HP dm4 Beats Edition Notebook Review: Down With The Beat
Performance: Synthetic 3D, Game Benchmarks - Conclusion
As mentioned, the HP dm4t came equipped with Intel HD 3000 graphics. There is a discrete graphics option, but since it’s not equipped on our review unit, we can’t comment on it. And since this laptop only has Intel integrated graphics it is not able to run 3DMark 11. We will have to rely only on 3DMark 06.
These results are quite strong for a laptop relying on Intel HD 3000, but still well below an entry-level GPU like the Nvidia GT 520M.
Obviously, the synthetic benchmark performance of this laptop leaves much to be desired. But how does that translate to real games? Let’s find out, starting with Dawn Of War 2: Retribution.
These results are impressive. Despite the fact that it has Intel HD 3000 graphics, the dm4t beats every other laptop in our comparison including the Nvidia GT 520M equipped ASUS U36 and the AMD Fusion equipped ASUS K53T. DoW2:R is a game that relies heavily on a quick processor, and is this case the dm4t’s quick Core i5 swoops in to make the game entirely playable. It’s even just-barely playable at the native resolution of 1600x900.
The situation is reversed in Just Cause 2. Although the dm4t is much quicker than the Dell Inspiron 14z was at the time of our review (driver or game improvements may be the reason for the enhanced performance), Intel’s IGP can’t keep up with the discrete GPUs. Just Cause 2 is tolerable when you’re cruising around the world, but as soon as you get into combat or enter one of the more complex areas (like a city) the experience becomes difficult to tolerate.
Normally we wrap up the game benchmarks with Battlefield 3, but we weren’t able to properly test the game on the dm4t. Unlike previous laptops we’ve reviewed that used Intel HD 3000, the dm4t was actually capable of loading and playing BF3. However, the framerate was so poor that I could not play the game to the point where we normally run our benchmark. I never saw FRAPS report a framerate over 11 FPS, and the average was 6 to 7 FPS.
Obviously, this makes the game unplayable at our standard benchmark resolution of 1366x768 with detail settings at medium. Changing detail settings to Low did improve the framerate by a couple FPS, but the game remained entirely unplayable.
There is a lot to like about the dm4t Beats Edition, particularly as configured here. The 1600x900 display offers a lot of usable space and the performance is excellent, both in benchmarks and in subjective real-world use. The combination of a fast Core i5 processor with a solid state drive and Intel Smart Response results in a well-rounded system. Even gaming is at least adequate for older 3D titles.
Because of the Beats Audio branding, I expected that this laptop would blow me away with its audio quality, offering an experience unlike that found on most other laptops. In fact, it was disappointing. There are many other laptops that offer a better audio experience. HP representives tell me that, in the case of this model, Beats Audio is meant to offer a better experience via the audio out jack. A casual listen with my pair of halfway decent Gradio SR-80 headphones revealed nothing spectaular about the experience, but we don't normally test audio out quality. This makes the feature hard to judge.
Audio quality aside, the HP dm4t Beats Edition is a fine mid-range laptop that straddles the line between desktop replacements and ultraportables. Its 1600x900 matte display and excellent hard drive performance seperate it from the rest of the pack, but so-so battery life and average design restrain it from earning our top honors.
Just be careful how you buy. If you manually configure the laptop like our review unit you'll end up spending over $1150, which is far too much. We made this mistake in our original review. HP has since pointed out that the laptop is available from Wal-Mart and on HP's website as a quick-ship option for $899.