HP Pavilion dm3 review

1 Mar 2010

Beautiful build combines with stunning good looks in a budget laptop of rare pedigree

HP Pavilion dm3
Price when reviewed: 
530(£539 inc VAT)
5

HP's Envy laptops are objects of great beauty, but at more than £1,000 apiece they're out of reach for most people. If you're feeling a bit short, though, there's no need to settle for an ugly duckling. HP's Pavilion dm3 pulls of the same trick, but for much less cash.

The aluminium lid immediately draws attention to itself, and tilting it back sees the swish, metallic theme continue inside, with the brushed finish pooling around the square keys of a Scrabble-tile keyboard. It looks simply gorgeous and the amazing thing is that at a price of £451 exc VAT, you could buy three of HP's Pavilion dm3s for the price of just one Envy 13.

The good points don't stop at its striking looks or surprising affordability. The keyboard, for one, is excellent. Each key has a positive action at the end of each stroke and the wide channels between each key keep typos to a minimum. Even the trackpad is free from issues, the dainty button at its top edge allowing you to disable it for longer stretches of typing.

The price you pay for such a pretty face and competent ergonomics is a slightly cut down core specification. Instead of an Intel processor, HP has chosen AMD.

And here it comes in the shape of AMD's Vision platform. An Athlon Neo X2 dual-core processor takes pride of place, with an ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics chipset sitting alongside. Performance is no better than Intel's equivalent CULV (consumer ultra-low voltage) processors.

HP Pavilion dm3

It scored just 0.7 in our benchmarks, despite its nippy-sounding 1.6GHz clock speed. But the ATI graphics chipset strides out in front of its Intel counterpart, proving capable of decoding HD video and 3D gaming duties. Our Crysis test left the HD3200 struggling to an average score of 15fps at just 1,024 x 768 resolution and low detail, so the emphasis is strongly upon light gaming.

The glossy 13.3in display, meanwhile, has a 1,366 x 768 pixel resolution, and image quality raises it substantially above the average. Vibrant colours and good contrast made the most of our test photographs, and our HD movie clips positively leapt from the screen.

The big problem with going down the AMD route is that it seriously lags behind its CULV counterparts when it comes to battery life. The Pavilion dm3 struggled to an unimpressive 4hrs 37mins in our light-use battery life test, and under heavy load that figure dropped further to 1hr 43mins.

Another negative is that, at 1.9kg, the dm3 is slightly porky compared to many CULV laptops. Combined with the below-average battery life, that means the HP isn't the most accomplished road warrior.

It's difficult to get too upset at the dm3's deficiencies considering the price, however, and HP's generous specification will be more than enough to please many. For example, the dm3's slim-line form might omit an optical drive, but there's a compact USB-powered DVD writer included in the box. HP's generosity continues elsewhere too: the 320GB hard disk is a nippy 7,200rpm model, and both 802.11n and Bluetooth wireless networking are present.

There's no doubt the Pavilion dm3's battery life could be better, but at this price it just isn't enough to dent the HP Pavilion dm3's appeal. Its great looks, good build and sheer panache make it a fantastic all-round ultraportable.

Details

Price ex VAT £451
Price inc VAT £530
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 5
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 1yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 326 x 230 x 32mm (WDH)
Weight 1.900kg
Travelling weight 2.3kg

Processor and memory

Processor AMD Athlon Neo X2 L335
Motherboard chipset AMD 780G
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset ATI Radeon HD 3200
Graphics card RAM 384MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 320GB
Hard disk usable capacity 298GB
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Hitachi HTS723232L9A360
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive HP External USB
Battery capacity 5,000mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 100Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 4
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset IDT HD Audio
Speaker location Front edge
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 4hr 37min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 43min
Overall application benchmark score 0.70
3D performance (crysis) low settings 15fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition, burn own recovery discs
Software supplied Microsoft Works 9.0, Cyberlink DVD Suite