Logitech Z623

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 Logitech Z623

Logitech products appear to fit into two separate categories, especially when it comes to speakers.

We’ve seen – and heard – £200 5.1 setups that have blown everything else clean out of the water, but on the other hand, you can also pick up a set of stereo speakers for £15 that sound like they should have cost no more than a fiver.

At £120 the Z623 certainly doesn’t come cheap, but does it sound like it’s worth all that extra money? The answer is a resounding yes.

The sound is deep and rich, and the most ‘three-dimensional’ we’ve ever heard from a 2.1 system. Even coming from a laptop’s dubious-quality in-built sound card, the sounds of gunfire in our favourite FPS seemed to come from all around us. How soothing.

The bass and treble are perfectly tuned out of the box, but if you want to add more bass there’s a dedicated rotary dial on the right-hand speaker. Despite the slightly ‘Day of the Tentacle’ design of the speakers, they’re well built too.

The subwoofer is one of the smaller ones we’ve seen, but it did just as good a job of bass reproduction as ones the size of a small fridge. The satellites compliment it perfectly, being adequately weighted in terms of both construction and sound.

If there’s a slight niggle, it’s that Logitech has elected to use the same connection system it uses on its lower-end speakers. The right satellite houses the power, volume and bass controls, and it connects to the sub-woofer via a proprietary VGA-style cable. The left speaker simply connects to the sub with a phono plug.

The system evidently works, and having power control on the desktop saves you having to lean over to a hidden sub to turn them on – and it’s exactly the same system you’ll find on Logitech’s £15 speakers.

They have to be heard to be believed though, and despite our reservations about the THX certification, it actually seems to mean something here. These come highly recommended.

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Introduce Laptop Dell XPS 14z

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Introduce Laptop Dell XPS 14z

Not so long ago we looked at the laptop Dell Inspiron 14z. And now we have a model on the operating table with a similar name. Twins? Just relatives? Or is it namesakes and nothing more? Try to understand.

Outwardly, the two “chetarnadtsatzed” resemble each other only vaguely. The same, by and large, only joint cap to the body: in both notebook hinges are “upright” and not on the edge of the shell, and indented. In the case of Dell Inspiron 14z is more pronounced, and in the Dell XPS 14z is noticeable only at certain angles. The most important aspect of mismatched design – the materials used. In the low-cost Inspiron 14z plastic housing, with a decorative ornament from the “shredded” the metal.

In the XPS 14z all noticeably more interesting: the lower half of the body and the outside cover is made of anodized aluminum, like the MacBook. But, unlike the MacBook, “working surface» Dell XPS 14z – that is, the plane on which the keyboard and touchpad – not aluminum and plastic. The plastic is painted in gray color and looks much darker than aluminum.

In general, highly original approach: all the beauty of metal, for which the user actually pays to hide at the bottom and the back of the lid. A user is referred to propose the same realm of synthetic materials, as in the cheaper models. For example, openwork lattice air intake holes on the metal bottom of the XPS 14z looks just wonderful. And the same pattern – speaker grille – on the plastic panels for painting turned out pretty oplyvshim.

Typically, a company copying creatively reinterpreted design Apple, limited to the exterior. But the Dell decided to go one step further: to heighten the resemblance copied More innovative thinking and OSD-will adjust the volume, brightness, and the like. And rethink the most creative – even cleaned. Keyboard Dell XPS 14z looks interesting and somewhat unusual, and has the correct layout is well established.

Perhaps the main advantage of the keyboard XPS 14z – the presence of illumination. It is made less accurately than in Samsung 700Z5A, But its function copes well: in the dark buttons clearly visible. The touchpad is quite large, covering the right, the finger glides on it good and comfortable. Physical buttons that can be called a pleasant surprise, considering that the design of this laptop is innovative thinking you know someone.

