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
|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|
|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.
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.
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|
|Audio||IDT codec||Realtek codec with 18.104.22.1689 drivers||Realtek codec with 22.214.171.12443 drivers||Conexant codec with 126.96.36.199 drivers||Realtek codec with 188.8.131.5286 drivers||Realtek codec with 184.108.40.20624 drivers||Realtek codec with 220.127.116.1129 drivers||IDT codec with 6.10.6302.0 drivers||Conexant codec with 18.104.22.168 drivers||Realtek codec with 22.214.171.12472 drivers||Realtek codec with 126.96.36.19945 drivers|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon HD 6310||Intel GMA 4500MHD with 188.8.131.522 drivers||Intel HD Graphics with 184.108.40.2067 drivers||AMD Radeon HD 6250||Intel GMA 3150 with 220.127.116.117 drivers
Nvidia Ion with 18.104.22.16812 drivers
|Intel HD Graphics with 22.214.171.1249 drivers
Nvidia GeForce 335M with 126.96.36.19996 drivers
|Intel HD Graphics with 188.8.131.529 drivers
Nvidia GeForce 310M with 184.108.40.20621 drivers
|AMD Radeon HD 6310 with 8.821.0.0 drivers||Intel HD Graphics 3000 with 220.127.116.116 drivers||AMD Mobility Radeon HD 4225 with 8.723.2.1000 drivers||Nvidia Ion with 18.104.22.16899 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:
- Firefox 3.6.9
- Adobe Flash 10.1.82.76
- x264 HD Benchmark 3.19
- 7-Zip 4.65 x64
- TrueCrypt 7.0a
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 1.7
- Far Cry 2 1.03
- CPU-Z 1.56
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.
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 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.
|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
|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.
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.
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’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.