD Radeon HD 6310M graphics adapter. It recorded a score of 2268 in 3DMark06, which is approximately what we were expecting. While it doesn't have enough power to run games (unless they are Flash-based or not dependant on fast graphics processing), it does have enough power to process high-definition video. If you plug the Pavilion into a TV using HDMI, then you can turn it into a makeshift media centre. You might have to fiddle around with the screen settings when you plug it in to a TV, and this will depend on the capabilities of your TV.
The Pavilion dm1 ships with a 6-cell, 55 Watt-hour battery that gives it a long life away from an outlet. In our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the HP lasted 4hr 31min. This is on par with the Dell Inspiron M102z, which recorded 4hr 32min in the same test, and much better than the MSI U270 Sony VAIO YB Series.
Design and build quality
Physically, the Pavilion dm1 is thin at the front (20mm) and thick at the back (35mm) and it looks stylish. Its battery sits on the spine and the screen's hinges reside on the ends of the spine. These allow the screen to open up and travel behind the battery, which leaves a lot of empty space between the keyboard and screen. The screen can actually be tilted all the way back. It has a native resolution of 1366x768 and its glossy. It's susceptible to reflections and its vertical viewing angles are narrow, but these problems can be found on most netbooks on the Australian market. It does have good contrast and brightness for viewing photos and browsing Web pages.
The Pavilion dm1 feels reasonably well built for a sub-$700 laptop — you don't get a lot of movement or creaking in its chassis or on the bezel around the screen, and its keyboard feels solid and comfortable to type on. In fact, despite being a small laptop, it's a joy to type on. Its keys are isolated and they have a soft, yet responsive feel to them. The Shift keys are large and there aren't any keys in awkward positions. The only thing you have to get used to is the reversed role of the functions keys: pressing F5, for example, will launch a new Web browser tab or window rather than refresh the Web browser screen and the other F keys will perform their assigned function (such as volume or brightness) without you having to press the Fn key. This can be reversed in the BIOS.
There was one drawback with the keyboard on our test model: the Windows key was busted, even though it was a brand new unit. Pressing the Windows key made it pop off and we couldn't get it to sit right after that. It may be an isolated problem with our unit, but in any case, it shouldn't have happened.
We have a love and hate relationship with the touchpad. It has a soft texture, and it's large (50x84mm) and responsive. However, the left- and right-click buttons reside underneath the pad itself and they can be hard to press. Furthermore, if you ever need to hold down a button and drag your finger across the touchpad at the same time, you might need to use two hands otherwise the click may not work properly. There is a little button at the top-left corner of the touchpad that can be double-tapped in order to disable the touchpad. This is useful if you find that the touchpad gets in the way when you type — it only got in the way once while typing this review and a cluster of words were overwritten before we realised what happened (Ed - no big loss).
Around the edges, the Pavilion dm1 has a standard allotment of ports for a Fusion-based netbook: HDMI, USB 2.0 (three of them), VGA, headphone and microphone ports. You also get a Gigabit Ethernet port, but this is hidden behind a little cover. This cover can be a little tough to open unless you have long and strong fingernails, but once it's open you realise why HP went to the trouble covering the Ethernet port — it just looks odd and it sits on an angle compared to the other ports. Rounding out the Pavilion's features list are 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a webcam. It doesn't have USB 3.0, which is something that is present on other Fusion-based laptops we've seen, such as the MSI U270 and the Dell Inspiron M102z.
One thing we absolutely love is the design of the Pavilion's status lights. They are small and located out of the way. Furthermore, they aren't super-bright. This means that the lights on the unit won't be bothersome when you use the laptop at night. The placement of the hard drive light on the side of the chassis rather than at the top is quite ingenious.
When using the Pavilion dm1 on your lap for a long period of time, you won't feel much heat at all — unless you block the vent on the left side through which the powerful fan extracts warm air. This fan is audible at all times, and it gets very loud when the processor is running at its full capacity. Many people commented on how loud it was during our tests. Using the laptop on a desk, you can also feel the fan vibrating through the chassis.
Like most recent HP notebooks, the first time you boot it up you have to go through HP's 'the computer is personal again' set-up routine. This asks you to register the computer (for technical support purposes), enable updates and maintenance and activate Norton Security.
Some extra software that comes with the HP is Fences Pro, which allows you to organise the shortcuts on your desktop into groups (which are little boxes on the screen) so that they are easier to find. It's a non-essential piece of software that we'd recommend uninstalling.
You also get a pre-Windows operating environment called QuickWeb, which only takes 9sec to boot. It allows you to use a Web browser, instant messaging, Skype, email, calendar, music player and photo viewer software. This interface is based on Splashtop, but its music and photo viewer is a little reminiscent of HP's Touchsmart interface.
It's hard not to like the HP Pavilion dm1 (dm1-3010AU). It's small, light, comfortable to use and it has a nice design. Its performance is swift for everyday tasks and its battery life is excellent. There are a few negatives — the touchpad buttons, for example, the fan noise and the loose key that was present on our test model. We would also like to see it offered with 4GB of RAM for the price. But for the most part it's an excellent choice if you want a good looking, highly mobile laptop for basic work that costs under $700.
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