In front of the case, obviously, is the battery. Therefore, no Front useful elements at all – there simply is empty. By the same token is not used, and about a third of each side. So the right fit only optical drive, and the left – a memory card reader, audio jacks and one of the two “exhaust” vents. The bulk of the ports are concentrated behind. Use them, of course, inconvenient. Terribly uncomfortable, to be exact to the end.

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Corsair Vengeance M60 gaming mouse

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 Corsair Vengeance M60 gaming mouse

Overview

This Corsair Vengeance M60 mouse represents the next step for Corsair – peripherals.

Specifically, high-end peripherals designed for the gamer who’s prepared to pay a little more for a rugged build and enhanced usability.

The Vengeance M60 FPS gaming mouse is a prime example of that – premium components, eight-button functionality, and all the extras like adjustable DPI buttons and a mega-low DPI ‘sniper’ button that’s rapidly becoming the standard for a gaming rodent.

Corsair has a pretty impressive pedigree across a number of fields. The Californian company started out producing L2 cache modules, and today it’s still go-to guy for performance RAM like the Vengeance and Dominator DDR3 ranges.

In recent times we’ve seen speaker systems, power supplies, PC chassis and USB flash drives all bearing the Corsair name, and by and large it signals a mark of the highest quality.

The specs for this new mouse are impressive, but can Corsair really pull off a flawless debut into the mouse market with the Corsair Vengeance M60?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer’s yes.

Verdict

There are two mice in Corsair’s fledgling range – the M90 caters for the MMO gamer’s needs, and as such sports fifteen programmable buttons.

This M60 sets its sights square and true on the first-person shooter afficionado, for whom split seconds and DPI figures are everything.

With that said, even the grouchiest CS:S gamer will be happy with the Corsair Vengeance M60’s performance.

Corsair vengeance m60

The jury’s still out on whether DPI really makes a huge difference, but the M60’s adjustable polling rate, high tracking speed and low-friction PTFE pads make for a noticeably smooth experience.

And if you’re still hung up on that DPI comment, it’s 100 dots higher than our previous darling of the rodent world, Mad Catz’s Cyborg R.A.T. 7.

This is a mouse that lots of clever people have sat and thought about for a long time – that much is evident in its ergonomic design.

The sniper button feels well-placed enough that you’d actually use it, and the thumb rest blends perfectly into your mouse mat.

Having experimented with the M60 it turns out to be comfortable in all but the most improbable hand position, which is worth thinking about if you’re such a pro gamer that you’ve analysed your own grip.

Show off.

You don’t have to be Fatal1ty to expect more adjustable weighting though, and that’s sadly off the menu with this mouse. All you get are three removable weights in the base, so you can make it lighter but not heavier is that is your bag.

Take an eyeful of the price tag and you’ll understand why the Corsair Vengeance M60 doesn’t offer this – it’s clear that most of the money has been spent on its remarkable build quality – but it does lose ground to the similarly-priced R.A.T. 5 from Mad Catz here, which is far more adjustable by weight.

We liked

For a debut effort, the Corsair Vengeance M60 mouse is incredible.

It’s hard to pick a fault with it if you’re a FPS gamer. Primarily, you want a comfortable mouse that doesn’t have a ton of buttons you’ll keep accidentally pressing at a fair price, and Corsair’s rodent ticks all those boxes with confidence.

The adjustable DPI and sniper button are useful additions in a layout that otherwise shows restraint, and it feels like it could survive a nuclear blast.

We disliked

It is missing out on more fully-adjustable weights and a free-rolling wheel, but the low price eases those concerns considerably.

Final word

Corsair’s debut mouse hits the ground running – right to the front of the pack.

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Asus N55SF

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 Asus N55SF

At first glance, it’s difficult to get a handle on exactly what type of laptop the Asus N55SF is.

The powerful Core i7-2570QM processor, huge keyboard with numeric keypad and slab of speaker atop the keyboard suggest that it may be intended as a desktop replacement. But the weight and general lack of bulk suggest otherwise.

When all’s said and done, this is a out-and-out powerhouse of an entertainment laptop. There’s Bang and Olufsen ICEPower audio, 6GB of memory and a Blu-ray drive hidden inside that hefty case.

