HP Pavilion HDX User Review

by dabm Reads (46,691)

by Peter Shin, England

Overview

HP recently introduced their flagship laptop, the HP Pavilion HDX “Dragon”.  The laptop is within their consumer Pavilion line and carries over certain design cues recently seen in that line, such as the laser-etched laptop lid, touch buttons and dimpled touchpad.  The HDX uses a custom design scheme and I do not think it is possible to get the laptop in other colours or designs.  HP have been pretty active in their marketing for the HDX, which is suprising as this is a laptop that will appeal to a small niche market.  They have been advertising heavily in the London Underground and on TV.  I do like “The Computer Personal Again” slogans they have been using. 

Unlike the American market, HP do not allow you to customize the laptop here in the UK.  There are two pre-configured models, naturally one higher end and one lower end.  The higher end Screen: 13.3-inch screen WXGA (1280 x 800) with XBRITE-ECO (glossy finish)

  • Screen: 20.1” 1680 x 1050 WSXGA+ High-Definition HP Ultra Brightview Widescreen Display
  • Colour: Black with Dragon laser etching
  • Processor: 2.20 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500
  • Hard Drive: 400 GB hard drive (SATA, 2x200GB, 4200RPM)
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM (667 MHz, DDR2 SDRAM, 2 x 1GB) — 4 GB max memory
  • Optical Drive: HD DVD ROM with SuperMulti DVD R/RW Double Layer
  • Ports and Slots: 4 USB 2.0, 1 HDMI connector, 1 eSata connector, 1 VGA port, 1 RJ45 ethernet connector, S-video TV out, Headphone out, 1 mic-in, 1 IEEE 1394, remote control infrared port (remote optional), integrated stereo mic, cable docking connector, One ExpressCard/54 slot
  • Wireless: Intel PRO/Wireless 4965AGN Network Connection (802.11a/b/g/n)
  • Graphics: ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 XT with 256 MB dedicated video memory
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Dimensions: 47.5 cm (L) x 33.95 cm (W) x 5.85 cm (min H/max H)
  • Weight: 7.05 kg (15.5 lbs), 8 kg package weight

Reasons for Buying

I was looking for an all round laptop, something that could work as a solid gaming machine as well as being a good entertainment laptop for watching movies.  Initially, I considered the Toshiba Satellite X205 (X200) as well as the Dell XPS M2010 and XPS M1710.  I then heard some news about the HP HDX, but did not really consider it much until I saw it.  I saw an HDX in a showroom playing “Fast and Furious 3” on HD-DVD, and I knew I had to have it.

Where and How Purchased

When I was looking into buying the HDX, HP had only just released the laptop in the UK and so no retailers had any in stock.  The UK Price via HP is 1,699, which is around $3,400 USD.  That’s expensive!  But, I had the money and so I swallowed the cost and ventured onto the HP website to place the order.  To my surprise, on that particular day HP listed the item on their site at 1,349, over 350 less than their standard price.  I was sure it was a mistake, but I placed an order anyway.  Very shortly after that, HP restored the price to its 1699.  At that point, I was sure HP would cancel my order, stating it as a pricing mistake.

While it did not get cancelled, HP did delay the laptop delivery by over 3 weeks.  I’m not sure if this was an attempt to get those of us who managed to place an order at the cheaper price to cancel, but the HP Customer Service throughout the delay was shockingly bad.  They only informed me of a delay when I called HP to ask what was going on. It seems that HP like their rival Dell are not too good at handling delays.

Build & Design


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The HDX laptop comes in a lovely big well designed box, and as you would expect from such a premium product, everything has an air of quality surrounding it.  I liked the effort they put into creating the manual (rarely seen these days), as well as some nice novel touches such as including a micro-fibre cloth (to keep it shiny) and a nice poster.


Notice the unique hinge (view large image)


Here is the HDX closing (view large image)

For a laptop of this size and cost, you would expect the build quality and design to be flawless, and it is.  The laptop is constructed using strong plastics and alloys for that all important hinge mechanism.  There’s no flexing or wobbling here.  Naturally, the design revolves around the screen and is beautiful.  I think HP are doing very well in their design for the Pavilion laptops, and I’m glad all the best features are incorporated here.  The use of the touch buttons also gives the laptop a good futuristic feel.  I mean, technically speaking, there is no need for the eject button as there is a good old fashioned eject button on the drive itself, but boy do I love using the touch button.  Volume touch controls are an especially nice touch.


