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Sci-Tech

MacBook Air too pricey? Thin HP laptop hits $399

Hewlett-Packard's Pavilion dm1z doesn't have the elegance of the MacBook Air but offers a similar 11-inch form factor for $399--hundreds of dollars less.

Hewlett-Packard is offering a good deal on a well-received ultraportable that is less than half the price of Apple's least expensive MacBook Air.

HP Pavilion dm1z is inexpensive and faster than a Netbook.
HP Pavilion dm1z is inexpensive and faster than a Netbook. Hewlett-Packard

Why the mention of Apple's MacBook Air? Apple's 2.3-pound laptop is the standard by which all other ultraportables are judged. Like it or not, that's the way things are.

But let's get to the topic at hand. The HP Pavilion dm1z can be had for as little as $399 direct from HP after entering a coupon code. That's a pretty good deal for a laptop that is a cut above an Intel-based Netbook and offers fairly solid build quality for its price class. (See CNET's thorough review of the dm1z here.)

The dm1z, like the smallest MacBook Air, has an 11.6-inch screen, though it weighs over a pound more at 3.5 pounds. And it won't match the Air in the thinness department, either. The Apple lappy is 0.11 inches at its thinnest point. The HP is 0.8 inches at its most svelte.

There are other goodies that compare favorably to the Air, though. A roomy 320GB hard disk drive (7200RPM), 3GB of memory, more ports, and the option for built-in 3G from Verizon, AT&T or Sprint.

But the comparison with the MBA falters a bit in some crucial areas. The dm1z is not constructed from aluminum like the Air and aesthetically doesn't offer the elegance of the MBA.

Inside, the dm1z taps Advanced Micro Devices' latest dual-core E-350 processor (1.6GHz, 1MB L2 Cache with AMD Radeon HD 6310M graphics). These new AMD "Fusion" chips--replete with a solid graphics processor--handily beat Intel's Netbook-class Atom processors but are not necessarily faster than the silicon used in the MacBook Air. The Air pairs Intel's Core 2 Duo processor with an Nvidia chipset that also delivers good graphics performance for an ultraportable.

With the $999 MacBook Air, in addition to the specs mentioned above, you get a 64GB solid-state drive and 2GB of memory.

Battery life between the two seems comparable. Of course, that depends on what you're doing with the devices, but both exceed five hours, according to most reviews.

No, it's not a MacBook Air. But then again you're saving $600 (you could essentially buy two dm1z laptops for the price of one MBA) for a respectable 11-inch class ultraportable--while the coupons last.