HP HDX 18t Review

by Jerry Jackson Reads (122,087)

by Jerry Jackson

HP recently unveiled their latest additions to the “HDX” family of notebooks with the all new HDX 16 and HDX 18 multimedia notebooks. These notebooks feature large displays with a 16:9 screen ratio, impressive speakers with an integrated subwoofer, and an innovative touch-sensitive media control panel. With our full review out of the way, is the large and impressive HDX 18 worth the price? Let’s take a closer look.

Our pre-production review unit of the Pavilion 18t features the following specs:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 (2.8GHz, 1066MHz FSB, 6MB Level 2 cache)
  • Operating system: Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
  • Memory: 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM (800MHz)
  • Hard drive: 2 x 160GB (7200rpm)
  • Screen:18″ HD HP Ultra Brightview Infinity glossy display (1920 x 1080)
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT with 512MB GDDR3
  • Optical drive: Blu-Ray multi-drive
  • Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, docking station port, microphone in, two audio out jacks, three USB ports, eSATA/USB, 5-in-1 card reader, ExpressCard slot, built-in TV tuner
  • Wireless: 802.11a/g/n, Bluetooth 2.0
  • Battery: 8-cell Lithium-ion battery (73W)
  • Dimensions 17.17″ x 11.26″ 1.33-1.72″ (WxDxH)
  • Weight: 8.94 lbs.

Our pre-production unit comes equipped with two 160GB hard drives, but this configuration will not be offered at the time of launch. The next closest available configuration will be a similar system with two 250GB 5400rpm hard drives ($2,049.99) or two 250GB 7200rpm hard drives ($2,149.99). This desktop replacement is clearly targeted at multimedia and gaming enthusiasts who want cutting-edge features and can afford the slightly higher price tag.


Build and Design

The HDX 18 shares several design elements with the rest of the updated HP Pavilion line, but more than size and weight separate the HDX18 from its smaller siblings. First, HP the new 16:9 ratio display means you have more real-estate for text on websites, for multiple documents on the screen at the same time, or for a more “full-screen” view of HD movies that have been filmed in 16:9 format. The glossy metallic gray and silver “Imprint” finish looks fantastic. While we didn’t test the high-impact finish on our pre-production unit by dropping it repeatedly in our office, I can say the finish looks quite durable … though fingerprints show up quickly on the glossy finish.

While the HDX 18 is better suited as a desktop replacement than as a laptop, the notebook is quite well balanced when using it on your lap. Just be aware that after using the HDX 18 on your lap for about an hour and a half you might start to lose some feeling in your legs. This machine is really more like an 18-inch HDTV with a built-in computer.

In terms of expansion, the HDX 18 offers a reasonable amount of internal space for all kinds of goodies. Two hard drive bays, and typical expansion for wireless cards and RAM are all located under a single cover on the bottom of the notebook.

Input and Output Ports

As expected with a notebook of this size, the number of ports on the HDX 18 is fairly impressive. Here’s a run down of the ports:

  • Three USB 2.0 ports
  • One eSATA/USB port
  • Firewire
  • Expansion Port 3 (docking station connector)
  • ExpressCard slot
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 5-in-1 multi-card reader
  • Two audio out ports
  • microphone in
  • VGA monitor out
  • HDMI out
  • Built-in TV tuner
  • Kensington lock slot

We’re always glad to see the dedicated docking station connection on HP’s consumer notebooks. HP is the only notebook manufacturer that still offers a dedicated docking station connector on their consumer notebooks. The USB docking stations offered by other consumer notebook manufacturers are really nothing more than fancy USB hubs … and don’t work nearly as well as “real” docking stations.

We’re also fans of the eSATA/USB combo port currently being used on the new HP notebooks. Although many consumers might not realize it yet, eSATA offers MUCH faster data transfer speeds than USB 2.0 does. The great thing about the eSATA/USB port is that you can use it as a regular USB port or for an eSATA device if and when you buy a new eSATA-compatible device.

Performance and Benchmarks

The Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 processor in our review unit provided ample processing power and never presented any problems when running applications or encoding video and audio files.

