HP Pavilion HDX (Penryn refresh) Notebook PC - Review

HP Pavilion HDX (Penryn refresh) Notebook PC - Review

HP Pavilion HDX (Penryn refresh) Notebook PC - ReviewCore 2 Duo T9300 processor 2.5GHz; 2GB RAM

Hewlett-Packard hasn't bothered to change the name of its 20-inch laptop with this new update, but a handful of new features and options make it worth a fresh look. Pushing the physical boundaries of the laptop form, the massive HP Pavilion HDX is still clearly more at home resting on a desk than sitting in your lap. Weighing an amazing 7.2kg and boasting a desktop-size 20-inch LCD, the HDX starts at a reasonable US$1,999--but our test unit was configured well over US$3,500, with high-end extras such as a Blu-ray drive (HD-DVD is also available), Nvidia's new GeForce 8800 GPU, and one of Intel's new Penryn Core 2 Duo processors.

Design of the HP Pavilion HDX (Penryn refresh)

The HDX makes an excellent all-in-one entertainment system for the den, dorm room, or CEO's office, and the screen finally displays full 1080p resolution (which you'll want for HD-DVD or Blu-ray). It's still too big to carry and therefore fairly useless as a mobile computing device, although it's a stylish option to replace a full-size desktop computer and monitor. Note that neither the GeForce 8800 nor the Penryn Core 2 Duo processors are available as options on HP's online configurator yet, but they should appear by January 23 in the US. It should be available in Asia sometime in February.

HP Pavilion HDX (Penryn refresh) Laptop PC - ReviewThis version of the HDX is visually identical to its predecessor, continuing to take design cues from HP's current line of entertainment notebooks, such as the Pavilion dv9000 series , with a similar black-and-silver color scheme and subtle abstract imprint pattern on the back of the lid.

When closed, the HDX measures a whopping 482.6mm across and weighs almost 7.2kg, even without its bulky AC adapter. We could see this being moved occasionally from room to room, but a commuter laptop this is not.

A system this big needs more than the standard laptop hinge. Instead, it puts the screen at the end of a heavy-duty arm, hinged at both the rear of the laptop and the back of the screen. Because the hinge is attached to the middle of the lid, you can angle the display a bit, but not as much as on, say, an old iMac, which had its screen on a free-moving arm. The full-size keyboard with separate number pad is as roomy as anything you'd connect to a desktop, and it still leaves plenty of space on the keyboard tray to allow for comfortable typing, although the keys are shallower than a desktop keyboard's. Above the keyboard sits a row of touch-sensitive buttons, including quick-launch buttons for HP's QuickPlay media software, a toggle for the Wi-Fi antenna, and volume and EQ controls. We've got a soft spot for these capacitive controls, and they've even trickled down to budget systems, such as Dell's Inspiron 1525. A basic Webcam, fingerprint reader, and TV tuner round out the built-in features.

A remote control, not quite full size, but larger than the credit card-size ones found in some laptops, sits in a special cutout to the left of the keyboard. You can use it right there, or pop it out to control Windows Media Center and other media apps from the couch.

The clear highlight of the system is its 20.1-inch widescreen display. With a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,200, the new HDX easily trumps the original's 1,650 x 1,050 resolution. Especially if you're interested in getting the optional Blu-ray or HD-DVD optical drives (OK, most like just the Blu-ray), having true 1080p HD playback ability is vital.

The included HDMI jack is a must if you want to send the output from a Blu-ray or HD-DVD drive to an external plasma or LCD screen. The eSATA port is a nice touch, and it means you can hook up an external SATA hard drive for additional media storage, but the 500GB of included hard drive space should be more than enough for most.

While our tricked-out review unit cost more than US$3,000, the HDX actually starts at only US$1,999. While that base configuration is very different, the system looks the same on the outside, and the specs aren't terrible if you love the design but don't need all that computing horsepower. For your US$1,999, you get an Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 CPU, a lower-resolution 1,680 x 1,050 display, 2GB of RAM, two 120GB hard drives, and a basic DVD burner.

Features of the HP Pavilion HDX (Penryn refresh)

While the new Penryn mobile processor, the Core 2 Duo T9300, boasts a more efficient 45-nanometer manufacturing process, even Intel says not to expect a big performance boost scores outside of applications with SSE4 support such as Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 and DivX Pro 6.8. In fact, the previous HP HDX model we looked at had a 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X7800, which easily beats out the newer Penryn CPUs (there's a Core 2 Extreme Penryn CPU as well, the 2.8GHz Core 2 Extreme X9000, but we haven't seen one in person yet). Still, the 2.5GHz T9300 is near the top of the laptop CPU heap, and gave us no slowdown or stuttering, even with multiple media players, Web pages, and office documents running at the same time--as we'd expect from any modern dual-core system.

The real big guns in the new HDX come from Nvidia's new GeForce 8800 video card. This GPU has also turned up in Alienware's new Area-51 m15x laptop, and we expect it to quickly become the gaming laptop video card of choice. In Quake 4, we got an impressive 82.9 frames per second at 1,280 x 1024, with high-end features such as antialiasing turned on--only slightly less than the Dell's XPS M1730, which has a slower GeForce 8700 GPU, but the faster 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X7900 CPU.

The HP Pavilion HDX ran for 2 hours 12 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, about 40 minutes more than the original HDX model and an impressive number in general for a desktop replacement system. Some credit should go to the new Penryn CPU, and the HDX had more than a half hour on the Dell XPS M1730, which has a smaller 17-inch screen to drive.

After-Sales Service And Support for the HP Pavilion HDX (Penryn refresh)

The HP laptop comes with a one-year international warranty. At HP's support Web site, laptop owners can download the latest drivers and manuals. In the event of a simple malfunction, the company offers an online knowledge database and support forum for troubleshooting. Further diagnosis or repair can be made at the service center, though the owner has to bring the notebook there. Telephone support is available during normal working hours and for current or potential customers who are not sure which HP notebook is right for you, a dedicated number is available for assistance in purchase selection. If more comprehensive coverage is required, you can purchase an extended three-year pick up and return option in which HP will collect the unit and send it back after it's repaired.