review hps pavilion dm1z fusion powered ultraportable

HP’s Pavilion dm1z Fusion-powered ultraportable

Manufacturer HP
Model Pavilion dm1z
Price (Street)
Availability Now

AMD has taken its sweet time concocting an answer to Intel’s dynamic duo of Atom and Consumer Ultra Low-Voltage processors. With the Brazos platform and the Fusion APUs within, however, AMD looks like it may finally have its ducks in a row.

We recently caught a glimpse of Brazos’ most affordable and lowest-power dual-core configuration inside the Acer Aspire AO522, which we called “the best netbook we’ve ever tested.” We weren’t kidding. That machine’s C-50 APU keeps up with Intel’s dual-core Atom N550 while offering far better integrated graphics. The Aspire pulls off run times in the same league as the Atom-powered Eee PC 1015PN, too, and it even has a lower asking price. Score one from AMD.

Today, we’re about to see if Brazos in its most powerful incarnation can give Intel’s CULV platform a run for its money. Join us in welcoming the HP Pavilion dm1z, a $450 ultraportable with an 11.6″ display and a 1.6GHz AMD E-350 processor fresh out of TSMC’s 40-nm fabs in Taiwan. HP prices this system in the no-man’s-land between netbooks and CULV ultraportables. With the latter retailing for upward of $550 these days, the dm1z is a potential bargain.

Now, we’ve already tested AMD’s E-350 chip quite extensively, first as an engineering sample at AMD’s Austin campus then in a desktop config pitted against the finest desktop CPUs on the market. The performance picture shouldn’t hold too many surprises, but we still don’t know what to expect from the E-350 on the battery life front. AMD knows better than anyone how poor run times can ruin an otherwise compelling mobile platform—just look at, well, pretty much all of its past ultraportable platforms.

Competitive comparisons aside, we’re also curious to see if this HP notebook is any good on its own. I mean, hey, it starts at only $450, packs some rather decent hardware, and looks quite dashing. The dm1z seemed pretty well-built when we played with it at the Consumer Electronics Show, as well. Both AMD and HP could have real winners here. Let’s see if that’s the case.

The Pavilion dm1z shouldn’t look too unfamiliar if, like us, you’ve seen one or two 11.6″ budget ultraportables in the past. HP has just put a fresh coat of paint on the concept—with, to some degree, an almost Apple-like attention to detail. More on that in a minute.

Note that we’re using the term “ultraportable” to define this system. Some might be tempted to call the dm1z a netbook, especially considering the price, but we think that would be misleading. To us, a netbook typically has a 10.1″ display with a claustrophobic 1024×600 resolution, an Atom processor (or something equivalent), a gig of RAM, and Windows 7 Starter. There’s some wiggle room to that definition, but here, we’re dealing with something substantially more grown-up: an 11.6″ panel with a 1366×768 resolution, a dual-core processor with out-of-order execution, a generous amount of RAM, a non-crippled version of Windows, and a decent-sized keyboard and touchpad. You can do real work on this puppy—not just wear your finger to the bone scrolling down web pages clearly not designed for 600 pixels of vertical space.

The chart below provides a more detailed overview of the dm1z’s specs. The base $449.99 model on HP’s website has only 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive, but right now, HP offers free upgrades to 3GB and 320GB. For all intents and purposes, we’re looking at the cheapest configuration today.

Processor AMD E-350 1.6GHz
Memory 3GB DDR3-1333 (2 DIMMs)
Chipset AMD Hudson FCH
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6310
Display 11.6″ TFT with 1366×768 resolution and LED backlight
Storage Hitachi Travelstar 7K500 320GB 2.5″ 7,200 RPM hard drive
Audio Stereo HD audio via IDT codec
Ports 3 USB 2.0
1 RJ45 10/100 Ethernet via Realtek controller
1 analog headphone output
1 analog microphone input
Expansion slots 1 MMC/SDHC
Communications 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi via Ralink RT5390 controller
Bluetooth 3.0 via Ralink Motorola BC8 controller
Input devices Chiclet keyboard
Synaptics capacitive touchpad
Internal microphone
Camera 0.3-megapixel webcam
Dimensions 11.4″ x 8.4″ x 0.8-1.2″ (290 x 214 x 20-30 mm)
Weight 3.52 lbs (1.6 kg)
Battery 6-cell Li-ion 4770 mAh, 55 Wh

Nothing too out of the ordinary here, although it’s nice to see a 7,200-RPM hard drive included. A decent number of pricier, full-sized laptops are still saddled with 5,400-RPM drives, which aren’t exactly known for their responsiveness. HP also gets brownie points for including Bluetooth in the base config. Folks who prefer to forgo the confines of touchpads for the comfort of wireless mice will no doubt appreciate that feature.

As we said, the dm1z is quite the looker. The textured lid might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a heck of a lot nicer than a glossy mirror finish that would act as a magnet for smudges. In fact, HP told us it made a point to avoid glossy surfaces with the dm1z. The lid isn’t completely reflective, and the palm rest, display bezel, touchpad, and keyboard all have matte finishes. Oh joy! No buffing out smudges or, if you’re Geoff, scouring out the gloss with a Scotch-Brite pad.

This beauty is more than skin-deep. The Pavilion dm1z feels very solid and rigid, and as we’re about to find out, its input area is top notch.

