With netbooks built on Atom boosting limited performances, a bunch of manufacturers embraced AMD’s new Fusion/Brazos platform for mobile computers, promising solid performances, energy efficiency and an affordable price tag. S
till, there was no confirmation if the platform could actually deliver on these promises, until now at least, as the guys at Laptopmag.com managed to get their hands on the new HP Pavilion dm1 and give it a spin. The result, in a couple of words, brings a grin on our faces: great value for money!
You can see the complete review via this link. But you can also read my opinions below.
From starters, we have to say this is an 11.6 inch mini laptop and perhaps it’s biggest rival are the ION based nettops, like the Asus EEE PC 1215N, as they are more or less the same in terms of size (yes, the 1215N is a 12.1 incher, but that’s not really much of a difference), performances and pricing (around $500).
Now, the dm1 is definitely solid built and nice looking. Still, both the lid cover and the bottom part are glossy so will catch smudges, although they come with a patterned finish. Inside you find a chiclet keyboard and the reviewers found it quiet and comfortable (probably the same as on the HP dm3 I tested a while ago). Too bad HP still use those reversed Functions keys: in order to get F5 you’ll have to press FN+F5 . Besides that, nothing wrong about it. Trackpad is also decent sized but it lacks discrete click buttons, as it integrates them. Comfortable to use, but not as practical as one with separated buttons and definitely needs some time to get used to.
However, the interesting part lies inside. As I’ve told you, this one is powered by an AMD Zacate APU which combines the dual core 1.66 GHz E-350 CPU with Radeon Mobility 6130 integrated GPU. Add 3 GB of DDR3 memory and a fast 320 GB 7200 rpm HDD and you get an idea on what’s this one capable.
And benchmarks prove it’s definitely fast for a device in its class: managed to score 2198 points in PCmark Vantage, which is 15% better than the Atom powered 1215N, but actually 10-15% slower than devices equipped with the older gen AMD hardware (like the dual-core ThinkPad X100e) or the ones with Intel Celeron (like the Acer AS1410). In terms of graphics, it managed to score around 2200 points in 3Dmark06 , which is twice better than the x100e or AS1410, but still 15% less than the 1215N which scored nearly 2700 points. All these are synthetic tests of course, in real life the AMD platform actually proved slightly faster than all its competitors at transcoding and converting a short video clip.
We are going to take a more thorough look at performance numbers in a future post, for now it’s important to notice that the AMD Fusion dm1 can kick some punch. It’s slightly slower than the old AMD platform or the low power ULVs in terms of raw CPU power, but outperforms them greatly when it comes to graphics. And it’s the other way around when compared with Atom based ION devices: faster CPU, but slower graphics. Still, this one was still capable of running WOW on recommended settings, getting 24 fps on average, while the 1215N managed 28 fps, which ain’t really that much of a difference. So the HP Pavilion dm1 is snappy, can handle all kind of HD content and won’t say no to games either, although recent titles are a nut too hard to crack (but that’s the case for all notebooks in this class).
Still, we were expecting performances from AMD Fusion machines. We were uncertain of battery life and heat levels though. Well, you’ll be delighted to know that this dm1 managed to outperform all its rivals mentioned above in Laptopmag’s tests, boosting 6 and a half hour of life. The 1215N only managed 5 and a half, although it has Optimus and ION on board. And it’s not getting uncomfortably hot either, not even on its back; however fans seem to be always running and hence the device is a bit noisy, which can be bothering when used in a silent room.
As a conclusion, the AMD Fusion based HP pavilion dm1 is a much awaited breeze of fresh air in the world of compact notebooks. It creates a good balance between performance, autonomy and looks, one even better than the Asus 1215N did, which was the best pick in this class till now. This one is just punchier and will be overall snappier in everyday apps. And while it might not be as fast in terms of graphics, I still feel this is overall the better pick for standard users.
HP plans to have this one on the market soon, prices starting from $449, with only 2 GB of memory and 250 GB hard-drive.The tested version goes for $479 and you will be able to configure your own version on HPs site as well.
Bottom line, the HP Pavilion dm1 does provide excellent value for the money. So Bravos AMD, bravos HP! And I can’t wait for the other Fusion powered mini notebooks announced these days to start popping out, now that we have confirmation of their potential.