The HP Pavilion dm4x is a new 14” screen laptop equipped with Intel’s second generation Core i5 processor. The HP dm4x definitely fits the profile for a student laptop: it’s portable at 4.4lbs and 1” thin, has a durable aluminum casing to standup to the rigors of campus, can stretch to over six hours of battery life to last through classes and has more than enough performance power to run any software you’ll need as a student. And most important of all, with a starting price of $761.99 via the HP Academic Store (student discount pricing) it fits the student budget. In this review of the dm4x we have the HP dm4-2070us quick ship version of the laptop. The specs for this model being reviewed are below:
- Processor: Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz with Turbo Boost up to 2.90GHz
- Memory: 6GB DDR3
- Graphics: Intel HD 3000
- Storage: 640GB (5400RPM)
- Optical Drive: SuperMulti DVD Burner
- Display: 14.0” HP BrightView LED Display (1366 x 768)
- OS: Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
- Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
- Sound: Dolby Home Theater with Altec Lansing Speakers
- Keyboard: Full Size Island style (chiclet) keyboard, Fingerprint reader built-in
- TouchPad: Multi Gesture support with on/off button
- Ports: Digital media card reader, 3 USB 2.0 ports, 1 HDMI port, 1 VGA port, 1 RJ-45 (Ethernet) port, 1 headphone out, 1 microphone in
- Dimensions: 13.42” x 8.98” x 0.98” – 1.27” (Width x Depth x Thickness Range)
- Weight: 4.3lbs
- Battery: 6-cell 55WHr Li-Ion battery
- Web Cam: built-in HD webcam with integrated digital microphone
The Pavilion dm4x can be purchased via HP Home & Home Office, the HP Academic Purchase store or 3rd party retailers such as Amazon.com for pre-configured versions like the dm4-2070us.
Difference between dm4t and dm4x
- The dm4t has an Intel Core i3 processor while the dm4x only offers a faster Intel Core i5 or i7 processor
- The dm4t offers only integrated graphics while the dm4x offers an upgrade to dedicated AMD 6470M graphics
And that’s it, everything else including the design and build are the same between these laptops. Basically the HP dm4x is a slightly more powerful version of the HP dm4t.
Design and Build
The HP dm4x when configured on HP.com gives you the option of choosing between a dark umber case finish or a lighter color aluminum finish. The dm4-2070us comes with the aluminum case and is what you see in the pictures in this review. Below is an image of the dm4x as it appears with a dark umber casing:
With both color finishes you get a brushed metal look and the case is made using aluminum to provide a strong skeleton that will protect the laptop internals. Even though the case is fully metallic it doesn’t cause the laptop to weigh an extreme amount, I weighed the dm4x on kitchen scales and got a reading of 4.3lbs without the power brick or power cord. That 4.3lb weight is actually pretty good for a 14” screen laptop and weighs less than the Lenovo ThinkPad T420 (4.8lbs) and Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 I recently reviewed (4.6lbs). With the power cord and brick the weight of the dm4x comes to 5.1lbs
The HP dm4x weighs 4lbs 5 ounces
And 5lbs 2 ounces with power supply
The design of the dm4x is clean and attractive. The brush metal finish is simple yet stylish. The screen uses a drop hinge design so it sits quite low when raised, this is beneficial on an airplane to keep the lid from hitting the seat in front. The corners of the dm4x are curved giving the laptop an overall soft look while ensuring you won’t get jabbed with any sharp edges! The keyboard carries through on the curved look by having the corner keys curved. The keyboard has a chiclet style design which is pretty common and in style these days. There are no dedicated multimedia key buttons on the keyboard, instead the F1 – F12 keys are each assigned a media function such as increasing / decreasing volume or screen brightness.
The HP Pavilion dm4x has a brushed aluminum lid
The Pavilion dm4x slopes from the back to the front with the thinnest point being at the very front at 0.98” and the thickest at the back where it measures 1.27” thick. This is slightly thinner than your average 14” laptop and should ensure that the dm4x will easily slip into the laptop compartment in any standard backpack.
Another build quality feature worth mentioning with the Pavilion dm4x is that it has HP’s Protect Smart technology included to help prevent data loss during drop situations. Basically this means that should you drop your laptop there is software on board smart enough to detect the drop (using a built-in accelerometer) and park the hard drive read/write head so that it does not damage data by scratching the disk when the laptop hits the ground. It’s nice to have this feature as it is one typically seen in more expensive business laptops.
HP Pavilion dm4x Performance
There is no question the performance the HP dm4x provides is going to be more than enough for the average student. The fact of the matter is that the base level Intel Core i5-2410m that has a 2.30GHz clock speed and dual cores is going to be ample performance for 90% of students and their needs. This is the latest Intel mobile processor technology, it’s 20% faster than the previous generation of Intel Core i5 processors and will provide smooth HD video playback, seamless multi-tasking and speedy application switching. If the 2.30GHz standard clock speed isn’t enough for a certain program the processor can actually overclock itself safely to 2.90GHz using the Intel Turbo Boost technology present on the Core i5-2410m. Although the Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics solution is very good for 3D graphics rendering, it may not be powerful enough for students doing heavy 3D CAD renderings or graphics animations. If that’s the case you can opt for the dedicated AMD Radeon 6470m graphics card and get better 3D graphics performance. The Radeon 6470m will also provide a better gaming experience for students interested in playing a few games during down time.