The display and controls
Like pretty much all ultraportables in its class, the dm1z has an 11.6″, 1366×768 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. 1366×768 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 1024×600 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
Width Height Area Width Height Rough area
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’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.

Connectivity and expansion
Owing to its slim form factor, the Pavilion dm1z is a little light on connectivity. Nevertheless, HP has taken care of the essentials, offering a card reader, 1/8″ headphone port, dual USB 2.0 ports, VGA, and Ethernet on the right edge (the Ethernet port is hiding behind that labeled cap near the battery)…

…and an HDMI port, as well as an extra USB 2.0 port on the left edge. That side, by the way, also plays host to the A/C connector, the Kensington lock slot, the laptop’s one and only exhaust vent, and the power and hard-drive lights.

Putting activity lights on the side of the notebook, as opposed to the front, is a slightly unusual choice—most of the notebooks we’ve played with put those lights somewhere under the display or at the edge of the palm rest. Not having blinking lights in your field of vision when you’re trying to work is always nice, even if it means having to crane your neck if you do want to keep an eye on activity.

Flip the Pavilion dm1z, and you can see its surprisingly clean bottom surface. There are no vents, screws, ridges, or stickers under there—also quite unusual for a Windows notebook.

The only feature is a single latch, which frees the battery like so:

Once the battery’s out, you can position your thumbs inside a couple of grooves on either side of the space underneath and pry off the entire bottom panel, which is held in place only by plastic hooks (a healthy number of them). You can see the result below:

There’s that Windows license sticker! I was wondering where HP put it. The company also provides access to the storage, the memory, and even the lone cooling fan, making it easy to clean should dust gather over time.

Pre-installed software
Laptops that come pre-loaded with oodles of useful and not-so-useful software are, unfortunately, a fact of life these days. As part of our refreshed laptop test suite, we’re taking a closer look at just how much bloatware comes with each system. The boot time measurements later in this review will help highlight the performance impact of some of that bloat, too. For now, let’s see what this laptop comes with fresh out of the box.

Right off the bat, we can see this is no clean Windows installation. We have a customized desktop with “fences” containing shortcuts to a number of pre-installed apps. Those “fences,” by the way, have scrollbars that reveal additional shortcuts when you mouse over them. More shortcuts are pinned to the taskbar. Thankfully, the system tray doesn’t show too many apps running—only networking, audio, and touchpad control panels, plus a LightScribe app presumably useful if you hook up an external burner.

Windows’ “Uninstall” control panel reveals the full extent of the bloat:

A number of the entries above are admittedly for useful inclusions like Adobe Reader, driver packs, Microsoft Visual C++ redistributable packs, and Java. We’ve got plenty of interlopers, though, like the Bing Bar, Hulu Desktop, some sort of Netflix app, an Office 2010 trial, and Times Reader, not to mention a slew of HP applications of questionable value. Good thing this machine ships with a 320GB hard drive.

Not all of the HP apps warrant scorn from purists like ourselves, though. One of the particularly neat inclusions is CoolSense, which uses the dm1z’s accelerometer to determine whether you’re using the system on a desk or in another context—like say, your couch or a moving vehicle. With that information at hand, CoolSense lets you select a different fan profile for either situation.

As you can see above, it’s possible to set the Pavilion dm1z to run a little hotter when it’s sitting on a desk. HP told us it endeavored to position heat-generating components away from the keyboard and palm rest, so most of the heat should be felt on the bottom surface. If the system is resting on your thighs, that’s bound to get uncomfortable. On a desk, though, you should be able to enjoy the lower noise levels without suffering any discomfort.

Our testing methods
The list of systems we’ve put through our laptop benchmark suite is growing and growing. We’ve now got results for just about everything from netbooks to a quad-core Sandy Bridge workstation. We’ll be showing you all the numbers, because we can—and it’s pretty neat. In an effort to make the bar graphs on the following pages more readable, however, we’ve only colored bars for systems in the Pavilion dm1z’s league.

Those systems include the Toshiba T235D, which is based on AMD’s previous ultraportable platform; a pair of Acer Aspire “TZ” notebooks, which represent the CULV 2009 and CULV 2010 platforms; the Acer Aspire One AO522, which features Brazos in its low-power incarnation; and finally, for purely academic purposes, the 1.6GHz Zacate prototype we tested in November. That prototype should correspond to the E-350 inside the dm1z, so we’ll be able to see if anything’s changed.

Before we go forward, we should talk as we always do about the handful of machines we tested in multiple states. The N82Jv, U33Jc, Eee PC 1015PN, and T235D were all tested using special “battery-saving” profiles, and the N82Jv, U33Jc, and 1015PN were run in “high-performance” mode, too. With the N82Jv, we recorded our battery-saving results with Asus’ Super Hybrid Engine on, which dropped the CPU clock speed from 2.4GHz to 0.9-1GHz depending on the load. The U33Jc also has a Super Hybrid Engine mode, but we didn’t enable it for testing. On the U33Jc, the high-performance profile included by Asus raises the maximum CPU clock speed from 2.4 to 2.57GHz. On the N82Jv, the same profile leaves the CPU running at default speeds, i.e. up to 2.66GHz when Turbo Boost kicks in. Finally, with the Eee PC, the low-power profile limited the CPU to about 1GHz and disabled the Nvidia GPU, while the high-performance profile raised the CPU speed by a whole 25MHz.

