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One of the more obvious trends of 2008 has been the move towards 16:9 aspect ratio screens on notebooks. Though this has been sold as a "feature", providing a more film friendly aspect for watching DVDs and Blu-ray discs, it's just as much a cost cutting exercise, since it allows LCD manufacturers get more screens from a single panel of glass. Cynicism aside, however, it's a trend we heartily approve of since there wasn't a great deal of logic in having 16:10 screens anyway and a 16:9 display is intrinsically better suited to multimedia viewing - it's not just marketing guff.
All this said we've yet to come across a 16:9 effort that quite delivered on all fronts. Acer has probably come closest, with the Aspire 6935G offering a particularly good value option, but it's sometimes hard to escape the feeling that Acer has thrown in all the features it could think of without as much thought as to how they fitted together. HP has done things differently, with the HDX Premium Series that, like Acer's Aspire Blue range, consists of 16in and 18.4in models called the HDX 16 and HDX 18 respectively. As has been the case with HP in recent years, they deliver a pleasingly cohesive design and plenty of quality features. Indeed, the HDX 16 we're looking at today is the best example of a 16:9 "multimedia" notebook we've yet seen.
Starting with its appearance, HP's love for artistic "imprint" designs makes a welcome return. Finished in a subtle midnight blue, the lid is adorned with a cacophony of vary-coloured swirls that, combined with HP's smart backlit logo, immediately lend the HDX 16 the premium look and feel that's intended. This is continued on the inside, too; the swirls sweeping around and across the smooth faux-chrome (or "liquid metal" as HP likes to call it) touchpad.
This contrasts nicely with the silver accenting and keyboard, while the edge-to-edge screen cover that we first saw on the Pavilion dv5-1011ea makes a welcome return. This helps create a seamless glossy black bezel, a feature also seen on the new Apple MacBook and MacBook Pro and an effect that's every bit as attractive as when we first saw it.
Within this bezel, of course, sits the 16in screen and this has two important features. First, it has a Full HD, 1,920 x 1,080 resolution; secondly, it has a dual-lamp backlight. The former is obviously a massive attraction, since it's the perfect resolution for watching high definition material and there's a Blu-ray drive on hand to take advantage of this. On the latter, the dual-lamp backlight helps boost brightness and, more importantly, colour production - making colours richer and more vibrant.
Suffice to say the finished product is very impressive. Given the high pixel per inch count the screen is incredibly sharp, producing detailed video, photos and easily read text. Colour production is also very good; colours are vibrant without being overblown and gradations smooth and free of obvious banding. Viewing angles are pretty good, though in brighter light the glossy screen does hamper things somewhat. All told, though, video and other media is well handled and the high resolution screen is ideal for more boring productivity tasks, too.