Indeed, this is a high performance family laptop with a gaming bent – the high end Nvidia GeForce GT 555M has a whopping 2GB of memory on board just for graphics, providing some of the best 3D performance you’ll find in a laptop.

While the chassis is big, it’s not as bulky as you’d think and is easily to move around the living room. Sadly the power brick isn’t so portable and is a bit of a lump. The chassis is a little plasticky, but is topped off by a lovely curved, glossy piano black lid with a smart looking chrome finish around the edge.

Unfortunately the lid does pick up fingerprints quickly, but that’s an issue with all such glossy laptop lids – particularly when they’re being used by kids. As a whole, the laptop looks very classy and we certainly wouldn’t be ashamed to leave it on the coffee table – the aluminium panel below the screen adds to this.

The chassis has been put together well and is strong – you can’t push down on the palm rest, although there is a little flex in the base of the keyboard and the main laptop chassis itself. There is more flex in the screen, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Key concern

We’re unsure about the keyboard though. It looks horrid compared to those of many comparable laptops, for a start. The letter keys seem a little compressed for such a large machine, and although they have a lovely spring to them when you’re typing, it’s easy to accidentally hit the wrong key.

This problem is exacerbated by the location of the volume control keys on the left-hand side. It’s very easy to hit one of them when going for Tab or holding down shift – largely because we’re so used to these keys being at the edge of the keyboard. A bad usability flaw there; suddenly you see a volume control graphic pop up in front of you as you type.

Sound, which has traditionally been a weakness for laptops, certainly isn’t neglected here. The B&O audio is nothing short of astounding. It was too loud for our living room, so we really gave it a challenge by bringing it into the office. Even on the other side of our large open plan office we could clearly make out the music. It’s great for watching Blu-ray movies as a result, and HDMI means you can output your display to a larger screen.

If you prefer to use the laptop’s built-in display, images are clear and crisp, and there’s an anti-glare coating to reduce refl ections when you’re watching video or working. The screen has great contrast and colours are also reproduced well.

Asus n55sf rear

Photo, video and music addicts will be pleased with the 640GB of storage, and USB 3.0 connectivity means that, even if you decide to add external storage, transfer speeds would be extremely snappy with a USB 3.0 drive. Ports are plentiful, while there’s a SD card slot underneath the front lip.

The trackpad is responsive, but we found the mouse buttons tended to click too easily and it can be difficult when doing more precise tasks such as highlighting text or files in a folder.

Powerful performer

The N55SF put in a really strong performance in our benchmarks – the gaming graphics put it right up alongside entertainment-orientated notebooks like the Toshiba Qosmio X770, as well as high-end gaming laptops such as the Alienware M14X and M18X. With the quad-core processor, advanced graphics and 6GB of memory, you’ll have no trouble running most games or performing demanding tasks like video editing.

The laptop uses Nvidia’s Optimus graphics switching technology, so you get great graphics performance when it’s plugged into the mains and decent battery life when it’s not. This is reflected in our battery benchmark score, which is great compared to many of its peers – the Toshiba’s Qosmio X770 only lasted 44 minutes by contrast.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 132 minutes
Cinebench: 18,323
3DMark 2009: 12,711

As with some other recent Asus laptops like the UX31 Zenbook, we found some of the software annoying. A reminder to register our details constantly popped up, and an update wizard kept appearing. Such add-on software seems to be a way of life now, but it detracts from the out-of-box experience.

That said, for extra unwanted software, the N55SF is better than most, with only the Bing toolbar really grating. And the benefit of the super-fast processor is that such additions don’t slow Windows 7 down.

The N55SF is a superb home entertainment laptop with only a couple of weak points in the odd keyboard, mouse controls and some irritating software alerts. Performance is excellent and the spec sheet as a whole is impressive.

Of course, all this doesn’t come cheap, but this machine compares extremely favourably to more stylised and costly entertainment laptops from the likes of Toshiba and Alienware. We’d definitely recommend it – if you can put up with the strange keyboard.

