We're terribly privileged to be sent all these wonderful products to review, but if we were to be spoiled brats for just a second, we might say they don't always look as shiny and futuristic as we'd like. As tender younglings, we assumed it would be all chrome and flashing lights, and yet we're confronted with an ocean of retro stylings and wood finish. But fear not, future-fans -- the HP Pavilion dm3-1105ea 13.3-inch laptop is here, and looking very much like the robot machines we always dreamed of. But at £580, is this a case of Jetsons style over Flintstones substance?
An unassuming and business-like brushed aluminium lid lifts to reveal a similarly finished faceplate. The future starts with chrome accents, glowing blue and white LEDs and a board of flat, isolated keys with unusually square and pointy corners. Below this you'll find a fairly massive trackpad rocking a mirrored finish. The blocky, chrome theme extends to the chassis, where ports and vents are protected by an angular metal plate that extends right around the laptop's front.
The display is of the 13.3-inch LED variety, and jams a maximum of 1,366x768 pixels into that small space. We have no real complaints about this display -- we've seen brighter and more colourful screens, but it's clear and sharp enough to make for pleasurable viewing.
It might look like it's about to transform into a robot spider and scan our retina, but sadly the 1105ea isn't quite so future-perfect in other respects. Consider the Intel Celeron SU2300 1.2GHz CPU powering this laptop -- it's a distinctly wimpy processor for a machine that's nearing the £600 mark. It limped to a middling score of 2,972 in our PCMark05 CPU benchmark test.
There's an impressive 4GB of RAM to help out on the memory front, however, and we didn't find the 1105ea flagging during any normal use (read: Web browsing and YouTube), but at this price point we'd expect something with a little more oomph.
With a similarly underwhelming score of 800 on our 3DMark06 benchmark test, gaming is probably out of the question. The 1105ea has potential as a media laptop though -- when we tested out some 720p video content it played very smoothly indeed. There's a very welcome HDMI output on the left-hand side, so you could hook the laptop up to your telly and stream some HD content from iPlayer on to the big screen, for example.
Playing DVDs is a little more effort. The 1105ea is missing an optical drive, and you'll have to plug in an external drive if you want to watch DVDs, or indeed install any software from a CD. A USB DVD rewritable drive comes bundled with the laptop, but let's be honest, you're probably going to lose that along with the warranty card about three days after purchase.
Clambering out of the 1105ea's innards, there's a good deal to like on the surface. That smooth chrome trackpad is large and responsive, though its shiny surface does have a tendency to collect grease, and that angular keyboard is comfortable to use for extended periods.
The entire machine feels well constructed, and even with our brawny, muscular arms we weren't able to eke much flex out of the chassis. The 1105ea weighs in at a moderate 1.9kg -- small and light enough that carrying it around with you won't cause you any spinal discomfort.
As for battery life, we're happy to report that the 1105ea lasted an impressive 3 hours 24 minutes away from the mains when we cranked up the CPU to 100 per cent with our Battery Eater Classic test. Expect the battery to last around 6 to 7 hours with more normal use.
Running Windows 7 Home Premium and with a 500GB hard drive jammed inside, the 1105ae is also fitted out with a comprehensive range of extra bits and bobs. You'll enjoy four USB ports, VGA and HDMI outputs, an Ethernet port, a multi-format card reader and 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a microphone.
The 1105ea sports a particularly appealing chassis, if you're really into futuristic robots -- and who isn't? -- and there are a few features we really like, such as a very smooth and comfy trackpad and keyboard, the generous 4GB of RAM and useful HDMI output.
For this kind of price though, we would have expected something more in the processor department. If you're after a good-looking, lightweight laptop that's simple to use, the 1105ea will serve you well. If you're looking for something that offers a little more power rather than portability, for only a little more money, you can find some really quite powerful machines. Check out the Asus UL50Vt, for example.
Edited by Nick Hide