Rhinoceros-sized laptops are all the rage. Dell andhave already created 20-inch behemoths, so it was only a matter of time before HP -- the world's number one PC maker -- joined the fray with a 'laps top' of its own.
The HDX9000, aka the 'Dragon', sports the same gi-normous display as the XPS M2010 and Aspire AS9800, but comes fitted with faster components, a more stylish chassis and a definite penchant for home entertainment. It's available to buy now in John Lewis for £1,350.
Whoever said all big, brutish laptops are ugly got it wrong. The HDX9000 is not only the most attractive 20-incher on the market, it's also among the prettiest laptops available, full stop. The curved edges and soft silver highlights give it the sleek, contemporary look missing from most large laptops.
As with all HP's new consumer laptops, the HDX9000 sports Imprint Finish 'Technology'. In other words, it has pretty squiggly patterns on the lid and just above the keyboard, which in this case has an oriental dragon theme. This looks gorgeous next to the raised silver hinge section, which extends halfway along the middle of the lid.
It's not often we get excited by hinges but this one has a few tricks up its sleeve. It's actually a double hinge system: the first hinge has its pivot point between the screen and the base section and lets you open the lid to a 45-degree angle -- just like most laptops. Once in this position, an internal catch frees the lower portion of the display, bringing a second hinge into operation.
This second hinge is in the centre of the lid itself. The combination of the two hinges means you can view the screen in its standard 'laptop' position, tilt it towards the ceiling for use when standing above the laptop, or more usefully, to bring the screen about 100mm closer to you.
This sounds like a clever idea until you try it in practice. The laptop has a set of touch-sensitive shortcut buttons above the keyboard, which can react quite violently if you tilt the screen anywhere near them. It wasn't uncommon for the HDX9000 to beep maniacally -- thinking we were ejecting the CD tray, fast-forwarding films and adjusting the volume simultaneously.
Just below the touch-sensitive strip of buttons is a large keyboard with a dedicated numerical keypad. This is comfortable to use apart from the undersized shift buttons. The mouse trackpad takes some getting used to. It looks great but its pocked surface isn't ideal. It's not very smooth so using it often feels as if you're battling with the cursor.
The rest of the laptop is very well-designed, though. There's an infrared remote control built into chassis, but it's not one of those rubbish ones that fit into a PC Card slot. This one has a dedicated hollow next to the keyboard and clips securely into place. It's lovely.
Most of the Dragon's components are geared towards multimedia entertainment. The 20-inch screen, for example, is great for watching movies, but HP misses a trick in not making it 'Full HD'. Its native resolution of 1,680x1,050 pixels is ample, but we've seen 1,920x1,080 pixels on smaller 17-inch screens, so there's no real excuse not to go higher.
Attached to the display is an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics card -- ATI's fastest available mobile solution. It's backed by 256MB of dedicated memory and has enough horsepower to allow 3D gaming and HD movie playback via the HDMI port. Don't expect the Dragon to run games as fast as laptops with twin graphics cards, but it's a better solution than the Radeon X1800 in the Dell XPS M2010.