With the exception of battery life, all tests were run at least three times, and we reported the median of those runs.

System AMD Zacate test system Acer Aspire 1810TZ Acer Aspire 1830TZ Acer Aspire One 522 Asus Eee PC 1015PN Asus N82Jv Asus U33Jc HP Pavilion dm1z Intel Core i7-2820QM 17″ review notebook Toshiba Satellite T235D-S1435 Zotac Zbox HD-ND22
Processor AMD Zacate engineering sample 1.6GHz Intel Pentium SU4100 1.3GHz Intel Pentium U5400 1.2GHz AMD C-50 1.0GHz Intel Atom N550 1.5GHz Intel Core i5-450M 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz AMD E-350 1.6GHz Intel Core i7-2820QM 2.3GHz AMD Turion II Neo K625 1.5GHz Intel Celeron SU2300 1.2GHz
North bridge AMD Hudson FCH Intel GS45 Express Intel HM55 Express AMD Hudson FCH Intel NM10 Intel HM55 Express Intel HM55 Express AMD Hudson FCH Intel HM67 Express AMD M880G Nvidia Ion
South bridge Intel ICH9 AMD SB820
Memory size 4GB (2 DIMMs) 3GB (2 DIMMs) 3GB (2 DIMMs) 1GB (1 DIMM) 1GB (1 DIMM) 4GB (2 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs) 3GB (2 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type DDR3 SDRAM DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 800MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 667MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 800MHz DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz
Memory timings N/A 5-5-5-15 6-6-6-15 N/A 6-5-5-12 7-7-7-20 7-7-7-20 9-9-9-25 11-11-11-30 6-6-6-15 7-7-7-20
Audio IDT codec Realtek codec with drivers Realtek codec with drivers Conexant codec with drivers Realtek codec with drivers Realtek codec with drivers Realtek codec with drivers IDT codec with 6.10.6302.0 drivers Conexant codec with drivers Realtek codec with drivers Realtek codec with drivers
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 6310 Intel GMA 4500MHD with drivers Intel HD Graphics with drivers AMD Radeon HD 6250 Intel GMA 3150 with drivers
Nvidia Ion with drivers
Intel HD Graphics with drivers
Nvidia GeForce 335M with drivers
Intel HD Graphics with drivers
Nvidia GeForce 310M with drivers
AMD Radeon HD 6310 with 8.821.0.0 drivers Intel HD Graphics 3000 with drivers AMD Mobility Radeon HD 4225 with 8.723.2.1000 drivers Nvidia Ion with drivers
Hard drive Crucial RealSSD C300 128GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue 500GB 5,400-RPM Toshiba MK3265GSX 320GB 5,400 RPM Toshiba MK2565GSX 250GB 5,400 RPM Western Digital Scorpio Blue 500GB 5,400-RPM Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB 7,200-RPM Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500GB 5,400-RPM Hitachi Travelstar 7K500 320GB 7,200-RPM hard drive Intel X25-M G2 160GB solid-state drive Toshiba MK3265GSX 320GB 5,400 RPM Western Digital Scorpio Black 500GB 5,400 RPM
Operating system Windows 7 Professional x64 Windows 7 Home Premium x64 Windows 7 Home Premium x64 Windows 7 Starter x86 Windows 7 Starter x86 Windows 7 Home Premium x64 Windows 7 Home Premium x64 Windows 7 Home Premium x64 SP1 Windows 7 Ultimate x64 Windows 7 Home Premium x64 Windows 7 Home Premium x64

We used the following versions of our test applications:

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Application performance
SunSpider JavaScript benchmark
The SunSpider benchmark is often used to test the JavaScript performance of different web browsers. Here, we’ve pressed it into service to see how different notebooks perform with the same version of Firefox (3.6.9).

In this JavaScript test, the Pavilion dm1z trails Acer’s CULV-powered Aspire 1810TZ and 1830TZ laptops, as well as the AMD Nile-powered Toshiba T235D. However, it’s substantially ahead of the Aspire One 522, which has a slower Brazos config, and the dual-core Eee PC 1015PN.

Incidentally, we should point out that the dm1z and the Zacate prototype we tested in November produced nearly identical results.

7-Zip has a handy built-in benchmark that lets us test both compression and decompression performance.

x264 video encoding
The x264 video encoding benchmark doesn’t call on GPU resources to accelerate the encoding process, leaving us with a good look at how the various mobile CPUs stack up.

The results for 7-Zip file compression and x264 video encoding mirror what we saw in SunSpider. 7-Zip decompression, however, is slightly quicker on the dm1z than on our CULV laptops.

This latest version of TrueCrypt makes use of the AES-NI instructions built into Intel’s Westmere and Sandy Bridge CPUs.

The dm1z sits right alongside the CULV ultraportables in TrueCrypt, although it’s a wee bit slower than the Nile-based Toshiba notebook.

That said, the performance spread between our key contenders doesn’t amount to much, be it in this benchmark or others. Just look at the huge performance increases afforded by our full-sized Asus laptops in “high performance” mode, not to mention the Sandy Bridge test machine. We think you’d be generally hard-pressed to tell the difference between the Pavilion dm1z and a cheap CULV ultraportable in day-to-day use.

Startup and wake times
For this round of tests, we busted out a stopwatch and timed how long it took for the notebooks to boot and wake from hibernation. For the startup test, we started timing as soon as the power button was hit and stopped when the Windows 7 hourglass cursor went away. For the wake-up test, we measured the time it took to bring up the log-in screen after hitting the power button.

