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June 22, 2010

Hands on with today’s offer PC: the HP Pavilion dm4 Entertainment Notebook

I recently got in a shipment of HP Pavilion dm4’s, the same machine that is part of today’s offer that Ashley just told you about. The dm4 is a capable machine, and given that it starts at little over $700 it’s very friendly on the bank account, too. The model the Microsoft Store is lists for $849 but through the offer you can get it, and an Xbox Arcade for $794 – that’s a savings of $200, and means you get both for less than the price of the PC. No matter how you slice it, that’s a heck of a good deal.


The thing that jumped out at me immediately when I opened the box is the laser-etched aluminum case. Sure, lots of PCs are incorporating metal into their chassis, such as the Dell Adamo, the Asus UX series, and HP’s own Envy lineup, but the dm4 is just different enough that it stands out from the crowd. The hue is softer, almost pinkish, and it’s accentuated by a deeply textured design on the caseback and palm rest. That’s the real difference for me – while most OEMs are going with a brushed finish (which I do like) HP is taking a different direction. Not everyone will love it, but it is unquestionably different.


Specs on my dm4 are impressive for a sub-$1000 machine. Core i5, 4GB of RAM, 320GB HDD (which you can spec up to 640GB, if you need the space), webcam, built-in optical drive, and a bright & readable 1366 x 768 display. I think my favorite feature of the dm4 is its switchable graphics – you can toggle between Intel HD integrated graphics, and ATI Radeon Mobility HD 5450 discrete graphics. The latter has plenty of power to play almost any game you want, and ATI’s Catalyst Control Center is smart enough to automatically switch between the two options depending on scenario. Not surprisingly, the default is to work off the integrated GPU when on battery, and off the discrete card when plugged in. The screen does flicker when you jump back and forth, but it happens very quickly and is well worth the battery-to-performance balance you get. The auto settings were enough to get me about 6 hours of battery life under normal workloads – plenty to get me through the day. As always, your mileage may vary depending on how hard you push your system.


As with all HP’s, the keyboard is spacious and very easy to type on. The keyboard isn’t backlit – a minor annoyance for me – but not a deal breaker. When I used the dm4 in the dark, the light from the monitor, even with the brightness turned down, was enough for me to clearly see the keys. The dm4 is also impressively light for a 14” PC with a metal body and DVD drive, weighing in at just a hair under 4.5 lbs. Schlepping it around in my Timbuk2 laptop messenger was a breeze.

Even if the Xbox offer wasn’t on the table, I’d recommend the dm4 as a very capable & very attractive PC. With the offer in place, it’s a can’t-miss.

Have a question about the dm4? Leave a comment or find me on Twitter.  And remember you can always Ask Ben Anything about PCs!