Tuesday, December 8, 2009

An all-rounder



A snazzy looking notebook, the HP Pavilion dm3 is great for working on the go.

WE HAVE been wanting to test Windows 7 on a notebook and finally got our hands on the Pavilion dm3, the latest ultra portable notebook to grace HP’s lightweight category.

Slim, slick and sexy are some words you can use to describe the Pavilion dm3. We liked the brushed aluminium frame which nicely contrasted with the black bezel surrounding the LCD screen on the inside.

This is one tough looking notebook with a solid body. And as it is also very compact and slim, you could easily lug it everywhere you go.

Due to the notebook’s extremely thin frame — it is only a fraction thicker than a standard USB port — it does away with a built-in optical drive.

But there is nothing to worry about as the notebook still comes with an external DVD writer for burning CDs and intalling software.

Alternatively, HP is also selling a Blu-ray combo drive which is great if you are planning to watch HD movies.

Though the Pavilion dm3 is compact, it weighs 1.9kg which is a little on the heavy side for an ultraportable. For a notebook that lacks a built-in optical drive, we would have preferred it lighter as well.

The Pavilion dm3 comes with lots of connectivity options — you’ll find four USB ports, a HDMI port for hooking it up to a larger display, an Ethernet port, a VGA out and a multi-format card reader.

It’s handy to have so many USB ports because one may eventually be taken up by the external optical drive, leaving another three for other devices.

SLIM PROFILE: The notebook does away with the optical drive but it has a lot of ports.

One thing odd about Pavilion dm3’s design is the power switch which is located at the side of the notebook — though not a bad thing but it took us a few minutes to locate it.

The Pavilion dm3 has a gorgeous 13.3in LCD screen with a resolution of 1,366 x 768-pixels. The screen is well illuminated which makes it great for viewing pictures and videos.

However, the glossy black bezel’s reflective surface is rather distracting and especially so if you use it outdoors.

Below the display sits the Pavilion dm3’s cool looking chicklet-style keyboard which is comfortable to type on.

There aren’t any dedicated keys for media functions, so you’ll have to use the standard function keys.

The Pavilion dm3 has a decent-size trackpad that is so shiny that it could double up as a mirror. The drawback is that it is a fingerprint magnet and becomes smudgy and dirty after in use for only awhile.


Looks aren’t everything, so it’s great that the notebook packs a 1.6GHz Athlon Neo X2 dual-core processor, 4GB RAM and an ATI Radeon HD 4330 graphics processor.

Performance-wise, the notebook holds up well when it comes to multitasking with several different applications running at once.

We tested the Pavilion dm3 by playing a 720p video while using a heavy duty application like Adobe Photoshop. Much to our surprise the notebook didn’t skip a frame when playing the video.

Like most modern notebooks, it runs relatively quiet when in use. It does, however, emit a considerable amount of heat along the underside of the notebook, making it uncomfortable to use for long periods.

The notebook ships with Windows 7 Home Premium which is a lot more efficient than Vista, so start up and shut down times were relatively short.

Space isn’t an issue with the Pavilion dm3 as it has a huge 500GB hard drive which should be more than enough for storing all your programs and media.

HP has included preinstalled software though they aren’t that impressive.

For instance, the HP MediaSmart program acts as the default media player for handling pictures, songs and videos. But because it takes 12 seconds to start up it is way too sluggish to be used for even viewing photos as Windows Photo Viewer takes just a second to launch.

Fun and games

The Pavilion dm3 also doubles as a functional media machine for watching HD movies while on the go.

The notebook handled 720p HD movies really well — even fast moving and action scenes looked smooth without any frame drops.

Also, if you find the screen too small, you can always hook up the Pavilion dm3 to a bigger screen via the HDMI port.

The only thing that ruined our movie viewing experience was the speakers. Although the sound quality was pretty decent considering it’s a notebook but it could be better.

The built-in Altec Lansing speakers are too soft and you’ll definitely want to get a pair of external speakers or headphones.

If you’re into games, you’ll be disappointed to know that the Pavilion dm3 isn’t that great a gaming machine. We tried installing first-person shooter games like Modern Warfare 2 but the notebook could barely handle the game.

Only at fairly low settings and resolution was the game playable. But even then the frame rate was so jittery and graphics so ugly that we didn’t really enjoy playing it.

In terms of battery life, the notebook’s 6-cell battery lasts about five hours when used for web surfing, photo editing and light gaming.


The HP Pavilion dm3 is by no means a perfect machine as it has its share of ups and downs.

As an entertainment machine, the notebook is capable of playing HD content smoothly and it has a large 500GB hard drive which is perfect for storing lots of media.

The notebook has a slick aluminium frame and a compact design but unfortunately it is a little on the heavy side. Plus, you will also need to carry an external optical drive which adds to the bulk.

Another problem are the built-in speakers which were incredibly soft and lacked punch. Also, the notebook isn’t really great for gaming.

Overall, the HP Pavilion dm3 is great for handling productivity apps and watching HD movies. Plus, with its long battery life of five hours, you can use it for an entire day on the go.

Pros: Slick aluminium design; nice keyboard; decent battery life.

Cons: Heavy even without an optical drive; speakers are too soft; can’t handle 3D games.


Ultra-portable notebook
Processor: AMD Turion Neo X2 (1.6GHz)
Memory: 4GB DDR3 RAM
Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 512MB VRAM
Display: 13.3in widescreen LCD (1,366 x 768-pixels)
Storage: 500GB SATA hard disk
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11b/g, Ethernet port, Bluetooth
I/O Ports: Four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI port, VGA out, headphone and microphone jacks
Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium
Other features: webcam, card reader
Battery: Six-cell lithium-ion
Dimensions (W x H x D): 326 x 230 x 24.3mm
Weight: 1.9kg
Price: Starts from RM2,699 depending on configuration
Review unit courtesy of AMD. For more product information, contact 1-800-88-4848.

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