HP HDX X18-1201EA review
A take-it or leave-it chassis, but good performance and plenty of features for your money
Netbooks and ultraportables might gain most of the headlines these days, but for use around the home we'd far rather be using a machine with a larger screen and more power. HP's latest HDX entertainment laptop would seem to fit the bill.
It's a larger version of the HDX X16-1005EA, which impressed us earlier this year, and boasts a full-size keyboard, 18in screen and plenty of oomph for more processor-intensive jobs.
Providing this power is a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 CPU - a step up from the P8400 processor included with the HDX X16 - and this, when coupled with 4GB of DDR RAM, scored a respectable 1.28 in our real world, application-based benchmarks. It may not be the fastest desktop replacement on the block, but it packs enough grunt to handle any applications you care to throw at it, and it will cope easily with HD movie playback and video editing.
Its backed by graphics from Nvidia in the shape of a GeForce GT130M GPU. It's the first time we've seen one of these - it's the replacement for the 9600M GT - but don't get too excited. Aside from a rise in the shader clock speed, little else has changed. The new chip performed pretty well in our gaming benchmarks, though, scoring a respectable 23fps in our medium quality Crysis.
The rest of the specification is decent. It has two 250GB hard disks, a Blu-ray reader, draft-n wireless, Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet. The DVB-T TV tuner is a nice inclusion, though it's only a hybrid analogue/digital model so you can't view one Freeview channel while watching another. We've only seen twin digital tuners included in the most expensive Sony VAIOs.
Battery life, unsurprisingly, is nothing to write home about: the HP managed almost one and a half hours in our heavy use benchmark and 3hrs 6mins in our less-demanding light use test. With a weight of 4kg, however, this machine won't be leaving the mains too often so it's not a big issue.
There's very little wrong with the HDX's internals, then, but we're less convinced by the HP's chassis. The keyboard, trackpad and their surroundings are covered in rather naff-looking chrome-effect plastic, the patterned plastic of the wristrest isn't exactly the last word in style, and neither is the silver keyboard.
In fact, when stacked up against the chassis of the Sony VAIO AW21-series - which has a dark matte coating and looks as stylish as any laptop we've ever seen - the HP looks and feels cheap. The HDX X18's build quality can't quite match it either; the screen feels solid but the wristrest and keyboard offer a little too much give for our liking.
Fortunately the keyboard is reasonably comfortable, as are the touchpad and buttons, and you get a decent selection of ports too - there are four USB ports, eSATA, HDMI and D-SUB video outputs, plus a slot for a docking station. The Altec Lansing speakers, as with previous HDX machines we've seen, are excellent and easily a match for the harmon/kardon speakers included with the Toshiba Qosmio F50-10Z, making films and games sound surprisingly sharp, crisp and punchy.
Finally, the screen isn't half bad either. It's an edge-to-edge affair with a Full HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 and quality is good, with darker shades reproduced accurately with no sign of backlight bleeding, although lighter shades are less distinct and we noticed a slight red hue to whites. The gloss finish on the screen is reflective, but it helps to deepen blacks and improve contrast.