To get an idea of the overall performance of the Pavilion dm4x with the Intel Core i5-2410m and Intel HD 3000 graphics I ran the Windows Experience Index, PCMark Vantage and 3DMark Vantage to generate some benchmark scores:
PCMark Vantage Score:
3DMark Vantage Score:
Windows Experience Index Scores:
The 6,204 score in PCMark Vantage is a slight improvement over the 6,056 score the similarly configured Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 received. The 14” screen category average PCMark Vantage score is around 5,457 so the dm4x can be considered above average.
Right now HP is offering a free upgrade to 6GB of memory when you configure a dm4x, that’s a very generous amount of memory. You can max out at 8GB of memory, but 6GB is more than enough so don’t waste your money on paying for more memory. One upgrade I might recommend is opting for the 7200RPM speed hard drive instead of the standard 5400RPM hard drive that HP includes. Right now it’s only a $10 upgrade from the 640GB 5400RPM hard drive to the 640GB 7200RPM hard drive, and the faster disk performance you get which leads to improved boot up times is well worth it. Most people focus on the capacity (size) of the hard drive, but a faster spinning hard drive or even faster SSD drive (solid state disk) such as is standard in the Apple MacBook Air can really help make for a faster overall computing experience.
You do get the option of upgrading the processor to as fast as an Intel Core i7-2620m, that’s an expensive upgrade of $200 and not necessary for your average student laptop usage. Go with the Intel Core i5 processor to get more bang for your buck and keep the price down.
HP dm4x Battery Life
One of the most important features of a laptop for a student is how long the battery lasts on a charge. HP claims dm4x battery life of up to 6.75 hours with the included 6-cell battery. The manufacturers quoted battery life is usually “optimistic” shall we say, so I went ahead and did my own test. With screen brightness set to level 4 out of 10 (still bright enough to easily read text), wi-fi on and a program set to refresh a browser window every 60 seconds the battery lasted 5 hours and 48 minutes. That’s very close to six hours and what I would consider excellent battery life for such a powerful computer. If you turned of wireless and dimmed the screen all the way down you could probably get close to the quoted 6.75 hours, but I don’t think that’s a realistic usage scenario for a student. The near six hour battery life should last you through a few lectures, depending on their length, and if that’s not enough battery life for you there’s the option of a higher capacity 6-cell battery that gives a quoted battery life of 7.5 hours (it’s the same size as regular 6-cell, just $20 more expensive) and a larger 9-cell battery for over 10 hours of battery life. One caveat with the 9-cell battery is that it is oversized and will weigh more and protrudes from the bottom which causes the laptop to have quite an incline when resting on a flat surface.
HP Pavilion dm4x Screen
The HP dm4x has a 14” screen with a 1366 x 768 resolution. It is an LED backlit screen with a glossy finish typical on consumer laptops. There is no screen upgrade option of any type, so if you wanted a higher resolution than the standard 1366 x 768 you are out of luck. Most will be happy with the standard screen resolution, it offers comfortable text size viewing and a 720p HD resolution for movies. However, some screen resolution junkies that like 1080p may be disappointed there is not a higher resolution offered.
The screen brightness is excellent. Indoors I found it uncomfortably bright on the highest level brightness setting, level 7 or 8 brightness is ample for your typical class or office setting with fluorescent lights overhead. Although not tested, you could probably use this laptop outdoors and get a decent screen viewing experience when the brightness is set to the highest level.
The screen has a glossy finish which people seem to either love or hate. The glossy finish does make colors more bold and blacks more deep, making for rich movie viewing experiences. The downside to the glossy screen is that when the screen has a lot of blacks on it and you’re in a brightly lit environment you get a ton of reflection off of the screen turning it into a virtual mirror. For the most part I find the average user enjoys the richer colors a glossy screen provides and are willing to accept the reflections you get on the screen in some situations.
The viewing angles on the screen are typical of what you’ll find with other laptops. The vertical viewing angle is quite narrow, meaning viewing straight on with the eye perpendicular to the screen gives the truest color, once you deviate widely from that angle colors can invert and in general become discolored (see the photos for an example). Horizontal viewing angles are much better and you can see the screen and its true colors from quite a way off to the side, the brightness of the screen helps this.
Below are some different viewing angle examples on the Pavilion dm4x:
HP dm4x Port Options
Input and output port options should be an important consideration with a laptop as it dictates what you can and can’t do when interfacing with other technology and peripherals. The dm4x has a standard array of ports and will satisfy just about any students needs. Below is a tour around the laptop to show what ports are located on which side:
On the left side of the dm4x you get the most ports. From back to front you have the VGA monitor out port, Ethernet RJ-45 port, HDMI port, USB 2.0 port, headphone out and microphone in
On the right side of the dm4x you can see the optical drive (a DVD burner, there’s no option for Blu-Ray), 2 USB 2.0 ports and the power jack.