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Toshiba Satellite Z830-10U

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 Toshiba Satellite Z830-10U

Overview

If you wanted a stylishly light and powerful Toshiba laptop, you would immediately look to the Japanese company’s Portege R830. That is, until you came across the Toshiba Satellite Z830-10U, priced at £999 in the UK (the US price isn’t yet available).

Toshiba’s shiny entry into the ultrabook market will go up against the likes of the Acer Aspire S3 and the Asus Zenbook UX21.

These super light and thin laptops are already among us, and are aiming to take some of the limelight away from the Apple MacBook Air. Helped by chip manufacturer Intel, which laid out very specific price and performance requirements for manufacturers, the Ultrabook is set to become a common sight in 2012.

At its thickest point, the Satellite Z830-10U measures only 16mm across, but Toshiba has still packed in Sandy Bridge power and given us one of the best trackpads we’ve yet seen on an ultrabook. It’s not without niggles, however, and we found parts of the chassis to be inferior to stronger machines such as the Asus Zenbook and the MacBook Air.

Toshiba satellite z830-10u review

The 13.3-inch Satellite Z830-10U is truly an ultrabook for the road. Giving us not only the lightest chassis we’ve yet seen, but also an excellent battery life, this could be the answer for frequent travellers who need a long-lasting machine full of performance for under £1,000.

Although this has the same 128GB solid state drive (SSD) that we’ve seen elsewhere, it offers better connectivity than other ultrabooks currently on the market. In what could quickly become its main selling point, the Toshiba Satellite Z830-10U gives you three USB ports, of which one is USB 3.0, and an Ethernet connection – the only ultrabook to do so.

We enjoyed our time with the Toshiba Satellite Z830-10U and looked past a couple of irritating points to find that it is certainly one of the ultrabooks you should be considering.

It sits alongside cheaper brother the Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T, which costs £899 in the UK or $849 in the US, while Toshiba’s Port

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Corsair Vengeance Racing Red 16GB

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 Corsair Vengeance Racing Red 16GB

Not only is a new extreme/enthusiast Intel platform a boon for motherboard manufacturers, it’s also very good news for the memory manufacturers. It’s been a long time since the memory guys had any good news, so the fact that the X79 platform comes with a special quad-channel memory configuration is great. Isn’t it?

Corsair thinks so, and has released a new lineup of RAM modules set up for the platform. The latest range of quad-channel Vengeance kits are rated at 1,866MHz out of the box, with full XMP 1.3 compliance built in.

Like the G.Skill RipJawsZ kit, the XMP 1.3 makes for a slightly tighter integration of the use of memory profiling to make setting clockspeeds, latencies and voltages correctly for any supporting motherboard.

Memory matters

The difficulty for companies such as Corsair is that these days, memory actually makes little difference at the top end. The performance difference between a decent 1,600MHz kit and a pacier 1,866MHz bumper pack is small, especially at this thick end of the memory capacity wedge.

With 16GB of DDR3 jammed into your machine, whether it’s running at 1,600MHz or 1,866MHz, it’s going to be going like a greased weasel down a slide. The difference in gaming is negligible – for example, there was just one frame in it with our World in Conflict benchmark, which can easily be put down to simple testing variance.

More immediately obvious is the difference in actual memory bandwidth. The Corsair Vengeance Racing Red kit manages a whopping 42GB/s against the 1,600MHz G.Skill kit’s 38GB/s. Even at the lowest ebb, you’re still getting great numbers.