Software bloat has its downsides. The Acer Aspire 1810TZ is running a clean installation of Windows, which explains its uncannily good performance in our startup test. Meanwhile, the dm1z does pretty poorly despite its 7,200-RPM hard drive. Having to wait a full minute for a computer to boot up is just frustrating.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
We tested the original Modern Warfare by running a custom timedemo, first at 800×600 with the lowest detail options, then again at 1366×768 with everything cranked up except for v-sync, antialiasing, and anisotropic filtering, which were all left disabled. With the Eee PC and Aspire One 522, we opted for respective native resolutions of 1024×600 and 1280×720 instead of 1366×768.

Now this, ladies and gentlemen, is where the dm1z’s E-350 accelerated processing unit really shines. The chip’s integrated Radeon HD 6310 graphics processor makes an easy meal of Call of Duty 4 at its lowest detail setting, beating CULV laptops and the old Nile platform by a sizable margin. It’s still not quite fast enough to run the game smoothly at 1366×768 with the detail cranked up, but the dm1z still beats the competition.

Far Cry 2
In Far Cry 2, we selected the “Action” scene from the game’s built-in benchmark and ran it in two configurations; first at 1366×768 in DirectX 10 mode with detail cranked up, then at that same resolution in DX9 mode with the lowest detail preset. Vsync and antialiasing were left disabled in both cases. Again, the Eee PC and Aspire One 522 were run at 1024×600 and 1280×720, respectively.

Our contestants fall in a similar order here, although if you look at the actual numbers, you’ll see not even the Pavilion d1mz can run Far Cry 2 smoothly with the detail turned down.

We’re going to skip subjective game tests this time around, largely because we already took care of that with the pre-production E-350 test rig we played with in November. As you’ve seen throughout the last couple of pages, the Pavilion dm1z’s E-350 offers almost exactly the same performance, be it in raw CPU tests or our scripted gaming benchmarks.

The gist of our last bout of subjective game testing is that, while the E-350 will happily run a wealth of modern games, you’re better off staying clear of graphically intensive titles like DiRT 2 or Just Cause 2 if you want smooth frame rates. We had good results with Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 and Alien Swarm once we turned down the detail settings. Also, as Geoff found when testing the E-350’s less capable little brother last month, you should have no trouble with indie games like Shank and Geometry Wars.

Video playback
Video decoding performance was tested using the same Iron Man 2 trailer in multiple formats. Windows Media Player was used for the H.264 QuickTime clips, while Firefox hosted the windowed YouTube test. In each case, we used Windows 7’s Performance Monitor to log CPU utilization for the duration of the trailer.

CPU utilization Result
Iron Man 2 H.264 480p 3.3-46.3% Perfect
Iron Man 2 H.264 720p 3.3-36.8% Perfect
Iron Man 2 H.264 1080p 0.9-61.1% Perfect
Iron Man 2 YouTube 720p windowed
(Flash 10.2)
38.4-69.6% Smooth, some dropped frames

The dm1z happily plays back 1080p video, although with the version of Flash 10.2 we grabbed off Adobe’s website, our 720p YouTube trailer was a little choppy in Firefox. Those results essentially reflect what we saw on the Aspire One AO522, where using an AMD-supplied version of Flash 10.2 ironed out the few kinks in YouTube. Hopefully, a future update to the publicly available Flash 10.2 release will bring the same benefits.

Battery life
To gauge run times, we conditioned our systems’ batteries by cycling them two times. For the web browsing test, we used TR Browserbench 1.0, which consists of a static version of the TR home page that cycles through different text content, Flash ads, and images, all the while refreshing every 45 seconds. Then, we tested video playback in Windows Media Player by looping an episode of CSI: New York encoded with H.264 at 480p resolution (straight from an HTPC). Wi-Fi and Bluetooth were enabled for the web browsing test and disabled for movie playback.

We attempted to keep the display brightness consistent across all systems, choosing levels corresponding to a readable brightness in indoor lighting. A 40% brightness setting was used on the Pavilion dm1z, Acer 1810TZ, Toshiba Satellite T235D, Asus N82Jv, and Eee PC 1015PN in its “Super Performance” mode. We used a 50% setting on the Aspire One 522, Eee PC 1015PN in “Battery Saving” mode (since disabling the Nvidia GPU seemed to reduce brightness), as well as on the U33Jc.

Considering the relatively pedestrian six-cell, 55-Wh battery, that’s not a bad showing at all for the Pavilion dm1z. Its battery life is substantially longer than that of the Toshiba T235D, whose battery had a slightly higher watt-hour rating (61 Wh). Our Acer Aspire 1810TZ pulled off longer run times, but it had two advantages: a bigger battery (63 Wh) and a slower hard drive.

No matter which way you cut it, 6.2 hours of web browsing is a lot for a $450 notebook. Too bad HP doesn’t offer a larger battery as an option. If you’re trying to achieve longer run times, your only route is to cough up the extra cash for a solid-state drive (HP lets you configure this system with a 128GB model for an extra $290). A second six-cell battery is also available for $60, which might be a more sensible upgrade if you don’t mind having to shut down or hibernate the dm1z after six hours.