On the front of the laptops left side is the media card reader slot, you can place an SD card in here.
The back of the laptop has no ports
You get all of the essential ports here, it’s certainly nice to have the HDMI port to be able to output video and audio to an LCD TV. It’s a little disappointing not to have some type of fast data transfer port such as eSata, FireWire or the latest USB 3.0 technology. For those that prefer to backup data using an external portable storage drive it’s going to be slow going transferring all of that over a USB 2.0 port connection.
HP dm4x Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the dm4x is chiclet style in design (also referred to as “island style”), meaning the keys protrude out from the casing. I like this design as it prevents crumbs and other debris from falling between keys and going into the laptop itself, so from a practical perspective it’s easier to clean, just use a can of air to easily blow away all debris. The chiclet keyboard design is also pleasing and in style right now, Apple uses it across their MacBook line of laptops.
The keyboard is pleasant to type on. It’s hard to accidentally bump a key and type the wrong letter as buttons require a good push and not just a light brush to register a hit. This is a good thing unless you’re an ultra speed typist who prefers very sensitive keys. The function row of keys at the top (F1 – F12) are used primarily as media buttons, HP calls these “one touch action keys”. For instance, use the F11 button to quickly mute the laptop or F12 to toggle wi-fi on or off. I like this approach as most people rarely use the function keys nor do they learn what they’re for in applications they use, the old standby of using F1 for Help or F5 for browser refresh aren’t well known these days.
There is no option for a backlit keyboard like is offered in the HP Envy line of laptops and is becoming a popular feature among users, I wish HP offered this. You do get a fingerprint reader included which is a nice alternative to using passwords to login to the computer or websites you frequent.
The touchpad on the dm4x is a decent size, it is black and has a matte finish which means no ugly fingerprints left behind. The touchpad is pleasing to use, while I have read some complaints of last years version of the HP dm4 having a “jumpy cursor” I have had no such problems. It appears that HP has worked on the touchpad and improved it for the dm4x. One difference is that the buttons are now separated and not integrated into the touchpad, I prefer separate buttons and feel this is a good move. That said, I still wish the dm4x mouse buttons were more substantial, their travel distance is very short and they’re somewhat stiff. They’re not the best touchpad mouse buttons I’ve used and find myself using a wireless mouse instead, but that’s generally my preference anyway.
HP dm4x Speakers
The speakers included with the dm4x are Altec Lansing branded and boast Dolby Advanced Audio sound. That sounds impressive, but don’t expect to be that guy getting blown backwards while sitting in a chair as the laptop blasts out a cinema quality audio experience. Rather, what you’ll get is a good stereo sound experience with the two speakers at the front of the laptop emitting sound right at you, but you’ll still suffer from lack of bass typical with most laptops. That’s fine though, for any academic purposes such as watching online lectures these speakers are great. I also tested the speakers and built-in microphone with Skype and it was a good experience, the speakers actually can get very loud and I had to turn them down to below half volume to prevent feedback between the speakers and the microphone while Skyping.
HP Pavilion dm4x Heat
HP has built-in a technology they call CoolSense that works to keep heat levels down. The CoolSense software runs in the background and detects when you’re using the laptop on your legs and adjusts the fan and processor speed to keep the laptop cool. This could mean an increased fan speed and decreased processor clock speed while using the dm4x on your lap, and if that’s not for you then you can disable this software. During my usage I found the laptop did indeed stay a comfortable temperature on my legs. When used on a desk the dm4x stayed very cool, nowhere on the keyboard did I detect any heat build up so no issues with sweaty hands and palms!
HP Pavilion dm4x Review Conclusion
Students should take a close look at the HP dm4x laptop as an option for use as an important academic tool. It’s got everything you need for your academic computing needs and then some nice extras. First of all the design is very appealing so fashion conscious students will approve. It’s not just a pretty face though, the dm4x is built with sturdy metal materials and beneath the hood the second generation Intel Core i5 processor will provide more than enough power to tackle multi-tasking, frequent application switching and smooth video playback. An option for dedicated graphics with 1GB of memory can make the dm4x a good choice for engineering students as well. Most importantly for students this laptop is very portable, weighing in at 4.3lbs, and the battery life of about 6 hours on a standard battery is enough to last through a few lectures without being plugged in. If you need more battery life there are battery upgrade options, something you don’t get with other laptops such as the Apple MacBook Pro. Finally, the price in the mid $700’s is a very good one for what you get with the dm4x. Getting the most features and best quality for a laptop you hope will last you four years of college is a tough buying decision, the HP Pavilion dm4x passes the test for meeting student needs in a laptop and providing quality with value so it should certainly be on your shortlist of laptops to consider with this important buying decision.