Review: HP Pavilion dm3

There’s so much to like in HP’s new Pavilion dm3 that it’s hard to know where to start. Perhaps with the looks: The aluminum and magnesium case looks cool, totally modern, and though it’s got some plastic components (most notably the underside), it feels quite durable. The Mac-style keyboard is spacious and comfortable, even though the unit’s got a 13.3-inch screen to keep things portable and svelte.

But looks aren’t everything. Outfitted with a poky 1.3-GHz Core 2 Duo microchip, the dm3 doesn’t win any benchmark contests, but performance is at least acceptable, somewhat bogged down only by HP’s add-on dock software that does nothing but get in the way. The machine could use more than the 2 GB of RAM it includes, but the 500-GB hard drive is generous and the screen quality (1366 x 768 pixel resolution) is good.

But the dm3 really earns its stripes with top-notch battery life. With well over five hours of running time under load, it runs circles around other machines in this class — and all without the eyesore of a mammoth battery pack jutting from the bottom or out the back of the laptop.

If there’s one serious failure on this notebook it’s the touchpad. While the multitouch features are appreciated, the material the pad is made from is decidedly not. Under the fingers of this reviewer, the glasslike pad exhibited a strong, tacky grip, causing fingertips to stick to it under even the lightest of pressure. It’s not just hard to use this touchpad accurately; it’s actually painful, as your fingers experience massively increased friction from the surface.

But all is not lost — especially for the cash-strapped. The price is just $815 as configured, so you’ll have plenty of cash left over to afford a killer external mouse.

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