HP Pavilion dm1z Review (2011 AMD Fusion Model)

The HP dm1 2011 version 11.6-inch screen laptop from HP is classified on the HP site as a student laptop, which makes a lot of sense given the excellent battery life, good performance and budget friendly price.  All of the features of the dm1z 2011 edition add up to make for a sensible on campus laptop, at 3.5lbs the dm1 won’t weigh you down too much and you can leave the charger at home given the almost 7-hour battery life.

The HP dm1 was released back in 2010 with an AMD Neo processor.  I reviewed the dm1z at that time and was impressed with the design overall, but was disappointed with the performance and battery life.  HP updated the dm1z at the start of 2011 and it now includes a new AMD Fusion processor.  The AMD Fusion is much more battery life friendly than older AMD mobile processors and includes the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and CPU (Central Processing Unit) all on one chip to improve performance.  The specific configuration of the HP dm1z I am reviewing this time around has an AMD dual core E-350 processor with Radeon 6310M graphics on board.  The full specs configuration for the dm1 laptop under review are as follows:

  • Screen: 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 LED backlit display
  • Processor: AMD dual core E-350 1.6GHz
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon HD6310M
  • Memory: 3GB DDR3
  • Storage: 320GB 7200RPM Hard Drive
  • Battery: 6-cell Lithium Ion
  • Ports: HDMI port, 3 USB 2.0 ports, Monitor-out port, Ethernet Gigabit LAN, headphone/mic combo port, SD card reader
  • Wireless: 802.11
  • Weight: 3lbs 7.3 ounces (3.5lbs)
  • Dimensions: 11.4” x 8.4” x 0.8 – 1.2” (width x depth x thickness)
  • Webcam: Integrated VGA web cam with digital microphone

Notice that there is no optical drive (DVD/CD/Blu-Ray), to most students used to dealing with simply downloading digital content the necessity for such a feature is a thing of the past, but there are those that prefer being able to stick a DVD inside a laptop to load up a movie or software.

HP dm1z Buying Experience and Packaging


I purchased the dm1z via HP.com online and used the HP Student discount I’m eligible for and also a $75 off coupon code at the time.  The total price as configured after the discount and coupon was $352.99 before tax, shipping was free.  That’s an astounding price!  After ordering HP quoted the shipping date as February 28, 2011 but when that date arrived it had not shipped so they sent an apology email and offered the chance to cancel the order along with a 15% off coupon for any future purchase at HP.com.  That was a really nice touch and it turned out the dm1z shipped March 1 a day later anyway so I wasn’t too disappointed.

The box received was smaller than I expected due to the efficient packing which was good.  The laptop was securely held in the box and the presentation upon opening was good, though nowhere near as classy as Apple and their white shiny box and “Made in Cupertino” card you get with Apple products.

In the box you get:

  • The HP dm1z laptop
  • 6-cell battery
  • Charger cable and brick
  • Start Here Guide
  • Software disks

HP dm1z out of the box

HP dm1 Design

HP dm1z laptop

The HP dm1 received a facelift with the 2011 version.  The lid now features a glossy black finish with a “grid imprint” design and silver rim around the edge.  This provides an attractive and time tested design that most will like.  While the lid does pickup fingerprint smudges, I found that it is not as noticeable on this lid as other glossy finish notebooks.  Inside the laptop the case is all silver while the touchpad and keyboard are black.  The bottom of the laptop is not an afterthought, it has a smooth attractive black finish with four rubber feet to prevent sliding.  To open up the bottom of the laptop for any upgrades simply remove the battery, slide the battery release to the unlock position and then pull forward on the bottom panel.  The screen hinge is interesting, the drop hinge design actually results in the screen rotating over and behind the battery when it is fully opened, kind of a cool way to integrate an oversized battery instead of having it just stick out the back.

DSC_0400 DSC_0413

The dm1 case is made of a rigid plastic material, again while this isn’t as rugged as the aluminum body of a MacBook Air, it still provides for an overall sturdy build with little flex on the body so it should stand the rigors of campus.

HP dm1 weight and size

The HP dm1z weighed in at 3lbs 7.3 ounces (3.5lbs) without the power cord and with the power cord it was  4lbs 3.4 ounces, so close to 4.25lbs.  Since the battery life is so good at 7-hours I don’t see a need to carry the power brick around campus, so you can assume your total carrying weight when mobile will be 3.5lbs.  The weight of 3.5lbs isn’t MacBook Air light (the MBA 11” is only 2.3lbs, see my MacBook Air 11 review here) but this laptop doesn’t cost over $1,000 either!

HP dm1z weight HP dm1z weight with cord

The HP dm1 is nice and thin, ranging from 0.8” thick at the front to 1.2” at the back.  It’s slimmer than most textbooks and will fit easily into a laptop compartment in your backpack or tuck nicely into a messenger bag.

HP dm1 Performance

Nobody buys an 11.6” screen laptop with the expectation of having a device that offers powerful gaming performance, however it is nice when a laptop of this size can be used for HD 1080p video playback and some light gaming.  With older Intel Atom powered netbooks such video playback would often choke and stutter, I’m happy to say the HP dm1 plays 1080p movies flawlessly with the AMD E-350 Fusion family processor on board.  It’s even possible to hook up the dm1z to a large screen LCD TV and output video via HDMI and get smooth playback.