In overclocking terms, the Corsair kit was rock-solid at its rated frequency in our Sandy Bridge E tests, easily getting up to the same 4.8GHz overclock that the G.Skill kit managed. Neither kit will bat above its rated speeds though. As hard as we tried, we couldn’t push the Vengeance Racing Red modules up to the next point, 2,133MHz. But really that’s just willy-waving. Such speeds don’t give you a huge amount of extra real-world performance for your money.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Video encoding performance
X264 v4.0: FPS: Higher is better
Corsair Vengeance: 55
G.Skill RipJaws-Z: 55

Memory bandwidth
SiSoft Sandra: GB/S: Higher is better
Corsair Vengeance: 42
G.Skill RipJaws-Z: 38

Gaming performance
WiC: FPS: Higher is better
Corsair Vengeance: 112
G.Skill RipJaws-Z: 111

And therein lies the rub. This Corsair kit is on the market for around £133 at the time of writing, whereas the slightly slower G.Skill kit can be picked up for less than a ton. Is the extra performance really going to be worth the cash you’re stumping up for the extra clockspeed?

As a gamer, the answer will most likely be no. Realistically for us PC gaming folk, even the G.Skill kit is probably overkill, and speeding up those modules won’t give you much extra either.

For Photoshop obsessives and video manipulation junkies, £133 for 16GB of superfast DDR3 probably isn’t a bad deal. But that’s a bit of a niche market for such an enthusiast product. None of that can take away from the fact that these Corsair modules run perfectly at their rated specs, happily keeping the system ticking over during all the overclocking.

But as we’ve said, it’s a niche product. Most of us wont need the heights of this kit, though the same could easily be said of the whole Sandy Bridge E platform. So, in for a penny and all that…

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Toshiba Portégé R830-138

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 Toshiba Portégé R830-138

We had to pick up our jaws up from off the floor too. It’s going to take a damn sight more than a sophisticated-sounding French moniker to distract you from this laptop’s gargantuan price. But the Toshiba Portege R830 must be an astonishing piece of kit, right?

Designed for the busy executive who wants a laptop that doesn’t interfere with the shape of a soft Italian leather briefcase, Toshiba’s wafer thin Port

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Samsung RF511

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 Samsung RF511

The Samsung RF511 is a mid-range laptop which offers solid yet unspectacular performance, at a less than inspiring price. With so many great laptop bargains on the market this year boasting new Intel chips, we reckon that Samsung has missed the mark with this middle-of-the-road outing.

With its muted grey metal trim around the keyboard and austere black-on-silver keys, the kind of room which would suit Samsung’s RF511 will have black leather couches and smoked glass tables. It’s a world away from the designer minimalism of something like the Asus Zenbook and a design that will repel as many as it attracts.

But once you look at the glossy baked plastic lid, you begin to wonder who exactly the RF511 is aimed at. Is it a workhorse machine for open plan offices? Or something that could be a desktop replacement for the family home? We’re just not sure – and the problem is that Samsung doesn’t seem to have the answer, either.

If you’re shopping around, there are two versions of the RF511 available: one has a discrete graphics processor supplied by Nvidia for extra gaming power; the other relies on Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 GPU that’s built into a Sandy Bridge chip. This is the latter incarnation, meaning that the latest games are going to be beyond your aspirations.

Like the Packard Bell TS13HR, you’ll be able to get some older games running at a playable rate, but forget your secret ambition to be a soldier in Battlefield 3 if you choose to arm yourself with the RF511. Far Cry 2 runs fairly well on it, though.

Samsung build

So, if it’s not extra games performance that Samsung is offering punters, how does it distinguish itself from the almost £180 cheaper Packard Bell TS13HR? For the extra outlay here you get a Core i5 processor (rather than the Core i3 in the Packard Bell) and an extra 250GB of hard drive space.

It’s not much lighter, though, and the battery life isn’t any better if you’re running video or doing anything more challenging than browsing the web.

We can report, however, that the RF511’s screen is an improvement over the TS13HR. The contrast levels are even better for richer colours all round, but it’s not that much better. Certainly not £150 so.

