HP Pavilion HDX9095EA review

13 Aug 2007

If you're after a larger laptop, they don't come much better than this tightly integrated model.

Price when reviewed 
1,446

After the impressive show it made with its TouchSmart series earlier in the year (web ID: 106397, 107883), it's clear HP is taking to the consumer entertainment market in a big way. And it doesn't come much bigger than the HDX9095EA - a notebook we first spied at CeBIT in March, when it was known simply as "The Dragon". Now we've bagged a look at the first one in the UK.

Open up the subtly patterned lid and you'll be greeted with the sight of its gargantuan 20.1in widescreen TFT. With a weight of more than 7kg, HP really is taking the desktop-replacement concept to its practical limit.

This is no ordinary chassis either, with HP adopting the Intel-originated "stalk" lid design first seen on Dialogue's Flybook VM HSDPA (web ID: 110686). At this scale it needs some reinforcement, resulting in a large protuberance on the lid that contains mechanics to lock the hinge between certain angles. It feels solid enough, but is prone to some disturbing crunching sounds if shut in a hurry. In return, it brings some welcome flexibility in terms of where you can position the screen when you're working - not quite the same flexibility as a desktop PC and separate screen, but impressively close.

The next unusual feature is the remote control nestled to the left of the keyboard. It's all you need for controlling Windows Media Center (and HP's own similarly featured QuickPlay) and, cleverly, there are two infrared receivers - one in the dock for when it's stowed and another on the front of the chassis. It turns watching Freeview TV on the HDX into a very enjoyable experience, and it's possible to do precisely that courtesy of the built-in Hybrid TV tuner, Windows Vista Home Premium and some surprisingly beefy speakers.

The multitude of touch-sensitive buttons allow you to quickly adjust volume, treble and bass, along with a set of transport controls, a wireless switch and application launchers - it's just a shame there's no obvious way to customise them. A fingerprint reader also lurks here, too - destined more for website convenience than foolproof security.

The generous chassis size means there's still space for a full-sized keyboard and numeric keypad, which are exceptionally solid. While its inherent attachment to something so heavy precludes it from being as comfortable as a separate keyboard, it's perfectly arranged and great for touch-typing. The touchpad also deserves praise, with its clear contours and pitted surface, plus a dedicated scrolling area. These little touches can make a surprising amount of difference in everyday use.

The 20.1in panel employs a glossy finish to increase the apparent contrast, although it didn't prove much of a reflection magnet in most lighting situations. It adds vibrancy to movies and on the desktop, too. The 1,680 x 1,050 resolution isn't especially high, but more than enough for high-definition film playback and tasks such as photo or video editing.

When it comes to gaming, this version of the HDX is more modest. Although the ATi Mobility Radeon HD 2600 XT is a capable card, the very latest titles will trip it up. Our review sample had some driver issues, and we weren't able to run our usual suite of 3D benchmarks, but most titles will be fine at lower resolutions. And while it's nominally a DirectX 10 card, we can't promise that yet-to-appear DX10 games will run smoothly.

While entertainment is clearly the Pavilions's real party trick, it will also handle more prosaic computing jobs well. Production units will be based around an Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 and 2GB of RAM, which we'd expect to deliver a score of around 1.10