HP Pavilion dm1z Review

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Editor's Choice

Pros: Attractive design with CoolSense technology; Excellent battery life; Superior sound; Comfortable keyboard

Cons: Distracting fan; Slow hard drive

Verdict: The first AMD Fusion-powered ultraportable combines good graphics performance and long battery life at an affordable price.

Just because the once-hot netbook category is getting pushed aside by tablets, that doesn't mean consumers don't want a low-cost ultraportable that performs. And that's what HP has delivered with the new Pavilion dm1z, an 11-inch notebook featuring AMD's new Fusion processor. Starting at $449 ($479 as configured), this 3.4-pound machine blows past Atom-based netbooks while providing enough endurance to see you through the day. Add to that a stylish design, excellent audio, and a comfy keyboard, and you've got a superior take-anywhere laptop.

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Design

Similar in design to the Pavilion dm3t, the Pavilion dm1z is easily one of the most attractive 11-inch systems on the market. The glossy black lid features HP's new Grid Imprint design, which looks attractive, but fingerprint smudges are still visible. The underside is also a glossy black; we prefer the rubberized finish of the dm3t, but that notebook has a higher starting price.

Inside, the dm1z's black island-style keyboard and clickpad are offset by a silver deck and bezel; it's understated yet stylish. Measuring 11.4 x 8.4 x 0.8 x 1.2 inches and weighing 3.4 pounds, the dm1z is nearly the same size and weight as the Asus Eee PC 1215N. As with that supersized netbook, the dm1z fits easily into a messenger bag, and while noticeable, it didn't weigh us down.

Heat

Despite its small size, the dm1z is one of the coolest notebooks we've yet tested. Employing HP's CoolSense technology--first seen on the dm3t--the dm1z has HP's Thermal Assistant software, which automatically adjusts the fan speed if it senses the notebook is on a person's lap or on a table. After streaming a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the touchpad, G and H keys, and underside measured 76, 78, and 77 degrees, respectively. However, fan noise was noticeable in a quiet room, and we could feel it whirring when we had our hands on the palm rests.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Like most other notebooks in HP's lineup, the dm1z has a chiclet-style keyboard that extends nearly to the edges of the chassis. Though the keys don't have as much travel as, say, the Envy 17, it was still a pleasure to type this review on the laptop. We were up to our usual typing rate in no time. HP thoughtfully reversed the function row keys; you don't have to press FN to adjust the volume or brightness.

Also like the Envy line, the dm1z's mouse buttons are integrated into the touchpad. This makes the overall size (3.3 x 2 inches) the same as the Eee PC 1215N, but that netbook has discrete buttons, making its touchpad feel much more spacious. In this case, though, HP integrated a small ridge to help define the two areas. Those who use two hands on a touchpad may find that the cursor jumps every now and then, but overall it works fairly well for this type of design.

Ports and Webcam

On the left side of the dm1z is an HDMI and a USB port. On the right are two more USB ports, VGA, a headphone/mic combo, and an SD card reader.

Display and Audio

Standard for an 11.6-inch screen, the dm1z's display has a resolution of 1366 x 768. While slightly smaller than the 12.1-inch screen on the 1215N, the dm1z's glossy panel served up bright and colorful images when we watched movies on Hulu and those stored on the hard drive. However, viewing angles were limited to a few degrees on either side of the notebook. The front lip of the dm1z houses stereo Altec Lansing speakers, which are enhanced with Dolby Advanced Audio. The extra space afforded the speakers makes a huge difference; music sounded better on the dm1z than on any other system this size we've tested. While not overwhelming, we could enjoy the bass grooves in Parliament Funkadelic's "Give Up the Funk," as well as anything James Brown could dish out.

Performance

The Pavilion dm1z uses AMD's new Fusion APU, which combines the GPU and the CPU on one chip. It's definitely faster than dual-core Atom netbooks, but certainly not as speedy as more premium ultraportables.

The dual-core 1.6-GHz AMD E-350 CPU and 3GB of RAM powered the dm1z to a PCMark Vantage score of 2,198. That's well above the netbook average (1,351), and beats out the 1215N (1,921) which has a 1.8-GHz Intel Atom D525, and the Toshiba Satellite T215D (1,938), which has a 1.7-GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K125 CPU. However, the dm1z is 1,400 points below the ultraportable average, and comes up short compared to the Lenovo Thinkpad X100e (2,382), which has a dual-core AMD Turion processor, and the Dell Inspiron M101z (2,431), which has a 1.3-GHz AMD Athlon CPU. Even the Acer Aspire 1410, which has a 1.2-GHz Intel Celeron SU2300 CPU, fared better (2,475).

However, synthetic benchmarks are one thing, and real-world tests are another. The dm1z took 2 minutes and 45 seconds to transcode a five-minute, 114MB MPEG4 to AVI using Oxelon Media Encoder. That's more than twice as fast as the netbook average (5:56), but still a minute slower than the ultraportable average (1:58). The dm1z's time also falls between Atom-powered netbooks like the 1215N (3:17) and older AMD-powered machines such as the Dell M101z (2:16).

