Priced at around £550, the 13.3-inch Pavilion dm3-1020ea is HP's latest affordable ultra-portable laptop. The company has decided to use AMD's Athlon Neo X2 L335 processor instead of one of Intel's ultra-low-voltage chips, so we were interested to see how the machine would perform both in terms of speed and battery life.
The dm3-1020ea is a very handsome machine. Everything screams class, from the brushed aluminium lid and chassis to the chrome trim highlights. It's light too, at just 1.9kg, so it's ideal for those who travel frequently.
Flip open the lid and you'll be greeted by the impressive keyboard. It uses isolated keys much like those found on the latest Apple MacBooks, but, despite the laptop's small size, the layout is superb, with full-size shift and enter keys. The touchpad isn't quite up to the same standard -- it has a glossy finish that feels rather sticky as you slide your finger across it, and it also tends to retain finger smudges. The two trackpad buttons are pleasingly responsive, though.
Although the laptop's screen is quite small and has a pretty ordinary resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, it's still impressive. For example, its wide viewing angle will come in handy if you're watching a movie on a train with a friend and, thanks to its LED backlighting, it looks fantastically bright. Its contrast performance is impressive too and colours look very vivid. It does use a glossy coating, however. That means the screen can prove distractingly reflective if you're using the laptop outdoors or near a window with sunlight streaming through.
The dm3-1020ea puts in a decent showing on the performance front too. It's built around a fairly fast 1.6GHz dual-core Athlon Neo X2 L335 processor, backed up by 4GB of RAM. HP has loaded the laptop with the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium, so all of this RAM is accessible to the operating system. In the PCMark05 benchmark test, the laptop posted a score of 2,948, which is pretty impressive for a machine in its class.
Ultra-portable laptops never really shine when it comes to 3D performance, but the dm3-1020ea performed better than expected. Its AMD ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3200 GPU helped it rack up a core of 1,252 in 3DMark06. This means you won't get the best out of the very latest first-person shooters, but it will handle older games with aplomb.
Even the laptop's hard drive is slightly faster than usual. The dm3-1020ea uses a 7,200rpm 320GB drive, rather than the 5,200rpm ones you'll find on most of its rivals. The small size of the machine means there's no room to fit in an internal optical drive, however, but HP supplies an external DVD+/-RW drive in the box as a compromise.
Battery life is vitally important for ultra-portable laptops, as they're designed to be used on the go. Despite its rather pacey performance, the laptop scored pretty well when in this department. In Battery Eater's intensive Classic test, it managed to keep running for 2 hours and 19 minutes, which is fairly impressive. Bear in mind that this test is very punishing, so the battery will last much longer with normal day-to-day usage.
The dm3-1020ea covers most of the connectivity bases, as it's got a VGA port, HDMI socket, four USB ports and a multi-format card reader. There's also 802.11n Wi-Fi, but it has a Fast Ethernet, rather than Gigabit Ethernet, port.
The HP Pavilion dm3-1020ea easily won us over with its combination of slick looks, long battery life and impressively speedy performance. The fact that it's available for just £550 only serves to sweeten the deal further. As a result, we think it should be near the top of your shopping list if you're on the hunt for a new ultra-portable laptop.
Edited by Charles Kloet