Surface temperatures
We measured temperatures using an infrared thermometer at a distance of 1″ from the system after it had been running TR Browserbench 1.0 for about an hour.


The Pavilion dm1z’s palm rest and keyboard were relatively cool to the touch after an hour under our web browsing workload. Temperatures were a couple of degrees warmer on the underside, but 31°C is still more than comfortable enough if you’re using the machine on your lap.

Out of sheer curiosity, we set HP’s CoolSense utility to its “quiet” profile with the system sitting on a desk and then ran TR Browserbench 1.0 for another hour. Fan noise went down immediately and very noticeably, while temps only rose by about 1°C at the bottom right of the palm rest and on the underside. Things might heat up under heavier workloads, but having the option for quiet and relatively cool web browsing is definitely a plus.

Last month, we said the strengths of AMD’s Brazos platform were partly responsible for making Acer’s Aspire One AO522 the best netbook we’d ever tested. The AMD APU’s performance was excellent, and the system that accommodated it had some nice bells and whistles, like a high display resolution and a great keyboard and touchpad. We were looking at a netbook on steroids—but without an overblown price tag to match.

HP Pavilion dm1z
March 2011

HP’s Pavilion dm1z is in a similar position. While it’s not a radical departure from previous ultraportables, and its raw CPU performance actually lies a little bit below what’s available from the cheapest CULV laptops, the dm1z offers an extremely compelling package at an unbeatable price. The AMD E-350 delivers solid CPU performance, great graphics, and competitive battery life. The build quality is top notch, as are the keyboard and touchpad. Little extras like CoolSense and HP’s general attention to detail make this notebook much more than an ultra-cheap option for folks with shallow pockets.

I’m particularly shocked by the dm1z’s level of overall polish, which is highly unusual for a Windows notebook, never mind one that costs only $450. You could spend an extra $100-150 on an Intel CULV laptop with a quicker processor, but honestly, why would you? Odds are you might end up with something less comfortable to use.

The HP Pavilion dm1z is, therefore, fully deserving of our Editor’s Choice award. Right now, I’m considering ditching my MacBook for one of these. That’s saying a lot.

Going back to AMD, I think it’s now clear that Brazos is a home run for the company. Until we start seeing cheap Sandy Bridge ultraportables and next-generation Atom netbooks with better graphics performance, AMD-powered systems are likely to dominate in this price range—perhaps not in terms of market share, but definitely in terms of bang for your buck. That’s quite a reversal from the situation just a few months ago. Let’s hope AMD’s next mobile Fusion products are as compelling.

0 responses to “HP’s Pavilion dm1z Fusion-powered ultraportable

  1. We’ve had ours for about a week now. Quite impressed with what you get for the money. From a usability perspective, the glossy screen is OK – not garbage, not wonderful. Very happy with performance – including trying out a blu-ray disk (we bought an external blu-ray player). Construction seems durable. In my book, this gets 4.5 stars (out of 5). Not a 5.0 due to the screen and the bloatware takes away from it a little also (but I understand that HP uses that to milk a little more revenue off of the sale).

    We also bought the 11.6″ sleeve for it from HP. Fit is tight – could use a little more room in there. Definitely would not include the power brick in there. The external DVD player could fit, but I don’t like how it would be protected. Basically the sleeve is for the DM1Z only.

    I had been holding off a while to purchase until something this:

    – light (the DM1Z is borderline here, but light enough)
    – small (but not too small)
    – flexible (in terms of capabilities) – the dual core APU & “powerful enough” graphics

    came out… and very happy I waited. I also understand that probably around July / August I will have wished I waited until then, but hey – that’s how this industry works… 🙂

    Very happy with the bundled copy of Win7 (64 bit) along with the decent HDD (320 GB, 7200 RPM) and RAM (3 GB)

  2. Can I get a 13 inch version with sandy bridge and discrete graphics for 1,000 dollars. I love the touch pad/keyboard/build combo.

  3. You can almost get that by purchasing a Linux-native machine from those who offer them. No Windows license cost built into the machine, and the HDD is not a huge savings even if you could eliminate it, so you may as well put it on the shelf or pick up a quick $30 on Craigslist.

  4. my wife bought a dv5 (or dv6, can’t remember) late last year, which has a similar looking trackpad. Works really nicely other than the fact it’s occasionally erratic; scrolling gets reversed, taps don’t register but buttons do, then vice versa. Nothing changes in the Synaptics driver.

    Hopefully this version is a newer/ improved version, as, fancy buttons or not, it’s put me off HP laptops.

  5. Because if not, may have to wait for the X220, but that one may not have a trackpad like the other X’es.

  6. You use a laptop for a space heater?. May I suggest EBay and used Pentium 4Ms 🙂

  7. There’s an hour difference between the dm1z and X120e according to’s reviews of each unit. That’s very large. Sigh…

  8. Seconded. DXVA doesn’t work with everything, and it’s important to some that the CPU be able to play problem files with software-only fallbacks.

  9. I second all your points. However from the 2-3 reviews I have read so far the same 6-cell configurations the HP has longer battery life. That may be a deal break for somebody to not pick the X120e.

    I want to pick the X120e too especially with the keyboard and nub, but I have to ask myself is it worth the extra 150-200 bucks and 50-something minutes less battery life?

  10. What makes you think that the X120e touchpad is the same one as they use on the Edge’s?

  11. Notebook Review seemed to have no problems with the X120e’s fan?

    Again, I have to ask, can we try play those videos with GPU-acceleration disabled to see if the CPU can stand on its own just in case?