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

Screen

Here’s the unique selling point of a laptop like this, its huge screen.  If the screen was poor, then this laptop would make no sense.  Thankfully, HP does not disappoint.  The 20” screen is absolutely gorgeous with brilliant colours, brightness and flawless viewing angles.  There are rumours that HP are working on a full 1920×1200 resolution screen version of the HDX, but personally, I find the current WSXGA resolution more than enough.  Also, in terms of HD-DVD playback, 1080P is not shown to be hugely advantageous in quality terms on screens less than 32” and bigger.  The screen is the best I have ever seen on a laptop.

I’ve taken some pictures of the screen at varios viewing angles.  Seen in the images is Transformers the Movie on HD-DVD.  Sorry about some blur and grain in some photos.  I didn’t want to ruin the photos by using flash, so I had to use ISO200 with no flash, so some blur is inevitable.  Hopefully, from the photos, you can see the screen is excellent.


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Speakers

The inbuilt speakers are very good for a laptop.  There are four speakers built into the monitor, as well as a subwoofer underneath the laptop.  The speakers are made by Altec Lansing and sound superb for onboard sound.  I would say that they were better than most average 2.1 external speaker setups.  They are not comparable to high-end external speakers, and nor did I expect them to be.  For laptop speakers though, sound is very good.

Processor and Performance

The 2.20Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processor is very speedy indeed.  My last laptop had a Core Duo 1.66Ghz, and the difference is very noticeable when doing CPU intensive tasks such as Photoshop work or Video compression.  The weak point of this laptop are the hard disks, spinning at a lowly 4200rpm.  This is unfortunate, and if I had the option of configuring faster hard disks, I most certainly would have.  General performance is very good, with no noticeable slowdowns during normal or even quite extensive use.

Benchmarks and Gaming

Super Pi

The table below compares the HP Pavilion HDX SuperPi score with some other notebooks:

Notebook Time
HP Pavilion HDX (2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T7500) 0m 54s
Dell Latitude D830 (2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T7500, 800MHz FSB, 667MHz RAM) 0m 53s
Zepto 6024W (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 with 800MHz FSB and 667MHz RAM) 0m 59s
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200 with 667MHz FSB & memory speed) 1m 02s
Dell Vostro 1500 (Intel Core 2 Duo T5470 1.60GHz) 1m 16s
Samsung Q35 (1.83MHz Core 2 Duo T5600 with 667MHz FSB and 533MHz RAM) 1m 16s
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 with 533MHz FSB and memory speed) 1m 23s
Toshiba Satellite P205-S6287 (1.73 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T5300) 1m 24s
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo (T2300) with 533MHz memory speed) 1m 29s
Sony Vaio TZ90HS (1.2GHz Core 2 Duo ULV U7600) 1m 50s
HP Compaq 6515b (1.6GHz Turion 64×2 TL-52) 2m 05s
Fujitsu S6120 (Pentium M 1.6GHz) 2m 29s
Dell Inspiron 2650 (Pentium 4 Mobile 1.6GHz) 4m 05s

 

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

 

In terms of gaming ability, I have played Stranglehold, World in Conflict, Medal of Honour Airborne, Dirt, and Call of Duty 4 demo.

I play all the games at 1280×1024 resolution, with details all set to high.  World in Conflict on the whole is very playable, with only extreme slowdown when I zoom into a nuclear explosion.  Generally, framerates are silky smooth.  Call of Duty 4 demo runs superbly.  I played Call of Duty 4 on 1680×1050 res, with most things on high with the exception of Anti Aliasing.  Again, looks and runs great, with FPS feeling like its always above 30.  Dirt plays well and looks great, with the FPS I feel being somewhere around 25-30.  I’ve heard this is a very taxing game, so I’m happy with that.  Strangehold ran great, but I got bored of the game quickly so only played the first few levels before uninstalling it.  I was surprised MoHA ran as well as it did.  It ran at solid good framerates, at 1280×1024 on high settings.  It doesn’t let you change specifics so I don’t know what was going on in terms of AA or filtering.  This is a solid gaming machine and so far, I am happy with the performance of the ATi HD2600XT.  Hopefully with updated drivers, the performance will get better.

Heat and Noise

The fans on this laptop are never really audible.  You can occasionally here a whisper of the fans if you sit silently next to the laptop.  However, even when playing games or long periods or watching HDDVD’s, the fans never really spin to an audible extent.  There is a steady stream of warm air out the back exhausts when you are playing games.  Otherwise, there is no real heat output from the HDX.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The full keyboard is lovely.  The buttons have a great feel to them and it’s very enjoyable typing on it.  It is a full keyboard so there is a numpad as you would expect.  Fittingly with the HDX’s sleek design cues, the lights to indicate CAPS/NUMS lock is discretely hidden and glows blue when turned on. 


