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HP Pavilion dm3-1020ea - 13.3in Laptop review

Andy Vandervell

By

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Affordable ultra-portable laptops are the in thing at the moment. Intel and Acer started the ball rolling last year with the Acer Aspire Timeline systems, including the outstanding Aspire 1810TZ (winner of our Best Portable Laptop award last year), but HP and AMD also teamed up to produce the promising (yet ultimately flawed) HP Pavilion dv2. Now the two have joined forces again to produce the HP Pavilion dm3-1020ea we're looking at today. And, though it's available with Intel power as well, the dm3 is proof positive that AMD might finally have a platform that can compete with Intel's.

While the dm3 is in fact larger than the dv2, based as it is on a 13.3in display vs. the 12.1in of the dv2, the shared lineage is clear to see. The dm3 has the same alluringly slim chassis and elegant lines that instantly drew us to the dv2; it's just a bit larger and, at 1.9kg, heavier.

It's prettier, too. Gone is the ghastly reliance on glossy black plastic; in is a chic-looking brushed aluminium adorning both the lid and body of the machine. It combines with the still glossy black bezel and faux-chrome trim to great effect, making this a machine that looks and feels a good deal more expensive than the £540 it'll set you back. It's a class act.

This design prowess is matched to a decent sounding spec. Directing proceedings is a dual-core AMD Athlon Neo X2 L335 CPU running at a decent 1.6GHz. It's backed up by a plentiful 4GB of RAM, ATI's capable Mobility Radeon HD3200 integrated graphics and a zippy 7,200rpm, 320GB hard drive - all good signs that the dm3 will perform well. And, despite the chassis being too slim to house an integrated optical drive, HP is kind enough to provide an external 8x DVD Re-writer drive in the box. It has LightScribe support as well, allowing you to burn disc labels using the drive.

Not everything is as we'd like, though. Network connectivity is restricted to slower 10/100 'Fast' Ethernet and Wireless-G Wi-Fi, as opposed to the Gigabit and Wireless-N Wi-Fi oft demanded these days, though Bluetooth is at least included. Whether the dm3's lacklustre network speed matters is up for debate. Many ordinary users probably won't see the problem, but those with more demanding tastes might baulk at these restrictions.

General connectivity, on the other hand, is good enough. It might lack niceties like eSATA or standby powered USB ports, but the dm3 has HDMI and VGA for video and a total of four USB ports - a good number for a portable machine like this. These are joined by a memory card reader, audio jacks for headphones and a microphone, and the Ethernet port.

All these ports are neatly integrated, with none jutting out or looking unsightly. Somewhat unusually the sliding power switch resides on the right edge, accompanied by a wireless radio toggle button. Other shortcut buttons of note include one above the touchpad for deactivating it, while the Caps Lock, mute and scroll lock keys all have small LED indicators next to them - all thoughtful touches.

xenos

February 16, 2010, 5:46 am

"All the same, compared to Intel powered systems - which tend to run very cool - the dm3 does produce more heat."





This is just naff. My 'Intel powered system', (an HP DV5-1098xx with a 35W T9500 CPU) burns my lap whilst just surfing the web, the CPU will happily get to 90 C, unless its on a desk. If your making a comparison, tell us what your comparing it to please!





All the same the laptop looks like a bit of a bargain, very nice finish. I wish you could spec a backlit keyboard though! And tbh its about time AMD released some better dual core chips for laptops..

blyndy

February 16, 2010, 6:46 am

This looks like a nice notebook, I don't need the disc drive and I appreciate a good keyboard, the networking would be fast enough for me. I'm not a fan of glossy screens though (asus has been the worst offender making grease-magnets eg the Eee 1101HA, although their new Eee PC M101MT is finally a break from that trend)

Andy Vandervell

February 16, 2010, 2:26 pm

@xenos: That particular comment was in reference to other Intel CULV laptops, not full-power systems. Perhaps I should have made that clearer. :)

Neil B

February 16, 2010, 2:35 pm

I bought this laptop last October and I have to say I've been very impressed. I bought it as a low powered/portable alternative to my main PC for a bit of web browsing and a few other bits. But it's just as capable as my main PC and I find myself using this more. The only downside for me is the battery life isn't as good as I'd hoped. Even with the brightness turned right down I can only get a few hours of web-browsing between charges.

