HP Pavilion dm1z Review (Fall 2011, AMD)
Last year we reviewed the HP Pavilion dm1z powered by AMD’s first generation of Fusion processors and were impressed with the amount of value and performance it offered at such a low price. Since then HP has rolled out an update to the popular dm1z, which brings significant design and hardware refinements to this budget ultraportable. The configuration of the Pavilion dm1z system that we review here is powered by a 1.65GHz AMD dual-core E-450 processor, 4GB of ram, a 320GB 7200RPM hard drive, and AMD Radeon HD 6320 graphics.
HP has refined the design of the dm1z and raised the bar for the dm1z’s design, making it sleeker. For starters, the battery doesn’t protrude as much from the rear of the dm1z, nor does it stick out from between the display’s hinges. The dm1z is also now available in a choice of ruby red or charcoal. The laptop remains pretty lightweight at 3.52lbs. But while the design has been refined, and the cover lid is now made with a matte finish, the lid continues to be a greasy fingerprint magnet, just like it did on the first dm1z.
The click-pad used on the original dm1z was a bone of contention for us, but fortunately HP has switched to using a trackpad with dedicated left and right mouse buttons, making it that much more usable. Trackpad aside, we really loved the first dm1z’s keyboard’s great tactile feedback and the keyboard on the new dm1z seems virtually identical to the previous gen’s keyboard. Like with its predecessor, it’s also a full-size chicklet style keyboard, and it is very enjoyable to use.
The new dm1z sports a similar 11.6″ display to its predecessor, with a 1366 x 768-pixel resolution. This display has been very slightly improved over the previous generation’s display, in the way that it doesn’t suffer from the same minor graininess effect that we noticed on the first generation of the dm1z. Unfortunately, we’re not crazy about the display on the dm1z because its colors are a bit washed out. Overall, the display on the dm1z is fine and gets the job done, but overall contrast and color vibrancy could be much better. However, for a laptop in this price category, its display is pretty average.
It’s not just the design of the dm1z that has been refined, but under the hood the processor has been upgraded to AMD’s newer 1.65GHz E-450 dual-core processor. In contrast, the previous dm1z was running on the E-350 dual-core processor. HP has also added Beats Audio technology which is a premium feature more commonly found on their more expensive PCs. But going back to the dm1z’s new processor, the E-450 is part of AMD’s Fusion series of APUs which has the GPU and CPU placed together on the same chip, so that both work together hand in hand, off loading tasks to one another as necessary. The Fusion series allows PC makers to build budget ultraportables that can handle HD video playback and some pretty serious gaming too.
The Pavilion dm1z earned a Windows Experience Index score of 3.9, with a graphics score of 4.6 and a gaming graphics score of 5.9. The system also earned a score of 958 in PCMark 7 and P197 in 3DMark 11, proving that it’s indeed capable of some casual and moderately serious gaming, especially when it comes to older games. But where the E-450 APU inside the dm1z really shines is when it comes to HD video playback, even for 1080p files. Unfortunately, the dual-core E-450 that is in the newer dm1z model is not showing that much of a performance improvement over the E-350. However, like the E-350 it still provides plenty of power and performance, especially when it comes to media intensive tasks.
When it comes to day to day performance, the dm1z goes a fine job for web browsing, using Office, basic multitasking, and even basic Photoshop work. To sum up, the E-450 provides a lot more punch and capabilities than a stereotypical netbook running on an Atom processor. However, most ultrabooks are going to perform faster than the dm1z when it comes to everyday tasks.
The dm1z comes with both VGA and HDMI ports, along with three USB 2.0 ports, an SD card reader, an ethernet port, and both headphone and microphone jacks. The laptop can also be configured with an SSD for an additional cost. These are all pretty standard features for an ultraportable, but the inclusion of HDMI is very notable for a system that costs just $399.
Plug the dm1z into your TV via HDMI out and the laptop is powerful enough to drive a second display. That means that you can connect a TV to the dm1z via HDMI and use it in mirror mode, or as an extended display. The E-450 APU is even powerful enough to have the extended display playback 1080P video. This is quite the feat at this price-point, and something made possible by the AMD APU.
Battery life on the dm1z is very good, especially for the price. We got about 6 hours on a charge with Wi-Fi on and moderate use.
The sequel to the original dm1z offers a welcome set of improvements, including a significantly sleeker design, the inclusion of Beats Audio, and slightly faster performance. All in all, while the new HP dm1z Pavilion is no ultrabook, it’s definitely not a netbook either. So while it’s a shame that the display on the dm1z doesn’t do the AMD APU’s video playback capabilities enough justice, for those of you looking for a budget ultraportable machine, but not willing to lay out the cash for a pricier ultrabook, the dm1z hits the sweet spot. With good battery life, good performance and the ability to handle HD playback with aplomb – the HP Pavilion dm1z, powered by AMD’s E-450 APU, continues to be a great deal. Pricing for the dm1z begins at $399. The $399 configuration comes with the AMD E-300 1.3GHz processor with AMD Radeon HD 6310M graphics, 4GB of ram, and a 320GB 5400RPM drive. The E-450 processor costs an additional $25 to configure the system with it. The Dm1z can also be picked up for just $448 on Amazon, with the E-450 processor configuration.
The Good: New sleeker design, good performance with great HD video playback, HDMI out, excellent full-sized keyboard, very good battery life, great price, capable of casual gaming
The Bad: Display is mediocre, mouse buttons are a bit stiff