Performance and Benchmarks
The HP Pavilion dm1 offers impressive performance despite its entry-level price. Although there are many notebooks on the market with faster processors and superior graphics, our laboratory test results show you will have a hard time finding another notebook with superior real-world performance in every category for as little as $449.
The secret is the new AMD Fusion technology. In this case, HP selected the new AMD “Zacate” E-350 accelerated processing unit (APU) which combines a dual-core CPU with a 1.6 GHz clock speed with a Radeon graphics processing unit (GPU) on a single processor die. Not only does this allow HP to squeeze more computational power into a smaller area, but it means the Pavilion dm1 offers a lot more video and graphics horsepower than a similarly priced netbook with an Intel Atom processor.
The closest competing Intel-based netbook is the ASUS Eee PC 1215N ($499) with a dual-core Intel Atom processor and NVIDIA Ion 2 graphics. While the ASUS netbook generates some impressive numbers in our synthetic benchmark tests, our real-world performance evaluation was less than impressive. The dual-core Atom wasn’t as “laggy” as single-core Atom processors found in budget netbooks, but it was still slow in a Windows environment and the Nvidia graphics struggled with newer games even at the lowest settings due to the weakness of the Intel processor.
The Acer Aspire 1830T-68U118 ($899) is a similarly sized 11-inch notebook boasting an Intel Core i7-680 1.46 GHz ultra low voltage processor with Intel Turbo Boost Technology running at speeds of up to 2.53 GHz. The Aspire 1830T was roughly twice as fast as the new 11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air ($999) or the HP Pavilion dm1 according to the wPrime synthetic benchmark, but the Pavilion dm1 substantially out-performed the higher-priced Acer notebook in both synthetic and real-world video/gaming performance tests.
Speaking of gaming the new dm1z provided perfectly adequate frame rates while playing Left 4 Dead 2. While this notebook doesn’t deliver the same in-game performance of the Alienware M11x ($799) it did far better than expected for a netbook alternative. We even tested Mass Effect 2 on the new Pavilion dm1 just to see how far we could push it. Mass Effect 2 was “barely” playable on this notebook since frame rates were relatively low, but there were no graphic glitches or crashes during gameplay and you can do it if you don’t mind a few dips in the frame rate.
Another strong indication of the video performance of the Pavilion dm1 is that HP sells an optional external Blu-ray drive so you can watch Blu-ray movies using this $450 laptop. I connected the dm1 to an HDTV and didn’t have any problem watching stutter-free 1080p movies on the HDTV while also checking a few websites on the notebook’s built-in display.
In other words, you’ve got to spend a lot more than $449 if you want an Intel-based notebook that offers better performance than the HP Pavilion dm1 in the same 11-inch footprint.
There were few surprises when we put this notebook through its paces in our lab. Most of the synthetic and real-world performance tests matched what I saw in the AMD E-350 testbed notebook last year. The only reason that some of the testbed benchmarks surpass the the numbers for the Pavilion dm1 is that the testbed was using an 80 GB solid state drive (SSD) instead of a cheap hard drive.
The 320 GB, 7200 rpm hard drive is fast enough to quickly load most basic applications like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop but it simply doesn’t offer the extreme bursts of speed that you get from a SSD or a hybrid hard drive like the Seagate Momentus XT. Sure, HP would have to raise the price of the Pavilion dm1 if they added a SSD (HP currently offers a 128 GB SSD as an upgrade for an additional $290), but it’s worth mentioning that this notebook runs even better with a faster drive.
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
PCMark Vantage measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 measures gaming performance (higher scores mean better performance):
Gaming performance tests: