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We have said it time and again that the difference between a high-end notebook and an affordable one is just too visible – build quality, specification sheet and eventually, the performance. The lesser priced laptops always get the inferior stuff, and the premium stuff only starts showing up once you were ready to pay Rs. 60,000 or above. This compromise cannot be appreciated, for it hinders the experience one would expect from a laptop.
However, things could be changing. First, Acer launched the Aspire V3 notebook earlier this year. And that was a fairly good quality product, at just shy of Rs. 50,000. Lenovo, around the same time, introduced the slimmer Z-series notebook, the IdeaPad Z500. Now, however, the game has been taken to another level. HP, with the Pavilion m4-1003tx notebook, is basically telling the customer – you don’t need to compromise on the experience, just because you aren’t paying Rs. 65,000 for a laptop! And that is very much appreciated.
Build & Design: The Gloss is Back
The recent machines emerging from HP’s offices – the ENVY dv6, the ENVY TouchSmart 4, Spectre XT and the ENVY 4 ultrabook – have all sported a positive change. That being, they had the matte finish, irrespective of the colour, with a classy imprint or brushed metal design. For a while, it seemed as though the glossy finish seen on the Pavilion dv series of laptops till some years back, was going away for good, maybe we could safely stow away that cleaning cloth. But no, it’s back with the Pavilion m4-1003tx! Our only issue with the glossy and shiny finish on a laptop is that it is maintenance heavy, as it tends to catch fingerprints, scratches, nicks and dust very quickly, all of which are very visible. Even though the machine itself may be new, the combination of these make it look very old, very quickly.
The Pavilion m4-1003tx notebook has some rather unique design elements. For starters, take the laptop out of the box, and the thin form factor appeals straightaway. It isn’t as thin as some ultrabooks, mostly because of the optical drive being present on m4, but is fairly close to that genre of devices. At 2kg, for a machine with a 14-inch display, the Pavilion m4-1003tx’s weight is very much acceptable. The nearest rival, the Acer Aspire V3-53234G75Makk, is noticeably thicker than the Pavilion m4, and at 2.3kg, also weighs more than the m4. Incidentally, the Aspire V3 is one notebook that has a glossy finish almost throughout. The Lenovo IdeaPad Z500 does walk a middle path between the two. While having a bigger footprint because of the bigger display size, the Z500 does remain fairly slim. The all-matte finish does look good, even though it tends end up with a tad too much dust sticking on it!
The HP Pavilion m4-1003tx’s lid has a matte finish with the brushed metal design, similar to what we saw on the much more expensive elder sibling, the ENVY dv6-7206tx. Open the lid and this is where things change. The keyboard deck is completely glossy, albeit carrying the same black coloured theme. This finish also encompasses an imprint design, but slightly different from the one on the lid. The keys themselves have the non-gloss finish.
The port placement is evenly spread on both sides of the Pavilion m4-1003tx. The right side has the optical drive, one USB port and the 3.5mm headphone jack. The left side has two more USB ports, the HDMI out, the Ethernet jack and a generous cooling vent. No ports are placed behind the display.
When you look at the machine from side-on, the design does give the illusion that it is thicker at the back and thinner at the front. However, that is mostly visual trickery, and the Pavilion m4-1003tx retains much the same thickness throughout. The curve on the side where the display hinge sits looks more profound because of the grey colour treatment, and looks good.
The Pavilion m4-1003txs’ lid has very minimal flex, only when you push on it unnaturally hard. There is no flex anywhere on the palmrest areas, or even in the middle of the keyboard, no matter how hard you press. There are a lot of vents on the underside and on the side to keep the machine fairly cool. When the laptop is placed on the lap, and you are furiously typing on it, the display does not shake or vibrate. The hinge is fairly taut, but doesn’t feel hard or require extra exertion to open the lid.
There is no doubt that the Pavilion m4-1003tx is a very well-built machine, and this kind of quality isn’t very common this side of Rs. 50,000. In terms of the slimness, weight and the quantity of the maintenance hungry glossy finish, the HP Pavilion m4 has the advantage over almost all of its rivals.
Features & Specs: The Surprises Keep BuildingThe specification sheet of the Pavilion m4 does make for rather pleasing reading, for anyone who is looking to buy the machine. This packs in the Intel Core i5 – 3230M processor clocking at 2.6GHz. The Turbo Boost mode takes it up to 3.0GHz. But here comes the interesting bit – packs in 8GB of RAM, something that is fairly unheard of, till now, in this price bracket. Having a decent amount of RAM and the extra headroom makes the OS and all the apps work much better, and this is something we will compare in detail in the performance section.
HP Pavilion m4-1003tx
Clock Speeds (Turbo Boost)
Dedicated Graphics Memory
Compared to the Aspire V3, the Pavilion m4 has a 1TB hard drive, while the V3 only packs in a 750GB drive. Both machines have an optical drive each, and both arrive on your doorstep preloaded with Windows 8. The m4 has a 14-inch LED backlit display, with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. The Aspire V3 and the Lenovo Z500 offer a bigger 15.6-inch display, with the same resolution.
