Editors' note: This review is part of our 2010 retail laptop and desktop back-to-school roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.
Back in June, we reviewed one of the more stylish HP midrange laptops we've seen to date, the HP Pavilion dm4. The Core i5-equipped 14-inch thin-and-light notebook included upscale design touches and a large touch pad in a sharp-looking metal-and-plastic chassis.
Our one complaint with the dm4 was always its price: our reviewed configuration came to $979, which added up to less value than competitors. The retail configuration we found in our back-to-school roundup actually has slightly better specs for only $799. Though you can still get more for the same price from other manufacturers, this laptop now feels like a very good value. And, thankfully, it's still every bit as slim and stylish as ever. For those looking for good battery life and powerful Core i5 performance in a thin body, look no further.
|Price as reviewed||$799|
|Processor||2.26 GHz Intel Core i5 M430|
|Memory||4GB DDR3 RAM, 1,066 MHz|
|Hard drive||500GB 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA HD|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.4 x 9.0 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.3/4.4 pounds|
As a close cousin of the 13-inch HP Pavilion dm3, the new dm4 shares a similar metallic body. Rather than the brushed-metal look of the dm3, however, the dm4 features etched lines arcing and cutting their way across the palm-rest and lid, adding a smooth, curving texture to the design. The metal surfaces on both the area surrounding the keyboard and the back lid feel great to the touch, but other parts of this laptop feature plastic construction--notably the upper lid, keyboard, parts of the hinges, and the bottom. It feels mostly high-end, although the screen is covered in inset plastic instead of edge-to-edge glass.
The gently rounded corners give the dm4 a soft, consumer-friendly look. The corners of the keyboard tray (and the four keys that sit closest to the corners) are similarly rounded, as is the oversized touch pad.
The keyboard is similar to the flat-topped, widely spaced keys we've seen on recent HP systems. Lacking any kind of dedicated media control buttons, all your media and alternate key functions are mapped to the row of Fn keys, although the assignments are reversed; using the traditional F4, F5, etc. functions requires holding down the Fn button. This amounts to quicker volume adjustment and media key access, and is an idea we wish more laptops appropriated.
Though the keyboard is nicely laid-out, we found that we made more errors typing on it than on the much more comfortable-feeling Sony Vaio EA24FM, another retail laptop in our roundup. The keys aren't as tall, and sometimes feel a bit sticky when pressed from an angle.
The touch pad is similar to what we've seen on HP's high-end Envy systems. It's larger than most, and the matte-black surface is infinitely superior to the sticky mirrored pads we've seen on the past several generations of Pavilions. The touch pad, like Apple's, eschews separate left and right mouse buttons, instead cordoning off two click zones in the lower-left and -right corners. Still, while it's an overall improvement, some of the multitouch gestures are still hard to use. Scrolling up and down pages using the two-finger method is hit or miss, as is pinch-to-zoom. We found similar problems with the HP Envy 13.
This retail Pavilion dm4-1065dx also includes a fingerprint reader situated to the right of the touch pad. Fingerprint readers are hardly typical in retail machines. They're also not necessary, but the fingerprint-reading security feature was actually quick and accurate to use when logging in, and a smoother process than entering a typed password. The reader's software can accommodate different signatures for all 10 fingers, and even launch different apps by finger. We found this worked well enough to be useful in lieu of keyboard shortcuts.
The HP Pavilion dm4-1065dx not only has a "quick-start OS" that ostensibly loads more quickly than Windows 7 and offers a small suite of apps, like a Web browser, e-mail, and Skype, but this dm4 actually natively boots up in HP's own quick-start OS first instead of Windows 7. Anyone who isn't used to it may find this completely disconcerting. Clicking a corner button launches Windows 7 proper. The HP dm4-1065dx can be configured to boot in Windows 7 every time and skip this stage altogether, but we found it an odd graft.
The 14-inch wide-screen display offers a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, which is standard for a screen this size. Though overly glossy, the display was clear and bright, with realistic color reproduction. It's one of the strongest features on the HP Pavilion dm4-1065dx. The built-in speakers have decent volume for movie and video playback, but don't offer great definition. That's not a surprise, considering the small size of the HP dm4. Above the screen, a built-in 640x480-pixel Webcam offers better-than-average light sensitivity and contrast for video conferencing, but picture quality is still only suitable for small images.
|HP Pavilion dm4-1065dx||Average for category [Midsize]|
|Video||VGA, HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0 (1 with eSATA), SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The bad news on the dm4-1065dx is that it lacks Bluetooth and Blu-ray, two features that users are increasingly expecting, even in this price range. The good news is that the port selection includes HDMI and eSATA. Even better, the 500GB hard drive that comes in this particular dm4 is 7,200rpm, a zippier variation than the 5,400rpm most laptops generally include. Four GB of included DDR3 RAM can be expanded after purchase up to 8GB.
The Intel Core i5 processor inside the HP Pavilion dm4-1065dx offers a really snappy experience when Web-browsing or working on general apps and multitasking. For most users, this laptop will offer great functional speeds. Though we also appreciate the more budget-minded Core i3 CPU series, we could really feel the faster speeds when loading videos and complex Web pages.
There aren't any dedicated graphics on the dm4-1065dx, which means no mainstream gaming except for casual games and streaming game services such as OnLive, which are very adequate alternatives. Truthfully, most users won't miss the graphics when performing everyday tasks. This laptop will provide more than enough for straight-up computing needs, at speeds that are better than average.
|Mainstream (Avg watts/hour)|
|Raw kWh Number||54.22|
|Annual Energy Cost||$6.15|