HP HDX 16 Review

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$1824
Editors' rating:
The Pros

Slick design with new pattern and flush glass display; Stunning full 1080p display; Powerful discrete graphics; Excellent wireless scores; Excellent audio system

The Cons

Touchpad has too much friction; Glossy screen has limiting viewing angles; Webcam video a bit murky

Verdict

This multimedia notebook boasts a beautiful 16:9 display, a head-turning design, and fast performance.

Although theHP Pavilion HDX Entertainment Notebook PCwas one of our favorite notebooks of 2007, its 20-inch, full-1080p display came at a price--namely that, at 15.8 pounds, it seemed more like a desktop than a laptop. Now HP has extended the HDX brand to more portable systems with an emphasis on style and multimedia power. The HDX 16 is one of two new HDX notebooks (the other is the 18.4-inch HDX 18) that offers excellent performance. But how much better is it than a regular Pavilion notebook?

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Design

In many ways, the HDX 16 reminds us of HP's recently revampedDV series. Both have glossy patterned lids with matching palm rests and touchpads. They have the same glossy feel, but whereas the DV series' pattern looks like a more subdued micro-checkerboard pattern, the HDX pattern has more flair. Abstract silver and black lines span across a charcoal background. Contrasting that, its keyboard and touchpad are silver, and the touchpad has black and charcoal lines.

At 6.8 pounds and 14.9 x 10.0 x 1.7 inches, the HDX 16 is a pain to lug around, but it's still small and light enough to be considered a mainstream laptop. However, Sony's VAIO FW series offers a bigger 16.4-inch display and weighs less at 6.7 pounds.

The touch buttons were quiet and easy to press but felt a bit mushy and less solid compared to the buttons on theHP Pavilion dv7. The touchpad on our unit provided too much friction, and we found ourselves increasing the cursor speed to compensate.

As for the keyboard, it's equally quiet and comfortable. As a final touch, the HDX, like the DV series, has a touch-sensitive panel of buttons above the keyboard and matching HP logo on the lid, both of which glow pale purple. These buttons (most of which control media playback) were finicky, but HP warned us this would be the case since we tested a pre-production unit.

Display and Audio

The 16-inch display, with its 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio, is stunning. We love how the glass stretches all the way across, meaning there's no raised bezel. When we watched an episode of Heroes from a Blu-ray disc, we enjoyed vibrant colors and sharp details. Unfortunately, the glossy screen has a relatively small range of viewing angles; we couldn't push the screen as far forward or sit as far to the side as less-glossy displays allow.

Like the HDX 20, the HDX 16 has a built-in TV tuner, which was easy to set up but delivered a scratchy (but still-viewable) picture when we watched live TV via the included aerial tuner. Our configuration included a rewritable Blu-ray drive, which will not be available on the HDX 16 until December (no word on pricing yet for this amenity). For now, the cost of the machine with a regular BD-R drive is $1,824.

The Altec Lansing speakers, which stretch across the chassis above the touch panel, produced loud, rich sound--a far cry from most notebooks' tinny audio. Plus, you can adjust the bass and treble separately using the touch-sensitive controls above the keyboard.

Ports and Webcam

The HDX 16 has four USB ports, FireWire and eSATA ports, HDMI and VGA output, Ethernet and modem jacks, an infrared receiver, a Kensington lock slot, expansion port, and a microphone and dual headphone ports. Also, an ExpressCard/34/54 slot, a fingerprint reader on the right end of the palm rest, and a 5-in-1 memory card reader line the front.

The VGA webcam delivered sharp photos and ill-lit, poorly colored video (our yellow background looked green). What it lacks in image quality, however, it makes up for in special effects. The CyberLink YouCam software's robust feature package includes filters, animations, avatars, and distortions. Users can also upload to YouTube from the YouCam console.

HP HDX 16 Performance

The HDX runs on a Centrino 2 platform, complete with a 2.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 CPU and a generous 4GB of RAM. It scored 4,143 on PCMark Vantage, which tests Vista notebooks' performance. This score is more than a thousand points above average for a mainstream notebook.

