Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: HP Pavilion dm1z

A netbook on full throttle!

SmileSturdy build; Elegant design; Gaming capability; Full HD support
Sad smileComes with endless bloatware; Slightly heavy
Expert Rating : StarStarStarStar


HP Pavilion dm1z
MRP: Rs 26,730
Street Price: Rs 25,000
Tablets are taking the world by storm. Even corporate users are buying them in order to replace their bulky laptops. True, notebooks aren't very convenient to carry around, but are tablets really worth the hype surrounding them? After spending a few days with the iPad 2 and Acer Iconia Tab, my answer is no. Well, they do have a slim profile and faster CPUs, but at the end of the day they are only good for playing around with.
If you are looking for a portable device to get your work done, then you must check out netbooks. These devices are essentially compact laptops that sacrifice the optical drive to achieve the portability. The initial Atom-based netbooks were good for performing tasks such as web browsing and data handling. However, they failed to please users who were ready to pay a premium for additional goodies such as HD video playback and better multitasking. The situation changed with NVIDIA's ION, which brought some much-needed energy to Intel's platform. Sadly, the lack of love between the two companies let the platform down.

Intel was dominating the desktop market, but it had a chasm between its powerful Core processor family and Atom CPUs. Technically, i3 ULV (Ultra-Low Voltage) CPUs are present, but they're too expensive for practical use. This gave AMD a good chance to go head-on with Intel using its much-expected Fusion. However, the company took its time to deliver Atom's nemesis. Actually, it took too long, as the thing was announced way back in 2006. Nonetheless, as the saying goes: der sahi per durust sahi.

Finally, we have this HP netbook that comes with AMD's promise of full HD playback and some gaming capabilities. Let's find out whether it justifies its premium price tag of Rs 10,000 more than a basic netbook.

Build Quality And Design

The retail box comes with a netbook and power brick. When closed, the device measures 11.4" (l) x 8.4" (w) x 1.2" (d). It sports an elegant design and colour scheme. The lid features a semi-gloss finish and a rubbery texture that feels far better than the usual glossy laptops. Moreover, this also helps it remain immune to fingerprints.

Despite the use of plastic, the gadget feels very sturdy. This is due to the use of good quality materials. Additionally, the curved body makes this 1.6 kg device feel comfortable while holding it. The hinge is well-built and enables the display to be reclined at an angle of 180 degrees.

The inner bezel has a silver finish that goes well with the rest of the black body. It sports a webcam, cam light, and microphone. The island-style keyboard is designed to make the most of the available space. The keys are big enough to avoid typos. HP has managed to offer two full-sized [SHIFT] keys on the keyboard. However, [HOME], [END], [PAGE UP], and [PAGE DOWN] are nowhere to be seen. This is not an issue though, as the combination of [Fn] + arrow keys make up for them. For example, [Fn] + [UP] for [PAGE UP].

The trackpad is reasonably big and contains two mouse buttons that are virtually indistinguishable, except for a raised line indicating where they start. This helps maintain continuity in the design. Oh, and the trackpad can perform some pinch-zoom tricks.In contrast to most laptops, the dm1z's back panel lacks any screws; just slide a button on the rear and the panel opens up, revealing the hard drive, RAM, and other components. This is heaven for people who like to mod their machines.

Overall, the design and build quality is quite pleasant. With a backlit keyboard, it would have been perfect.Display And Sound

The 11.6" LED backlit screen offers pixel dimensions of 1366x768. This HD-capable screen sets you free from cropped videos and web pages. The glossy display offers impressive brightness, but it's prone to glare when kept opposite a light source. Viewing angles are strictly ok, and it starts losing colours beyond 45 degrees.

Surprisingly, the Altec Lancing sound strip on the front edge of the dm1z sounds superb. It's very loud for a system of this size. Additionally, some Dolby wizardry adds depth to the sound - great for enjoying music and movies, and you won't really need to pull out the earphones from your pocket that often.


The configuration we tested had 2 GB RAM, a 320 GB (7200 rpm) hard drive, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a 6-cell lithium ion battery. The main attraction, of course, is AMD's much touted APU (Accelerated Processing Unit), which the company likes to call Fusion. In the dm1z's case, it integrates a 1.6 GHz dual-core E350 CPU and Radeon HD 6310 GPU on the same die, thus improving data transfer rates while reducing power consumption.

Little wonder then, that I had no problem switching between programs while running Photoshop, Word,  an MP3 player, IrfanView, and IE9 with 15 open tabs. Additionally, just for the sake of testing, I also played HD content in VLC player, with still no sign of a slowdown. This product humbles Atom-based netbooks, which choke even with Photoshop and five open tabs in IE9.The Raedeon HD 6310 GPU enables smooth 1080p video playback, and also has an HDMI port. Moreover, when it comes to gaming, the dm1z simply shreds Atom-based systems to pieces. Quake 4 and World of WarCraft ran without any lag even on high settings. What's more, even Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was playable at an average framerate of 22 when set to the native resolution of 1366x768. This isn't something that you need from a netbook, but something that you want!The tiny webcam is good enough to video chat on Skype. The small LED actually helps in low light. The microphone is sensitive, and my friend at the other end was able to hear me properly.

The dm1z manages to stay cool even after hours of continuous use. The vent is designed to keep the heat away from your body. It's not like those stupid laptops whose vents roast your lap. However, the fan runs constantly and is audible in a quiet environment. Perhaps HP was skeptical about AMD's heating issues, generally observed in earlier chipsets.

One annoying thing about the laptop is the amount of bloatware that comes pre-installed. It includes random games, CyberLink DVD suite, and Times Reader, and the count goes up to almost 30.Battery Life
Considering the amount of raw power on offer, don't expect this netbook to match the battery performance of its Atom-based counterparts. I've seen some of the latter devices last as long as 10 hours on a single charge and under moderate use. Under similar conditions, the dm1z manages to provide slightly more than 8 hours, with the display brightness set to normal. However, under heavy use including sessions of COD:MW2, HD video playback, and lots of browsing using a hotspot, the battery lasted for 6 hours. The 6-cell battery's performance is quite good, and shows that AMD has finally managed to achieve a balance between fancy speeds and battery performance.
Apart from the real world experience, we also ran the Battery Eater benchmark. During the tests, the brightness was set to maximum. The test runs in two modes: Reader mode basically scrolls through a text file until the battery runs out. This represents moderate, or day-to-day usage. Classic mode renders a 3D model in real-time, thus subjecting the system to stress. The test results are as follows:Verdict

After spending a few weeks with the HP Pavilion dm1z, I can tell that AMD's Fusion has lived up to the hype. HP has succeeded in providing a nice design and sturdy build quality. The HD video playback is flawless, and the netbook is good to go when it comes to gaming. Moreover, it handles multitasking with ease, without taking a toll of the battery performance.

If you've had enough of tablets and are looking for a supercharged netbook for work and some fun, the dm1z provides great value for money. On the other hand, if you don't need fancy features and performance, it makes sense to buy a pocket-friendly Atom netbook.
Features: 4/5
Design & Build Quality: 4/5
Performance: 4/5
Value For Money: 4/5
Mojo: 4/5


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