HP is ever keen to talk up its Dr. Dre Beats Audio sound systems, so it comes as no surprise that the company has now named a notebook after its Beats Audio credentials. The HP Pavilion dm4 is a multimedia laptop with especial emphasis on audio oomph.
The DM4 notebook is configurable up to a 2.8GHz i7-2640M coupled with a dedicated Radeon HD 7470M graphics card and a bloshy 16GB RAM. No let-up on the spec parade with the storage solution either – a hybrid HDD +mSATA hybrid should keep everything humming along nicely. However the unit reviewed here is a mid-range rig featuring a Sandy Bridge i5 chip and integrated HD3000 graphics processing, with a 20GB mSATA SDD for hybrid storage. The Pavlion dm4 Beats Edition notebook starts at $900, rising to $1400 or so for the top-of-the-range model, although media-enthusiasts should bear in mind that the range is confined to the 14-inch form factor.
It’s actually very similar is appearance to the HP Envy 14 Beats Edition, with matte black lid, and brushed aluminum texture. The chassis tapers down from 32mm to 24mm out front, all set off by an appealing rubberized surface to the keyboard base and display bezel. Workmanship is solid, and hinges, lid and everything feel sufficiently durable.
A pair of USB-3 sockets kicks off a good port selction – VGA and HDMI sockets, SDcard reader, good old USB-2 port, combination audio jack. WiFi and Bluetooth 3 both included, and WiDi capability as well. And to keep all those ports dust-free while your portable entertainment system is being carted around, HP has provided a fetching black velvet sleeve.
The one-year standard warranty is upgradeable to as much as 4 years, with various extras including Accidental Damage Protection (think mid-jive upended cocktail).
The backlit scrabble-tile keyboard (30cm x 11cm) continues the black and red theme, and adds to the overall good impression. The keys have a good pressure point but shallow travel means a steepish re-learning curve before you’ll be rattling out the missives fault-free at speed. The same annoying minified cursor keys found in most current notebooks. The mousepad is slightly on the small side at 8.8 x 4.5 cm. The separate trackpad keys work flawlessly and the mousepad’s multi-toch gestures, including four-fingered commands, also work fine. However due to the small sie of the trackpad some of those gestures are difficult to execute. The trackpad can be disabled via double-tapping its top-elft edge, useful when typing.
The 14-inch display offers a decent 1600 x 900 pixel resolution, better than most 14-inchers in its price range. Even the Acer Aspire S3 and HP Folio 13 ultrabooks don’t offer 1600:900 pixel panels. Thus whether browsing or working with text documents there is more space for viewing applications side-by-side. Both text and images render well although the 204-nit display is not particularly bright, although that middling nit-count, coupled with the fact that brightness drops slightly when the notebook is unplugged, mean outdoor use is sub-par. 68% coverage for the sRGB color spectrum will be good enough for all but professional graphics workers, certainly acceptable for video or browsing. The matte display is the dm4′s saving grace in outdoor use, making work in the shade tolerable.
The dual-core Sandy Bridge i5-2450M CPU runs at 2.5GHz, and is hyper-threaded to approach quad-core performance. The review unit came with 6GB of dual channel DDR3 RAM, and in the same bay is found a UMTS module. In benchmarks the HP dm4 equals scores achieved by similarly equipped laptops, but for a significant boost to processing power users should upgrade to an i5-2520M or even i7-2640M processor, though the standard i5-2450M should keep everyone but power uses happy. The hybrid HDD and mSATA SSD configuration helps system performance and scores in tests approached those of SSD-only systems such as the Schenker XMG A501 or Toshiba Satellite R850.
It all means everyday tasks like multi-tabbed browsing run without a hitch. The HDD is a 500GB 7200rpm Seagate affair, hence the great performance. Cold boot time is around 20 seconds – as good as anything for the price. With the base model’s HD3000 IGP light gaming is possible but current titles are only playable at low settings. The dual speakers and subwoofer give excellent volume and far above average bass notes for a notebook, with very little distortion even at high volume A single combo audio jack is a bit weak for a notebook partly sold on its audio merits. Battery life is fair, flat-out gives a mere 64 minutes but power-saving mode, brightness right down etc stretches to above eight hours – or six hours of moderate use. For a mid-ranger, the HP dm4 notebook packs in some good features – it’s stylish, capable, has good battery life, and offers excellent audio. Hard to beat for $900.
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