The HDX 16's practical performance ranged from good to excellent. The notebook took 58 seconds to start up, which is right on target for a Vista notebook. It took just 1 second to launch World of Warcraft, but 4 seconds for Adobe Reader to launch. When we tried playing a Blu-ray DVD while defragging the hard drive and running a Norton Internet Security 2008 scan, we didn't notice a single hiccup in playback.

If you like to store movies digitally, the 5,400-rpm, 250GB hard drive is spacious. Our system's hard drive delivered above-average performance on our LAPTOP Transfer Test, with a write speed of 17.9 MBps.

Powerful Graphics

In addition to Blu-ray playback, the HDX 16's brilliant display is well suited for gaming, as is its GPU. Its Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT discrete graphics card scored 12,852 on 3DMark03 and 4,116 on 3DMark06, which simulates performance in more graphically intensive games. The 3DMark03 score is about three times the average score, and the 3DMark06 score is about a thousand points below average for the mainstream category.

Our real world tests, too, show that, although not on a par with a gaming rig, the HDX 16 is more than powerful enough for mainstream gamers. It managed 59 frames per second in World of Warcraft when set to a resolution of 1024 x 768. Set to the same resolution, it notched 77 fps in F.E.A.R. on autodetect, and 22 fps with the resolution set to 1280 x 1024 and effects set to maximum. That means you'll get high frame rates if you don't max out the settings, and lower but still playable frame rates if you do.

Bundled Software

Even now that it's not so cool for notebook vendors to load consumer machines with trialware, many still come preinstalled, and the HDX 16 is no exception. It has trial versions of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 and Norton Internet Security 2008. It also has LabelPrint, Muvee AutoProducer 6.1, Power2Go, Sling Player, and Yahoo Toolbar. On the plus side, the HDX 16 comes with CyberLink DVD Suite for watching movies and burning discs. Finally, the machine has HP MediaSmart and MediaSmart QuickPlay for viewing your collection on that big screen.

Wi-Fi, Battery Life, and Warranty

The HDX 16's Intel WiFi Link 5100 radio delivered strong wireless scores: 19.8 Mbps at 15 feet and 19.5 Mbps at 50 feet. In addition to 802.11n Wi-Fi, it has Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity. The six-cell battery lasted 1 hour and 59 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi). That's about an hour and a half short for a mainstream notebook, but we suspect that people who want a multimedia machine this big aren't likely to leave it unplugged much anyway.

HP covers the HDX 16 with a one-year warranty, including 24/7, toll-free phone support. Click here to see how HP fared in our Tech Support Showdown.

The Verdict

With its stunning display, Blu-ray drive, TV tuner, booming Altec Lansing speakers and 16:9 aspect ratio, the HP HDX 16 is made for people who want a powerful multimedia machine that's still light enough to carry around once in a while. Although theSony VAIO FW seriesis sleeker and lasts longer on a charge, for nearly $300 less, the HDX 16 excels where it really counts, delivering superior productivity and graphics performance and more-powerful sound. The HDX 16 also looks more like a premium machine compared with the HP Pavilion dv7, which lacks the HDX 16's 1080p display option. The touchpad could be smoother, and we wish the touch-sensitive buttons were more responsive, but overall the HDX 16 is a desktop replacement in a mainstream notebook's body that delivers great value for the price.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 2.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600
Operating System MS Windows Vista Home Premium
RAM 4GB
RAM Upgradable to 8GB
Hard Drive Size 250GB
Hard Drive Speed 5,400rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 16
Native Resolution 1920x1080
Optical Drive BDRW DL
Optical Drive Speed 8X
Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT
Video Memory 512MB
Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n
Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.0
Ports (excluding USB) IR
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI
Ports (excluding USB) security lock slot
Ports (excluding USB) Firewire
Ports (excluding USB) eSATA
Ports (excluding USB) Expansion Port 3
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) Modem
Ports (excluding USB) Dual Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
USB Ports 4
Card Slots ExpressCard
Card Slots 5-1 card reader
Warranty/Support One-year parts-and-labor, 24/7, toll free phone
Size 14.9 x 10.0 x 1.7 inches
Weight 6.8 pounds
Company Website http://www.hp.com