The HP Pavilion dm4-3011tx is a great looking 14in black-with-red-touches ultraportable notebook catering for anyone wanting both portability and good sound quality (a rare combination in an affordable laptop). In other words, it's not a boring clone so if you're looking for something stylish and good value, this machine - on special for $872 at Officeworks - definitely fits the bill.
Before we get to the audio quality, which is one of its big differentiators to the assembly-line laptops, let's first cover its innards. They're pretty good. Firstly, it comes with a humungous 8GB of RAM when most laptops in this price range have 4GB. Then there's a handy 2nd Gen Intel Core i5-2430M processor, which is a mid-range (but still powerful) chip that will easily handle all basic and many intensive computing tasks. And completing the "engine" is an AMD Radeon HD 7470M dedicated graphics card which is enough to run PC games at low settings.
So, overall, it's a powerful machine, and the reason it's now available for this price is simple. The processor is from the previous "Sandy Bridge" generation of processors, which have just been superseded by Intel's new "Ivy Bridge" chips. Retailers now want to clear the shelves of Sandy Bridge machines so the bargains are coming thick and fast. The other feature that brings the HP's price down is its 500GB hard drive, which spins at 5400 RPMs (as opposed to the faster but more expensive 7200RPRM drives). It's kind of like a car that is slower off the mark (i.e, when it loads programs) but once rolling easily breaks the speed limit because the processor and RAM will do the rest.
A previous review of this machine by a Hunter reviewer found that the Beats Audio branding is deserved. Our reviewer wrote: "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."
Our reviewer also said: "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."
Our summary is that at $872 you're not going to get the perfect laptop, but this one is still superb value given all its features and comes with personality, a rare occurrence at this price level.
PROCESSOR - The heart of the computer
A 2nd Gen Intel Core i5-2430M processor is a powerful mid-range CPU that will handle all normal computing tasks without raising a sweat.
GRAPHICS - What moves the graphics you see on the screen
The AMD Radeon HD 7470M is one of AMD’s new graphics cards but based on the previous generation architecture. On High Mode in the 3DMark Vantage benchmark it got 1,467 which means that modern games like Skyrim run fine at low settings at the screen’s native resolution, and are playable with occasional lag on medium settings.
RAM - The memory in which the computer does its computations
The dm4-3011t has 8GBs of RAM which a generous amount that will definitely push the machine's performance towards the more elite end when coupled with the strong Core i5 processor.
STORAGE - Where the computer stores its data
A 500GB mechanical hard drive that spins at 5400RPM is a way for HP to keep the price down but it's not a major drama. The impact is that when programs load or save information to disk, it takes a second or two longer than with a faster drive.
SCREEN - The pixels you see
The 14in (1,366 x 768 resolution) screen has mediocre side viewing angles, but at least the colours are good head on.
PORTABILITY - How easy it is to carry around
At 2.05kg, this is a relatively light laptop. While not an Ultrabook it's certainly very portable.
BATTERY - How long it lasts
In our testing it lasted just shy of five hours in power saver mode, a decent but unspectacular outing for an ultraportable.