Screen and Speakers
The 13.3-inch LED-backlit screen on the HP Pavilion dm3t is like most of the other glossy screens you’ll find on 13-inch notebooks. 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 214:1 in our lab and a maximum screen brightness of 180 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. I thought it was interesting that HP decided to put a fake speaker grill on the battery of the dm3. At first glance you think this notebook has massive speakers and then you discover that it only has a pair of dime-sized speakers under the palm rests.
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 dm3 is 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 is comfortable for typing with the perfect amount of key feedback and quiet, cushioned clicks. The keyboard support structure is simply fantastic with absolutely no flex or “bounce” under heavy typing pressure. The keys themselves have a silver semi-gloss finish on top which provides good fingertip traction but might show more obvious signs of wear over time.
Our review unit came equipped with the standard keyboard, but HP offers a backlit keyboard option for only $25 extra which is fantastic for typing in a dark room or while you’re traveling on a plane when you don’t want to disturb the person next to you by turning on an overhead light.
The touchpad on the new dm3t is a “buttonless” Synaptics model with adequate sensitivity, minimal lag and integrated touchpad buttons located under the bottom left and right corners of the touchpad surface. This type of touchpad is nice for ultraportable notebooks because it makes the touchpad feel larger. Unfortunately, the touchpad on our review unit didn’t quite sit flush on the right side, so I kept catching the edge of my finger on the right side of the touchpad if my fingertip moved past the edge.
Once again, we ran into the same problems we’ve seen on most touchpads with integrated buttons. Specifically, if you are the type of person 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.