HP Pavilion HDX Entertainment Series Notebook PC

The HP Pavilion HDX Dragon is something out of a hi-tech thriller. If anyone's ever read Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (of The DaVinci Code fame), this is the supercomputer they must've used to crack the codes. From the 'Dragon' namesake decal on the lid to the extended keyboard below, everything about this notebook screams 'greater purpose.' With a price tag approaching five large, it better live up to its looks. We'll find out.



In a word, none. This monster weighs in at 15.5 pounds, and the 20.1' screen doesn't fit easily into anything. There's no locking latch, although the weight of the unit is usually enough to keep it in place. The HDX was created as a desktop unit, and not a travel device. To give you an object for comparison, here's the HDX against its smaller cousin, the HP Pavilion dv2000t 14' widescreen.

Case and Design

The case of the HP is covered in a decal known simply as the "Dragon" imprint finish. It covers the entire lid as well as above the volume control once the monitor is raised.

One of the most interesting features of the HDX is the way the monitor is mounted to the unit. It uses a silver hinge that rotates both at the base and at the intersection of the hinge at monitor. The reason of this hinge is two-fold. First, it gives the monitor a higher degree of movement, which is useful given the monitor's large viewing size. Secondly, it's attached more securely than a normal hinge, and frees the monitor from torque caused by lifting the lid as per a normal hinge. With a 20.1' monitor, enough twist can do some damage.


The keyboard sports 101 keys, which includes a dedicated numeric pad to the right, something I haven't seen in laptops I've reviewed in the past. Fifteen touch-sensitive controls line the top of the keyboard, backlit in a brilliant blue. They control everything from DVD options, wireless access, and volume control. All in all, this keyboard fits well with my hands, which are larger than average. One shortcoming that I noticed in HP's ultraportable tx1000z is the mini right-shift key. I frequently hit the up button instead, to the detriment of my capitalization. Unfortunately, the HDX suffers from the same truncated shift key.

To the left of keyboard sits one of the handiest devices that the HDX provides, the remote control. It house 43 buttons in all, definitely the most intricate remote I've seen for a notebook. It's one of the features on the HDX that distinguishes the unit as part of the Entertainment series. From the remote you can manipulate any aspect of DVD playback, and even record video from the 1.3 Megapixel Webcam.


The touchpad sits in a valley between the palm rests, and it demarcated by a textured surface, as other HP notebooks are. The two buttons below the touchpad give easily and provide decent feedback, although they felt overly soft on the model we received. A similar surface sits to the right of the touchpad in a column shape, and controls scrolling. There's an unobstrusive black button just between the touchpad and keyboard, which enables/disables the touchpad input. This is a lifesaver if you're using an external pointing device (read: mouse).



The front of the laptop features three status lights to the left, reporting power status (on/off), power source, and HDD activity. Under the touchpad is the IR port, microphone in, and dual headphone outs. I'd like to draw attention to the dual headphone jacks, as this is a thoughtful design feature and shows that HP is listening to consumer feedback. This same dual setup was also present on the tx1000z.


The rear of the unit has the Blaster IR emitter, S-video out, NTSC/ATSC input, SPDIF, and audio out for Rear, Center/Sub, and front audio ports. Their are also dual vents located on either side.

Left Side

The left of the HDX houses a few of the many ports available on the system. Two USB ports, Ethernet, Expansion Port 3, VGA, HDMI, eSATA, FireWire, 5-in-1 Digital Media Reader, and the ExpressCard/54 PC Card slot all reside here.

Right Side

The right side has two more USB ports, the HD DVD ROM with SuperMulti DVD+/-R/RW Double Layer Drive, and a security lock.

Heat and Noise

These were actually a non-issue with the system. The dual vents in the rear do an excellent job of keeping air moving. During the course of the review (which is being written on the HDX) the unit exhibited very little heat, although more heat was coming from the left vent (near the power cable) than the right one. Of course, I was only using Microsoft Word and IE, so the load on the processors was minimal.