Performance with the Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 processor and NVIDIA 9600M-GT graphics card was excellent. Bottom line, this machine is extremely fast. You would typically need to purchase a high-performance gaming notebook to reach these levels of performance. This new HP was perfectly able to handle any software we tested, and even put up “reasonable” numbers with 3D games that usually don’t perform well on notebooks, such as Crysis.

Of course, with a notebook that tips the scales at almost 9 pounds … this beast better provide close to the same performance you expect from a desktop.

Let’s take a look at a few basic benchmarks so you can get an idea of how the Pavilion HDX18 stacks up.

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, this processor benchmark program is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, it measures the amount of time to run a set amount of calculations.

wPrime comparison results (lower scores means better performance):

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
HP HDX 18t (Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 2.8GHz) 27.416s
Acer Aspire 6920 (Core 2 Duo T5750 @ 2.0GHz) 44.457s 
HP Pavilion HDX (2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9500, Windows Vista 64) 28.978s
Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz) 34.628s
HP Pavilion dv5z (Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80 @ 2.1GHz) 39.745s
Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz) 43.569s
Dell XPS M1530 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)
37.485s
HP Pavilion dv6500z (Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 40.759s
Sony VAIO NR (Core 2 Duo T5250 @ 1.5GHz) 58.233s
Toshiba Tecra A9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 38.343s
Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.299s
HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 40.965s
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
HP Pavilion dv6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s

 

PCMark05 is a benchmark that measures the overall system performance, so it considers the processor, hard drive, memory and OS as part of the mix. The HDX 18 produced more than reasonable performance numbers.

PCMark05 measures overall notebook performance (higher scores are better):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
HP HDX 18t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, Nvidia 9600M GT 512MB) 6,587 PCMarks
Acer Aspire 6920 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100) 4,179 PCMarks
HP Pavilion HDX (2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9500, Nvidia Go 8800M GTS 512MB) 6,921 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9300M GS 256MB) 5,173 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv5z (2.1GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80, ATI Radeon HD 3200) 3,994 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100) 4,149 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB) 5,412 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT) 4,616 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 comparison results:

3DMark06 represents the overall graphics performance of a notebook. (Higher numbers indicate better performance.)

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
HP HDX 18t (2.8GHz Intel T9600, Nvidia 9600M GT 512MB) 4,127 3DMarks
HP Pavilion HDX (2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9500, Nvidia Go 8800M GTS 512MB) 8,791 3DMarks
HP Pavilion HDX (2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB) 4,205 3DMarks
Gateway P-171XL FX (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X7900, NVIDIA Go 8800M GTS) 8,801 3DMarks
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT) 3,775 3DMarks
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT) 2,934 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1720 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GT) 2,930 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,329 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks
Sony VAIO SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 794 3DMarks

Although the 3D performance of the HDX 18 is reasonably impressive, it is a shame that HP isn’t offering a graphics card option with more performance for gaming enthusiasts. The HDX 18 will handle Blu-ray movies and most games with ease, but gaming performance would be even better with a better dedicated video card.

HDtune results for both hard drives:

 

Screen

The 18″ glossy “HP Ultra Brightview Infinity” LCD is nice and bright with rich colors and deep contrast. The new 16:9 screen dimension gives you a full high-definition resolution (1920 x 1080) compared to the standard 1280 x 800 resolution on most 15″ notebooks. You get more horizontal and vertical resolution with this massive display. This is also nice for widescreen movies since it allows more of the film to fit on the screen with less of the black bars on the top and bottom.



As you can see from the images above, viewing angles are quite good for such a large display. When viewed from straight ahead the 18-inch screen is simply beautiful. Horizontal viewing angles are likewise very nice, so you won’t have trouble watching movies on this notebook with several friends in the room. Upper vertical viewing angles are surprisingly good with only a hint of increased brightness. Unfortunately, colors begin to invert rather quickly at lower viewing angles. Of course, most people don’t view their notebook screens from below so the lower viewing angle won’t be a problem for most consumers.

