Quasi-Review: HP Pavilion dm4t “Entertainment” laptop

I’ve been in the market for a new laptop (PC) for a little while now. Having long grown out of my need to be on the bleeding edge of gadgetry, especially considering that I spend most of my computing time at home on my desktop and smartphone, I was still searching for an attractive, well-made, reasonably light, affordable, and capable machine, all for under $800.

It wasn’t but a few years back that such a wishlist would lead practically nowhere. But nowadays, sub $1000 let alone sub $800 laptops are a dime a dozen. After much research and contemplation, I settled on the HP Pavilion dm4t “Entertainment” series laptop.

Weighing in at a relatively light 4.4lbs (which is best in class, might I add), the metal-clad, 14″ LED-backlit dm4t sports nearly all of the features on my wish list, including a sub-$800 price tag.

Unfortunately, however, after less than 2 months of ownership I’ve decided to return this otherwise attractive machine due to a few major design flaws. As the whole point of a laptop, IMHO, is its portable all-in-one nature (aka, no need to schelp along any other peripherals), having an incredibly buggy and poorly placed trackpad, and an equally poorly located keyboard have pushed me over the edge.

The trackpad, when configured to allow Apple-esque multi-touch gestures (like two-finger scrolling), is nearly unusable. Despite recent driver and software updates, the thing is incredibly frustrating. Even after turning multi-touch off, the lack of physical separation between the gesture area and the “buttons” leaves much to be desired in terms of usability. Oh, and the fact that HP decided to center the damn thing on the laptop chassis and NOT in line with the keyboard is utterly ridiculous, causing regular unintended mouse movements with the side of my palm while simply trying to type.

As for the keyboard itself, it too is out of position. There is a reason that nearly all (until I got this machine, I thought ALL laptops) keyboards are closer to the screen than the front edge to allow for an adequate place to rest your wrists while you type. Oh no, not this HP machine. The keyboard is in an awkwardly forward position (which, admittedly, is not very clear from the image above), making for a rather uncomfortable typing posture, especially when writing something of any real length. It’s not like its actually on the front edge, but that HP didn’t leave enough room for the palm rests (they seem to have some unhealthy obsession with symmetry on this model).

To be fair, some folks (perhaps those with smaller hands) may be able to overlook what I see as glaring design flaws. If you don’t type much, don’t mind using an external mouse, and want a relatively powerful and very portable machine, than the dm4t may still be right for you.


FWIW, here are the full specs on the rig I’m returning:

Configuration Summary

Selected Features:
Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-460M Dual Core Processor (2.53 GHz, 3MB L3 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 2.8GHz
6GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm)
500GB 5400RPM Hard Drive with HP ProtectSmart Hard Drive Protection
Intel(R) HD Graphics [HDMI, VGA]
802.11b/g/n WLAN and Bluetooth(R)
14.0″ diagonal High-Definition HP BrightView LED Display (1366 x 768)
Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
No Additional Office Software
6 Cell Lithium Ion Battery (standard) – Up to 6.25 hours of battery life +++
Standard Keyboard
SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-R/RW with Double Layer Support
HP TrueVision Webcam and Fingerprint Reader
No additional security software
Included Features:
Type: Surprisingly slim, unbelievably light
Battery Life: Up to 6.25 hours of battery life (6 cell)+++
Memory card reader: 5-in-1 integrated Digital Media Reader
Accessible memory slots: 2
Maximum Memory Expansion: Up to 8GB
Ports: 3 USB (3rd shared with eSATA port), HDMI
Additional Ports: VGA, RJ-45
Chassis: brushed aluminum in modern argento (metal)
Hard Drive Protection: HP ProtectSmart protects the hard drive & data
Audio: Dolby(TM) audio + Altec Lansing speakers
ENERGY STAR Qualified: Yes
DLNA Certified: Yes
Adapter: 65W AC (Shared Graphics) / 90W AC (Dedicated Graphics)
Dimensions: 13.42 in (L) x 8.98 in(W) x 0.98 in(min H)/1.27 in(max H)
Thinness: 0.98″
Weight: 4.41 lbs
Network Card: Integrated 10/100/1000Gigabit Ethernet LAN RJ-45 connect
Optical Drive: Internal
Blu-ray Drive: No
Webcam: HP TrueVision Webcam
Security SW: Norton Internet Security 60-day subscription
Included SW: HP MediaSmart puts Entertainment at your fingertips
Warranty: 1-year limited hardware support
Support: 30-Days Free Limited Software, 1-year limited hardware

The estimated shipping date is indicated on the configuration page, and is affected by the components you select. Some components may extend the estimated delivery date. Standard shipping is via FedEx 3-day service.Shipping & Return Information:*Actual memory capacity may vary under Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.

Manufacturer’s warranty service is available on all electronics products. See manufacturer’s warranty for specific coverage terms.

For COMPUTERS, TELEVISIONS and PROJECTORS, Costco extends the MANUFACTURER’S WARRANTY to two years from date of purchase. Please call Costco Concierge™ Technical Support @ 1-866-861-0450 for warranty assistance.


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