  12. HP gives you the service manual as well. I used it on my wife’s laptop and it worked quite well to upgrade the CPU.

  13. I nearly always disable the touchpad on my laptop. I use a [url=<]good mouse[/url<] most of the time.

  14. Hopefully netbooks will outgrow 1024×600. The Acer 522 at least has 1280×720, which is much better.

  15. Also add options for empty ram and minicard slots, and sign me up.

    Please still prewire all the antennas though. Dell, Lenovo and some others tend to do this with WWAN slots and the like. A dell I tore open from 2006 had 6 total antennas wired (extra 2 WWAN, 1 BT, 1 ?) with only a base 2×2 WLAN preinstalled, it was nice.

    Extra empty minicard and SIM slots with no connector soldered on are a common cardinal sin though, and HP did that on this model. My acer culv from 2009 had the same issue, made me cry.

  16. Way to go, AMD! This looks nice, I think I’ve definitely found my platform of choice for my next portable computing solution, but that said:

    [quote<]A number of the entries above are admittedly for useful inclusions like Adobe Reader, driver packs, Microsoft Visual C++ redistributable packs, and Java.[/quote<] ... Yeah. An out-of-date version of Adobe Reader and Java. Well done, HP. Well done.

  17. I think the reputable Taiwanese OEMs are your best bet. I seem to recall that MSI and/or Gigabyte offered barebones laptops at some point.

  18. To be fair, that version has 4GB of RAM and a 640GB hard drive, but that’s getting too close to what SB ULV powered ultraportables should be available at.

    In my opinion, the E-350’s performance is only adequate, and I’d pay the extra to get a Sandy Bridge powered system with a better display.

  19. Any that include, oh, say a CPU, and link directly to a trusted reseller/OEM, and aren’t refurbished?

    Basically I want an HP, dell, lenovo without a HDD, from HP/Dell/Lenovo directly.

  20. Yeah, I have that problem at times too (more so on some machines than others). SO I would welcome it also (I think it may be missing on the x120e, though possibly there’s something in the mouspad driver that gives the same effect)

  21. Oh, there are a few:


  22. It’s not. HP has included an additional 1GB module “free” since this came out in the beginning of January. OEMs seem to be using up and coming low end models like these for throwing out lower capacity RAM modules. They may be piling up due to decling netbook sales, and probably won’t be used for Sandy Bridge models.

  23. [quote<]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.[/quote<] That's for those of us who have lazy thumbs lingering out in front of the touchpad while typing, causing the cursor to jump to some random location. I've botched more sentences that way, and would welcome this feature.

  24. While, ironically, the Acer 522 is cheaper at Best Buy Canada than in the US. (Introduced at $$269, now $279 and $329 at

  25. Dual channel is the only possible reason I can think of not to do so, and I don’t even think Bobcat is.

  26. At 10″ you’ll probably only see the C-50, like in the Acer 522. Still, the Acer could be a good upgrade for your EeePC. I thought about getting the Acer, because I care about size, too, but ended up ordering the Lenovo X120e with a 3 cell battery, since I don’t need very long battery life, and the Lenovo with 3 cell weighs 1.3kg like the many netbooks (including the Acer with 6 cell), is about as deep but a bit wider, and I felt that trading that extra width for the extra power and usability was worth it. The HP is bigger and weighs more than even the Lenovo with a 6 cell battery, so it wasn’t an option for me.

  27. As the other have said, it’s best to get the base X120e, with just CPU upgrade to E-350, Bluetooth if you need it, and a 6 cell battery. then add other stuff. $80 for another 2GB of RAM is ridiculous, and for the $70 that the upgrade to 320GB 7200RPM you can buy a good 500GB 7200RPM drive. Still considerably more expensive than the HP if you go this way, though.

    I bought the base Lenovo configuration for $395 with the 3 cell battery, no bluetooth, just base configuration with E-350 (using the 10% off coupon). I appreciate being able to trade weight/size for battery life, and I don’t need the extra couple hours currently.

  28. Google for 05962PU or 05962NU, they start at below $500 (PU, Provantage, in stock). Add the extra RAM yourself for $10, $20 for 4GB total and there you are! Including Win7 Pro x64 btw.

    Lenovo online shop CTO premiums for anything but the dualcore are a bad joke.

  29. You know, if all you care about is the specification numbers and the price, then by all means go for the dm1z. But I would just like to point out certain advantages of the ThinkPads which are not quite conveyed simply by putting the specifications side by side:

