HP Pavilion HDX Review (Penryn and Nvidia Update)

by Jerry Jackson Reads (59,961)

by Jerry Jackson

Last year’s release of the HP Pavilion HDX (code named "The Dragon") marked the arrival of the most massive notebook we’ve ever seen. The update to the HDX is a 20.1" widescreen entertainment notebook hat uses the Intel Penryn processors and dedicated Nvidia 8800M GTS graphics. Add in a Blu-ray optical drive, integrated HDTV tuner, dual hard drives and integrated web-camera and this massive beast redefines the term "notebook." Let’s take a closer look at what the update to the HP Pavilion HDX has to offer.

Below are the specs for our HP Pavilion HDX as configured:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T9500 (2.6GHz "Penryn" processor)
  • Nvidia 8800M GTS (512MB dedicated DDR3 RAM, 1791MB shared system RAM)
  • Windows Vista Ultimate (64-bit)
  • 20.1" WUXGA (1920 x 1200 pixels) HP Ultra Brightview display
  • Integrated HP HDTV Tuner w/4 Altec Lansing speakers + 1 subwoofer
  • PowerPack Software – Roxio, Muvee and Serif
  • Dual 250GB 5400RPM Hard Drives (500GB total)
  • Blu-ray DVD-ROM w/ Super Multi DVD+/-RW w/Double Layer
  • 4GB DDR2 system memory
  • Integrated 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet
  • Intel Pro/Wireless 4945a/g/n network with Bluetooth
  • HP Imprint "Dragon" finish + Fingerprint reader + webcam
  • High capacity 9-cell battery (10.8V, 83WH)
  • Dimensions: 18.7" (L) x 13.4" (W) x 2.3" (H)
  • Weight: 15 lbs. 12.6 oz.
  • Price as configured: $3,899.99 ($3,699.99 after $200 instant rebate)


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Build and Design

The HDX shares several design elements with the rest of the HP Pavilion line, but more than size and weight separate the HDX from its siblings. First, HP has improved their glossy black and silver "Imprint" finish with a new high-impact version called "Dragon." While we didn’t test the high-impact finish by dropping it repeatedly in our office, I can say the finish looks quite durable … though fingerprints show up quickly on the glossy finish.


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The real stand out design feature on the HDX is the dual-hinge display. Rather than opening with a single large hinge at the back of the notebook, the 20.1" display swings open with a center-mounted rear hinge and is further adjustable with a second hinge at the back of the display allowing you to position the screen for the perfect viewing angle.


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Although the HDX’s weight of 15.5 pounds might sound excessive, keep in mind that other 20" notebook configurations such as the Dell XPS M2010 are closer to 20 pounds. That said, the HDX would have been more portable if HP had included a built-in carrying handle.

While the HDX 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 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 a 20-inch HDTV with a built-in computer.

Of course, it isn’t fair to compare the HDX to an ultramobile subnotebook … but here’s a photo comparing the size for the HDX to the Everex Cloudbook. Let’s just say you don’t want to try using the HDX on an airplane.


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Screen and Webcam

The 20.1" high definition display on the HDX is quite impressive to say the least. Both horizontal and vertical viewing angles are excellent with just some minor color inversion at lower angles. Backlighting is even across the entire surface, there is virtually zero light leakage aroung the edges, and 1080p Blu-ray movies simply look stunning on this display. The glossy surface may create some strong reflections from time to time, but thanks to the dual hinge you shouldn’t have any problems positioning the display to avoid reflections.


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The built-in webcam is not the typical high-resolution 1.3-megapixel webcam commonly seen on other notebooks. HP listened to customer feedback and realized that people need integrated webcams to do two things: take good video in low light, and have fast enough frame rates for quality video conferencing. HP engineers discovered they could improve the webcam’s low-light performance and boost frame rates at the same time by using a physically larger image sensor that produced a lower-resolution image.

Bottom line, although you won’t want to print a wall-sized photo from the HDX’s webcam, the camera produces excellent video quality … among the best we’ve seen in an integrated webcam to date.

