When we first heard about the HDX months ago, we wondered exactly where the market for a 20-inch notebook would be. The answer became obvious once it hit our desks -- the luxury market. This thing can only be described as luxurious, although the term "really, really, freaking huge" crossed our minds a few times.
Since this "lapbehemoth" really doesn't fit the normal mould, there's a fair amount to cover here. A lot of the machine is done in piano black with inlaid tribal designs -- which does look reasonably nice, until all the designs become obscured by smudges from your fingers. An HP logo on the back of the screen lights up once the machine powers on, presumably using the monitor's own backlight as the source.
The monitor itself is connected to the base by a double hinge -- so after swinging it out from the base, the bottom of the screen can be tilted via another hinge at the top of the neck, for more comfortable viewing. A slight design flaw in the neck means that the monitor cannot be returned flush against the neck to close the notebook until the neck is almost 100 percent vertical -- not a show stopper, but definitely an irritant as you have flashbacks to playing with transformers as a kid, trying to get that one part to click in that never does. A basic 0.3MP Webcam is situated at the top of the screen, stereo microphone inputs flanking either side. Altec Lansing speakers are built into the bottom of the monitor, with separate bass and treble control.
The touchpad area is not recessed in the traditional style, HP choosing to raise the wrist rest instead and create an artificial dip. The touchpad itself is dotted with indents, like the perforated surface of an air hockey table, the scroll section isolated by a section with no indents. For some reason it also has an on/off button, although we never encountered a situation where it was accidentally activated, so we're not sure of the purpose. The two buttons beneath the touchpad sink far too much into the base when pressing to be comfortable, feeling sluggish and non responsive as a result.
The keyboard has possibly the best response we've had on a notebook, and the separated numpad will keep accountancy geeks happy, rather than having to do the function key dance.
Blue LED lit capacitive touch buttons above the keyboard give access to HP's "Quick Play" application suite -- a media centre that will run DVDs, let you watch television over the notebook's analog/digital tuner, access Vista's game browser, play music, or, heaven forbid, sing karaoke. The rest are the usual smattering of media player controls, with a wireless on/off and volume/treble/bass control to boot. A fingerprint reader sits smack in the middle of all of these, surrounded by piano black, a not so sensible choice considering it's somewhere you'll be continuously swiping your finger, leaving residue behind. A pointless optical drive eject button sits at the far right, around three centimetres away from the actual eject button on the drive itself.
To the left is a Windows Media Center compatible remote control, for all intents and purposes looking like a mobile phone. This needs to be released from the base using a momentary switch, but it'll function just fine if you leave it in. The docking bay it's kept in isn't as insulated as well as the rest of the notebook, meaning that the remote ends up feeling quite toasty when you remove it.
To match the monolithic notebook, a monolithic power adaptor is included, the power brick weighing in at around double the size of the average.
It's as if the designer took one look at the notebook shelf, and said "Yep! We'll have everything!" An HD DVD ROM sits to the right, although the 1,680x1,050 resolution of the screen will mean you'll only get true 1080p viewing by pushing video out the HDMI port on the left. VGA is also available, but there's a great lack of DVI and no HDMI > DVI converter is included, which means punters will have to buy a third party cable.
Four USB ports, one firewire, an SD/MS/MMC/xD card reader and express port finish out the pluggables, with the startling inclusion of an eSATA port, which we can only commend. HP's proprietary "Expansion Port 3" is there as well for HP bought docks, but frankly we would have preferred a DVI port. On the back is output for up to 7.1 sound, S-Video output and an aerial jack for the TV tuner.