For as long as computers have existed there has been an eternal battle to find the perfect form factor. Many times people have argued between big and powerful and small and portable. This eternal debate has found itself in the laptop segment of the market as many people struggle to find the right combination of portability and power. Many people believed that netbooks were the answer, while others believed the traditional laptop could simply be made better. HP and AMD decided that both sides were neither right nor wrong. And as such, the HP Pavilion DM1 was born.
Today we will be reviewing the HP Pavilion DM1 12" laptop featuring AMD's new groundbreaking Fusion APU processor.
Specifications as configured at HP.com:
• A dual-core AMD Fusion processor E350*** for fast Web surfing and smooth HD video
• Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium
• Fast, easy, trusted Web browsing with Windows Internet Explorer
• AMD Radeon HD 6310 discrete-class graphics and support for DX11
• 3GB of RAM
• Our CoolSense technology, which adjusts the temperature when the PC is not on a stationary surface
• An 11.6" diagonal high-definition§§ (720p) display
• A full-size island-style keyboard
• An optional external CD/DVD drive for installing software or Blu-ray drive for watching HD movies
• Support for 1080p HD content playback
• Dolby advanced audio and Altec Lansing speakers for premium sound
• A 6-cell battery that keeps you running for up to 9.5 hours (we will be testing this claim)
• 5 free HP games, already loaded on your PC
• ENERGY STAR® qualification
HP Pavilion DM1 and Fusion Technologies
The HP DM1 is one of the few mobile computers out there that doesn’t really quite ‘fit’ into a predetermined category. It almost sits in a category of its own. We say this because of two major factors that don’t quite put it in either camps of what are traditionally considered mobile computers. You’ve mostly got laptops and netbooks (in PCs). For the sake of simplifying things we’re going to forget about tablets for a little bit. The HP DM1 effectively sits between laptops and netbooks for two reasons, the size of the DM1 is not quite a laptop (most laptops are 13.3”, 14”, 15” and up) nor a netbook (most netbooks are 10.1” and smaller with a few exceptions). Secondly, the DM1 sits between the netbook and laptop categories because of its processing capability. It is able to accomplish 90% of computing tasks in ways that a netbook quite simply cannot accomplish meanwhile having a full size keyboard like a laptop. The Pavilion DM1 still sits below regular laptops in the sense that it doesn’t have nearly as much horsepower as most laptop processors do, but the Brazos platform wasn’t designed to. It was specifically designed to be power efficient and still deliver a powerful multi-media experience. As a result of this, HP has designed the entire Pavilion DM1 around the Brazos Fusion platform and keeping in mind that they are filling what has definitely been a gap in the PC space.
The DM1 uses a combination of HP and AMD technologies to improve the battery life and user experience of the laptop. First of all, since it is using a Brazos Fusion platform E-350 APU, it is able to deliver high definition video and considerable daily performance at a very reasonable battery life. This also enables the laptop to be very light and thin as less cooling is necessary to cool the processor. Furthermore, HP utilizes cool sense technology which allows the laptop to determine its usage environment (like being on a lap) and properly adjust the fan speeds and temperatures. There are also multiple power profiles from both AMD and HP which enable the user to properly and quickly choose the power savings pre-set that will fit their usage scenario the most. We personally preferred the AMD power options profiles over the HP ones as they were more in-depth, but the HP one was much more hands off.
System Build Quality and Design
The DM1 is not necessarily built any differently from any other HP laptop you’d find in their lineup. The difference, though, is that HP has decided to make their laptops easier to repair. As you’ll find with other future HP laptops, they have opted to make the entire bottom panel of the laptop easily removable which then gains you easy access to all of the critical components in the laptop. This not only will reduce the cost of servicing such a laptop, but it also lets consumers to possibly do more on their own. Furthermore, they decided to opt for a 180 degree rotating display which you won’t find on many laptops outside of Lenovo ThinkPads. Admittedly, the outside design isn’t anything revolutionary or different from their current generation of laptops as we’ve seen this sort of design in the past… but the DM1 is still a very unique system that picks strengths from both laptops and netbooks and chooses them in the right way to create a very whole solution.
Easy access components as you can see above. There's even room for a broadband modem.
Not-so-matching sticks of RAM.
Also, due to the thinness of the DM1, we were able to replace our notepad in our leather planner book with the DM1. So instead of carrying around a pen and paper inside of the leather planner, we carried around a pen and the Dm1. Needless to say, some people were pleasantly surprised to see us pull out a laptop from inside of a leather planner.
Showing the relative thickness as well as the HDMI and USB ports.
The laptop shown at its thickest point, note the charging port, Kensington Lock port, and heatsink vents.
The other ports on the DM1 show a headphone jack, two more USB ports, a VGA port, and a covered RJ-45 ethernet port.
The DM1 we received was fairly minimal on the side of accessories, we did receive a BluRay drive (external) with the DM1 but those aren’t available now when you try to configure a DM1 on HP’s website. You’ll also get the standard 6-Cell battery and power charger along with the manual and installation CDs.
