The AMD fusion-powered Pavilion dm1 hit the streets early this year to tons of love. I mean from more than just myself. And what we have here – a mere nine months later – is it’s next evolutionary step. Among the changes: Design tweaks and more horsepower in the same svelte chassis. This isn’t me strapping on some hyperbolic PR megaphone. I actually dig what’s in store for this new dm1 – and I think you might as well. (And if not, we want to hear it in the comments!) Curious to learn more about a li’l laptop that starts at 400 bucks? Read on…
First, I’m going to let this little video side-by-side do some of the talking for me, so hit kick back, relax, and hit that play button.
As I mention in the video, the few tweaks going on here are the kind of things I was actually hoping to see. Let me explain my thinking on my little checklist:
Separate mouse buttons are back, baby! The idea of clickpads (that is, a touch zone area with the left and right mouse clicks built into it) is a bit of a polarizing topic that boils down to personal preference. Me? I like that this gen of the dm1 opted for a texturized touch zone dotted with divots so that you know exactly where your finger’s positioned. And those mouse buttons? Big, long and at the bottom lip of the laptop – tough to miss and easy (for me) to use.
Beats audio jack onboard (and front-firing speakers). This gen’s audio solution has that separate, isolated sound processor on the mobo, grounded headphone jacks….and that cute “B” logo over the front-firing speakers. Awww…cute. If you want to learn more about how Beats audio tech gets incorporated into our computers, we’ve hit upon this before. Read here for more.
Design Tweaks. I went into this in the video, but I like how the battery is now flush into the design now and doesn’t pop out in the back. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the slightly cleaner lines.
MOST IMPORTANT: Next gen AMD Fusion APU! (and 2nd Gen Intel Core Processor coming!) I liked the last dm1 and the battle cry last time around of “netbook size, notebook performance.” Now, it gets better realized with this generation of processors. Starting out the gate, there are two flavors of the AMD APU (that is, "Accelerated Processor Unit") that will be available when the laptop ships in October – an E300 and E450 processor. “APU” is AMD’s way of saying they have an ambitious CPU that shares processing power with an integrated graphics chip which provides discrete card-level performance. Translation: It’s got juice and can even handle games.
Here’s what my test machine packs:
CP….I mean….APU: 1.65GHz AMD E-450 RAM: 4GB (Standard. Upgradable to 8GB.) HDD: 320GB 7200rpm standard (mine has a 500GB drive) Display: 11.6-inch w/ 1366 by 768 native resolution Video: AMD Radeon HD 6320 Discrete-Class Graphics; HDMI / VGA out Audio: 1 headphone-out, 1 mic-in jack; Beats audio
Boot to Windows 7: 40 seconds System sleep: 3 seconds System wake-up: 2 seconds Boot to HP QuickWeb: 26 seconds
(Wanna upgrade the hard drive or RAM on your own? It’s actually pretty easy here. Just remove the battery. Push that battery release lever a little further and the entire bottom of dm1 quickly pops up for easy access to the upgrade bays.)
Where I really noticed the step up this time around, though, was on the graphics side. A few months back, I put the previous dm1 with AMD Fusion to the test. Now, I think it’s time for me to show what you can do with the newest rev of the dm1.
TECH INFO: I had the games in this video running at 1024 by 768-pixel resolution with mostly low-to-medium settings. It may not sound like much, but it still looks pretty good on such a small screen. Also, there are points in the video where I speed up the test 2x normal speed so that I don't make you sit through the whole thing in real-time.
OK, you’ve seen the video proof. Now for a look at the Windows Experience Index breakdown.
What you should be focusing on here is the gaming graphics score. In the previous dm1, it’d rank a 3.9. Good enough for some basic-level gaming. The new dm1, by comparison, notches a 5.5 – that’s a pretty significant generational jump. The fact that I was able to get this playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution pretty smoothly was what mattered to me. I’m not gonna lie. I also loved going to the local coffee shop, pulling out a wired Xbox 360 gamepad, plugging it into the Pavilion dm1 and getting odd looks from people as I played.
…some new software
HP has this habit of adding new software features and functionality to its computers. I’m talking about stuff like CoolSense that uses a laptop’s accelerometer to detect when to gearshift CPU cooling or ProtectSmart that saves your hard drive during a fall. The Beats Audio sound-tweaking dashboard. SimplePass password protection. The list goes and on. A new part of what they are calling this “Premier Experience” package is Launch Box. In essence, it lets you logically stack a bunch of shortcuts in the QuickLaunch area on your desktop. Run your cursor over the launch box you create and all the apps you need pop out. If you have a few minutes, grab some popcorn and check out this 1960s-style, slicked-up video that walks you through the whole thing...
….and some things remain (relatively) the same
The keyboard remains relatively unchanged from the last generation – hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! However, there is a new QuickWeb launcher that opens a browser while in Windows….or quick-boots to a browser in about 26 seconds from being powered off.
The port layout around the system also remains largely unchanged from the previous Pavilion dm1. In my perfect world, I’d love to start seeing USB 3.0 starting to appear on these machines, but I guess I should be a realist. Honestly, it's not bad for400 bones. (the Intel – flavor of the dm1 will start at $599).
All right, you heard my spiel and the deal on this 3.5-pound mini-machine. They’ll be available in October. You got questions? I got answers. You got thoughts and comments? We want to hear ‘em!
Darren Gladstone (@Gizmogladstone) is a former journalist, now TNB's Blogger-in-Chief. He geeks out over games, gadgets and hot laptops.