Blurring the line: HP Pavilion dm1-3010AU review

There’s a clear line between notebooks and netbooks when talking about Intel processors. Notebooks use a full-power chip like a Core i3 or Pentium processor and netbooks use Atom processors. Since the introduction of the AMD Brazos platform and Fusion APUs that line is much much blurrier.

The HP Pavilion dm1-3010AU sits on that blurry line. It’s a netbook price and netbook build but the performance is up in the entry-level notebook range thanks to its AMD Fusion E-Series Dual Core APU E-350 model chip. This chip using its inherent graphics abilities goes a long way towards making this unit feel like a serious tool rather than a lightweight toy.

On the exterior it has a modern and pleasant design. HP uses its patterning tech to put a nice cross-hatched finish in the unit’s lid while the rest of the netbook is covered in silver plastic that somehow doesn’t look tacky! The keyboard uses chiclet style keys has a good amount of travel and is very comfortable to type on.

The trackpad is probably the least impressive part as with some pressure it seems to click down like a button. It doesn’t activate a left or right click though which is a little concerning. If you’re a light-fingered user you might not notice but if you’re in the habit of tapping on and off the trackpad it’ll get your attention. Apart from that it was responsive and a sensible size.

The dm1 also sports a good combination of interfaces. There are three USB 2.0 ports two on the right and one on the left of the unit a VGA output for presentations plus an HDMI output for those living in the digital age. An SD/MMC slot for memory cards is a solid addition especially for those travelling with a digital camera. The Ethernet port not often used these days is the only one hidden behind a cover in the side of the unit. One annoying thing is the unit’s propensity to go to sleep when the lid was moved down to around 45-55 degrees.

The screen is really quite nice. Though HP has chosen a highly reflective BrightView finish for the unit meaning direct sunlight is its worst enemy the 11.6in 1366 x 768 screen is crisp clean and clear with minimal light bleed or abnormalities. The unit’s audio is courtesy of Altec Lansing speakers and is acceptable to good for a unit of this size.

The dm1 looks great playing back video even downscaling HD 1080p content effectively for smooth playback thanks to the AMD Radeon HD 6310M graphics support in the E-350 APU. It won’t let you fire up Brink and go to town but this level of graphics acceleration means video content and 3D optimisation in software runs smoothly.

The AMD E-350 is a dual-core 1.6GHz processor (with the aforementioned graphics integrated) and gives plenty of performance for general usage. Office tasks and advanced or demanding web apps were no problem. The E-350 is paired with 2GB of memory as well as a WD 320GB 5400rpm HDD. And that’s the rub; if there’s one thing we’d change about the dm1 it’s the hard disk drive. An entry-level SSD would further increase the battery life from its very impressive measured five hours as well as the performance. We’d consider it as an aftermarket upgrade without hesitation.

Available from HP retailing for $699.
APC rating: 8/10 (Highly Recommended)