Speakers

When I first started up the HDX in our office and the familiar Windows Vista chimes rang through the built-in speakes one of my coworkers said, "I didn’t know the Windows startup sound had bass." Indeed, the four Altec Lansing speakers and subwoofer built into the body of the HDX put out some serious sound.

I can honestly say that I am rarely 100 percent satisfied with the performance of the built-in speakers on any notebook, but the HDX delivers. The only reason you would need to connect external speakers to this system is if you want a true surround sound experience. If that is the case then the HDX will keep you happy thanks to a wide selection of audio out ports.

This truly is an all-in-one HD home entertainment center.

Keyboard, Touchpad, Media Buttons and Remote

HP included a full-size keyboard and dedicated number pad on the HDX thanks to the generous amount of space available on a system supporting a 20.1" display. There is no noticeable keyboard flex (even above the optical drive) and there are plenty of dedicated keys … including touch-sensative media buttons located above the keyboard. No one should need an external keyboard with this machine.


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The palm rests are solid and feel nice thanks to the Imprint finish, but we did notice the left palm rest started to heat up after prolonged use. We wouldn’t call the palmrest temperature "hot" but it might not be comfortable for hours of typing for people who are sensative to heat.


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To the left of the keyboard is the media center remote included with the HDX. Like any media center remote it controls all the basic functions in Windows Media Center, but the HDX’s remote is particularly nice because you can still use it even while it’s docked in the cradle next to the keyboard. The cradle contains a second IR port so you can change channels, fast forward, rewind, etc. without removing the remote from the notebook. It would be nice if HP made this remote a Bluetooth device so that it can control the HDX without needing line-of-sight with an IR port … maybe next year.


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The touchpad is responsive and the scroll funtion works quite well. Both touchpad buttons have solid feedback without noisy clicks and, like other HP and Compaq notebooks, the touchpad can be disabled via a small button located directly above the touchpad in case you prefer to use an external mouse.


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Ports and Features

As expected with a notebook of this size, the HDX comes with an impressive selction of ports. Since this system is being marketed by HP as an "entertainment notebook" it only makes sense that HP included every port you can imagine that would be needed for a home entertainment center. Whether you’re looking for an all-in-one solution for your apartment/condo or the system that will make you the most popular person in your college dorm, the HDX has all the input and output ports you’ll need.

The list of ports includes:

  • 4 Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0
  • 2 Headphone out
  • 1 microphone-in
  • 1 HDMI
  • 1 VGA (15-pin)
  • 1 eSATA
  • 1 TV-Out (S-video)
  • 1 RJ-45 (LAN)
  • 1 Firewire (4-pin)
  • 1 IR (Remote Receiver)
  • SPDIF, Rear, Center/Sub, Front
  • Integrated HP HDTV Hybrid TV Tuner: NTSC/ATSC (with F-Jack adaptor) input, S-Video Input, Blaster (IR emitter), Stereo Audio Input
  • 1 ExpressCard/54 Slot (also supports ExpressCard/34)
  • 5-in-1 Digital Media Reader (SD, MMC, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, or xD)


Front view: Dual headphone out, microphone in, and IR ports. (view large image)


Left side view: Two USB, Ethernet, Expansion Port 3, VGA, HDMI, eSATA, Firewire, 5-in-1 card reader, and ExpressCard slot. (view large image)


Right side view: Two USB, optical drive, and security lock slot. (view large image)


Rear view: Blaster IR emitter, S-video out, NTSC/ATSC input, SPDIF, Rear, Center/Sub, and Front audio ports. (view large image)

Performance

The HP Pavilion HDX comes in multiple build-to-order configurations with a base price starting at $1,999. The base configuration offers a slightly lower resolution display, slower processor, a single hard drive and an ATI dedicated graphics card which offers only about half the gaming horsepower of the Nvidia configuration. Still, even the base configuration of the HDX makes a worthy entertainment notebook.

In terms of overall performance, our review unit managed to produce solid benchmark scores thanks to the new T9500 Pentryn processor. In fact, the 2.6GHz processor in the HDX outperformed the faster 2.8GHz X7900 Intel Core 2 Duo processor. PCMark05 scores where a little below what we expected, but this is due in part to the fact that our review unit was configured with two hard drives without running in RAID 0.

