Mention HP and it’s unlikely anyone would consider any series of its notebooks to be in the same league as Sony VAIO in terms of looks, features and performance. Recently however, HP has been mustering resources to push its Pavilion dv series into contention. The multimedia Pavilion dv series is actually stirring up waves amongst notebook enthusiasts – and what better way to extend that multimedia experience than with a massive notebook base that instantly transforms your notebook into a powerful desktop computer?
Because the gargantuan base was designed to complement the Hewlett Packard’s Pavilion dv series notebooks, it isn’t surprising that you’ll find it finished in a similar glossy black shade, silver finishing and dotted with round perforations. Build quality and details to user ergonomics are certainly present - even touch sensitive volume controls like the ones found on the latest Pavilion notebooks can be seen along the front bezel of the base. Although when it comes down to size, the expansion base is not quite as sleek as the Pavilion notebooks themselves and are definitely not going on trips with you.
Now the only thing that matches the xb3000’s massive size is its ambitious purpose. According to HP, the notebook was engineered such that it would transform your notebook into a full fledged desktop with no compromises. Just take a quick glance around the base and you will see why HP is so confident of that claim. In that regard, you will find 6 x USB 2.0 ports, an RJ-45 Ethernet jack, an S/PDIF output, an S-Video connector, a 15-pin D-Sub VGA port and a Component output. The xb3000 also comes with a wireless keyboard, mouse and a Radio Frequency (RF) receiver that doesn’t need to be placed within line of sight to work. There are LEDs that display the status of the dock. For those who are always hungry for more storage capacity, you will be delighted to learn that the base is capable of housing a 3.5-inch hard drive within for painless storage expansion – though it is sold separately.
Setting up the base for usage is a straightforward process of first clearing away a portion of your desktop or tabletop to properly sit the docking station. After which you may just plonk a compatible HP notebook onto the flat mounting followed by hooking up the propriety Expansion Port 3 (only on HP notebooks) cable for audio, visual and data communication. Equipped with a swiveling top, any notebook resting on the base station can be elevated almost vertically to double up as a pseudo desktop. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of HP’s engineers and designers the final arrangement still ends up a little awkward for smaller notebooks due to typical physical limitations, 14-inch notebooks for example. At a comfortable viewing height, the notebook’s long base would always create a considerable distance of about 50-70cm between you, your wireless keyboard, the notebook’s base and the tiny notebook display screen. This unusual layout is made worse by the security catch that while good at doing its job of keeping the notebook firmly in place unfortunately prevents anyone from using the keyboard completely. Notebooks with larger 15 or 17-inch screens however, worked sweetly with the expansion base, almost like a match made in heaven.
Booting up the notebook, it became clear that the strength of the xb3000 was its audio output. The speakers that are built into the unit are pretty good, throwing more bass around than the notebook itself could ever accomplish. The additional six USB ports would be a great boon if you have a multitude of devices to connect to your HP notebook. Something we had to highlight though was a less than rosy audio quality produced by the xb3000’s headphone jack. This however can be circumnavigated by using the notebook’s jack instead.
The massive xb3000 makes up for its awkwardness through a pair of capable speakers, a bevy of multimedia ports and a handy option to quickly expand storage, which only serves to make the base all that more appealing. However, those looking for a base that would cool your notebook should look elsewhere as this base does not incorporate any cooling option at all. Nevertheless, the xb3000 expansion base is a mighty fine effort by HP to bring more options to the market; albeit a very niche one. Take note also that at US$249.99 this expansion base is not cheap and it would only work with newer models from HP such as the Pavilion dv2000, dv6000, dv9000 and Presario V3000, V6000 notebooks.