The HP Pavilion DM4-2101 features a Core i3-2330M processor and integrated HD 3000 graphics. This positions it as a lower mid-range model at best, but it is worth noting that this 2nd generation i3 boasts roughly as much power as the previous-generation i5 processor. In our benchmark test, its performance was roughly on-par with the i5 2010 DM4 model, while selling for a cool £150 less these days.
This level of performance is satisfactory for almost any kind of day-to-day productivity task. Similarly, while the 5,400rpm 500GB Hitachi hard drive and 4GB DDR3 RAM are nor particularly notable, they level-peg rivals at this price and shouldn't prove to be performance barriers unless you're looking at an intensive task like video rendering. There's a memory slot free within the DM4-2101's casing too, letting you easily upgrade to 6GB of RAM should you need it.
Where the DM4-2101 has improved over its 2010 series sibling is in gaming. The standard Sandy Bridge Intel HD 3000 graphics chipset may not be all that powerful, but it's a big step up from previous integrated solutions. In the Trackmania Nations benchmark, it managed 41.5fps and came out with a near-playable 19.1fps average in the more demanding S.T.A.L.K.E.R. test.
An improvement over previous-gen budget models as it may be, this laptop isn't much good for gaming. For anything other than ancient classics and the odd indie title, you need a dedicated graphics card, i.e. a different laptop.
As much as many of you may hanker after the additional power of a Core i5 Sandy Bridge processor and dedicated graphics card, one area that benefits massively from a humble-but-efficient CPU is battery life. In our Mobilemark battery test, the Pavilion DM4-2101 lasted a jaw-dropping nine hours and two minutes, making the DM4 appear an athlete among asthmatic, gasping weaklings. The glossy screen and not-quite-ultraslim build may have lost the Pavilion some portable cred, but the excellent stamina wins it back, and some extra to boot.
Up until recently, the Pavilion DM4-2101 sold for a shade under £600, putting it up against devices with features missing here - such as discrete graphics and USB 3.0. However, now that it has dropped down to under £500, we can't help but conclude it's a solid gold laptop, just like the DM4-1050 before it. The speakers are poor, the screen's not fantastic and the keyboard's quirks take a bit of getting used to. But the attractive design, solid performance and fantastic battery life put it right back at the top of the tree.
Classy design, great build quality and stunning battery life make the DM4-2101 very easy to recommend. It's not without problems, lacking advanced connectivity and featuring an average screen and poor speakers, but you rarely see the basics provided for as well as you do here for under £500.