    [list<] [*<][b<]The keyboard:[/b<] ThinkPad keyboards are legendary, very reassuringly solid and very comfortable to type. Sure, the X100e/X120e went chicklet, and the purists cried nooooo, but the reviews of the X100e seem to indicate that this style of keyboard is very good too. Oh, and they're [url=<]spill-resistant[/url<] too (they have wee holes at the bottom of the chassis where spills are routed to). [/*<][*<][b<]The “nub”:[/b<] Granted, it's not to everyone's liking, and touchpads seem to be all the rage with the kids these days. But some of us find the trackpoint very comfortable, and it allows one to move the pointer without moving one's fingers away from the home row. [/*<][*<][b<]The build quality:[/b<] They can pry my X40 from my dead, cold hands (until I upgrade anyway); it just feels so solid! Of course the X120e, being an “affordable” model, probably has concessions in that department, but it can't be as bad as the plastic buckets that everyone else seems to be churning out at this price range. [/*<][*<][b<]Repairability:[/b<] ThinkPads are [i<]meant[/i<] to be serviced by the end user (or more often, the corporate sysadmin), and they're designed with that goal in mind. Additionally, Lenovo gives you full access to the [url=<]Hardware Maintenance Manual[/url<], so there's no need to hunt for third-party repair tutorials. Years ago I once replaced the screen hinges of my X20, and it was piece of cake (and I'm your regular build-your-own-desktop kind of guy, not some electronics expert who can go crazy with the soldering gun). [/*<][*<][b<]Support:[/b<] Does HP have worldwide warranty coverage? I.e., buy in one country, have your warranty honoured in any other? Because Lenovo does (for ThinkPads anyway), just like Apple, and let me tell you, for some of us this is damn convenient.[/*<] [/list<] So yeah, it's not just the matte display. But of course, not everyone cares about the above points equally. And it still remains the case that the dm1z is a sweet little laptop. It remains to be seen which one of the two will come to Europe first...

  30. Why don’t they just ship these with 4GB of ram in one slot. The lower weight and increased battery life would be a plus. With 4GB dimms so cheap all 11.6″ models should skip the second slot entirely.

    Also reinstalling windows is a good option on all OEM laptops. But it all depends on which Indian/Malaysian you get on the line. Some of them can be a real pain in the arse, trying to make you prove its the same machine.

  31. At that point one might as well reinstall Windows. Performance won’t improve, but battery life will.

  32. I kind of skimmed past the note about the CoolSense utility in the battery/temps section, but that’s clearly a point in the dm1z’s favor vs the x120e; the Lenovo has been noted as having a fairly audible cooling fan. That [i<]should[/i<] be fixable (or at least made more bearable) through software, as the dm1z demonstrates, but that doesn't help the out-of-box experience. Though even in the HP's case you'd rather have that in the BIOS than Yet Another utility process running in the background. Also, kudos to HP for making it easy to get at the guts for upgrading (and fan cleaning -- that's kind of amazing, actually)

  33. uninstall the HP bloatwares and you will see a dramatic increase in performance 🙂

  34. Pricing can change on the Lenovo I think. They are usually more expensive at launch and then drop with 20-30% off pretty soon.

  35. HP seems to have done an unusually good job on this thing. Nice to see someone make a bit of an effort to keep up with Apple on “niceness” and not just raw numbers.

    Also, go AMD! This reminds me a lot of K8 vs P4.

  36. Going through with the the E-350, Bluetooth, and the 6-cell battery gets me to $488.64
    Going through w/same config and coupon code [url=<]USPAMAZON[/url<] (10% off) gets it down to $458.10 Another [url=<]2GB RAM[/url<]: $24.99 (don't forget to select Win 7 HP x64 rather than 32bit) 7200 HD (320-500GB [url=$50%20-%20$75<]take your pick[/url<]): $59.99 That's $543.08. Knock another twenty bucks off if you can live with a Samsung [url=<]250GB[/url<] 7200 rpm drive. Which seems quite reasonable for an ultra-portable machine that isn't chopping my eyes to pieces every second I'm trying to use it, and has a keyboard that doesn't make me want to throw it across the room after typing a sentence. The black exterior is nicer than silver too. Though I do kind of wish the "heatwave red" option on the x100e had carried over. 😉 But I'll probably take the purchase price higher than that anyway, with upgrades like a second battery and an SSD that I'd get no matter which machine I buy.

  37. At least you can get it. In Aus:
    Acer Aspire: not listed
    HP dm1: nope
    Lenovo X120e: no plans to bring to Aus

  38. I wish they would make a 10.1″ version of this. It’s a prefect replacement for my EeePC 1005. However I like the small size of a 10.1″ laptop. 11.6″ would not be too bad but it’s just not what I want.

  39. The Lenovo starts at $399 but you’ll want the upgrade to the E-350, which is an additional $40. Bringing it to $439. Even if you change nothing else the HP is only $10 more but offers more memory, a faster and larger hard drive AND a 6-cell battery by default. Which on the Lenovo is an additional, so it’s $489 just to get comparable in your assumptions.

    Personally I’m deciding between the HP and Lenovo right now. I might still go with the Lenovo because it’s black (a big plus) and the matte screen (really big plus). But 4GB and a 7200RPM HD are mighty tempting for a lower price. It’s a trade off, not sure which one I’m going to make.

  40. The asus is a glossy wasteland, but other than that it looks pretty good, the 12xx series is fairly well made.

    The x series is for us gloss haters.

  41. Yeah, in running through the configuration tool at I spec’d the base RAM and HD precisely because I plan to add aftermarket memory and disk myself.

  42. You’re crazy to spec out extra ram with any vendor though, they all universally rip you off. Its insulting when newegg et al will ship you a branded kit (likely spot) for less than vendors want to configure whatever random noname dimms are in the contract bin this month.

    The default single 2gb config for the x120e is ideal for adding more yourself. You can add another 2gb yourself cheaper than anyone would charge for going from 2 to 3, or 2 to 6 less than a 4 base. If only they would sell without ram, I would bet dollars to donuts you could install 8gb yourself cheaper than any vendor charges for a 4gb config.