Most of our editorial staff doesn’t care for the glossy “Infinity” display style compared to traditional glossy displays because it creates a separate layer of glossy reflection above (and in front of) the actual display. This isn’t a problem in low light environments … it actually helps create richer colors and gives the display an almost “wet” look. However, if you try to use a notebook with this type of screen under bright lights or outdoors under bright sunlight the reflections will make it very difficult (and possibly even painful for your eyes).

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard on the HDX 18 was quite impressive in that it has absolutely no flex over the main keyboard. The dedicated number pad does suffer from some flex directly above the optical drive, but that shouldn’t be a problem for most people unless you’re constantly using the number pad for data entry. There’s little to complain about here from a functional standpoint. That said, the bright silver finish does cause some pretty strong reflections outside in the sunlight. Just don’t look down while typing outdoors.

The palm rest and touchpad areas feature the same excellent “Imprint” finish found on the lid of the notebook that gives this notebook a smooth, futuristic feel. The touchpad surface is extremely responsive and the indicated scroll region works as it should. The touchpad buttons are nice and wide with nice deep feedback and quiet clicks. The only thing that makes the touchpad a little frustrating is the smooth surface that sometimes causes your finger to “stick” unless you have very dry hands.

Located directly above the keyboard is a series of touch-sensitive media buttons used to control everything from volume and bass to skipping music tracks or fast forwarding your favorite Blu-ray movie. The LED-backlit buttons look nice and vanish beneath the silver surface of the notebook when the power is turned off.

HP also includes a new multimedia remote that fits inside the ExpressCard slot on the notebook. This makes it easy to use the HDX 18 as a television thanks to the built-in TV tuner and also works nicely when using the HDX 18 for presentations.

Speakers and Audio

The built-in speakers on the HDX 18 are really something quite nice. HP continues to use Altec Lansing branded speakers on their notebooks and their notebooks continue to have better audio performance than most consumer notebooks. The HDX 18 also benefits from an integrated subwoofer located on the bottom of the notebook that gives you improved bass performance.

The dual headphone jacks located on the side of the notebook allow you and a friend to listen to movies or music on the notebook at the same time without bothering anyone else in the room. There was no obvious distortion in either the built-in speakers or the headphone jacks.

Heat and Noise

The thermal performance of the HDX 18 is above average in that it stays relatively cool on your desk or your lap even while the system is under stress playing the latest 3D video games. The temperatures listed below show the peak external temperatures (in degrees Fahrenheit) after 30 minutes of intense gaming. The cooling fan also remained whisper quiet even on its highest setting when keeping the notebook cool.

Battery Life

The 8-cell battery (73W) on the HDX 18 performed reasonably well for a large desktop replacement. We ran the battery test on this notebook using the “High Performance” power mode in Vista simply because most people using a giant notebook like this are purchasing the notebook for high performance … not for extreme battery life. Using high performance mode, screen at 100 percent brightness, and wireless on while browsing websites and streaming live video, the HDX 18 drained a fully-charged battery after three hours and 11 minutes. Granted, battery life would have been even more reduced if we had been playing a Blu-Ray movie or playing a video game like Cryisis, but more than three hours of battery life for a desktop replacement is pretty good.

Conclusion

Overall, the HP HDX 18t delivers solid overall performance and a great set of features for a reasonable value. If you’re in the market for a desktop replacement notebook with a massive screen, powerful processor, and solid graphics hardware for 1080p video playback and gaming then the HDX 18 makes a compelling choice.

That said, the highly “reflective” nature of the HDX 18 will probably be frustrating for quite a few users unless they’re working in a dark environment. Likewise, hardcore gamers are likely to find the Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT video card a little too limiting for the newest and most popular video games.

In any case, the HP HDX 18 still offers a great overall package, including some really impressive built-in speakers, that will meet or exceed the expectations of most consumers.

Pros:

  • Great port selection
  • Nice keyboard (when the sun isn’t reflecting off it)
  • Great speakers
  • Beautiful screen
  • Overall high performance

Cons:

  • “Infinity” screen creates strong reflections in bright light
  • Silver keyboard creates strong reflections in sunlight
  • “Sticky” touchpad surface
  • Good graphics, but HP could have offered an even better option in a notebook this large

 


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