The 2012 edition of the HP dm4t is a 14” notebook designed to be a portable performance and entertainment machine. The dm4t has a tasteful design that would look good in an office, class or just lazing on the couch. With a Core i CPU, optional high resolution HD+ LCD, mSATA SSD + HDD options, and light weight, it packs a lot of value into its small frame. You get all that for the low starting price of $549 on HP.com, but is it a good fit for you? In this review we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of the dm4t that will hopefully help you determine whether the dm4t should be on your short list for potential notebook purchases.
Here are the specifications of the dm4t-3000 (2012 release model) under review:
- Model: dm4t-3000
- Operating System: Windows Seven Home Premium x64
- CPU: Intel 2.4GHz (3.0GHz w/Turbo Boost) Core i5-2430M
- Chipset: Intel HM67
- Memory: 6GB DDR 1333MHz(16GB Max)
- Hard Drives: 640GB Hitachi 5k750 5400RPM
- Optical Drive: Toshiba/Samsung TS-U633 DVD-RW
- Screen: 14” Matte HD+(1600×900) TN LED LCD
- Graphics: Intel HD3000 Integrated
- Network: Intel 1030 Wireless N, Bluetooth and RealTek Gigabit Ethernet
- Inputs: Backlit Keyboard, Fingerprint Reader, Touchpad with Mouse Buttons
- Buttons: Power and QuickWeb Buttons
- Ports: Three USB – Two USB 3.0 (Left), One USB 2.0(Right), VGA/HDMI, Combo Headphone/Microphone Jack
- Slots: SD Card Reader
- Battery: Six-Cell
- Dimensions (Six-Cell): Width 13.3”, Depth 8.85” and Height .96”(Front)/1.27”(Rear)
- Weight: 4.4 Pounds
- Warranty: One Year
The dm4t was purchased directly from HP via their website. It starts at $549. Our unit cost was $705, which included a $50 coupon. Tax was extra. You should be looking at around $750 depending on what the sales tax is in your state. That represents pretty good value for a new notebook with an HD+ LCD.
[button link=”http://www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/series/category/notebooks/dm4t_series/3/computer_store” size=”large” color=”red” window=”yes”]Buy the HP dm4t for $549.99[/button]
Design and Build
The dm4t has an understated look that’s clean and tasteful. You should have no trouble taking this notebook to the office. It’s a nice departure from older Pavilion notebooks, with their flashy plastic and patterned lids. There’s a small HP logo on the top in the lower corner. This continues when opening the notebook, where you get only a power and QuickWeb buttons along with the keyboard. There are two color options for the dm4t – the default dark umber, which we have, and a slate gray option. I like to think of the umber as chocolate. It sort of has the same color as a Hersey bar. The sides and below the LCD are trimmed in silver and the bottom is black plastic. After having just reviewed two ultrabooks, the MacBook Air and Toshiba Z835, the HP feels a bit chunky, but it’s actually very light for a 14” notebook. It weighs just 4.4 pounds and that includes an optical drive. It’s still obviously thicker than an Ultrabook, but it gives a more substantial feel.
The top and keyboard deck are made from aluminum, which give it a well-built feel, better than most consumer based I’ve seen of late. The side trim and bottom are made from plastic, but have a nice finish to them. While you can make the screen ripple a bit when pressing on it, there’s little give on it elsewhere. Picking it up by the corner doesn’t illicit any creaks or groans. The screen is latchless, but feels solid whether it’s closed or open. Fit and finish are excellent. There are no gaps or misaligned parts.
The screen on the dm4t measures 14 inches diagonally. There are two screen options offered on the dm4t – a glossy HD (1366×768) LCD and matte HD+ (1600×900) LCD. Both are TN LED LCDs. We have the matte HD+ LCD. It’s an AUO manufactured screen, specifically the AUO223E. Since it is a matte screen, there’s fortunately no glare issues associated with it. There are 11 brightness settings to the screen that can be controlled via the keyboard. It ranges from dim to more than bright enough in any indoor situation. I’d guess it’s about 200 nits in brightness. Outdoors, it didn’t work as well. It was overpowered by the sun, though it might be passable in the shade. There’s a slight bluish cast to the screen and there’s a bit of grain to the screen, but the screen is an above average screen.
