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HP HDX18-1005ea 18.4in Notebook - HP HDX18-1005ea
Just as important as audio in a multimedia notebook is the visual performance and the 18.4in screen on the HDX18 doesn't disappoint, either. Sporting the essential Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, it offers pin sharp visuals and text production and plenty of space for productivity when more boring tasks are the order of the day. And, when you want to watch a Blu-ray film or DVD, it delivers smooth motion, good detail and well defined colours. Black levels aren't astonishing, but are still more than adequate, while we found the 18.4in acreage a good size for comfortable viewing of films - a point further enhanced by reasonably good viewing angles that should ensure a minimum of neck craning. Our only caveat would be the predictably reflective glossy screen, which makes keeping ambient light to a minimum necessary.
Also included as part of the multimedia bundle is an integrated TV tuner and HP has included not one, but two remote controls to deal with it and all the other multimedia features. One is an ExpressCard style remote that's useful when taking your machine out and about, while the other is a larger full function remote complete with a number pad and other TV centric controls. Both are very good, with logical layouts and responsive buttons, while the 360 dial on the ExpressCard remote is particularly handy when navigating Media Center's menus.
Connectivity, meanwhile, is just as thorough as the rest of the feature set. You get four USB ports in all, one of which is a combined eSATA and USB port, there's an HDMI output (as you would expect), as well dual-headphone outputs and a microphone input. One slight annoyance is how the IR receiver is hidden beneath the trim at the front, which can make line of sight awkward when standing up, but otherwise there's little to complain about.
On the inside the HDX18-1005ea features largely the same components seen in the HDX16 with the same model designation. Processing is handled by an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 running at 2.26GHz, there's 4GB of 800MHz DDR2 RAM and all the basics, such as Gigabit Ethernet, Draft-N Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, are present and correct. Graphics are handled by an nVidia 9600M GT with 512MB of dedicated memory, which is enough to handle some light gaming duties if you turn the effects down and perhaps the resolution, and there's the added bonus of 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium, so all that system memory doesn't go to waste.
Indeed, the only real difference is the hard drive configuration, where you get two 250GB 5,400rpm drives instead of a single 320GB one. Also available in the HDX18 range is the HDX18-1103ea, which boasts a 2.0GHz quad-core Q9000 and two 320GB drives, though this configuration comes in at just under £1,500 so is significantly more expensive than the model we're looking at today version. Moreover, unless you're doing a lot of video processing, you'll probably find the higher clocked CPU in the HDX18-1005ea will make it faster in most tasks, so it's worth thinking about what you need if you're tempted by the idea of a quad-core processor.