Limited benefit

So what about those differences between the Core i5 and Core i3? With the former, you get Hyper Threading and Intel’s Turbo Boost technology. That’s reflected in the benchmarks, but they don’t have as much real world benefit as you might imagine – certainly not unless you’re encoding a lot of video or doing the kinds of high intensity workloads that this laptop really isn’t otherwise designed for.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 168 minutes
Cinebench: 9960
3DMark 2006: 4740

As far as using the the RF511 or the TS13HR for photo editing, watching videos, surfing the web and office suites, there’s not a huge performance advantage to be gained by spending the extra money.

What you do get for the extra money is a lot of bundled software. Unfortunately, most of this borders on the intrusive rather than the genuinely useful. Internet security pop-ups and notifications about Wi-Fi also have a habit of knocking out other running applications. If you’re after a no-frillls 15-incher, there’s little reason to buy the RF511 over the cheaper TS13HR.

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Sony VAIO VPCEH2F1E E Series

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 Sony VAIO VPCEH2F1E E Series

We approach budget laptops from Sony with caution. The Japanese giant may have produced some of the most desirable high-end machines out there, but its budget offerings have always been a mixed bag. Thankfully, using the Sony VAIO VPCEH2F1E is a reassuring experience.

The keyboard and screen are both fantastic, and although the power tucked inside isn’t mind-blowing, it’s certainly enough for the vast majority of us.

When it comes to appearance, the E Series is the ugly duckling of the VAIO family. It goes for the traditional all-black look (or white, pink or blue), but tries to mix it up with a textured triangle design that overlays the plastic. Questionable design aside, the chassis does feel remarkably firm and we couldn’t find any flex around the usual weak spots, such as above the DVD drive or around the screen hinges.

The E Series models aren’t exactly light at 2.4kg, but you’ll easily be able to put this laptop in a backpack and carry it around for a day.

The highlight of the E Series is definitely the firm, isolation-style keyboard. Even though this is a budget machine, Sony has installed highly usable keyboard that is a typist’s dream. There’s a great deal of space between the keys, as well as a dedicated numeric keypad and the three Assist, Web and VAIO hotkeys that Sony puts on all its models.

Typing is particularly easy: the keys have a solid weight to them, and the added space means there’s no chance of a miss-hit. If we had to gripe, we’d say that the slightly raised keys could fall victim to dust, crumbs and other debris spilt over the chassis and that the touchpad is too small.

Sony vaio e series

This laptop’s screen is also worth touching on. It’s reasonably bright, and pictures came out clear and detailed – if a little whiter than others with darker displays. What we did like is that the screen runs almost to the edge of the lid, giving you the impression you’re looking at a screen larger than 15.6 inches.

Average power

It has to be said that you won’t be loading up the latest games, mixing high-definition video or doing a lot of visual programming on the VPCEH2F1E. However, the Core i3 processor is still a second-generation model and, as such, will allow you to multitask with different programs and easily handle less-intensive tasks, like audio mixing or basic programming.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 173 minutes
Cinebench: 7833
3DMark 2006: 3504

The keyboard will find favour with writers and the screen and speakers make watching movies a pleasant experience.

If, after a year or so you decide to boost this E Series model with an extra monitor, or a better keyboard or more storage, you can do so thanks to the number of connections available. Connectivity includes four USB ports, HDMI, VGA and Ethernet connections, as well as an SD Card slot and a Pro Duo slot.

Additionally, Sony has built-in 802.11n wireless and Bluetooth. While using the VPCEH2F1E heavily, we noted that it stayed both cool and quiet and that the battery gave us an average 173 minute life.

It’s not hard to recommend the VPCEH2F1E as a good deal. It gets so many of the fundamentals right without feeling the need to shunt in excess power which adversely affects both battery life and price.

It’s good to see a Sony VAIO laptop that the average person can afford and we have to say that, even if it’s not especially pretty, the this E Series laptop certainly gets the job done.

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HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea

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 HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea

Overview

The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea comes at an interesting time for portable PC laptops. Traditional laptops have had a turbulent ride of late, with a number of threats appearing to erode their market.

The first threat – netbooks – has been seen off pretty comprehensively. The diminutive machines offered a smaller, lighter and cheaper alternative, but at the cost of power and features.

