Straddling the line between laptop and netbook, budget ultraportables like the Lenovo X121e are a great option if you’re looking for something that does the basics and does them well. Unlike actual netbooks, little budget laptops like this can handle HD video playback and offer HD Ready screens, usually at 11.6 inches - a little larger than traditional 10in netbook affairs. This is exactly the kind of creature HP’s Pavilion dm1 is.
Based on AMD’s Fusion processors, in this case the dual-core E350, backed by up to 4GB of RAM (3GB is standard) and a 320GB hard drive while running Windows 7 Home Premium, specifications will be adequate for the daily needs of the majority of users. Price hovers between £300 and £400, though the cheapest we could find it at the moment was £375.
When it comes to style, the Pavilion dm1-3200sa seems to be suffering from dissociative identity disorder: on the one hand it wants to display the elegant touches of a classier, premium ultraportable (like curved sides and white LEDs for power and status), while on the other its cheapness becomes obvious the moment you examine it closely.
The lid at first appears to be the kind of glossy affair we love to hate, but as it turns out it’s actually far more resistant to fingerprints and smudges than most of its ilk and its unique pattern is reasonably attractive. Unfortunately things deteriorate from here. First off, the dm1-3200sa is rather bulky, tapering to a thickest point of over 3cm. It’s also quite heavy for a non-rugged 11.6in machine, at 1.56kg.
Opening the laptop up reveals a silver inside finish that attempts to give the impression of metal but fails miserably. It’s especially distracting on the bezel, which is already fairly large to begin with and is made to seem even more so by this finish. The black keyboard and touchpad look like they’re parts of a different machine altogether.
Build quality is decent, yet relative to the brick-like Lenovo X121e it just feels a bit Fisher Price, which is especially disconcerting when you remember that they weigh the same. We hope the Pavilion’s heavier battery will make up for the difference by lasting longer (a reasonable expectation as HP claims a whopping nine hours maximum!). To sum up, the dm1-3200sa isn’t unattractive or poorly constructed, but neither is it especially attractive or sturdy.