This accomplished visual performance is matched by excellent audio. It might not have a “bass tube” like the Acer, but it does feature two discrete drivers and a mid-range woofer and these do just as good a job. Fine, they still won’t best even a mediocre pair of separate speakers, but you could watch a film and enjoy reasonably punchy explosions and clear dialogue.
Dolby Home Theatre technology is also present, adding excellent virtual surround effects for speakers and headphones, or real surround sound for capable speakers. Our only gripe is that you can only obtain an optical audio output via a separately sold docking station, but if you do want to use the HDX 16 like this it’s probably a useful investment anyway.
Included in the box is not one but two media remotes. One is the 54mm ExpressCard style remote we’ve seen in dozens of notebooks, while the other is a larger remote with a full number pad. Though fairly unremarkable in most respects, the ExpressCard remote does add something we haven’t seen before: a 360 degree dial. This proved particularly handy for navigating Media Center (see the video review for evidence of this), while the larger remote features an intuitive layout and crisp buttons, making it perfect for controlling the integrated Digital TV Tuner.
Sticking with input devices for a little longer, the keyboard is large and roomy and has a handy numeric keypad to the right. This does mean the keyboard is slightly off-centre, but the keypad is more useful than the slightly confusing CineDash on the Acer. As for the keyboard itself, there is a modicum of flex in there, but keys have a crisp and positive action that ensures brisk and painless typing. Below it the touchpad is well proportioned and has a pleasant smooth finish. Its buttons are of the sprung variety, so don’t ‘click’, but they feel very durable and offer plenty of feedback.
Above the keyboard sits a bank of touch sensitive buttons. These consist of media playback controls, a shortcut for HP’s MediaSmart software, volume controls and a wireless radio switch. You can even adjust the treble and bass levels with a secondary slider, though we found using these as sliders was awkward and inaccurate, so it’s easier just to tap the ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ icons to adjust things. Besides this all the buttons are easy to use and, thanks to the frosted glass effect and backlighting, look pretty cool.
And since we’ve just mentioned MediaSmart, it’s worth noting that it has seen something of a face-lift. This is largely to bring it into line with the TouchSmart interface seen on the likes of the HP TouchSmart IQ500, which is a significant improvement over the previous incarnation. It does, as before, replicate some of the functionality of Windows Media Center, but neat features like a battery meter on the GUI are quite useful if watching a film on battery power.