HP Pavilion HDX9320EA review

11 Aug 2008

HP's latest desktop replacement proves that big can indeed be beautiful.

Price when reviewed: 
1,369(£1,399 inc VAT)
5

Fastest, lightest, smallest, these are all superlatives that laptop manufacturers are keen to see associated with their products. Strange, then, that HP's latest 'portable' is the largest and heaviest laptop we have ever seen.

At 7kg in weight, even without the beefy 1.2kg charger, it's a struggle to lift this behemoth. Unlike some of the other unusually large notebooks we've reviewed, such as the Dell XPS M1730 and the Acer Aspire 8920, which are merely inconvenient or uncomfortable to carry, this is impossible to lug for any distance. Aside from the sheer weight, no bag we've seen is large enough to house it, and it's unlikely that anyone bar Geoff Capes could tolerate the weight.

Much of this bulk is down to the huge 20.1in TFT, which impressively gives this notebook a display as large as our A-listed lifestyle desktop PC, the Dell XPS One. It shares the same resolution as the Dell, too, with a nearly-full-HD 1,680 by 1,050 pixels providing ample space for any application. With this kind of screen real estate there's room to place two word documents side by side, so word processing, spreadsheets and browsing are easy. Gone are the days of switching between windows - with this screen you can just spread them all out.

The huge panel is cleverly attached to the lower half of the machine on a double hinge, rather than just the one as on a standard notebook. This gives more control over where you can place the screen, but it doesn't feel as sturdy as similarly adjustable desktop TFTs. It locks into place with an unnerving click, and tilting the screen back and forth causes the hinge to creak quietly. But, given the huge size of the screen, and the high-contrast, vibrant images it produces, we're more than willing to suffer the plasticky build quality.

The keyboard is predictably full size, but still leaves so much room on either side of the almost half-metre wide case that there is space to embed a frivolous removable Media Centre remote. This miniature controller can actually be rather useful, even when working on the notebook at close quarters, as it works when attached to the notebook making this the only laptop we've ever seen to feature not one, but two separate number pad keyboards. There's also a row of blue LED touch-sensitive media buttons below the screen, doubling up on the controls found on the remote.

The fine ergonomics help make light work of navigating Vista's superb Media Center, software and, thanks to the Pavilion's hybrid TV tuner, the HDX9320EA makes for a truly alluring do-it-all media centre PC. It's a shame that HP didn't opt for a dual-tuner TV card instead, which would allow you to record one channel while watching another, but you can always supplement it with an aftermarket USB or ExpressCard/54 tuner if the need arises.

All of these bells and whistles consume a lot of power, but the HP does rather better on battery power than you would imagine. Despite being dwarfed by the huge chassis, the seemingly tiny battery is actually a large nine-cell unit, giving the notebook a light use endurance of three hours, and an hour and 43 minutes of stamina in our intense test, despite the power-hungry screen. This is long enough to watch a film on the go, via the built-in Blu-ray drive.

Gaming performance is a surprise too. Unlike so many desktop replacements which are hobbled with puny graphics chipsets, the HDX9320EA boasts Nvidia's GeForce 8800M GTS. While significantly less powerful than the range-topping GTX chipset, the 8800M GTS is still more than capable of coping with most modern games. It's not enough to handle the demands of Crysis at native resolution and very high detail - it manfully struggled to reach an average of 31 frames per second in Crysis at 1,280 x 1,024 and medium settings - but it'll be more than enough to handle most other titles.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,190
Price inc VAT £1,369
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 6
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 1yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 474 x 357 x 65mm (WDH)
Weight 7.000kg
Travelling weight 8.2kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo T9300
Motherboard chipset Intel PM965
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 20.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,680
Resolution screen vertical 1,050
Resolution 1680 x 1050
Graphics chipset Nvidia GeForce 8800M GTS
Graphics card RAM 512MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 1
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 452GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Western Digital WD3200BEVS
Optical disc technology Blu-ray reader
Optical drive Optiarc BC-5500A
Battery capacity 7,600mAh
Replacement battery price ex VAT £104
Replacement battery price inc VAT £120

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
USB ports (downstream) 4
FireWire ports 1
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset SigmaTel HD Audio
Speaker location Screen, base
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Fingerprint reader yes

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 6min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 43min
Overall application benchmark score 1.36
3D performance (crysis) low settings 86fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium
OS family Windows Vista
Recovery method Recovery Partition
Software supplied AIM 6.1, CyberLink YouCam, muvee autoProducer 6.1, The Sims LifeStories