HP Pavilion DM1-4125EA review: HP Pavilion DM1-4125EA
The screen on the HP Pavilion DM1-4125EA is not the best, but this affordable netbook will tackle essential tasks well.
Netbooks may have been pushed to the back burner behind the sleek and powerful ultrabooks hitting the market, but they're still a good option for those of you who just need to send the odd email on the go.
The HP Pavilion DM1-4125EA comes with a dual-core AMD E-450 processor and a generous 4GB of RAM.
It's available now for £350.
Design and build quality
The world may be quickly filling up with super-skinny ultrabooks, but that doesn't mean there isn't still room for a little laptop that retains some bulk but cuts the price.
With a total width of 292mm and a length of 215mm, it's certainly small. You'll have no trouble fitting it into your bag and chucking it over your shoulder. With a thickness of 32mm though, the DM1 is definitely more netbook than it is ultrabook. It's slightly slimmer than Toshiba's NB550D netbook, but considerably fatter than the Asus Zenbook UX21, which narrows to a carrier bag-splitting 8mm.
It weighs only 1.52kg though, which is a whole load lighter than a lot of laptops -- especially the gargantuan Asus NX90JQ -- so you won't feel too weighed down if you're carrying it around with you. It adds a few grams onto other netbooks, but you're unlikely to notice the difference.
The build quality of some netbooks is not always convincing because the chassis is an area that manufacturers cut back on in order to reduce the overall price. Thankfully though, the DM1 feels extremely sturdy. There was very little flex in the lid when we pressed on it and it didn't bend at all when opened up.
The wrist rest and keyboard tray are also free from any flex, which together with the metal banding around the edge makes this machine feel very well put together and suited to a rough life on the road.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard uses isolated keys that are spread across the whole base, meaning that your hands aren't squashed up uncomfortably while typing. The keys are easy to press and the lack of flex from the tray means you can keep on typing for a long time without feeling the tell-tale cramps that come from using a horrible keyboard.
The trackpad is pretty small though and is more similar to the ones you'd find on other netbooks than on ultrabooks. Rather than being a recessed, separate pad, the wrist-rest has been given a dotted texture to indicate where to scroll. We weren't particularly keen on the effect as we often found ourselves accidentally trying to scroll outside of the sensitive area.
It will probably be okay for quickly opening a couple of files or sending the odd email, but if you're planning on spending any decent amount of time on it then we highly recommend you pop in a USB mouse.
The DM1 comes with the Beats Audio branding so we were expecting a decent serving of sound. For such a small device, it's quite loud, and the Beats software does help in boosting the bass. It's an adequate noise for watching a few episodes of a TV show, or for video chatting using the webcam. But if you want to really enjoy the deep, meaningful and poetic artistry that Justin Bieber weaves into his music, get a decent sound system. And medical attention.
Around the edge you'll find a VGA port, an HDMI output, three USB 2.0 slots, an Ethernet port as well as microphone and headphone jacks.
The DM1 comes with an 11.6-inch display. We're fans of 11-inch screens as they're often a great compromise, offering portability and ease of use.
It sports a resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is fair for a netbook, although it's sadly not as bright as we'd like. The punch we'd expect to see was missing, even when set to maximum brightness. So much so, in fact, that we double-checked the battery settings to make sure there wasn't something we were missing. It seemed as though there should be another couple of brightness levels above.
If you only watch your videos in a darkened room, then the brightness won't be an issue. For those of you who aren't permanent cave dwellers, you may find the lack of brightness slightly annoying -- especially when you're trying to read documents under bright lighting.
The colours are at least okay, as is the contrast. So if you do fancy kicking back in the shadows with some episodes of Father Ted, then the screen will do fine.
The DM1 is running on a dual-core AMD E-450 chip at 1.65GHz, paired up with 4GB of RAM. AMD chips aren't as common in laptops as Intel's chips but they do the same job, so don't let the name put you off.
When we ran the PCMark05 benchmark test, it gave a score of 2,801. That's an okay score, considering the low price tag. By comparison, it easily beat the Toshiba NB550D, which achieved only 1,885 with its 1GB of RAM, but failed to beat the MSI U270, which managed 2,940 with 2GB of RAM.
As the 11-inch Asus Zenbook UX21 racked up a score of 9,802, the DM1 is clearly residing in netbook rather than ultrabook territory. But at £500 less, we don't have a problem with that.
We found performance to be generally swift. The 4GB of RAM helped it to keep going when we opened up various web browser windows alongside Windows Media Player. The Radeon HD 6320 graphics gave a helping hand in playing back high-definition video -- something which other netbooks often struggle to do.
It's certainly not going to tackle anything too demanding. We asked it to encode our 11-minute 1080p-resolution video file into 24 frames per second H.264 but cancelled it after 20 minutes when it estimated a finishing time of just under three hours.
If you're looking for something to tackle intense tasks, such as photo or video editing, you'll want to look elsewhere -- perhaps even opt for an iPad with a wireless keyboard. For web browsing and enjoying videos on the go, however, it will cope fine.
If a laptop is small, it's because it's designed to be carried around. You should expect it to have a good battery that won't give up before you get back to a plug.
We ran our battery test and the DM1 kept going for an excellent time of 3 hours and 45 minutes. That's an extra hour and 20 minutes longer than the Zenbook UX21 so we're really very impressed. The test is extremely demanding on a computer and you'll get much better battery life with cautious usage.
We'd have no worries about heading off to work in the morning and leaving the plug at home -- if we put it to sleep when not in use and didn't play too much video, we would certainly expect it to last the day.
The HP Pavilion DM1 certainly won't be winning any awards for its raw processing power -- or for its screen -- but its comfortable keyboard, sturdy construction, superb battery life and ability to handle HD video make it a good choice for doing the basics on the go.
Netbooks may be on the way out, surpassed by the swathe of ultrabooks hitting the market, but the DM1 offers just about enough for it to still be a viable option for a budget-conscious traveller.