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Hands on with HP's new 18-inch and 16-inch laptops

HP's new 18-inch and 16-inch HDX16 and HDX18.

Every time we turn around, it seems like a new laptop screen size is vying for our attention. Netbooks have turned us on to 9 and 10-inch displays, and PC makers have been buzzing since CES about new 16 and 18-inch screens. That's because those two new larger sizes are 16:9 aspect ratio displays, which match HDTV screens and work perfectly with HD content, such as Blu-ray movies.

So far, we've only seen 16:9 displays in real life from Acer and Sony (including the just-announced Sony Vaio AW 18-inch laptop), but now HP has just unveiled the HDX16 and HDX18, two systems we had a chance to see and play around with in person last week.

These two new laptops have little in common design-wise with the massive 20-inch original HDX laptop (which hasn't had anything other than internal component upgrades since its introduction). That model is tremendously fun, but impractical. These two new systems are more traditional multimedia systems, designed for the den or dorm room.

We liked how the 16-inch HDX16 managed to squeeze a separate number pad in -- the first time we've seen that outside of a 17-inch laptop, while the 18-inch HDX18 has a Blu-ray drive, dual hard drives, and a mid-level video card for basic gaming.

The edge-to-edge glass look is definitely the way to go for media-friendly laptops, but HP seems perhaps a little too in love with its patterned lids and wrist rests. The subtle wavy-lined designs extend even to the touch pad itself, but it won't be a deal-maker (or a deal-breaker) for consumers.

Giving the new HDX laptops a quick spin, they clearly share a basic DNA with HP's recent Pavilion DV7, with the same round-edged keyboard and off-center touchpad. We called the DV7 "eye-catching," and said, "you'll be hard-pressed to find a better-looking, better-outfitted 17-inch laptop," so that's probably a good thing.

The HP HDX16 starts at $1,299, while the HP HDX18 starts at $1,549, and both should be available before the end of the month. Stay tuned for a full review of the HDX18, currently being tested in the CNET Labs.

HP's new HDX18 and HDX16. HP