HP's Pavilion range was never going to offer the same 'wow factor' as its premium Envy line and we couldn't pick out its previous dm4 Pavilion in a line up.
But HP's new dm4-3000ea Pavilion Beats Edition is far from anonymous.
Thanks to the ubiquity of Beats Audio technology, HP has decided to give its non-descript dm4 Pavilion a chassis overhaul and specs update. That upgrade does bump up the price to £849, so it's not the very best value for money, but the Beats redesign is a success for various reasons.
It looks super-modern without being too cool for school, enjoys a solid feel for a 14-inch multimedia portable and – most importantly – it sounds absolutely fantastic.
Punching above its weight
Despite its slinky dimensions (338 x 225 x 32 mm), the dm4-3000ea is fairly heavy. A weight of 2kg for such a small chassis is surprising, but every component – including the great backlit keyboard – feels robust and well-made (although it's not the solid mag-alloy chassis that HP puts in its Envy laptops; just serviceable plastic here).
The board marries the same soft red and matte black hues that adorns the case. The Beats logo also sits front and centre, which could annoy, but the font design is so nice it actually really works.
It can be hard to type on dinkier laptops' keyboards, but the dm4-3000ea Pavilion Beats Edition is the exception to the rule . It felt much better than the first dm4 Pavilion board and has isolated chiclet keys with a solid bounce.
HP has also binned the miniature navigation keys, making it fine to use for long periods for multi-tasking and browsing online. Our only bone of contention was the unresponsive touch tech on the trackpad which is still a novelty.
The 14-inch display is powered by 1366 x 768 LED-backlit BrightView screen, which works perfectly well in most brightness conditions. It's not over-glossy and coped admirably with the darker hues of The Dark Knight. We also had no problems streaming high-definition video content. Clearly, the HP dm4-3000ea Pavilion Beats Edition won't have any problems performing most multimedia tasks.
HP also gets bonus points for adding one of the better in-built webcams available. Thanks to the TrueVision low-light tech, it managed to pick us out accurately enough in murky lighting.
Under the hood
The rest of the specs under the hood are decent enough to make sure HP's dm4-3000ea Pavilion Beats Edition didn't suffer any staccato playback – even on number crunching apps.
HP has bundled a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5-2450M processor, a 500GB SATA hard drive and 4GB of memory with space for two more sticks if you fancy an upgrade. That should be enough oomph to boot the OS from cold in no time at all… but, irritatingly, HP has added the usual bloatware gubbins to slow everything down. That said, some of the pre-loaded software, like Norton and Windows Office Starter Edition is actually useful.
Battery Eater '05: 174 minutes
3DMark 2006: 5622
Performance in our lab tests produced steady if unspectacular results, especially when you consider the power available from that Intel Core i5 chip. A score of 5629 in our processor benchmarks means that it's more than adept at multitasking, but it does seem low when compared with laptops such as the Packard Bell TS11 which achieved better lab tests.
Graphics were equally unspectacular, and we also got a mid-range score of 5622 in our 3D Mark tests. This is enough for light gaming, thanks to 1GB of dedicated graphics on its AMD Radeon HD 7470M GPU. Just don't expect to get anything out of Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3, though.
The 174-minute battery life using Battery Eater Pro's Readers' Test was pretty good – especially when you bear in mind that it has a 6-cell battery.
So, the question remains, how do you get enjoy audio fidelity on such a small laptop? The simple answer is to plug in decent headphones and bypass the traditionally tinny laptop speakers.
If you're not a fan of headphones, a more permanent solution is to upgrade to superior audio components.
While the Beats audio results good, you still can't been hooking up a decent set of speakers. That said, for audio on the go, the dm4-3000ea Pavilion Beats Edition comes highly recommended – and HP even throws in a pair of Dr Dre's Solo headphones as part of the package.
Overall the HP dm4-3000sa is a capable portable laptop, for those who want style while they're on the move. Admittedly, it's not packed with power, and there are lighter machines for the money, but the Beats credentials give it cool credibility that will attract students and younger users.
Anyone who does invest will be rewarded with a solid performer capable of work and play on the move, but those with demanding needs will want to look at portables backed up by a bit more grunt.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview