Review by Kort Kramer:
The HP Pavilion dm3 1130us (AMD CPU & ATI GPU model) is a good compromise between the portability of a netbook and the functionality of a full sized laptop. Technically in the “Ultra-portable/Thin & Light” category, I would say it is a netbook on steroids. I was looking for a portable computing solution but didn’t want a small keyboard or a hard-to-read/small screen. It had to have a small form factor, yet have a more powerful processor and graphics than traditional netbooks. I use it mainly for office work, web surfing, video streaming, music listening and light gaming.
Most of the specs are readily available on Amazon, but you can get a more in-depth overview by going to HP’s site and looking up the dm3z line in their Ultra-Portable category. The 1130 is essentially a later production run of the 1030, which is still available on Amazon as of this writing.
Back to what I was looking for;
Basically, I wanted a MacBook but only had about five hundred bucks to spend. I’m a Mac user normally but could not see paying so much for a laptop. I searched high & low and weighed several other options. In this laptop segment and at this price point, it is all about compromise and what you want as an end user. In this end, the 1130us was the best fit for me. I was able to find it on sale for under five hundred on the OfficeMax site and then found a [...] dollar rebate. I used that saving to buy a [...] , and so far that is working perfectly too. I was a little leery about getting an HP since they don’t have the best reliability reputation, but I would expect more problem reports from a company that sells so many computers. My mother-in-law has a 3 year old Pavilion that still runs like new.
What I like about it:
1. It’s fast, faster than I expected. Initial set-up was a snap. The 1.6GHz AMD Athon Neo X2 dual-core processor and ATI Mobility Radeon HD3200 graphics see to that. Perhaps not the best combo for intense Photoshop sessions or cutting edge 3D gaming, but I have several apps and browser windows open at once with no system slowdowns. Online video from various sources streams just fine and I’ve played a number of games (including Star Wars Battlefront) with no issues. The AMD cpu and ATI gpu combo uses more wattage than the Intel option, but I think you would sacrifice computing power for battery life if you went the Pentium or Core Duo route.
1b. 7200 RPM 320GB Hard Drive. Did I say it was fast? And spacious.
2. The screen. It is glossy, but not as bad as some and it is nice and bright. 13.3″ w/ a 1366×768 widescreen resolution means things are a bit smaller than on a standard desktop monitor, but everything is nice and crisp and the colors are good. It seems much bigger. HD content looks great on it and the viewing angle isn’t bad. I had a stuck pixel, but it went away. The lid opens about 135 degrees back so you can easily work with it on your lap. It has a nice firm hinge so there are no worries of it falling one way or the other.
3. Wi-Fi draft N. I’ve only had fast and excellent connectivity so far. Having bluetooth is nice too, but I’ve yet to use it.
4. Windows 7, not a cobbled Started Edition. Coming from OSX, I have to say I’m growing more and more impressed with the latest Windows OS. It seems to have more intricacies than with OSX, but I’m getting used to it and have to say the user interface is top notch. Before this, I’ve used XP and am so glad that Microsoft has finally refined their product. Connect a device for the first time and either the drivers are already there or they download automatically. Nice. Lots of eye candy too.
5. Touch pad. Some reviewers pan it, but I find it works well for me after a slight learning curve. Sure, it is the only fingerprint magnet on an otherwise lovely case, but I like the feel of the shiny chrome finish and find the multi-finger gestures useful. The “mouse-buttons” could be a little easier to depress, but that is a small quibble, just tap the pad. It is also very customizable to your specific needs. The 1030us touch pad had some wake-from-sleep issues, but that was fixed in the latest BIOS. I also use a [...] but have no problems adjusting to the touch pad if I leave mouse at the office.
6. 4 USB, 5-in1 card reader, 1 VGA, and 1 HDMI port. Connectivity ahoy!
7. Full sized keyboard. It took a little adjustment, but I like the quiet, island style keys. When in the proper position, I can type just as fast as with my desktop’s keyboard. I measured it, and it is slightly LARGER than my G5’s primary keyboard area!
8. The case. This is one sturdy feeling case with little or no flex that I can detect. You can hold it by a corner without fear. I love that it isn’t a finger print magnet like so many others out there. The brushed aluminum finish is very attractive and gives it a high-end appearance.
9. It came with 4GB DDR2 ram, expandable to 8GB. With the 64bit OS, I could do this, but see no need to at the present time.
10. Cool. Even after all day use the air blowing out of the rear side exhaust vent is only slightly warm. The front wrist rests can get a little warm, but never uncomfortable (at least to me).
11. Quiet. If a completely silent room you can hear the faint breath of the fan, but otherwise it and the spinning hard drive are unnoticeable.
12. Well packaged. There are no disks included, but the manual and documentation are pretty clear.
13. Price. Find this on sale and you’ve got yourself one heck of a deal!
What’s not so great about it:
1. It is about 13″ wide and weights about nearly 5 pounds with the battery inserted. For me that’s no big deal but if you plan to lug your laptop around a lot, you may want to look at something smaller and lighter. It is only one inch thick so it slides easily into most bags.
2. Speakers. You know going in that they won’t be that great, but I still couldn’t help being a little disappointed. However, I tweaked the sound settings and get decent output now, though not very loud. It does the job though. Use earphones. I connected it to my speakers with a subwoofer and Pandora radio sounds terrific!
3. Battery life. I get about 4 hours of constant general use life out of it. Another reviewer stated he was able to play the entire Fellowship of the Ring movie before it went into hibernation, but I have not tested that. The good news is that 4 hours is still decent, and the power cord isn’t too cumbersome. If you need an all-day, cord-free laptop/netbook, look elsewhere.
4. Some bloatware. Being new to Windows I researched what to do when you first get a computer. One of the most common recommendations is to remove the manufacturer installed software. I got rid of the MS Office trial and Norton. I’ll still playing around with the suite of HP software. I may keep some, but will probably ditch a good bit of it. However, some users may like the included software. Even with it, the 1130us is a speedy customer.
5. No optical drive, but I knew that and won’t need one every day. The Samsung will also be useful for my other computers.
6. No OS restore disk. I know, there is no optical drive and there is a recovery partition, but it still would have been nice.
7. Possible fit and finish issues. I just noticed a very slight gap along the top right front edge where the wrist wrest meets the side paneling. Pressing down on it does reveal a little flex. Not enough to return it, but it is worth keeping an eye on and could be cause for concern. It is too early to tell. (see my product photos)
I have not used the Quickweb feature, but Windows 7 boots up (after some re-configuration) in less than a minute so I’m not sure I’d need it. I’ve also not yet used the HDMI out port or webcam. I plan to test both soon and have heard that the webcam is good in low light. I’ve only been using the 1130us for a little over a week so I can’t speak to its long-term reliability, but so far so good. I’ll post an update if I have anything new to add.
So, is the dm3 1130us the right model for you? If you are not a 3D gamer and want a nice looking, sturdy, portable laptop without most of the limitations of a netbook, then the answer could be “yes”. Of course, technology is changing rapidly and in a few months the next latest and greatest will be out. But if you need something now, and want a lot of oomph at a great value, then the dm3 1130us could be your best bet. It exceeds my expectations at a price point other laptops couldn’t match, so that is why I’m giving it 5 (4 1/2 actually) stars.