Performance: Impressive, Very!For the sake of a direct comparison, we pitted the Pavilion m4-1003tx against the Acer Aspire V3, primarily because both machines have the same processor and are available for relatively the same price.
System Performance: First, we take a look at some benchmark tests. We start off with the PC Mark 07 test. The test score of 3165 for the Core i5-3230M puts it comfortably ahead of all but one Core i5 (Ivy Bridge) versions. Only the Core i5-3317U in the Sony Vaio T-series notebooks is scoring more in the same benchmark test. To put it simply, the 3230M is scoring more than the Core i7-3632QM (2879 PC Marks – Lenovo IdeaPad Y500) and the Core i7-3612QM (2658 PC Marks - Dell Inspiron 14 Turbo), for example. To put simply, the HP Pavilion m4 does offer blazing fast performance, at least as far as the numbers are concerned.
Just to verify the processor similarity, the CineBench CPU test pegs the two at pretty much the same scores. Hence, the performance difference between the two machines, as shown in the PC Mark test points to the advantage the HP machine has because of the additional RAM and possibly better optimization of the marriage between the hardware and the operating system. We, on our part, ensure that all system settings are the same across all machines, to ensure a completely level base for all tests.
In the real world usage, the HP Pavilion m4 does feel appreciably quicker. The additional RAM, and less preloaded utilities does help considerably. Over time, we have noticed how HP has streamlined its own applications and software into a concise package. The number of trials and free software has been cut down as well, and that really helps keep the machine in better working condition out-of-the-box.
Graphics Performance: For a machine that is rather affordable, the specification surprises just keep on coming. The Pavilion m4 packs in an Nvidia GeForce 730M (2GB) graphics chip. The 730M is based on the Nvidia GeForce GT645M, but with higher clock speeds. Since the GT645M was one of the top performers in the gaming benchmark scores across all laptops, the 730M should offer similar, if not better performance. And it does, as the benchmark tests will show you.
In the 3D Mark 11 benchmark, the 730M has a significant advantage over the 710M on the Acer Aspire V3. However, the performance of the GT645M remains consistently better, despite the 730M boasting of higher clock speeds. The FPS advantage of the 730M over the 710M is very much visible in the Cinebench OpenGL and the Unigene Heaven benchmarks. Essentially, the Pavilion m4-1003tx will be able to handle most intensive games at the 1366 x 768 pixel resolution with medium settings. The performance will not be better than the GT645M, despite the tweaks.
Keyboard and TouchPad: Being someone whose livelihood depends on typing out articles, it is critical that the keyboard be comfortable to use, and precise in response. We had praised the keyboard in the HP ENVY dv6 to the extent that it is possibly the best keyboard we have seen on a Windows machine of late. And we are happy to report that the same has been carried forward to the Pavilion m4. Typing is a breeze, no matter how quickly (or furiously, in some cases!) you want to churn out the article. Key-spacing, and travel is excellent. Key-size is very similar to the keyboard on the MacBook Pro. It is literally a no comparison between this keyboard and the ones that the Aspire V3 and the IdeaPad Z500 came with. While the Aspire V3 does come in a solid second position, the Z500 with the curved key base does present an uncomfortable period till you get used to the design.
Unfortunately, the touchpad on the Pavilion m4 doesn’t invoke such pleasant and positive words. It is rather surprising that HP didn’t use the same matte touchpad in the bigger sibling, the ENVY dv6, and instead went with this smaller version with a dotted finish. Despite being smaller, it still has enough space for two finger scrolling and most multi-touch gestures to work properly. However, the response at all times is mostly inconsistent when it comes to scrolling. It works, and then it just stops working. Keep swiping the finger on different parts of the touchpad to see which area now detects the touch! Use an external mouse as far as possible, for even the driver updates available on HP’s support website didn’t improve the situation.
Display: The Pavilion m4’s 14-inch display has a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. The display quality is very good, for the amount of money you are paying for the laptop. Text is rendered very crisply, and is very much readable. The Lenovo Z500 does rival the Pavilion in terms of how well the text looks and reads. The Acer Aspire V3 has the best colour reproduction among these three, and the Z500 and the Pavilion m4 do feel a tad less rich, at least for some colours. The m4’s display is reflective without doubt, and if you aren’t keeping the brightness very high, can become a tad annoying because ambient stuff will be reflected back.
Battery: Battery life on the Pavilion m4 is very much at par with the times clocked by the Aspire V3 and the IdeaPad Z500. Under the very stressful benchmark tests, the Pavilion m4’s battery lasted 115 minutes on a single charge. This will easily translate into at least 3.5 hours of backup times under most usage scenarios.
Bottom LineWhat the HP Pavilion m4-1003tx does take is the benchmark to the next level, the performance is putting all the immediate rivals in the shade – by a huge margin. The keyboard is the same brilliant one carried forward from the more expensive from ENVY dv6 notebook. Add a slim form factor, good build quality and the fact that it can game quite efficiently into the mix, and this is definitely a machine worth considering. Put that into perspective with the price tag – Rs. 49,990 – and the entire package feels like a very good deal.