Upgrading and Expansion

There's not much room for expansion in the HDX, although that's because our unit came packed to the gills. It already had the dual hard drives and optional 4GB of RAM, which are the only options for expansion.

Connectivity Options

This laptop must enjoy dinner parties, because it doesn't skimp on ways to connect. Here are your choices:

* 4 Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0
* 2 Headphone out
* 1 microphone-in
* 1 HDMI
* 1 VGA (15-pin)
* 1 eSATA
* 1 TV-Out (S-video)
* 1 RJ-45 (LAN)
* 1 Expansion Port 3
* 1 Firewire (4-pin)
* 1 IR (Remote Receiver)
* SPDIF, Rear, Center/Sub, Front
* 1 ExpressCard/54 Slot (also supports ExpressCard/34)
* 5-in-1 Digital Media Reader (SD, MMC, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, or xD)

Features, Cont'd

Display :

The notebook is dominated by a 20.1" WSXGA+ High-Defnition Ultra BrightView Widescreen Display. Even given its name, the monitor is exceptionally bright, probably due to the dual-lamps that power the images. With the ATI video card you're given the ATI Control Center, which allows you to tweak display settings to find the optimal balance between energy and performance. I pinned the settings to performance, since you shouldn't have the HDX away from a power source for long.


HP did an excellent job with the HDX in regards to audio. It sports four Altec Lansing speakers integrated into the bottom of the monitor, and a genuine subwoofer that fires vibrations through the surface you're on. If you flip the notebook over (no small feat) you'll find the subwoofer waiting to unleash deep-toned fury. The setup is nothing short of spectacular, especially considering this is still considered a notebook.

If you're looking for something this HDX can't provide, like a true surround sound experience, there are enough audio ports out the back to hook this PC up to an impressive system.


The webcam is a paltry 1.3 Megapixel, a standard I've come to loathe. In the world of 5 Megapixel digital camcorders for less than $150, it's hard to respect the 1.3.

HP has done a bit to get all the life it can out of this webcam, with a number of ingenious enhancements. They realized that the two most important aspects of a webcam are decent video capture in low light, and reasonably fast frame rates to make video conferencing effective. They strived to meet those goals by using a physically larger image sensor, albeit with a lower resolution image. The drawback? Not the best picture sharpness. However, it produces video at an excellent rate and handles itself well in less than optimal lighting. I'm not an avid user of webcams, although this does cover my basic needs.


WiFi is set up through that fancy blue-lit wireless button located above the keyboard. It's powered by Intel's PRO/Wireless 4965AGN Network Connection and picks up my old Linksys router signal across my house and down a flight of stairs. In case you're away from a power source, hit the blue button to disable wireless and save yourself some juice.


Our HP model came with the standard 9-Cell Lithium-Ion battery. It's not enough to power this PC for long, so I think of it more as an emergency than a real asset. The AC adapter (like everything else on this laptop) is pretty large.

To give an idea of scale, below is the HDX compared to a 14' Lenovo T61. Notice that the battery on the Lenovo is the size of the HDX's hinge.

HDTV Tuner:

I had a lot of fun with this, and yes, the HDX comes with an integrated HDTV tuner and antennae. Using HP's Quickplay program, you can scan your area for available HDTV stations via your analog tuner and antennae. If you have an actual HDTV digital connection, you can set it up to run through the notebook as well. After a 5 minute scan process, I was able to pick up at least 15 HDTV stations in my area. A pretty excellent addition.


That's what this laptop is really all about. I use the term laptop merely in the nostalgic sense. There's nothing about this notebook that is conducive to putting it on your lap. It weighs almost 16 pounds, and is wide enough to eclipse even the most generous of thighs. That's because of what's under the hood, which is the most impressive aspect of this Intel Santa Rosa Core 2 Duo platform.

