HP Pavilion HDX Review

by Jerry Jackson Reads (103,463)

by Jerry Jackson

The eagerly awaited HP Pavilion HDX (code named "The Dragon") is a 20.1" widescreen entertainment notebook that uses the Intel Santa Rosa platform. Equipped with an available dedicated ATI HD2600 XT graphics card, HD DVD optical drive, integrated HDTV tuner, and integrated web-camera, this massive beast redefines the term "notebook." The following is a quick first take on a pre-production HP Pavilion HDX.


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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.


A close-up view of the new "Dragon" high-impact Imprint finish. (view large image)

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.

Of course, the design of the HDX wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t loaded with the right features. Below are the specs for our HP Pavilion HDX as configured:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 (2.4GHz)
  • ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 XT (256MB)
  • Windows Vista Ultimate (64-bit)
  • 20.1” WSXGA+ (1680 x 1050 pixels) HP Ultra Brightview display
  • Integrated HP HDTV Tuner w/4 Altec Lansing speakers + 1 subwoofer
  • PowerPack Software – Roxio, Muvee and Serif
  • Dual 100GB 7200RPM Hard Drives (200GB total)
  • HD 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
  • Dimensions: 18.7" (L) x 13.4" (W) x 2.3" (H)
  • Price as configured: $4,459.99

Keep in mind that since our review unit is a pre-production model available configurations may change once HP begins accepting orders for the HDX.

Below is a video (hosted by our own Andrew Baxter) highlighting the features of the HDX. No, we didn’t shrink Andrew for this video. The HDX is just so huge it makes our 30-year-old Andrew look like he is the size of a 12-year-old boy:

Screen and Webcam

The 20.1" WSXGA+ display on the HDX is quite impressive to say the least. Both horizontal and vertical viewing angles are excellent, backlighting is even across the entire surface, there is virtually zero light leakage aroung the edges, and high definition video simply looks 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.


The integrated webcam above the display. (view large image)

Speakers

One word sums up the audio experience with the HDX, "WOW."

I can honestly say that I have never been 100 percent satisfied with the performance of the built-in speakers on any notebook, but the four Altec Lansing speakers and subwoofer built-in to the body of the HDX put out some serious sound. 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.

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.


A closer look at the touchpad and media center remote. (view large image)

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.


The backlit touch-sensative media buttons. (view large image)


The center-mounted fingerprint reader. (view large image)

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 Expansion Port 3
  • 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)


The bottom view of the HDX shows plenty of vents, the 9-cell battery, and the built-in subwoofer. (view large image)

Performance

The HP Pavilion HDX comes in multiple build-to-order configurations based around the Intel Santa Rosa Core 2 Duo platform, base price starting at $3,000.

Since our sample HDX was a pre-production unit our benchmarks should be taken with a grain of salt (your mileage may vary). In fact, we were unable to get some of our standard benchmarks to run on this pre-production system. That said, HP was kind enough to allow us to publish the following benchmarks from our tests:

3DMark05 comparison results:

Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results
HP Pavilion HDX (2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB) 9,033 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 3,116 3DMarks
HP Compaq 6510b (2.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, Intel X3100) 916 3DMarks
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52, ATI x1270) 871 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 2,013 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 1,791 3DMarks
Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB) 4,236 3DMarks
Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB) 7,078 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,092 3DMarks
Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB) 2,530 3DMarks
Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,273 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB) 2,090 3DMarks

3DMark06 comparison results:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
HP Pavilion HDX (2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB) 4,205 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 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
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 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
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 and ATI 1250M chipset / GPU) 476 3DMarks

Overall our first impressions of the overwhelmingly huge HP Pavilion HDX are overwhelmingly positive. Given the impressive feature set and performance of this entertainment notebook it’s amazing that the system is as thin and light as it is. Sure, small people might need a Sherpa and an oxygen tank to haul this system up and down a flight of stairs, but it’s worth it. The "wow factor" of the 20.1" 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 ATI graphics and this system is a can’t miss.

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


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