Screen comparison: Apple MacBook Air 13” (2011 edition) on the left, HP dm4t 1600 x 900 screen on the right
As you can see compared to the 13” MacBook Air (on the left), you don’t get as much contrast, but the colors are still good. The picture is clear and sharp. Having the extra resolution is nice as it means you’ll do less scrolling. The screen has an above average sweet spot in terms of the viewing angles. Though it’s not an IPS screen, minor adjustments won’t cause colors to shift drastically.
CPU & Performance
The dm4t uses the latest second generation dual core Intel Core CPUs – either an i3, i5 or i7. It’s the best you can get until Ivy Bridge arrives later this year. We have the i5-2430M dual core CPU in our dm4t. You can of course opt for a faster i5 or i7, but few users would notice any difference. The review unit came with 6GB of memory, which was a free upgrade from 4GB. The i5 offers more than enough performance for all but a few users. I was able run a Handbrake encode, surf the web, apply some filters in Gimp and listen to music without any stutter or lag. The dm4t scored a very respectable 7,437 in PCMark. Probably the biggest limitation performance wise on the dm4t is the slower drive, but that’s fixable and we’ll discuss that down below.
|Laptop||PCMark Vantage Score|
|HP Pavilion dm4t – Intel Core i5-2430M, Intel HD3000, 6GB RAM||7,437 PCMarks|
|HP Envy 15-3000 – Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD Radeon 7690, Toshiba 7200RPM||9,736 PCMarks|
|SONY VAIO SA – Intel Core i5-2430M, AMD 6750M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD||7,007 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM||6,056 PCMarks|
|Dell Vostro 3450 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30Ghz, 4GB RAM||5,901 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron N411z – Intel Core i3-2330m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM||5,285 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T420 – Intel Core i3-2310m 2.1GHz, 2GB RAM||3,204 PCMarks|
The dm4t has two graphics card options – the integrated Intel HD3000. Most users will find this more than adequate for the every day tasks the dm4t will carry out. For $100 you can upgrade to the AMD 7470M dedicated GPU. While the 7470M won’t get extreme gamers very excited, it should be more than enough for some casual gaming.
Drives & Storage
The dm4t has 640GB Hitachi 5K750 5400RPM hard drive, but HP also offers faster drives and SSDs for those wanting better drive performance. When I got the review unit and saw it was a 5400RPM drive, I was kind of dreading using it. I switched all my machines over to SSDs in the last couple years and have grown accustomed to the speed of SSDs, but my fears were unfounded. While the Hitachi is no speed demon, it performed capably given it’s mechanical roots. It took 48 seconds to boot into Windows as opposed to just under 20 seconds on my SSD equipped ThinkPad X220. While applications don’t launch as quickly compared to a SSD, it was respectable. On the plus side for the Hitachi, there’s a lot space for files. There are two recovery partitions on the HP, and after accounting for Windows and installed applications, there’s about 535GB of space left over, which is more space than all but a couple SSDs. The drive is also quiet, at least quieter than the fan.
Although our unit did not have a mSATA SSD, HP allows you to configure the dm4t with a mSSD or more commonly known as a mSATA SSD. HP only offers a 32GB mSATA SSD on the dm4t, which may be a little small for a boot partition, but you can also use a larger off the shelf drive for more space. A mSATA drive is a small SSD that plugs into a miniPCI slot. There’s a picture of the slot down below in the upgrades section. The drives are small and fast and can be used to install the OS, for speed, and you can keep the larger platter based drive for storage, where performance isn’t as important. A dm4t with a mSATA drive and a large platter drive would be very attractive as you get speed and capacity. I have this setup on my X220 and it’s slick.
The dm4t eschews the recent trend of dropping optical drives from notebooks by offering the Toshiba Samsung TS-U633 DVD-RW drive. I can’t say I blame manufacturers. Most things are in the cloud these days. I can’t remember the last time I burned a disc, except for this review, but it’s there for those who want it. I burned an audio CD for my car and a DVD to play back in my PS3. Both worked without any trouble.
The dm4t is very easy to upgrade. Removing two screws and popping off the panels gives you access to the hard drive, memory, WiFi card and mSATA slot.
