This is the second iteration of HP's dm1z 11" AMD powered netbook. The first one had great reviews, boasting excellent graphics for a netbook (even better than many low-cost laptops) and amazing battery life. The latest model, the dm1-4010us has a newer but similar processor and physical redesign.
While HP might not include a lot of 3rd party bloatware on their machines, they certainly have a lot of 1st party crap that the computer would run fine - if not better - without. As a computer science student, I have access to some free software from Microsoft. Luckily, that includes Windows 7 Home Premium. I tried to keep the computer stock, but the combination of excess software and four partitions (one recovery, one for HP's software, one for the operating system, one for the bootloader - which is impossible to avoid) was too much to bear.
First, with stock software:
The computer was laggy at times. Boot time was slow and some programs took a long time to launch (also an affect of the 5400RPM hard drive). It comes with Norton Internet Security, which is totally useless since Microsoft has their Security Essentials software and is perfectly fine, and very quit. It just sits in the notification area and doesn't bother you unless something tries to get in, something has gotten in (i.e., YOU let something in), or it's doing a scheduled scan.
Beats Audio seemed cool at first, but it took me a few dozens times to adjust the sound to get it perfect. Beats Audio, to me, is essentially the "bass boost" button on old budget stereos.
HP bundles some software that's supposed to help with keeping the computer cool, connecting to networks, getting customer service, games, etc. I found all of that completely useless, since having the correct display driver will likely keep the fan going when it needs to, Windows has perfectly fine networking tools, customer service can be found by calling or emailing HP, or doing a simple web search.
You'll also need to upgrade the BIOS, and you'll need to do two in succession since it's had two updates since the product launched. The updates must be applied in order.
With a clean install of Windows 7:
It's important to download the WiFi driver and/or ethernet driver FIRST and store it on a USB flash drive before reformatting the hard drive and installing a retail copy of Windows 7. I didn't do that, so I had to install Ubuntu first (install, not use the live CD, because I had to install the WiFi driver there too, and it required a restart) and then save the driver to a USB flash drive.
Without any of HP's software, the computer was significantly smoother. Boot time was shortened, less memory was being used, and there's nothing like seeing a blank list under your "uninstall programs" control panel. Of course, it's necessary to download and install the display driver from HP, but that's where I would stop. Audio sounds perfectly fine (through headphones... more on that soon) without the Beats Audio software installed. Strangely, it seems to sound better without it installed at all over having it installed but not using it.
I love the sleek black look. The chiclet keyboard is great. But (here comes a shocker) the touchpad kind of sucks. Whether I use the Synaptics driver or the built-in Windows driver, it's not fun. Actually, I find it less frustrating when using the generic driver built in to Windows. The feel of the touchpad is weird, because it's textured. With the Synaptics driver installed, you can use two-finger scrolling or edge scrolling, pinch to zoom, rotate, and there's a little dimple on the top right of the touchpad that can be double tapped to disable the touchpad. Without the driver, it just works and tracks your finger movement; no scrolling, no disabling feature, no rotating.
The display is really nice. I actually really love the display. With the ATI driver installed, it will auto-adjust the brightness (sort of) based on colors on the screen. For instance, if you are viewing a black image, movie, web page, etc., and then switch to something white, the screen will dim a little bit. Colors look great, purples look purple (if you've ever seen a crappy display, purples look light blue and hurt the eyes) and blacks look black.
Video plays nicely, that includes 1080p. No problems with that. I'm able to play Portal 2, which defaults at native resolution with the following settings:
-Filtering Mode: Bilinear
-Wait for Vertical Sync: Enabled (Double Buffered)
-Multicore Rendering: Enabled
-Shader Detail: Very High
-Effect Detail: Medium
-Model/Texture Detail: High
-Page Pool Memory Available: High
The game played well and looked good, but the framerate seemed pretty low (you can just tell). I think lowering a few of the "high"'s to "medium" would help.
The webcam is your standard ho-hum webcam. It'll work, people will see you, but it won't blow anyone's mind.
Speakers kind of suck. They're fine for system sounds, but you'll need speakers or headphones for music and video... but it's a laptop. Not even $1500 Apple laptops have incredible speakers. There's a tradeoff that must be made in favor of compact size.
As for weight, I guess it's average. It's no Ultrabook or MacBook AIr, and it's a tad heavier than some other netbooks, but those other netbooks are kind of cheap and cruddy. The dm1z feels sturdy and well built.
You know how a lot of Windows laptops have bumpy bottoms? There are bulges all over for the battery, hard drive, and other components. This one is totally smooth except for the feet at each corner. Also, the entire bottom plate comes off for access to the computer's innards. That means easy, painless memory and storage upgrades and replacements. My only complaint with the case (the lid and the palm rest, keyboard too actually) is how it holds onto oils. We humans will probably never stop secreting oils from our pores, and, unfortunately, some manufacturers will always forget that.
On the left, an HDMI port (I hook mine up to a 32" 1080p TV and all is well) adjacent to a USB port, with the power input near the lid. On the right, an ethernet port near the lid, a VGA port for older monitors, two USB ports, a microphone jack and a headphone jack (two separate, not a combo-jack) and next to that is an SD card slot.
Sometimes Windows will show that I have 7 hours left, other times it has shown 7:40, most times it will show 3:40. As I write this sentence and unplugged the power cable with a 100% charge, I hovered over the battery icon and it's displaying 5:30. I have brightness slightly below 50%, Zune open and playing music, Chrome is open with one tab, Microsoft Seucurity Essentials is hanging out in the notification tray. That's no where near the 7 or 8 hour battery life advertised, and it's not as good as last year's dm1z. However, before I reinstalled Windows, the computer had a pre-configured HP power plan. I'm sure I could tweak Windows' balanced plan to match HP's power plan and increase the battery life.
HP's latest upgrade to its dm1z line is a good one. I really like the simplified deisgn over the previous model's silver and black color and unneccesarily fancy lid design. It's also nice to have buttons under the touchpad this time around. I wish battery life was as advertised, and I wish computer manufacturers would ease up on the crapware. You can buy a computer from Microsoft's online store and get one with no bloatware at all... a pure Windows experience. Overall, I like the computer, but if I wasn't on a budget, I would have purchased an 11" MacBook Air and dual-booted it with Windows. But for under $500, there aren't many viable options, and I think the dm1z is one of the best options out there in the price range.