Converting a five-minute 1080p video to an iPod touch format using MediaShow Espresso took 7 minutes and 21 seconds. That's twice as fast as the Dell Inspiron Duo (14:44), and much better than the 1215N (12:08) and the Aspire 1410 (11:31). Despite having a 7,200-rpm, 320GB hard drive, the dm1z was slow to duplicate a 5GB folder of multimedia; it took 4 minutes and 36 seconds, a rate of 18.4 MBps. That's even slower than the netbook average (18.9 MBps).

Graphics Performance

Like the CPU, the integrated AMD Radeon HD 6310 GPU provided performance between Intel's integrated and Nvidia's Ion graphics. The dm1z returned a score of 2,217 in 3DMark06, which is about 1,000 points above the ThinkPad X100e (1,080), the Dell M101z (1,309), and the Toshiba T215D (1,162). It even creams the ultraportable average of 1,367. Still, the EeePC beat the dm1z, scoring 2,692 on the same test.

That same slight margin of difference held when we fired up World of Warcraft. At the recommended settings (good, in the dm1z's case), the system managed 24 frames per second as we flew our character around. Maxing everything out dropped the game to 13 fps. By comparison, the 1215N managed 28 fps using the recommended settings.

We then connected the dm1z to a 32-inch 1080p TV using HDMI. When we output full HD videos to the TV, we measured frame rates of 60 fps. Content such as the Tron: Legacy trailer was smooth and crisp, and audio was perfectly in sync with video.

Battery Life and Wi-Fi

One area where AMD-powered notebooks have traditionally suffered compared to their Intel counterparts is endurance. No longer. The dm1z lasted 6 hours and 37 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (web surfing via Wi-Fi). That's about an hour longer than the 1215N and ultraportable laptop average. This runtime is also much better than the X100e (4:47), T215D (4:45), and the M101z (4:54). So at least on this laptop, AMD Fusion provides an endurance boost of at least 1.5 hours, which is impressive.

The Ralink RT5390 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi card in the dm1z performed fairly well; at 15 feet from our router, we saw throughput of 35.3 Mbps, which is about 9 Mbps faster than the netbook average. At 50 feet, however, throughput dropped to an average of 15.1 Mbps, which is about 3Mbps slower than the category average.

 

The dm1z comes with Bluetooth, and can be configured with mobile broadband.

Configurations

The dm1z starts at $449; for that, you get a 250GB hard drive and 2GB of RAM. Our dm1z came with 3GB of RAM, but users can install up to 8GB. Doing so may be tricky, as the bottom is all one piece, and cannot be removed easily.

Software and Warranty

HP bundles a number of utilities with the dm1z, including its Power Manager and Thermal Assistant.The machine also has HP's MediaSmart 4.0 software, which acts as a portal for multimedia both on the notebook and from services such as Hulu and Netflix. Other software includes Blio e-Reader, Microsoft Office 2010 Starter, and a 60-day trial of Symantec Norton Internet Security 2011.

The notebook comes with a one-year limited warranty, one year of free hardware technical support, and 30 days of free limited software support. To see how HP fared on our tech support showdown, click here.

Verdict

Now that the HP Pavilion dm1z has arrived, the budget notebook space has become a lot more competitive. With AMD's new Fusion processor, HP has created a laptop that, for $479, provides a better balance of performance and endurance than the Nvidia Ion-powered Asus Eee PC 1215N. It also gives you more graphics oomph than Intel ULV notebooks and earlier AMD budget ultraportables. While you'll squeeze out a few more frames in some games on Ion, the more powerful dual-core AMD processor in the dm1z lets you accomplish more than an Atom chip ever could. Not only that, but you get 6.5 hours of battery life in a very stylish package.

Bottom line: The HP Pavilion dm1z is a remarkable value.

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Author Bio
Michael A. Prospero
Michael A. Prospero, Reviews Editor
Michael A. Prospero has overseen reviews on Laptopmag.com since 2007, focusing on producing the most thorough and authoritative mobile product reviews. After receiving his Master of Science in Journalism from Columbia in 2003, Mike worked at Fast Company. Prior to that, he worked at The Times of Trenton, George and AlleyCat News.
Michael A. Prospero, Reviews Editor on
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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 1.6-GHz AMD Dual Core E-350
Operating System MS Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
RAM 3GB
RAM Upgradable to 8GB
Hard Drive Size 320GB
Hard Drive Speed 7,200rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 11.6
Native Resolution 1366x768
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card AMD Radeon HD 6310
Video Memory Shared
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Wi-Fi Model Ralink RT5390
Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.1
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 3.3 x 2 inches
Ports (excluding USB) Combo Headphone/Mic Jack
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
USB Ports 3
Warranty/Support 1-Year Limited/ Toll Free
Size 11.4 x 8.4 x 0.8-1.2 inches
Weight 3.4 pounds
Company Website www.hp.com