What’s black and red and Beats all over?
Selling for $999 (or over $100 less at retail), the HP Pavilion dm4-3011tx is an ultraportable notebook catering to those seeking both portability and good sound quality. The Beats Audio branding was omnipresent, and it’s actually pretty appealing. It’s almost entirely black with the exception of a bright red Beats Audio logo on the back and red lettering on the keys, of which the b key is a Beats Audio logo. A surprisingly nice black Beats Audio embossed microfiber sleeve is included as well.
As for the audio quality, it’s clear that the Beats Audio branding is deserved. While the two sub-woofers didn't provide much bass, together with the quartet of speakers the music played during testing was loud, clear and had only rare distortion at maximum volume. This was on the stock music settings, and there are plenty of subtler options in the Beats Audio menu for those game enough to adjust them.
As might be expected of an ultraportable weighing 2.05kg, there’s plenty of connectivity. A pair of USB 3.0 ports were welcome, as were the HDMI, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet and USB 2.0 ports. Rounding this out there were a headphone jack and an SD card reader, which really puts this ultraportable on par with an all-rounder.
The 3011tx’s red backlit keyboard is delightful to behold. It was also really comfortable to use, and while the keys did feel a little cheap our overall impression was a good one. The touchpad was functional, but the pinch to zoom was very jumpy. While only the screen backing and keyboard deck are metal, the plastic case feels pretty solid even if the screen does flex a bit. Unfortunately the 14in (1,366 x 768 resolution) screen has awful viewing angles, but at least the colours are good head on.
A 2nd Gen Intel Core i5-2430M processor, 500GB (5,400 RPM) HDD, 8GB of (1,333MHz) RAM and an AMD Radeon HD 7470M dedicated graphics card lead to a score of 2,331 in PCMark 7. This is decent, but the slow HDD does bring the score down. As for the card, it’s one of AMD’s new ones based on the previous generation architecture rather than the new architecture. On High Mode in 3DMark Vantage it got 1,467 compared to 1,066 for the AMD Radeon HD 6470M. Functionally this means modern games like Skyrim run fine at low settings at the screen’s native resolution, and are playable with occasional lag on medium settings. It’s also lasted for just shy of five hours in power saver mode, a decent but unspectacular outing for an ultraportable.
The integrated webcam does require Aggressive Beam Forming, Noise Cancellation and Acoustic Echo Cancellation switched on to be useable, as without them the background noise was intolerable. However, after tweaking it functioned well enough although in poor lighting at 1,280x720 resolution there was lots of image noise.
Ultimately the 3011tx ably fills a specific niche; good portability together with good audio. The only downside is the poor quality screen, because otherwise the respectable build quality, stunning red backlit keyboard and stark all-black finish really help it to shine.Available from HP, retailing for $999
.APC rating: 8/10 (Highly Recommended)