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Earlier this year we looked at the HP HDX16-1005ea and went away very impressed. It was the first 16:9 aspect ratio notebook we'd seen from HP, but the company was able to distil all the things we expect in a multimedia notebook into one cohesive, classy and reasonably priced machine. Now we're looking at the HDX16's larger sibling, the HDX18 - an 18.4in machine with an identical focus on multimedia, albeit in a much larger frame.
Aside from its greater size you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between the HDX18 and the HDX16. It has the same basic design down to pretty much every detail and this is definitely no bad thing, since the HDX16 was a very good looking machine. All the visual elements, from the imprint design and "liquid metal" accents to the backlit HP logo and edge-to-edge screen cover, work seamlessly together to create one cohesive and sophisticated whole that will look the part in any modern home.
Looking inside the HDX18 continues to share the same basic layout and features; including the keyboard, which looks a bit weedy inside the 436mm wide chassis. Nonetheless, it offers an excellent experience. On the far right there's a full-size number pad and the layout doesn't feature any of the pitfalls some suffer, featuring a nice large Return key and right-Shift key. Keys have a nice, crisp and positive feel to them and though there is a little more flex than we'd really like around the Return key and number pad, it doesn't have a detrimental effect on typing.
Above the keyboard is an identical set of touch sensitive media controls that are backlit behind a frosted glass-like effect. These encompass all the usual things, such as playback controls, volume, an eject button for the integrated Blu-ray ROM/DVD+/-RW drive and a wireless radio switch, as well as a secondary slider where you can adjust treble and bass independently. This is a nice touch and is especially useful when listening to music, where you might want to adjust things to find the right sound for a particular genre.
This brings us neatly onto the subject of audio and it's an area where the HDX18 excels. With speakers from Altec Lansing and Dolby Home Theatre audio processing, the HDX18 delivers an impressive amount of detail in action scenes, with Dolby's Natural Bass and Sound Expander technology doing a particularly good job in acoustically complex action scenes. With Dolby Headphone also on-hand for virtual surround sound you can enjoy excellent audio when plugged in.
Overall, then, in terms of audio the HDX18 comes out very well, proving slightly better than the HDX16 and only really bested by the likes of the Toshiba Qosmio G50-115, whose lack of a Blu-ray drive means it only offers indirect competition.