HP HDX 18

Flashy desktop replacement.

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HP HDX 18
  • HP HDX 18
  • HP HDX 18
  • HP HDX 18

Pros

  • Good speed, Blu-ray, HDMI, comfortable keyboard, plenty of internal storage

Cons

  • Glossy screen is susceptible to reflections, doesn't use DDR3 memory, doesn't use 7200rpm hard drives, touchpad can be uncomfortable to use

Bottom Line

Don't even think about using this notebook on the road; it's strictly for those who require a desktop replacement with home entertainment features. It has Blu-ray, HDMI and a high-definition screen. Even though it's a fast unit, it doesn't even have the fastest gizzards on the market.

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The latest in desktop replacement notebooks is HP's HDX 18. In fact, it's more than just a desktop replacement — it's an entertainment notebook. At least, that's the way it's sold. You get a Blu-ray player, a built-in digital TV tuner and an 18.4in high-definition screen. Not only that, it has plenty of storage and connectivity options, including HDMI.

It's definitely a machine for using at home, and it's a neat idea for anyone who wants a powerful computer but doesn't have the space for a full-blown desktop PC. In fact, the HDX 18 supplies performance that's the equivalent of a mid-range PC, which means it has enough grunt for everyday productivity tasks and taxing video and music editing. But apart from its performance, the HDX 18 is designed to give you a little bit of wow in your life. Its liquid metal design and glossy screen make it stand out; if you keep it in your lounge room, it will definitely become a showpiece.

However, while the HDX's design is attractive, it's not overly functional. The glossy screen is not easy to view in a bright room, and the touchpad, which is made of the same material as the palm rest, is a little sticky to navigate. As the HDX ships with a high-definition screen with a native resolution of 1920x1080, it can become a chore to move the pointer from one side of the screen to the other.

Beneath the surface, there's no doubt the HDX contains quality components that give it plenty of speed, but it could still be faster and more efficient. It uses DDR2 memory instead of DD3 memory; it has a mid-range graphics card instead of a high-end gaming card; and it has 5400rpm hard drives instead of 7200rpm drives. These are minor flaws to take into consideration if you want a gaming machine — especially for playing games at the native resolution of the screen — but the mid-range graphics card is still fast enough to allow for some older games to be played at high resolutions.

The guts of the unit are an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 CPU with a clock speed of 2.53GHz, 4GB of DDR2 RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT graphics adapter, and two 400GB, 5400rpm hard drives. These helped propel the HDX to a score of 95 in WorldBench 6; in our iTunes MP3 encoding and Blender 3-D rendering tests, it recorded average times of 1min 7sec and 1min 11sec, respectively. Its WorldBench 6 score is actually a little faster than we expected, but its encoding and rendering times are spot on for the CPU speed.

In 3DMark06, the HDX scored 4098, which means it might run older games at mid-range resolutions, but probably won't run them too well at the native resolution of the screen. It will also struggle with DirectX 10–based titles. Either way, the HDX isn't supposed to be a gaming laptop, so don't go for it if that's your primary pursuit.

The HDX ran cool and relatively quiet during our test period, and that's a plus for this desktop replacement, especially if it will be running overnight in a bedroom. It will also fit well in a lounge room, as it has a built-in digital TV tuner and a Blu-ray drive. The HDX's output can be directed to a big-screen TV via its HDMI port, and this means you can use the HDX as your Blu-ray player and digital set-top box.

Of course, you can watch movies directly on the HDX's high definition screen — it would be a waste if you didn't — but you will have to sit fairly close to it. It provides plenty of contrast and brightness, but as we mentioned previously, it can be susceptible to reflections in a brightly lit room.

You will want to connect a better set of speakers while watching movies and listening to music, as they will offer a much richer sound than the HDX's built-in speakers. In saying that, the speakers in the HDX are adequate compared to most notebooks, and we love the media controls that reside above keyboard. They allow you to alter the volume, bass and treble. There is a shortcut button that can invoke HP's MediaSmart interface, too, and this is a neat little program that lets you watch your videos and TV, view photos and listen to music files.

It feels weird to use MediaSmart outside of a touch-screen setting, as we're used to physically dragging stuff across the screen and selecting tracks by tapping instead of clicking.

What doesn't feel weird is the keyboard. If you'll be using this desktop replacement for work purposes, too, you'll find it to be very comfortable. The keys provide plenty of travel and they feel very sturdy to the touch. All the keys are full-sized, apart from the function and arrow keys, and there aren't any odd placements to trip you over while you touch-type.

Around the edges of the HDX you'll find USB 2.0, 4-pin FireWire and Gigabit Ethernet ports, as well as headphone (2) and microphone (1) jacks. There is also an SD memory card slot and an ExpressCard/54 expansion slot. Under the palm rests is where the two hard drives reside (each has a formatted capacity of 372GB). Each edge of the hard drive's mounting point has rubber on it, which is meant to minimise shock and vibration damage. However, the HDX is 4.1kg, so you won't want to use it while you're on the move anyway.

Because the HDX is so big, heat from the two hard drives, TV tuner, wireless networking card, graphics card and CPU isn't a problem; mainly because it's so big you won't want to use it on your lap, so you won't feel the heat that way, but also because the heat won't travel up through the keyboard and palm rest.

All up, the HDX 18 is an interesting prospect for anyone looking for a desktop replacement that won't take up as much space as a standard PC but still offer the same sort of facilitates. An HDX with a touch screen would be a nice option to have, along with some beefier components such as DDR3 and 7200rpm hard drives; you know, just so you can brag even more when your mates come over.

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