Ed

February 16, 2010, 2:51 pm

@Neil B: Out of interest, could you be more specific on 'a few hours'? Two? Five?

Neil B

February 16, 2010, 3:44 pm

"A few" = 3. In my book anyway ;-)

Jmac

February 16, 2010, 4:39 pm

Given is is 24.8-31.8mm thick, it seems unreasonable for HP to suggest there is no room for an integrated optical drive - the 13.3" MacBook Pro is 24.1mm at its thickest (and at 2.04 kg only a smidgeon over the HP's 1.9kg in mass) and incorporates a slot loading superdrive with consummate ease. But then I guess you get what you pay for...

Orinj

February 16, 2010, 4:40 pm

This is almost what I need. A backlit keyboard and sleep powered USB would have been the icing on the cake. Are there any laptops out there with these extra features?

Aidan5ea

February 16, 2010, 4:44 pm

Apologies for bypassing the Trusted Reviews price comparison, but this is available at Amazon for £450 (today at least - they have a habit of jumping prices around). That's got to make this a massive bargain.

Andy Vandervell

February 16, 2010, 5:13 pm

@John McLean: You shouldn't underestimate the engineering challenges in integrating a drive like that and keeping costs/weight down. As you say, that's why the MacBook Pro costs as much as it does.<br />


<br />


@Aidan: Amazon is actually listed on our shopping, but the price hasn't updated yet. In any case that's a massive deal, nice spot.

betelgeus

February 16, 2010, 9:09 pm

bit anal but is ethernet really pronounced eeeethernet as in the video review,gee I spent my whole live pronouncing it without any stresses.

Gordon394

February 16, 2010, 9:11 pm

@betelgeus - yep, Eeeethernet I'm afraid. Time to relearn ;)

Andy0d2

February 17, 2010, 9:07 pm

Just got a TM2 - very similar in many ways. It does have a touchscreen on it though. You guys should really check it out.

Etoile

February 18, 2010, 3:29 pm

@NeilB or anyone





What's the fan noise like? Could you have it next to your bed. My Sony VGN was a like a hair dryer, my Samsung Netbook has almost no noise at all. Also have you used the Bluetooth for 3G tethering to a mobile phone? Could somebody explain to me what the "perceived" weakness of the WiFi adapter, I didn't understand this point. My 3G router is "IEEE 802.11g/b" whatever that means.





Thanks in advance.

Neil B

February 18, 2010, 8:33 pm

@Etoile, I haven't noticed the fan noise to be particularly loud but then I normally have my headphones on/the TV on in the background/the misses talking so it's hard to say what it'd be like in a quiet room at night. I think the perceived network weakness is the fact that the Eeeeeeethernet (sic) is not gigabit and the wifi isn't 'n'. The fact your router isn't 'n' either won't matter to you anyway.





As for tethering via Bluetooth, I've not tried it yet but your Bluetooth connection will be the bottle-neck here so don't expect a 3G internet connection.





Neil.

Etoile

February 19, 2010, 2:55 am

Thanks Neil. Missus yapping away. LOL

Wholesome

March 20, 2010, 8:52 am

I'm considering getting this laptop, and heard rumors that the CPU and wireless have been upgraded:





http://www.amazon.com/Pavilion...





Can you guys help me out and let me know if the SU4100 Intel CPU would possibly run better than the AMD?





And if the 802.11a/b/g/n wireless is better than the b/g or the same? (sorry i don't know the difference)





Thanks in advance for any help.





-hanshi (States)

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