If there's a burgeoning trend in laptops these days, it's not just inexpensive, low-voltage 12-inch ultraportables, but also 13-inch (and larger) notebooks dropping their optical drives and going ultralow-voltage as well. The HP dm3 is categorized as a thin-and-light, but at first glance it doesn't appear to be significantly thinner than the new polycarbonate white MacBook. Clad in brushed aluminum inside and out, it definitely cuts a solid, professional profile. This is a successor to HP's recent 12-inch Pavilion dv2 in spirit, HP's thin-and-light that we reviewed back in the spring. This model, however, has a ULV Intel Core 2 Duo processor instead of an AMD Neo.
Starting at $594, the HP Pavilion dm3 aims to be an affordable Windows 7 thin-and-light for those who don't want a thicker (and more tricked-out) machine, yet still want to accomplish tasks without feeling limited to Netbook-style performance. Our configuration was significantly more expensive, with an ultralow-voltage 1.3GHz Intel SU7300 Core 2 Duo processor (instead of the AMD Athlon Neo), a 500GB hard drive, and 2GB of RAM, plus 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium, bringing it to a somewhat lofty $859. However, if one were to select a configuration somewhere in between, the dm3 is one of the better, sturdier, more stylish pro portables we've seen.
|Starting price / Price as reviewed||$594 / $859|
|Processor||1.3 GHz Intel Core 2 ULV SU7300|
|Memory||2GB, DDR3 1066MHz|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel GM45 Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 4500MHD|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||12.8 x 9.1 inches|
|Height||1 to 1.2 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.1 / 4.9 pounds|
|Category||Thin and light|
From the outside, the Pavilion dm3-1002 is all business in appearance, looking a little like a budget version of the HP Envy 13, especially in its recessed keyboard area. Glossy black plastic surrounds an inset 13-inch LED display, above which is a low-light-optimized HP Webcam. Solid brushed metal dominates, giving the laptop a sort of neo-'80s "Terminator" feel. However, even though the external surfaces and palm rest/keyboard areas are metal, the bottom, inner lid, and hinges are still plastic; the overall package still feels compact and durable. Indeed, the dm3 has a feel that's solid and perhaps slightly weighty for its sub-1-inch-thick profile.
The external lid's dark-gray brushed-aluminum theme continues to the keyboard tray and palm rest area inside. A raised black keyboard feels comfortable, with keys that are a little softer than the MacBook's. On the other hand, the gleaming mirrored touch pad, although being eye-catching, controlled terribly and seemed to trip up our fingers from making smooth motions, creating a really jittery multitouch experience. Mirrored buttons lie below the medium-size pad area, lying flush and offering modest click, although the keys felt a little too stiff for our taste.
One of the oddest design decisions on the dm3, besides the somewhat awkwardly protruding power cord on the left side, is the oddly placed and weirdly shaped power button, located on the right side of the notebook and in front of several USB ports. The silver button has to be slid forward to start up, like the power button on a Sony PSP; it's both unintuitive and difficult to locate and quickly operate.
The HP Pavilion dm3-1002 has a glossy 13-inch LED display with a standard resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. The screen displayed nice brightness and sharp colors, but sometimes seemed to autoadjust its brightness in odd ways in our casual office testing. Speakers embedded in the bottom of the laptop displayed decent volume and sound quality.
|HP Pavilion dm3-1002||Average for category [thin and light]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
Although there isn't much room on the sides for an elaborate array of ports, all the basic bases are covered: four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, and an SD card slot join VGA-out and separate headphone and mic jacks. That's plenty for an on-the-go mainstream user, and the four USB ports are generous.
Our dm3 configuration came with a 500GB hard drive and 2GB of DDR3 RAM; the dm3 can be configured on HP's Web site up to 8GB of RAM. Ours also came with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. An optional external Blu-ray drive is also available for an extra $150. Most features can be added or removed to tweak the price up or down accordingly; we'd strongly recommend spending for the SU7300 processor rather than going down to the inferior single-core ULV CPUs, but the rest depends on one's preference for bells and whistles.
Equipped with an Intel SU7300 Core 2 ULV processor in our configuration--the same as another one of our ULV favorites, the Asus UL30A-A1--the HP dm3-1002 bridges an ever-more-common gap between Netbooks and more powerful mainstream laptop Core 2 Duo processors. The SU7300 performs much more closely to a Core 2 Duo, but its slower speed processor results in benchmark performance that relatively lags, although with two cores it is capable of some decent but not spectacular multitasking. The dm3-1002 also has no discrete graphics; while it can play and stream HD video perfectly capably, this laptop won't be able to play any mainstream games other than casual Web games and Plants- and Zombies-level fare. Still, the dm3 can handle most office and personal tasks thrown at it by an average user. For a stronger graphics boost, an optional Nvidia GeForce 105M GPU with 512MB of memory can be added, if desired, for an additional $50 when selecting the SU7300 processor configuration.
As we mentioned above, however, while $594 seems tolerable for a midrange laptop, that only includes a piddling 1.2 GHz Celeron processor. Our configuration, with a far better ULV and costing $859, is on the high side, especially with similarly configured machines from Asus and Toshiba costing less (and Apple's 13-inch white MacBook less than $150 more).