Keyboard and TouchPad
The dm4t uses a six row keyboard and it’s a chiclet style keyboard. The keyboard on the dm4t is good. It’s the first chiclet style keyboard I’ve used that I kind of like. The others were on Ultrabooks, but those are too thin to allow for any key depth, which is an important part of the typing experience. The dm4t has good key depth, probably not ThinkPad good, but not bad. There is some flex in the keyboard, but it works well when typing. Striking one key does not cause the next to move. I’m not used to having flat keys on my keyboard and the spacing is different than my norm, but those would get better over time as I used it. The keyboard also has an optional backlight. We have the backlit keyboard, a $20 upgrade option, and it does make for easier typing in dim areas.
The touchpad on the dm4t is a Synatpics touchpad. It is smooth. Using it is effortless and there’s no lag. The touchpad has a lot gesture like pinch to zoom and two finger scrolling. Pinch to zoom worked well, but two finger scrolling was a 50-50 proposition. It seemed to work about half the time. The touchpad buttons are plastic. They make a slight click when used, but the button mechanism is mostly smooth when used. This reviewer likes smooth touchpad buttons, which seem to be hard to get outside of ThinkPads these days. Just go to any store and you’ll see. The touchpad is easily disabled with a quick double tap to the upper left corner if you wish to disable it when using the keyboard.
To the right of the touchpad is the fingerprint reader. It uses HP’s OmniPass software to enroll your fingers. It offers integration with a lot of web based services like Gmail, Twitter, Yahoo, YouTube, Facebook, etc. I was able to set it up to log into my Yahoo Mail account in just a couple minutes, but unfortunately, I was only able to get it work with Chrome. It didn’t work in Firefox, which is my preferred browser.
There are two battery options offered on the dm4t. There’s the standard six-cell battery, which sits flush with the back of the notebook like you see in the picture above. There’s also a nine-cell battery, which sticks out downward from the bottoms of the notebook, raising the rear. We have the standard six-cell battery. To test the notebook I used the HP recommended battery profile in Windows 7, since HP offers no battery optimization software. The screen was set to full brightness with WiFi on. Just doing normal stuff like surfing, listening to music and working on the review, I was able to get 4:45 before the notebook went to sleep. That might seem a bit low, but that was with the screen at full brightness. If you to set it lower, you should do considerably better as the screen is the biggest power user on a notebook. The AC adapter is small, but is a three pronged adapter, which may make finding an outlet more difficult.
Heat & Noise
The dm4t runs very cool, even when running processor intensive applications. I did an hour Handbrake encode and it never went above warm. Unfortunately, to get that cool operation, the fan is on all the time. HP includes their CoolSense software, which is supposed to detect the heat levels on the dm4t and regulate the fan to optimum performance. Unfortunately, it must think it’s hot all all the time because the fan is a constant. I tried to run the CPU at the lowest power setting. You can also disable CoolSense in the BIOS and Windows, which is supposed quiet the fan, but none of those did much to dampen the noise. The fan is easily drowned out by other noise like music, but the fan is ever present on the dm4t.
Wireless & Networking
HP covers all the bases in terms of networking. You get an Intel A/B/G/N WiFi card, the Intel 1030 to be exact. I used the dm4t at home, work and around town. It never gave me any trouble. For those larger file transfers you get a gigabit Ethernet card. All dm4ts include Bluetooth 3.0. I was able to pair my iPhone and Bluetooth mouse without any complications. The dm4t also includes WiDi, which is Intel’s wireless video streaming interface. I don’t have a WiDi TV, so I could not test that, but you’re good if you’ve got a WiDi enabled TV.
Ports & Connections
HP has done a good job giving users most of the ports they’ll ever need, including two high speed USB 3.0 ports. That’s something you don’t get on some more expensive notebooks. Perhaps the only thing missing is an ExpressCard slot to do a eGPU, but that’s a minor niggle. The ports are marked on the underside of the notebook, which seems an odd choice as you can’t see them while using the notebook.
The left side of the dm4t has a VGA port, Ethernet, HDMI and the two USB 3.0 ports.
The front of the dm4t has the Card reader on the left side.
The right side of the dm4t has a USB 2.0 port, a combo headphone/microphone jack and the power connector.
