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.
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.
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 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.
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.
3D Mark: 2,602
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.