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HP Pavilion HDX9320EA review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 11 Aug 2008

Reviewed By: Matthew Sparkes

Price when reviewed: £1,190 (£1,369 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

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.

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