In the end netbooks failed to capture the public’s imagination, despite the efforts of some great products, such as the Toshiba NB520-10U.

Tablets, however – especially the Apple iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 – haven’t had this problem, and have surpassed netbooks to become the laptop’s biggest threat. Sales have rocketed so that tablets have succeeded where netbooks failed. Offering slick interfaces, a huge selection of apps and usually attractive and portable designs, tablets are a force to be reckoned with.

Their Achilles’ heel at the moment is price. Top range tablets go for around £300-£400. You can get cheaper models, such as the Binatone HomeSurf 705 and ViewSonic ViewPad 7e, but they’re not very good.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

A new front has now opened up from the high end of the laptop market, with Intel’s ultrabook format. These new laptops are incredibly thin, light and beautifully designed, as well as being powerful. The standout models of ultrabook is the Asus Zenbook UX31 and the Acer Aspire S3.

So where does this competition leave standard laptops in general, and the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea in particular? Does it do enough to stand out in an already crowded market, and does the audience for that market even exist any more? The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea starts with a strong foundation, with Hewlett Packard remaining a trusted and respected manufacturer of laptops.

The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea’s stablemate, the HP Pavilion dm1-3100sa, has impressed as an ultra-portable laptop that doesn’t make too many sacrifices when it comes to performance. But now the spotlight is firmly on the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea.

Specifications

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea is certainly a small laptop, with dimensions of just 29.2 x 21.5 x 3.2cm, and a weight of only 1.6kg. This makes it almost as small and portable as the much maligned netbooks but, crucially, it also has enough power to handle most tasks.

Packed onto the small chassis of the laptop are VGA, HDMI and Ethernet ports. There’s a combined headphone out/microphone in jack and three USB 2.0 ports. It’s a bit disappointing that there are none of the faster USB 3.0 ports included, since these are becoming increasingly common on new laptops.

To keep the computer small, there’s no optical drive for reading CDs or DVDs, so you’ll have to rip music and video to a USB stick to make the most out of this laptop’s media-playing capabilities.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

HP bills the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea as an “Entertainment Notebook PC”. This conjures up expectations of a machine that’s capable of handling media with ease, and maybe even a few casual games. Where the HP Pavilion dm1-3100sa was let down with its handling of high-definition content, we expect the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea to have no such trouble.

On paper, things don’t look too bad. The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea uses an AMD Radeon HD 6320M integrated graphics card. It comes with some automatic overclocking tools to give it a bit of a needed boost, and with DirectX11 support, it can handle low- to mid-range games.

Graphically demanding newer games are definitely a no-no, though. This is because while the AMD Radeon HD 6320M inside the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea can theoretically use up to 1.92GB of memory for graphics, it doesn’t actually have dedicated graphics memory, so it needs to share memory with the rest of the PC.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

This means if you’re running a few graphic-intensive programs, along with other applications that need memory, the strain is going to show. The 11.6-inch screen has a resolution of 1366 x 768, which is fine for high-definition movies.

Although there’s a lack of dedicated graphics memory, HP has been very generous by including 4GB of DDR3 RAM with the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea. This is more than enough for most applications, and it’s nice to see that HP hasn’t hobbled the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea by cutting the RAM to 2GB to lower costs.

Processor-wise, the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea comes with a 1.65 GHz AMD Dual-Core E-450. This processor has been specially designed by AMD to work in laptops, with lower power consumption that leads to greater battery life and saves the components inside the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea’s small body from overheating.

While it’s no competition for the Intel Core i5 and i7 processors found in higher-end (and much more expensive) laptops, this dual core processor is meaty enough for a lot of tasks, and pleasingly powerful, considering the size of the laptop.

Performance

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

3D Mark: 2,602
Cinebench: 1,433
Battery eater: 2 hours 59 mins 26 seconds

As with many laptops around this price range, the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea’s performance really depends on what you’re using it for. Day-to-day computing on this laptop, such as writing on a word processor or browsing the web, is accomplished with little fuss, although there is a faint lag when starting up programs. We found that a bit of patience is required when selecting options or launching applications, with pauses of a few seconds sometimes.