The Video Card is a ball-busting ATI Radeon HD 2600XT Graphics with 256MB DDR3 dedicated graphics memory. Finally! A laptop with dedicated graphics. Shared memory is something I've always abhorred in laptop systems, but I understand the necessity. When you're looking for a portable workstation, energy conservation rates above Battlefield 2142 framerates, and rightly so. The HDX can't be concerned with kitschy buzzwords like "conservation" and "energy management". This notebook has the RAM to spare though, with 4096MB of DDR2 SDRAM powering it (twice as much as my desktop). All you'd need to round this out is a beefy processor, or maybe two. Intel provided their Core 2 Extreme X7800 processor rated at 2.6 GHz to churn ones and zeroes at an impressive rate.

Be aware that with the more powerful processor you'll see a reduction in battery life. In the DVD battery test we saw a life of around 90 minutes, which we've heard is closer to 2 hours with the weaker processor.

When running 3DMark 2006, we got a respectable score of 4245. Not really close to the scores of the Alienware Area-51 m9750 we just tested, but it's a far cry from the lackluster scores returned by those laptops stuck with onboard graphics.

Lastly, PCMark05 wasn't working for this unit, given that it's designed for Windows XP only. However, it did return some scores, which are below.

The 'Dragon' really shines when it's put against millions of pixels, and this is where the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600XT card earns its keep. With 256 MB of dedicated DDR3 RAM under the hood, it blasted through our normal laptop benchmarking scores. So much so, that we had to revamp our testing process specifically with this unit in mind.

It tore through our F.E.A.R. test, with an average of 116 fps on the medium setting. At its lowest the HDX was churning a hefty 66 fps, a mark other laptops don't even reach. We also tested Bethesda Softworks' 'The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion' as it exacts a heavy toll on a computer's resources. With HDR lighting, as well as significant anti-aliasing and high resolution options, we thought it'd bring the HDX to its knees...or hinges rather. Not so. At the highest possibility resolution for Oblivion, the HDX clocked along at a brisk 44 fps. (It should be noted that with the BIOS that is being released in the post-production models, this number may see a significant increase.)

Battlefield 2142 is a game riddled with units and a high view distance. The HDX performed admirably here as well, clocking an average of 94 fps with the resolution set to maximum, and all other settings (anti-aliasing, texture detail, sprite detail) set to default.

Here's a table summarizing the HDX's average FPS in the games we tested:

What sets this laptop apart from so many others is the addition of discrete graphics. Normally, a portable workstation prioritizes battery life and temperature control over graphical power. The HDX prizes entertainment and its ability as a replacement desktop/media center over normal laptop values, and is in a class by itself visually. It's important to note that this laptop rarely got hot, with the exception of the left palm rest.


If you're one of the few seriously considering buying this notebook, then price isn't a deterrent. It boasts some of the most powerful specs on the market today, and does it in a package that's both pleasing to look at as well as to touch. It is mobile, in a manner of speaking, which puts it one step ahead of a desktop. The video and audio come together in a way that makes you understand why this notebook is so damn heavy and expensive. The major drawback of this laptop was the lack of battery life, although I can't imagine someone lugging this away from a power source for more than a few moments.

If you're looking for the best in extreme entertainment, this HP does it better than Alienware, and it's easier to get your hands on (but not around). Price as configured? $4,705.98. It's a machine built for greatness, but whatever you do with it is your business.

It's also a statement. HP is slamming their cards on the table and saying to other manufacturers, "Beat that."

I'd like to see them try.


The HDX performed admirably, in most cases topped the charts, in every test we put it through. Sure, you can't carry it around for too long, but think of it as a desktop in toteable notebook form. It looks like a winner out of the box, and doesn't disappoint during the entire process. If you can justify the price, it's the finest entertainment laptop currently on the market.


The HP HDX 'Dragon' is available now starting at $2,999 from the HP website. The standard warranty comes with one year parts and labor coverage, one year of toll-free support available 24x7, one year limited software technical assistance, as well as 30-days replacement of defective application media.

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