There are no ports on the back, you can see the hinge and battery from this vantage
The dm4t has two audio setups. There’s the standard setup and the Beats audio version, which is what we have. What’s different about the Beats edition you ask? The Beats version of the dm4t gets a subwoofer to enhance the sound quality. It’ll never replace a set of dedicated speakers or a good pair of headphones, but sound on the dm4t is good by notebook standards. It rises to the level of a good CD clock radio. It’s almost, dare I say it, pleasant. It’s plenty loud. There’s also some bass there, due to the subwoofer, and the sound is clear, even at higher volume levels. The flaw with the speakers is the placement. They’re located on the front of the laptop, which has a downward angle. At times when I was using it in my lap or when my hands were on the palm rest using the keyboard, the sound could be muffled.
If this were my personal machine, the first thing I’d do after getting it would be to burn off a set of recovery discs and make a copy of the SWSetup folder on the C:\ drive, which contains all the applications and drivers installed on the machine. I’d then take a Windows 7 disc to it and do a clean install. This is the most bloatware I’ve seen in a long time. There’s literally like 40 games alone installed on the dm4t. Plus there’s the usual bloatware suspects like Office, Google, Adobe , etc. Bloatware isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It helps keeps the cost of notebooks down, but it can be annoying for those who don’t know how to get rid of it. Despite having all this software installed, there’s not much from HP in terms of helpful utilities like a battery optimizer or diagnostic tools for example, just what Windows gives you. Other applications you tend to get with a new notebook like burning, photo editing or antivirus software must be purchased separately, which adds up quickly.
The dm4t also includes HP’s QuickWeb. QuickWeb is intended to be a fast way to get access to the Internet and other simple applications. There’s two buttons on the dm4t – a power button and the QucikWeb button. In Windows the QuickWeb button opens the default browser. Hitting the power button takes you to Windows while the QuickWeb button takes you to the QuickWeb dashboard. The dashboard is customizable. There’s a stock ticker, Skype, a sticky note utility, calculator, to name a few. QuickWeb works well enough, but it doesn’t boot much faster than Windows. Since it doesn’t add anything that’s not in Windows, I’m puzzled as to why they included it.
Warranty & Support
The dm4t comes with a one year mail in warranty, which includes software support during the length of the warranty. HP will of course let you upgrade to a better warranty for a fee. You can get up to four years of coverage, including on-site and accidental coverage. HP service looks a little expensive compared to others. Adding one year of mail in coverage costs $120 while four years of service with on-site and accidental coverage costs costs $460, 65% of the cost of the notebook.
Since I was having issues with the fan, I decided to call HP support to see if there was anything I could do to quiet the fan. I spent 14 minutes on hold before I was connected to a technical support representative. The TSR was pleasant and seemed eager to help. After taking my information, the TSR inquired about my issue. I told the TSR that the fan was running continually and a bit irksome in a quiet room. I asked if there were any possible solutions. The TSR put me on hold for a few minutes while they researched my issue. When they came back they suggested that I clean the fan. It was after midnight when I called and I wasn’t about to make the 30 plus minute trip to Wal-Mart to pick up a can of compressed air. It does seem unlikely a two week old notebook that comes from a pet and smoke free home would have a clogged fan. I thought it interesting no mention of the CoolSense software was made. The total call time was about 30 minutes.
Would I spend my hard earned money on a dm4t? The HP without a doubt offers a lot of value. For your $750 you get a machine that’s respectably built, has an above average high resolution LCD, is light and portable, can do a mSATA + HDD combo, has good sound, gets good battery life and just about every port you’ll need. Probably it’s two biggest drawbacks are the bloatware, which is easily remedied with a Windows disc, but the fan noise is the more troublesome of the two. If it were easy to fix, I’d buy the HP dm4t without hesitation. If you’re one of those persons who dislikes or are more sensitive to fan noise, I’d advise you at least go look at one before deciding. The dm4t is a very good notebook, but the fan noise is the one thing that keeps it from being excellent.
- Tasteful Design
- Respectable Durability
- Above Average LCD
- Dual Drives with mSATA
- Backlit Keyboard
- Light for a 14” Notebook
- Lots of Ports
- Always On Fan
- Touchpad Gestures Don’t Work Well
- Little Useful Software
[button link=”http://www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/series/category/notebooks/dm4t_series/3/computer_store” size=”large” color=”red” window=”yes”]Buy the HP dm4t for $549.99[/button]