For example, the Gateway P-171XL FX scored better than the HDX in the PCMark05 benchmark, but the Gateway uses RAID 0. Although a RAID 0 array does offer faster performance, you sacrifice redundancy and risk losing data if one of your hard drives fail. In short, HP made a good choice for average consumers by using dual drives as two volumes.

Below are the various benchmarks we used during the review.

WPrime 32M comparison results

WPrime is a benchmark similar to Super Pi in that it forces the processor to do intense mathematical calculations, but the difference is this application is multi-threaded and represents dual core processors better. Lower numbers indicate better performance.

Notebook Time
HP Pavilion HDX (2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9500, Windows Vista 64) 28.978s
Gateway P-171XL FX (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X7900, Windows Vista) 30.359s
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, Windows Vista) 31.108s
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Windows Vista) 42.085s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (Intel Core 2 Duo CPU T7400@ 2.16GHz, Windows XP) 41.40s
HP dv6000z (AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.00GHz, Windows Vista) 38.913s
Sager 9260 (Intel Core 2 Duo CPU E6700@ 2.66GHz, Windows XP ) 33.718s
Dell Precision M70 (Intel Pentium-M 780 @ 2.26GHz, Windows XP) 78.992s

PCMark05 comparison results:

PCMark05 represents the overall system performance of a notebook. Higher numbers indicate better performance.

Notebook PCMark05 Score
HP Pavilion HDX (2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9500, Nvidia Go 8800M GTS 512MB) 6,921 PCMarks
Gateway P-171XL FX (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X7900, NVIDIA Go 8800M GTS) 7,749 PCMarks
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT) 5,865 PCMarks
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT) 5,261 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1720 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GT) 5,377 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,925 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,377 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS) 4,591 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 4,153 PCMarks
Lenovo 3000 V200 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 3,987 PCMarks
Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB) 4,189 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks

3DMark06 comparison results:

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

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
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

HDtune results:


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Windows Experience Index:


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Heat and Noise

The HDX runs extremely quiet and reasonably cool. The fan remained on most of the time when the notebook was plugged in and turned on frequently while the notebook was gaming on battery power. Although there was minimal warmth coming from the top of the hard drive (left palm rest) the most significant heat came from the hard drive area on the underside of the HDX. Despite this, heat levels never made the HDX uncomfortable on the lap after extended use … although the weight makes the HDX better suited to being a desktop replacement.

Below are images with the temperature readings listed in degrees Fahrenheit:


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Battery

The HDX is available with only a standard 9-cell battery which rests flush against the bottom of the notebook. Although battery life wasn’t as impressive as we typically expect from modern notebooks, the HDX is still capable of running on battery power for short trips. With the screen brightness set to about half, wireless on, and Vista power settings set to "Balanced," the HDX powered down after 2 hours and 7 minutes. Clearly the 9-cell battery will provide enough power for traveling between rooms in your home, but the HDX isn’t designed to travel with you all day during work.

In any case, although we only managed to get a little more than 2 hours of battery life, the HDX does better with power management than most 17-inch gaming notebooks.

Conclusion

Overall the Penryn and Nvidia updates to the HP Pavilion HDX make this notebook an even better entertainment solution than it was last year. Given the impressive feature set and performance of this notebook it’s amazing that the system is as thin and light as it is. Sure, you might develop a hernia while lifting this giant notebook onto your lap, but it’s worth it. The "wow factor" of the 20.1" high-definition screen, Altec Lansing speakers and media center remote are enough to make the HDX the centerpiece of your entertainment system. Add the 64-bit version of Vista, a full 4GB of RAM and excellent Nvidia graphics and this system is a can’t miss.

Bottom line, if you can justify the price and the size, the HDX is still the best desktop replacement and home entertainment notebook on the market today.

Pros

  • This thing is HUGE
  • Amazing display
  • Excellent speakers
  • Solid graphics performance
  • Fast overall performance
  • Excellent build quality
  • Surprisingly adequate battery life

Cons

  • This thing is HUGE
  • Not easy to transport (integrated handle would be nice)
  • A little expensive




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