Screen and Speakers
The 11.6-inch LED-backlit screen on the HP Pavilion dm1z is like most of the other glossy screens we’ve seen on 11-inch notebooks and netbook alternatives. The 1366 x 768 resolution is great for browsing the web, editing photos, or even watching 720p HD movies. Color and contrast are average thanks to the glossy surface and LED backlighting. We recorded a real-world contrast ratio of 216:1 in our lab and a maximum screen brightness of 226 nits; bright enough for indoor use under almost any artificial lights and bright enough for outdoor use (as long as the unfiltered sun isn’t shining directly on your screen and creating reflections). If you tilt the screen forward or back, the colors start to look dim or very washed out. Horizontal viewing angles were better; staying visible until roughly 60 degrees.
The onboard speakers are located on the front edge of the notebook and push sound forward toward the user. These speakers carry the Altec Lansing brand name with Dolby audio processing. Overall the sound quality is good for a pair of small stereo speakers. The speakers had very little low frequency response to speak of and a reasonable amount of midrange. This is fine for listening to Windows alert sounds or watching a YouTube clip, but isn’t the best solution for sharing music or a movie in a small room. The speaker orientation also causes problems if you have the laptop laying on a bed or pressed against thick clothing on your lap. I was able to easily obstruct the speakers on my bed comforter making the audio sound muffled. In short, music and movie lovers would be better off using a nice pair of headphones or connecting the notebook to a stereo through its HDMI-out port.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The nearly full-size keyboard on the Pavilion dm1 is comfortable for typing with the perfect amount of key feedback and quiet, cushioned clicks. HP decided to use a raised Chiclet-style (also called island-style) keyboard with relatively large keys and plenty of space between each key to help prevent typos. The keyboard support structure is simply fantastic with absolutely no flex or “bounce” under heavy typing pressure. The keys themselves have a soft matte finish on top which helps increase fingertip traction but might be prone to collecting skin oils over time.
The touchpad on the new dm1z is a Synaptics model with adequate sensitivity, minimal lag and integrated touchpad buttons located under the bottom left and right corners of the touchpad surface. On one hand, this is the ideal type of touchpad to use on an ultraportable notebook because it allows HP to put the largest possible touchpad surface in a small space without having to sacrifice room for separate touchpad buttons.
On the other hand, we ran into the same problems we’ve seen on most touchpads with integrated buttons. Namely, if you happen to be one of those laptop users who rests one of your fingers or thumbs on a button while you move the cursor with the other, it’s possible that the touchpad will interpret the two fingers on the touchpad surface as a two-finger gesture or quickly move the cursor between the two fingers when you lift one finger off the touchpad surface.
Another potential problem I ran into when testing the dm1 is that the touchpad buttons often won’t register a click unless you press the extreme edge of the corner with a good amount of pressure. Sometimes this phenomenom was more problematic than others, so I suspect HP might be able to improve the button sensitivity via a driver update.