The dm1z is wonderful for normal usage, boot up on average takes around 30 seconds which is probably a little faster than your average laptop.  For tasks such as web surfing and word processing everything is zippy, as you would expect.  You can even get away with doing some light gaming on low to medium graphics settings on modern 3D games such as Left 4 Dead 2.

HP dm1 Battery Life

HP quotes the maximum battery life of the dm1z to be 9.5 hours on their website.  That’s extremely optimistic, under normal usage I’ve been getting closer to about 7 hours of battery life, that’s with wi-fi on and doing some web surfing, word processing, coding and simply letting the laptop sit.  When dimming the screen all the way and leaving wi-fi off with the computer idling the battery life came to around 8.5 hours, but that’s an unrealistic scenario as you certainly can’t get any work done that way.  Either way, I consider 7 hours of battery life under normal usage very good but the 9.5 hours that HP quotes to be simply unrealistic.

HP dm1 Keyboard

The keyboard on the Pavilion dm1z is chiclet style, meaning each key is sort of an individual island protruding up out of the case.  This is the same style keyboard found on the popular Apple MacBook.  Overall the keyboard is very good, it is close to full size and good spacing between keys, so no cramping of the fingers issues.  The keyboard has no sag or flex anywhere.  My only complaint is that I wish the key travel, meaning how far the key pushes down, were a little more as I like to really feel a key get pushed down but the travel distance was quite shallow on the dm1z.


HP dm1 Touchpad

The touchpad on the dm1z is somewhat unique in that the buttons are integrated into the touchpad with just a ridge separating the click buttons from the scroll surface.  The touchpad is a decent size and gives enough scroll area, but I did find the cursor to be a bit jumpy now and again, especially when placing two fingers on the touchpad at the same time.  The buttons also sometimes did not register a click when pushing on the top area near the ride.  Personally I would prefer having dedicated instead of integrated buttons but the integrated button approach is more efficient on an ultraportable given the limited space so it’s a fine compromise.  Overall the dm1z touchpad works well but does have intermittent quirky behavior that is not enough to ruin the experience.  When at a desk I use a Bluetooth wireless mouse with the dm1z which allows me to work most effectively.

HP dm1 touchpad

HP dm1 Heat and Fan noise

The dm1z has a unique technology built into it called CoolSense that adjusts the fan speed if it detects being held on a persons lap versus a table top.  This helps keep the laptop cool no matter how it’s being used, even when stressed out doing benchmarks the system didn’t get too hot in any location.  When performing normal tasks heat was not an issue anywhere on the laptop.   To keep the system cool the fan does of course have to run so you will hear that, overall the fan isn’t too loud but it is noticeable especially to those with sensitive hearing.  Personally I found the noise blended into other ambient noise in the room so it was not bothersome.

HP dm1 Screen

The screen on the dm1z is 11.6” diagonally and has a 1366 x 768 resolution which suits HD movie playback for 720p video.  The screen has a glossy finish which makes colors brighter and contrast better, but it does cause some unwanted reflection when you’re in a brightly lit room such as an office environment tends to be.

The brightness on the dm1z display is very good, it’s over 220 nits so more than enough for any type of indoor display.  For outdoor display and reading in the sun you need 400-nits + brightness so don’t plan on being able to view the screen easily out on your patio, unless the moon is up that is.

The viewing angles are so-so, the Apple iPad display uses IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology and allows you to view images in their true colors from any angle you look at it, however the HP dm1z uses a cheaper display technology called TN and colors quickly distort when you look at the screen from any angle but perpendicular (straight-on).   However, this type of screen is in 95% of laptops these days so it’s not a knock against the dm1z and so long as you’re sitting directly in front of the computer then everything will look great. HP dm1 Port Selection

The number of ports you get on this laptop for its size is outstanding.  Here is a rundown of the ports along with images of where they are located:

  • 3 USB 2.0 ports, one on left side two on the right
  • 1 HDMI port
  • 1 Media card reader slot
  • 1 Monitor out port
  • 1 Microphone/Headphone combo port
  • 1 Ethernet LAN (RJ45) jack

HP dm1z left side

Left side: power jack, Kensington lock slot, heat vent, HDMI port, USB 2.0 port

HP dm1z right side

Right side: Media card reader, headphone/microphone jack, 2 USB 2.0 ports, monitor out, covered Ethernet port

In my opinion that’s the perfect selection of ports for this sized laptop, the positioning is good too.

HP dm1z 2011 Conclusion

The HP dm1 2011 version is a fantastic option for students or anyone else on a budget looking for a light weight, good performance and battery efficient laptop.  You might desire a more powerful computer for use at home, but for on campus uses the dm1z provides more than enough power and battery life thanks to the new AMD Fusion processor.  The price is what really makes the dm1z attractive, for around $400 after the HP student discount you get a very capable little computer with way more features than you’d expect at that price point.  A big thumbs up to anyone in the market or interested in the dm1z!

Here are links to the latest HP Laptop Deals!

Filed Under: Feature Articles, Student Laptop Reviews
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