System First Boot/Use and Technical Support
When it comes to the HP DM1 first startup, it isn’t really any different from any other HP laptop/desktop. The DM1 goes through and gives you a tour of the computer and included software and then prompts you to register with HP for warranty and support purposes. There wasn’t anything necessarily impressive about this other than a few customization options here and there. The boot time itself was very quick and didn’t leave us to believe for one moment that the processor was a dual core clocked at 1.6 GHz. Oh, and it comes with a full version of Windows 7 rather than the starter piece of junk version you get on a netbook.
Frankly, during our first use the HP DM1 basically operated as a computer and we continued to experience this type of use for the entirety of our review. For almost as long as we could remember, the HP DM1 served itself wonderfully. We made the DM1 our daily computer as it travelled with us to E3 and other conferences and put itself through the paces with thousands of high definition photos and hours of 1080P videos. We played many videos on the DM1 via the BluRay drive, hard drive, and off of a USB and it stood up to the task wonderfully, something that most computers priced around that price range cannot say. Simply put, most netbooks cannot play back 1080P content without some sort of lag. Not to mention their resolution isn’t as high as the DM1’s either. This also included playing back/streaming 1080P videos off of YouTube, which nobody in their right mind would attempt on an entry-level laptop nor netbook.
We literally made the HP DM1 our daily computer for on-the-go computing. And it simply did not disappoint us. We were able to get 6+ hours of heavy use out of it without worrying about needing a charger. Because of this, we actually used the DM1 for our 4G LTE testing as we needed to be mobile when we did this testing and it allowed us to content via 4G for hours as we drove around testing. Even though the laptop is ‘rated’ for “9.5+” hours, realistically you can expect anywhere between 6-8 hours depending on whether or not you run it at maximum brightness and whether or not you have wifi on. Furthermore, AMD has implemented advanced power profiles in the laptop in addition to the already existing ones for Windows 7 in order to further improve performance or battery life depending on the usage scenario and these can be adapted on the fly as your usage needs change. The one thing that we really wish HP had done was to include the option for a slightly chunkier 8-cell battery as the only options available for this model are 6-cell.
Since PCMark is a relatively new test, it’s a bit tougher to gauge performance. But from all of the indications that PCMark gave us, this laptop scored pretty well. Of course, it didn’t score as well as some of our desktop systems, but it still did quite good for the size and price.
On battery power
With PCMark7 we saw a score of 955 when running on battery and a score of 1054 when running plugged in. That means that if you’re going to plan on doing HD media related activities you’re much more likely to experience better performance when plugged in. Granted, that’s reflected almost across the board on all laptops, in this case the difference was more than 10%.
In 3DMark 11, we really didn’t know what to expect as this benchmark is primarily intended for gaming computers with serious graphics. In that case, we ran the Entry level test for 3DMark 11. After running 3DMark11 we got an interesting score of E435. Based on our findings, with comparable systems most scores were in or around 400.
We also decided to run Cinebench in which we were somewhat disappointed in the performance figures that we saw compared to other systems we had run in the past. Admittedly, Cinebench isn’t exactly a measure of overall performance, but it still requires quite a bit of CPU power which the Brazos platform appears to be a little bit weaker than what we would’ve expected but still on par with lower power processors like the Atom chips and the like. Our single threaded performance figures were around 0.30 and our multi-threaded performance was between 0.50 and 0.60.
In AIDA, we ran a slew of memory and CPU tests to gauge the performance of the E-350 processor inside of the HP DM1. Here are some of our results.
In the Queen CPU test, the E-350 inside of the DM1 scored almost identically with the reference E-350 running on a desktop board. This indicates that the DM1 is performing on par with what is expected of an E-350 processor.
In the PhotoWorkxx test, the E-350 actually just scored below the AMD Phenom X4 and above the Intel Atom, Celeron and many others. It proves our previous beliefs that having the E-350 in a notebook makes it a very powerful notebook for photographers on the go. As you can see, the E-350 nearly doubled the performance of the ATOM 230 HT, admittedly though that is a fairly dated ATOM chip.
In the Zlib test, the DM1 and E-350 didn’t necessarily look too great compared to other dual cores, but considering the thermal consumption of all of the comparable processors, performance per watt is still immeasurable.
In the AES test, the E-350 performs pretty well compared to many of its higher power consuming competitors, but admittedly still isn’t that powerful when it comes to CPU power in things like AES.
In the Hash test, the DM1 with the E-350 Zacate performed better than the desktop Athlon 3200+ but worse than a P4 extreme edition. This indicates that perhaps there is some room for improvement, but once again taking power consumption into consideration there is a world of difference.
We also tested the FPU with the VP8 test. The VP8 test yielded expected results considering our previous benchmarks but still outperformed the older Atom processors. In this test we can also see that the Zacate E-350 inside of the DM1 performed exactly the same as the ASRock desktop platform with an E-350 as well. This means that HP hasn’t sacrificed performance for the sake of mobility.