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The dimpled touchpad seems to be a debate for all that have used them.  Personally, I like the design and feel of the touchpad, but I usually use an external wireless mouse at home.  A very nifty feature HP has incorporate here is a button above the touchpad that turns it on and off.  This is very useful if you are using an external mouse and don’t want to accidently hit the touchpad while typing (a big issue on my old laptop as the keyboard was much smaller).


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

The touch sensitive quickplay buttons are just fantastic.  They are just so nice to use and some very useful.  The mute button and volume controls being the most useful buttons.  The touch sensitive buttons are not really necessary and don’t improve functionality by much, but I do love HP for using them as it makes the HDX that bit more luxurious.


A remote is included (view large image)

Input and Output Ports

The HDX has the most extensive port selection I have ever seen.  With the exception of PCMCIA (uses ExpressCard instead), I think it has everything.  The two ports that grabbed by attention were HDMI and eSATA.  eSATA is something I have never seen on a laptop, and am looking into an external drive that uses it as I understand its a lot quicker than USB2.  On the back of the laptop, you’ll also find an extensive optical audio output ports.  The HDX caters for 2.1 / 5.1 and 7.1 systems, so that you can take full advantage of your external speakers.  Again, I have never seen such specialised audio outputs on a laptop.  The laptop has a built in infrared sensor on the front, as well as coming with an IR extender to be used with remotes or connecting to a satellite set top TV box such as Sky.

Front


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On the front, we have an IR sensor, microphone input, and two headphone output ports.

Right Side


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Two USB ports, and the HD-DVD/DVDRW drive can be found on the right side.

Back


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The four ports on the right are the optical sound outputs.  Used to optimise sound output for your external speakers. On the left, is the coaxial input to attach an aerial to the integrated HD-TV tuner, IR extender, S-Video.

Left Side


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2 more USB ports, RJ45 Ethernet Jack, Expansion Port 3, External Monitor, eSATA, HDMI, Firewire, MultiCard Reader, Expresscard Slot

Wireless

Being built on the Intel Santa Rosa platform, the wireless card includes support for the draft n standard.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a n standard router so I can’t test this.  Naturally, Bluetooth is also built in and is activated by the same wireless touch key to turn on and off.

Battery

This is something I have not yet tested as I keep the HDX plugged in. I would imagine most people buying this would do the same, you can’t expect much in the way of battery life from such a large screen device with high-end components. I have heard that battery life is just under 2 hours.  This drops significantly when doing computationally intense tasks such as playing games or watching HD-DVDs.

Operating System and Software

Windows Vista Home Premium comes pre-installed.  While HP don’t provide any recovery disks, they have quite nicely setup a recovery partition on the laptop, which contains all the needed files for a complete system recovery back to factory default.  Fortunately, HP also provide instructions on how to create recovery disks if you want to make one.

Customer Support

I am currently just on the standard HP warranty, although I am considering getting a three year full coverage extension.  So far, HP customer service has been way below par. The laptop for some strange reason did not have the fingerprint reader software installed.  When I called technical support, I was put through to some out sourced call centre, who gave me the advice of “go to the hp.co.uk/support website”.  Fortunately, I am technically proficient, so I managed to find the Verisoft Installation program hidden on the laptop.  It’s curious why they forgot to install it, but the so called technical support was terrible. 

On a plus note, I had some issues with the HP Quickplay software (it kept telling me to activate it, and then sent me to a dead link).  This time, I used the HP technical chat, which was fantastic.  The HP technician quickly sent me the link to the latest version of Quickplay which works perfectly.  I’m not sure why HP did not install the latest version in the first place, but I was happy the issue was quickly resolved.

Conclusion

The HP Pavilion HDX is truly a wonderful “do everything” laptop.  It was designed by HP to be an entertainment powerhouse, and they have succeeded in that respect.  The laptop has good gaming ability, as well as stellar multimedia features.  The beautiful huge screen and HDDVD make for wonderful movie viewings, and this really does do everything well.

Pros

  • Gorgeous design
  • That lovely lovely screen
  • Superb build quality
  • Quick processor and Graphics making it very capable under any environment
  • Cool Touch sensitive buttons to control
  • HDDVD capabilities
  • Very exhaustive list of ports, most notably HDMI/eSATA/optical audio outputs
  • No real bloatware installed (Office Trial being an exception, although some may find that useful).
  • Much better equipped than rival Dell XPS M2010, which costs the same (usually more).

Cons

  • It is indeed expensive (but worth it).
  • Rather heavy too
  • Can’t seem to find anyone who makes carrying cases for 20” laptops.




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