There are two kinds of 20-inch notebooks: the kind that takes over whatever room it's in and loses any portability whatsoever, and the kind that still resembles a notebook, just a bigger, better, brighter, more powerful one. The HP Pavilion HDX Entertainment Notebook PC is in the latter camp, offering performance, style, and plenty of screen real estate without overwhelming its users.
At first glance, the HDX resembles the rest of HP's consumer line, with a piano-black pinstriped finish on the outside and silver pinstripes on the inside with a splashier Imprint design, but the dual-hinge display, which allows for extra versatility with the 20.1-inch, 1680 x 1050-pixel high-def LCD, immediately tells you you're not in Kansas anymore. Add a wide array of multimedia controls, a remote control with its own slot, a built-in webcam, and four Altec Lansing speakers, and you've got a multimedia force to be reckoned with. And at a relatively light 15.5 pounds (compared with Dell's 18.3-pound XPS M2010), you can carry this notebook relatively easily from room to room, although a handle would have been nice.
This notebook's standout feature is its dual-hinge display, which means you can move the screen back or forward depending on how close you want your eyes to be to that movie, spreadsheet, or Web page. The versatility of this design also saves desk space. However, we noticed that the LCD picked up fingerprints quickly. The spacious full-sized keyboard was a pleasure to type on, though, and the deck has enough room for both the remote control and a dedicated number pad.
Along the top of the deck, you'll find plenty of controls, including touch-sensitive Play/Pause, Stop, Fast-Forward, Rewind, and so forth, along with sliders for volume and sound equalizing. HP also includes buttons for launching DVDs, television, and the webcam, as well as for ejecting a disc, and turning the Wi-Fi radio on and off. Because the buttons are touch-sensitive, you don't really know if your presses are registering, unless it's one of the few buttons that change colors when pressed. But overall they worked fine.For general comfort we prefer the included remote control, which docks to the left of the keyboard and offers real buttons with tactile feedback. The remote is super thin and light, and its layout is intuitive. We especially like the Enter key in addition to the five-way D-pad, which means you can either click OK in the center of the pad or click Enter on the bottom of the remote. We also like the One Up button, which backs you out of menus.
The touchpad is large and matches the widescreen aspect ratio, and it has a separate scroll area, which we always like. We also liked the feedback from the track buttons. You can use the integrated fingerprint reader for scrolling as well, but because it's located above the keyboard, you'll likely use it mostly for entering passwords with a swipe.
Watching a high-definition version of Apollo 13 and Mission: Impossible II was a blast on this system. Colors were bright and lifelike on the Ultra BrightView panel, and the 1680 x 1050-pixel display delivered a high level of detail without compromising the smoothness of action sequences. The screen isn't true 1080p resolution, but HP plans to offer a 1920 x 1200-pixel display that meets that higher standard soon.Sound from the HDX was more than adequate to fill a medium-sized room, whether we were watching movies or streaming Slacker radio. In addition to the four Altec Lansing speakers, HP includes an integrated HP Triple Bass Reflex Subwoofer and integrated amplifiers, which combine with the screen to provide a truly immersive audio-visual experience.
The HDX comes standard with an integrated hybrid TV tuner, which lets you watch, record, and pause live TV. You can also get HDTV via ATSC. HP says it will include an over-the-air HD antenna with the system, but ours didn't come with one. This configuration includes a 240GB hard drive, so there's plenty of space for saving TV shows you've recorded with Media Center.
HP put some extra work into its webcam, which handles video in low light much better than most. We shut the lights off in our lab and were able to see ourselves nearly as well as we did with the lights on. The bundled software can blow the picture up to fill the whole screen, and while the picture was expectedly grainy, it was still watchable and easy to see. Our one quibble with the webcam is that it doesn't swivel very far or very well, which means you might have to adjust the screen for optimal recording or videoconferencing.
Just when you think you've had enough multimedia goodness, you look at the specs of this system and realize you haven't even started. You'll find Intel's new 2.6-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X7800 processor, 2GB of RAM, and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics with 256MB of dedicated video memory. This system also offers ports galore, including FireWire, HDMI, four USB ports, two headphone jacks, and an eSATA port for an external hard drive. You'll find S-Video input, a stereo audio input, and an NTSC/ATSC input (with an included F-Jack adaptor) for HDTV.
We expected to see high scores from the HDX, and we weren't disappointed. For some reason, this notebook and PCMark05 didn't play well together, but the HDX did manage an impressive 3DMark03 score of 11,984 and a 3DMark06 score of 4,241, which means this system can plow through graphics-intensive applications. The HDX notched 72 fps on our F.E.A.R. gaming test on autodetect, and 25 fps with the settings maxed out. (We suspect this subpar showing might be a result of a Vista-related driver issue.)
Thanks to Intel's new draft-802.11n connection, wireless scores were through the roof, hitting 18.3 Mbps and 16 Mbps at 15 and 50 feet, respectively. Battery life, while not great, was better than we expected, at 1 hour and 53 minutes on our DVD rundown test. This is likely attributable to Santa Rosa's power-saving technology.
With a starting price of $2,999, and with our tested configuration costing $4,079, there's no question that the HP Pavilion HDX Entertainment Notebook PC is a premium machine. We would have preferred a three-year warranty on such an investment, but this groundbreaking desktop replacement has enough power to satisfy all of your entertainment desires and enough style to wow anyone who lays eyes on it.
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