The display and controls
Like pretty much all ultraportables in its class, the dm1z has an 11.6", 1366x768 TN panel. The high pixel density makes text on the screen smaller than what you might expect from a desktop display, but it also means you won't run out of screen real estate too easily. 1366x768 provides a reasonable amount of vertical space and plenty of room on the X axis, which will help multitaskers who like to leave lots of windows open. This is a pretty clear step up from your typical 1024x600 netbook panel.
In terms of image quality, well, cheap TN panels are pretty much a known quantity. You can expect relatively bright, colorful images if you look at the display dead-on. Put it at a slight angle vertically or horizontally, and the contrast will start to change—almost like the pixels are sulking because you're not giving them your full attention.
To HP's credit, the screen's color calibration and gamma levels out of the box seem better than on some laptops we've seen in the past. On-screen images are neither too yellow nor too blue, and the subtle blue-gray tinge at the bottom of TR's background gradient is clearly discernible from the white content boxes. Also, for what it's worth, the display doesn't exhibit the odd screen-door effect we've noticed on certain panels.
Looking down at the keyboard, we see a nice array of chiclet keys and a few divergences from the norm. The caps lock, F11, and F12 keys all have built-in LEDs to signal their status. F11 is the "mute" key, while F12 toggles the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. F12 lights up white by default, but hitting it will change the color to orange—pretty swanky, and a surprising luxury for a $450 notebook.
Also, and this is less noteworthy, HP has gone with full-height left and right arrow keys. That choice can make positioning your fingers slightly difficult if you're used to the more common half-height keys. The taller keys don't take long to get used to, though.
The Pavilion dm1z's keyboard dimensions almost match those of our full-sized reference, and the keyboard looks and feels reasonably close.
|Total keyboard area||Alpha keys|
|Size||275 mm||104 mm||28,600 mm²||164 mm||53 mm||8,692 mm²|
|Versus full size||96%||95%||91%||95%||93%||89%|
Feeling is really where this keyboard excels, at least when compared to its brethren on other ultraporatables. The keys are shockingly firm, provide excellent tactile feedback, have good travel distance, are well delinated, and exhibit very little flex. Translation: typing is delightfully crisp and responsive. I was able to hit an easy 119 words per minute with no errors in TypingTest.com's 60-second "Tigers in the Wild" test, which is more than I can say for a great many other laptops.
I'd love it if the keys were just a teensy bit larger, but the keyboard pretty much takes up the whole width of the system as it is.
Finally, we have the touchpad: a multi-touch Synaptics specimen with an internal rocker switch, much like what you can find on Apple's MacBooks. The obvious difference is that T-shaped ridge along the bottom, which defines the left and right "buttons." The whole thing is a tracking area, though, so you can swipe past the ridge and, unless you push down, the pointer will keep moving on the screen.
Double-tap that pale dot in the upper-left corner, and the touchpad will be disabled. The dot will also turn orange. I guess that's a neat option if you want to avoid accidental input for whatever reason, but I don't see much of a use for it. Perhaps it's helpful if you're using a Bluetooth mouse and want to pretend the touchpad doesn't exist.
Overall, this is one of the better touchpads you'll find, not just on an ultraportable but on any PC laptop. The surface requires some breaking in, but its coefficient of friction feels right—not overly tacky and not too slippery, either. Taps register with good enough precision that I don't feel the urge to use the buttons to click, and the fact that the input area includes the buttons is genius for a compact system like this one with limited space in front of the keyboard. This is no Apple touchpad, but it's surprisingly close for a $450 machine. Good work, HP. The only notable downside, as far as I'm concerned, is that there seems to be no option to set up a three-finger tap to register as a right click. Multi-touch features like three-finger swiping and two-finger scrolling are there, though.