In the Julia FPU test the DM1 actually beats a Dual Core Opteron 240 as well as scores a little lower than the E-350 in a desktop. Admittedly, this puts the E-350 towards the bottom of our list in terms of performance but considering that we didn’t necessarily experience any issues with normal usage we have no reason to question the processing capability.
In the Mandel FPU test the E-350 inside of the DM1 doesn’t really deviate far away from where it sat in the previous FPU tests as these are fairly static and similar for the most part.
Finally, in the SinJulia FPU test the Zacate inside of the DM1 performs pretty reasonably well and appears to outdo some significantly higher powered dual core processors that would normally consume significantly more power than the E-350 and DM1 would.
As a part of AIDA, we also tested the memory latency, memory read, memory write, and memory copy. These four tests are shown below.
As you can see from these tests, the memory performance for the DM1 and E-350 weren’t so stellar when you consider that many of the comparable processors are running significantly slower RAM. Admittedly, the DM1 did not feel memory bandwidth starved but we feel that if it had faster RAM there would be the likelihood that you could see a noticeable improvement in speed. So if there’s one upgrade we’d suggest it would be RAM.
We played TF2 at absolutely maximum resolution, but we toned down all of the settings to medium to make the game more playable. At high settings, the GPU was not able to cope sufficiently as there was an unplayable frame rate. We did, though, run it with 2x MSAA. We were able to comfortably play TF2 at maximum resolution at a minimum FPS of 26 an average of 32 and a maximum of 38. This reflected our experience with the game on the DM1 and confirmed our belief that it is indeed possible to game on the DM1 as well as do day to day things.
The only penalty that you will have to pay for gaming is battery life and noise because the fan is actually audibly loud when playing a game like TF2.
For battery life, we decided to go with the most reasonable benchmark we could think of; Web browsing. In our Web Browsing Benchmark we connected the DM1 to a strong Wifi signal after which we then connected it to
the internet. Upon doing so, we also made sure that we set the screen brightness to 50% and we also opened up Firefox. We then executed our benchmark which mimicked typical usage scenarios. For the heavy usage scenario, we set the browser to search for a new random page every 30 seconds. This resulted in exactly 5 ½ hours of battery life, under similar situations many laptops would likely last 2 hours or less. In our lighter test (5 minutes) it managed to get 7 1/4 hours of battery life. These results are still shy of the claims of 9.5 hours that we’ve seen all around in retail stores and product marketing.
Heat and Noise
With HP’s Cool Sense technology, the laptop mostly kept quiet to the point where the fan was not noticeable but there were some instances when it was unplugged when the fan would ramp up in order to keep the CPU temperature down. For the most part, though, this laptop was kept very cool and quiet with the HP technology and even when the fan was audibly spinning, it was in no way shape or form annoyingly loud. Furthermore, under normal usage the CPU ran around 55C while under full load it ran at 59C. The coolest we saw it was at 52C at absolute idle and being plugged in. This indicates that the CPU is inherently cool and that the cooling solution isn’t necessarily designed to keep it extremely cool, but is designed to be effective and quiet. Admittedly, 59C is not hot, but it’s certainly warm. The fact that the temperature delta between 52C and 59C is literally 7C going from 0% load to 100% load indicates that this is quite a cool chip.
But, as with everything there are drawbacks. Since this is an APU, the GPU and CPU are on the same chip and because of that…if you load both the CPU and GPU simultaneously you will get a drastically different result. The perfect example of this is video games, we tested TF2 on the DM1 and were able to play the game, but the Fan was effectively spinning at 100% the entire time and became much more noticeable and the laptop became much warmer. The GPU under load essentially tacks on an additional 10C to the temperature of the entire chip when playing a game like TF2.
Based on the price of the HP DM1, we really can’t argue anything other than that fact that its probably one of the best values for your money. At that price, there are still netbooks out there that are more expensive and have smaller screens, slower processors, and lack things like HDMI and a full keyboard. The HP DM1 is the perfect value proposition, for $399 you quite literally get a computer that is basically untouchable at that price. HP has done a great job of fitting things that people want in both a netbook and a laptop into the DM1. It fills that much needed gap between netbooks and laptops in both price and performance.
We took this little laptop with us everywhere we went. Its gone on transatlantic flights, braved the desert, the mountains, hotel rooms, it’s followed us to countless conferences and events. Not a single time did this laptop fail us when we needed it most. It allowed us to make our deadlines and upload pictures and video when we otherwise would’ve either been out of battery or out of luck. . Not to mention that we basically used this laptop as storage for all of our photos and it became a photographer’s best friend. We can safely say that this laptop would be perfect for the business person on the go as well as the college student that loves to watch movies and still get work done Based on what we’ve found; it has just the right amount of CPU power for what the average user would need. The power efficiency of the Brazos platform combined with its high definition video prowess enable the HP DM1 to effectively be what netbooks (with atom processors) should’ve been.
As a result of our review and findings, we give the HP DM1 our Editor’s Choice for Mainstream as a result of both being a quality product with a lot of great technology behind it as well as being a great value. In reality, we could give it three awards as it would win both the innovation and value awards for mainstream as well.