While not quite on a level with Lenovo’s IBM-designed keyboards, HP laptops generally provide an excellent typing experience and the Pavilion dm4-3000ea Beats Edition is no exception. Though key feedback is quite shallow, there’s a nice click to the action and their slightly soft finish is a pleasure to use.
Layout and spacing are great, and though the function keys are secondary, this not only matches the intended market but can be switched in the BIOS. In classic Beats style, the entire keyboard is backlit in red, which really adds to the premium, exclusive feel.
We’re not quite as happy with the touchpad. Even though it supposedly uses the same Imagepad technology as HP’s new Envy 14 Spectre for smoother swiping and up to four-finger navigation, it doesn’t feel quite as smooth or responsive, and (due in part to having physical buttons) it’s a tad on the small side.
However, compared to your average touchpad it holds up well enough, with its comfy semi-gloss buttons offering a defined click. We’re also very fond of HP’s touch-disabling switch: rather than being a secondary function key as with most rivals, simply tap twice in the pad’s upper left corner to enable/disable it.
The Pavilion dm4-3000ea’s screen is 14in (yes, the chassis is 15.5in) with a typical 1,366 x 768 resolution and glossy, reflective finish. Unfortunately, it’s also fairly typical when it comes to image quality for a TN panel. Though it’s quite vibrant and blacks are deep with reasonably even backlighting, contrast falls a little short, with this dm4 unable to distinguish some of the subtler dark shades in our greyscale test. It also suffers from average viewing angles. Horizontal viewing was actually decent enough, but vertically the screen was very sensitive to contrast shift, so you need to tilt it just right.
Naturally, one of the biggest selling points for any Beats-branded product will be its audio. The speakers on the dm4-3000ea Beats Edition hold up reasonably well but really don’t justify the hype. While they manage relatively rich and warm reproduction, they distort at their (admittedly reasonably impressive) maximum volume.
And then there’s the bass. With ‘Beats’ processing disabled, the only way to describe the dm4-3000ea’s speakers is ‘tinny’. Turn on the Beats magic, and suddenly you have a far richer sound with a bit of low-end oomph.
Quite frankly, it’s a little difficult to see why the option to turn it off is there at all; rather than Beats enhancing what’s there, we can’t help but suspect the speakers are actually crippled when it’s turned off, which (if true) turns the whole thing into a marketing trick of the most cynical kind. Worse, even with Beats enabled, this dm4 can’t quite match the likes of the Toshiba Satellite P750 in the bass department.
Of course, it could be argued that having superior speakers is already impressive, and that the bundled pair of Beats Solo HD premium headphones will help ease all audio concerns. While we weren’t particularly enamoured of the Beats Solo cans, on a quick listen these did perform better – we’ll bring you our definitive verdict in the full review soon.