Five Multimedia Notebooks, Tested

HP Pavilion HDX 9203KW

A different story from the rear: a massive aluminum tilt-forward dual-screen hinge permits a wider range of screen adjustment than most notebooks allow.

The HP Pavilion HDX 9203KW is another incarnation of an oversize multimedia notebook that is affectionately known as "the Dragon," thanks to the subtle, embossed pattern that adorns the display lid and the unit’s keyboard deck. We first reviewed this notebook as part of a roundup in October 2007, where we gave it two thumbs up. It’s just as big and heavy (15.38 pounds by itself, 17.94 pounds with AC adapter and power cords), as ever, but it offers the biggest (20.1") display and one of the most attractive designs of any of the multimedia notebooks reviewed here. In fact, we show front and rear views of this unit with the upper deck extended to show off its adjustable rear hinge that lets users tilt the screen more effectively than clamshell-hinged lids do.

What’s inside this notebook, which we call a "beauteous behemoth?" All kinds of interesting goodies, including an Intel Core Duo T9500 (2.6 GHz), 4 GB of DDR2-667 RAM, two 250 GB hard disks (5400 RPM SATA), GeForce 8800M GTS graphics and a 1080p capable display plus a Blu-ray player/DVD burner. It also has an Intel 4965 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi interface and a Marvell Yukon-based GbE wired network port. Throw in an integrated Media Center-compatible remote control (stores in the ExpressCard slot when not in use), an internal TV tuner/CATV connection, stereo speakers with a separate subwoofer and an HDMI connection, and you’ve got a good idea of what comes with the HP HDX notebook PC.

In trying to match the configuration that HP sent us for review in May 2008, the closest we could come was a configuration that included an Intel T9600 (2.8 GHz) processor and a GeForce 9600M GT graphics adapter. This configuration costs $2,518 at the HP online store, including a temporary $200 rebate that was available at the time we wrote this article. Given what you get for the money (and that the price of this unit has dropped by more than $1,000 as compared to last year’s model), it’s a good price and a good value for the money.

As its size might indicate, the HDX has lots of room for ports and connectors, which extend all the way around the machine.

On the front edge, dual headphone out and microphone-in mini-jacks are visible at the center; you can’t see the IR receiver that’s also situated here.Left side, from left to right: two USB 2.0 ports, RJ-45 GbE, expansion/dock port, VGA, HDMI, eSATA and Firewire ports. After that, a 5-in-1 memory card reader (SD, MS, MS Pro, MMC, and xD cards) and an ExpressCard slot.

Rear view, from left to right: fan/vent port, Blaster IR emitter, S-video, and NTSC/ATSC video in to left of hinge; side, rear, center/subwoofer and front (7.1) audio ports to the right of the hinge.Right side, from left to right: Two more USB 2.0 ports, optical disk drawer and Kensington lock aperture.

As with other big notebooks, the HDX is a desktop replacement and multimedia machine. It’s by no means portable, nor is it really a laptop – it’s more of a coffee table or tabletop design, in fact. That helps to explain why battery life for the HDX remains minimal. Its large size and hefty weight mean you won’t want to work on it away from a wall socket, anyway. Until the Eurocom came around, this unit ruled the multimedia notebook roost in performance, but now it moves into second place, as you’ll see in our test results later in this story.

Nevertheless, the HP HDX remains the most attractive of the multimedia notebooks (in our eyes, at least) and offers tremendous bang for the buck (as long as you’re set on a notebook as opposed to desktop or HTPC formats).

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