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Preview - HP Pavilion HDX Entertainment Notebook
By Vincent Chang - 3 Jun 2007

Of Fingerprints, Features and Functionality

Of Fingerprints, Features and Functionality

It cannot be denied that a piano black finish looks nice and glossy. In pictures, in movies, in display cases (and in fact, we are waiting to see if any of HP's new notebooks will make it into a Hollywood movie anytime soon, as they certainly have the glamour). But in reality, it quickly becomes a fingerprint magnet, which turns out to be the case with this HP notebook. Alas, this style seems to have taken off in a big way with notebook manufacturers and HP in particular has revamped its new consumer notebook series to have that black and silver gloss.

HP's unique imprint technology has been found in its new series of notebooks and this entertainment notebook has been tattooed with subtle stylistic curves that evoke an oriental dragon. Of course, having the 'Dragon' moniker helps to point us towards that interpretation. A large hinge keeps the heavy display attached to the main body of the notebook.

This distinctive notebook finish is actually known as the 'HP Imprint' and underneath that glossy finish is a unique inlaid design that could vary from one series to another. So unlike some other brands with similar 'tattoos' on their designs, the HP Imprint will not wear off from normal wear and tear. For the 'Dragon' notebook, the imprint is a stylish arrangement of curves that evokes the slim, long dragons of the Oriental persuasion, not the hulking brutes of Western mythology.

Unfortunately, the massive form factor of the HDX doesn't possess the grace of the Far East. Instead, imagine the size of a 20.1-inch widescreen LCD monitor and you should have the approximate dimensions of this notebook. The native resolution for this WSXGA+ display is also exactly like many desktop LCDs of its size - 1680 x 1050 - and comes with HP's Ultra Brightview technology. Together with its glossy finish, the display on the HDX is a delight, with bright and brilliant colors. So much so that one could almost forgive the fact that this is not a full HD panel offering a resolution of 1920 x 1200. When 17-inch notebooks from Sony and Toshiba are already equipped with full HD panels, the HDX does seem slightly inferior. To its credit, HP informed us that there will be a another iteration shortly after the official launch with such a full HD panel.

The maximum tilt and forward/back swivel possible on the HDX.

Like the Dell XPS M2010, a large hinge keeps the display attached to the body of the notebook but comparing the two, the HP does seem to be more limited in the amount of forward/back tilt movement available. Also, while the hinge on the Dell naturally 'transforms' into a carrying handle, there is no such handle on the HDX.

HP's braille-like touchpad. The headphones and microphone jacks are located at the front for easy access. Notice that there is no lock for the lid/display, though we must say the lid and hinge was stiff enough not to cause too much of a hassle, like swinging open at an inopportune time.

Hence it can be quite a chore bringing this 'notebook' around as we've tried. We carried it under our arm, with one hand wrapped around the hinge. There is no lock for the screen lid and although the hinge looks stiff enough not to swing open during transit, we weren't feeling too comfortable handling this big notebook. However, once the notebook is placed on the desk, the luxury of having a full sized keyboard starts to sink in. If not for the remote control dock on the left, there would have been space for an even more spacious keyboard layout. As it is now, you'll still find a decent Num Pad and a host of touch sensitive shortcut keys for various multimedia functions occupying a row above the standard keyboard.

A practically full sized keyboard takes advantages of the extra amount of 'desk space' afforded by the large display. There's even a small dock for the remote on the left.

Two USB2.0 ports and the HD DVD drive on this side of the notebook. Our engineering sample does not have the HD DVD drive included and a typical Super Multi DVD burner replaces it. There's even a Kensington lock.

The audio outputs and the related outputs/inputs for the integrated, hybrid HDTV tuner are found at the rear.

The various audio outputs on our review sample. Surprisingly, there is no digital SPDIF output.

It's a continuous parade of I/O slots here, with 2 USB2.0, Ethernet, HP's proprietary expansion slot, VGA output, HDMI, eSATA, FireWire and ExpressCard slot. Also included is an integrated 5-in-1 digital media reader supporting the typical Flash memory formats.

Not something that you'll see on most notebooks - HDMI and eSATA outputs.

These touch sensitive keys glow blue, though users can turn it off easily, as they will be quite distracting when viewing a movie in the dark for example. Some of the keys include standard favorites like volume control while others are shortcuts for HP's own multimedia application, QuickPlay, which enables users to access and play media without booting into the usual Windows operating system. This is implemented by having a custom Linux partition set aside for this purpose, estimated at around 1GB of disk space. However, this application did not seem to work as intended on the HDX and though we can't be sure of its accuracy, a Wikipedia entry on QuickPlay seems to validate our observation, with its claim that this application does not work properly with Windows Vista currently. It will still launch successfully, but only after Windows Vista has been booted, which defeats the main purpose of the application. Meanwhile we hope HP is working on an update to enable the ability on Windows Vista.

Besides the usual volume control, the subwoofer can be tweaked too through the controls here. To our dismay, this did not work on our engineering sample but of course we expect it to work flawlessly on the retail set.

Fingerprint recognition has been integrated into the Windows Vista operating system used in the HDX. After a simple registration process, you can use it for a variety of authentication purposes for programs and account access.

Like its name suggests, HP's QuickPlay allows easy and fast access to multimedia functions on the notebook. This has become a fixture in many multimedia notebooks from HP in recent times. These buttons are all touch sensitive.

A remote dock for the small fancy remote control. It is still usable without popping it out from its cradle.

A streamlined form of the usual larger Windows Media Center remote, HP has added buttons for its own QuickPlay application. However, that could lead to confusion among users initially since both multimedia applications overlap in terms of functionality, especially now with some similar controls duplicated.

The remote control itself is not the easiest to get into. Although it's based on the Windows Media Center (WMC) remote, with keys that correspond to the various functions in the application, HP has also squeezed in custom keys for its QuickPlay application. The problem is that it may not be immediately obvious which keys are for which application, WMC or QuickPlay, especially since both have overlapping features that concentrate on digital media playback. The HP QuickPlay application was also strangely integrated into WMC, which can be quite jarring, since if you tried to click on any of the QuickPlay options within WMC, it will minimize WMC and open QuickPlay in full screen mode. As both applications are fundamentally similar, it doesn't seem like something that any user will usually do, particularly as more system resources are consumed.

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