Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Network World


Eight months is dog years in the world of consumer electronics and yet, we still have a soft spot
for the HP Pavilion dm1, a dirt-cheap 11.6-inch ultraportable that ushered in AMD's long-awaited Fusion chips. HP just announced the second-gen model, a refresh that includes some spec bumps, as well as a new design and some software add-ons (because we loved the bloatware load so much in the original!). Getting the performance boost out of the way, it'll now be offered with an ultra-low voltage Core i3 processor, while the Fusion options now include the E-300 and E-450 chips (until now, it's been sold with the E-350). The AMD versions will start at $399 with the Core i3 model fetching $599 and up. For some reason even HP doesn't seem able to explain, the Intel version will come with an external optical drive, but the AMD models won't. At least you know you'll be getting more than Intel's brand name for those extra two hundred bucks. The version with the black, non-reflecting lid will go on sale "this fall", with a glossier charcoal number available sooner. Until then have a gander at our hands-on shots and walk-through video.



On the outside, HP's replaced the shiny surface with a material it calls SoftTouch -- a rubber coating that masks fingerprints and doesn't reflect light the way the first one did. We'll be honest: in our brief hands-on, the lid initially felt a little too much like a pair of Latex gloves, but it grew on us even after a few minutes.

Look closer and you'll start noticing lots of areas where the dm1's had work done. It now has a flush battery, the display sits higher and its profile has a slight upward curve toward the hinge -- a design flourish you might remember from machines such as the HP Pavilion dv6. It also trades a giant clickable trackpad for a traditional touchpad-and-buttons combo, although the trackpad now blends in with the palm rest. The keyboard, at least, remains the same, and, as you can imagine, Beats Audio is on board. All told, the matte plastic, flush, removable battery and flat trackpad make it look an awful like a slightly higher-end Mini 210. If that means a flatter bottom and less glare, that's not a bad thing.


On the software side, HP added a feature called Launch Boxes, which lets you pin custom categories to the Task Bar. So, you could create a photo-related box and drop in your image re-sized, editor and any other relevant programs you use. The point, says HP, is to avoid pinning loads of programs as separate icons. If, you know, that's a pain for you. Personally, we don't mind pinning different apps one by one, but to each his own. HP is also loading some preset folders into the Start Menu, which organize all of that bloatware by category. You could drop in your own apps, we suppose, but really, it's meant to make those pre-installed programs easier to find. Thanks, HP!

As you can imagine, we're champing at the bit to get one of these in for review, and only then what kind of an impact those processor bumps have on performance. The real story, of course, is the new look -- not a full-on makeover, per se, but a redesign nonetheless. So far, so good -- or so it would seem. We'll reserve judgment until our full review, but until then, nothing wrong with a little less shine and some cleaner lines, right?
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