Even with 4GB of RAM, multitasking can slow down quite a bit, especially if you’re browsing the internet while running a number of graphic-heavy programs at the same time, such as watching a movie or video editing.

The 320GB hard drive offers plenty of space but has a speed of just 5,400rpm (revolutions per minute). The faster a hard drive can spin, the faster the computer can open, move and edit files stored on the disk. With faster drives out there achieving 7,200rpm and even 10,000rpm, it does feel like the drive is a bit of a weak link.

The trade-off with a slower hard drive, however, is lower overall cost and a longer battery life.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

Graphics performance was OK, but nothing spectacular, with a 3D Mark score of 2,602, which is on the low end even for laptops, and lower than the HP Pavilion dm1-3100sa‘s score. The Cinebench score of 1,433 using multiple cores was better, but still less than the HP Pavilion dm1-3100sa’s score of 1,985.

Despite the lacklustre benchmarks, our real world tests were more positive. Media playback itself was good, with no stuttering on standard-definition movie files.

The 11.6-inch screen displayed colours well and animations in particular looked great. The 1366 x 768 resolution actually benefitted full HD movies files, since the 1080p source was nicely downscaled to run on the smaller resolution, resulting in a sharp image. High-definition movies also play very well, with just a hint of screen tear, but no noticeable stuttering.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

Much has been made of the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea’s sound capabilities, with the inclusion of Beats Audio technology, exclusive to HP laptops. The built-in speakers sound great – definitely the best we’ve heard in a laptop from this price range. Audio is clear, with plenty of depth and none of the tinny qualities that often plague laptop speakers.

Battery life was a pretty standard three hours of intensive computing. That’s not awful, but we’ve seen laptops – such as the Acer Timeline X – with much longer battery lives.

Verdict

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea is a strange beast of a laptop indeed. On the one hand it can feel rather lacklustre and underpowered when doing unexceptional tasks. Windows 7 Home Premium can feel sluggish at times, and with a number of windows left open on the desktop, things can get pretty slow.

In this regard, the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea can’t compete with a higher-end, more powerful laptop, or even a tablet that’s less powerful but has an operating system and apps that use the limited resources well enough to ensure a smooth user experience.

However, there’s no denying that when it comes to media playback – an important consideration due to HP’s labelling of the Pavilion dm1-4027ea as an entertainment-focused machine – this laptop actually performs very well. Movie content – both standard and high-definition – plays very well, and the built-in speakers provide audio that is well above average for a laptop.

The lack of an optical drive does limit its media playback options quite a bit, however, but if your media collection has gone fully digital, then this won’t be such a problem.

The small size and light weight is also a big factor, and this is certainly a more portable laptop than most.

If you’re after a light media-playing laptop then this is a good choice. For anything more demanding, look elsewhere.

We liked

Media playback is a big winner with the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea. A lovely screen coupled with enough graphical power to run movies smoothly (bar the odd screen tear) makes this laptop a pleasure to watch movies on.

The battery life will just about make it through an entire film.

Better still is the audio quality of the built-in speakers, which really does sound great, and saves you the extra expense of buying separate laptop speakers such as the Logitech Laptop Speaker Z305.

The small size of the laptop is also a boon, making it easy to carry around wherever you go, with a slim and attractive design.

Even with the smaller keyboard, typing is comfortable.

We disliked

Outside of media playback, performance is pretty mediocre, with relatively impressive stats on paper not making a great impact in use.

The biggest culprit here is the 4GB of DDR3 RAM, which should give the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea some punch, but actually still leaves the laptop struggling when there is too much going on at once.

Final verdict

If you want a light laptop for watching movies on, the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea does what you want it to do. However, if you want to use it to work on, editing digital photos or anything more strenuous, then you’re going to be disappointed.

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