    /end memory rant

    I’ll give you points for the weaker HD, but for SSD addicts like me any bump in HD is a waste, its just going to go into a random usb case as a spare drive. If you do the ram and SSD yourself, you can have a decked out 6gb+SSD x120e for a little over 600.

  43. You could be right, but that just reinforces my recommendation that anyone interested play with one in a store first. Don’t buy it blind over the internet.

    I hate… previous iterations of HP’s multitouch trackpad.

  44. i want a review comparing asus upcoming 1215b and x120e which all using the e350.
    Back to this ..i really don’t like the fat hinge between the keyboard and screen.other than that, it’s decent the notebook.

  45. This pad could be updated. One of the best aspects of the TR laptop reviews is that they’re straight up with you about keyboards and touchpads. I would reserve judgement until you’ve used this particular models implementation.

  46. It’s actually the trackpad that would be the dealbreaker for me. I hate HP’s multitouch pad. Hate it. It’s terrible- frankly, I resent the comparison to the trackpad Apple uses.

    If you’ve never used this HP trackpad, play with one in a store for a while. Actually use it to surf the web for a while, play a little Solitaire, normal stuff. Maybe you’ll like it. But I hate it.

    Did I mention that I hate it?

  47. The CPU doesn’t support dual channel memory, if that’s what you’re wondering.

  48. This is pretty tempting. We just picked up some Atom N550’s (Asus 1015PEN-MU17’s I think) for field use and honestly, the biggest deal for us is finding that AMD finally has competitive battery life.

    Combine it with the fact that 11.6″ Atom netbooks seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur, and these look very attractive.

  49. Great review, thanks. If this baby comes to Europe soon and at a decent price point, I’ll have few reservations recommending it left and right to people.

  50. The matte display is worth a couple of hundred dollars to me. Seriously. Given the choice of a dual core with a matte display and a quad core at the same price with a glossy, I’ll take the matte dual. Given the choice of 1080p 30fps game-worthy GPU (with no loss of battery life) on a glossy screen, and Intel IGP on a matte screen at the same price, I’ll take the matte IGP. Given the choice of 10 hour battery life on a glossy screen and 5 hours on a matte screen, at the same weight, I’ll take the shorter-lived matte. And given the choice of a glossy screen at $400 and an identical system with the matte screen at $600, I’ll pay the premium. (Talking about sub-$800 ultra-portables here, not mobile workstations or something else where different considerations might apply)

    In fact about the only thing that would sway me against a matte screen is a crappy keyboard (which is also why I’ve never been lured by slates or IPads). But it looks like Lenovo got the keyboard right on the x120e (ie kept it the same as the x100e). I care much less about the touchpad (the Engadget review did note it’s not as good as the dm1z) and I always disable all the gesture stuff anyway (in fact the one thing that looks appealing about the dm1z’s touchpad is the spot to quickly disable it altogether, something I was amused to see Cyril didn’t value at all) I haven’t actually handled an x120e yet (which at this point is the only thing that’s delaying my purchase) but at Fry’s last year when I was walking up and down the rows of laptops, the [i<]only[/i<] one I wanted to spend more than a couple of minutes on was the x100e: the keyboard and (especially) screen were just that much better than everything else. Assuming they didn't mess that up in the transition to the x120e (and from the reviews around the web it appears they didn't), the x120 gets my money. In fact the only machine that I've been more tempted by is the U260, which you really have to put under your hands to appreciate -- the feel of the outer skin and deck around the keyboard puts everything else to shame, including anything from Apple -- it's the first laptop I'd describe as [i<]luxurious[/i<]. But (based on the Engadget review) the battery life is less than even I can tolerate, especially for something that costs over $800 and isn't a sub-12" ultra-thin/ultra-light. But I realize my priorities aren't everybody's or even the majority's (I'm still using my real IBM "clicky" keyboards that are probably older than some TR regulars, and I still will only buy IPS monitors for myself) which is why it's great we have this range of choices.

  51. I bought a 17″ HP Envy quad core laptop. I love the thing, it has an aluminum chassis and looks really good. But it’s not exactly portable. I’ve been toying with the idea of buying one of these for toting around from location to location. This just confirms my initial thoughts about it. Nice machine.

  52. Configure the X120e like this, with Bluetooth and 3GB of RAM and a 7,200-RPM 320GB HDD and E-350, though, and you’re looking at paying quite a bit more… $600 or so, IIRC. I tried it and just couldn’t justify the price. Also, I’d be wary of ThinkPad Edge touchpads. They can be pretty awful and numb-feeling, with few gesture-based scrolling options, like the Edge 13’s was.. I ordered one and sent it back in disgust.

    The dm1z may well be more attractive all around, unless you’re incredibly hung up on the display at the expense of all else.

  53. Looks like HP did a nice job here, but this just serves to make me more tempted by the Lenovo x120e which has the same guts and equal or better skin. If HP had offered a matte display on this, they might’ve made a sale to me (“the palm rest, display bezel, touchpad, and keyboard all have matte finishes” — everything but the one thing I really care about).

  54. It’s too bad it’s in silver and only silver. Otherwise I think it’s great to finally see the budget ultraportable category maturing. The performance is where it needs to be, battery life is good, but most importantly the keyboard and touchpad seem much better than previous efforts.

    Cyril, do you guys have any plans to review Lenovo’s X120e?