One of the upper tier Core 2 Duo notebooks in HP's newest selection of entertainment machines, the HP Pavilion dv9018TX Entertainment Notebook PC, comes with a number of nice features that give it a distinct advantage over other desktop replacement or media-oriented units. A large 17-inch widescreen gives a broad viewing area, while an HDMI port provides some rarely seen connectivity. HP's sleek patterned finish adds a touch of style. More importantly, the notebook does the job well.
With a 1.66GHz T5500 Core 2 Duo CPU from Intel and 1GB of DDR2 667MHz of RAM it scored very highly for a lower frequency CPU. Unlike other Pavilion notebooks we've looked at, this model comes with Windows XP Professional, rather than Windows Media Center Edition (MCE). However, it does ship with HP's Quick Play (QP) software, which provides similar functionality to MCE. It also comes with the QP mini remote, which stows snugly into the express card slot. The dv9018TX has similar features to most of the HP Pavilion Entertainment PC family, but with a couple of extras: namely, an HDMI output. Although it doesn't have a High Definition drive, the convenience of HDMI for outputting both digital video and audio makes it great for setting up in the living room.
Though the machine is large enough to be considered a desktop replacement, the battery life wasn't too shabby for its size. In MobileMark 2005's productivity test, it ran for 166 minutes with a score of 221; a reasonable result. For those intending to use this as a movie player, we ran a DVD rundown test, and the system lasted 142 minutes. This will be enough to watch a full feature film and not much more, but considering the power requirements of a unit this size, we were not surprised.
While the GeForce Go 7600 graphics card is a little older now, it's still a good mid-range card and will play most of the latest games, though not necessarily at full quality. Old games are no problem and the card will run the latest games, but more likely than not at medium settings.
The 17-inch screen has a maximum resolution of 1440 x 900 and offers good contrast and brightness. The vertical viewing angles are also reasonable; there was some minor colour inversion as we moved away from a central position, but overall the picture is still quite visible at fairly obtuse angles. The installed Altec Lansing speakers produce excellent sound; a far reach from the tinny audio that most notebook speakers emit.
The keyboard is large and spacious, with a number pad. A set of media controls, common to this family of notebooks, sits above the keyboard. Another couple of nice features are the 1.3 megapixel Web cam built into the top of the screen and a five-in-one media card reader. We also appreciated the thoughtfulness of having two headphone ports for sharing a movie. The 120GB 5400rpm SATA hard drive should suffi ce for most storage needs, and a dual-layer DVD-RW drive is included to help users backup data. Alternatively, there are four USB 2.0 ports to accommodate peripherals.
If users don't have an HDMI capable TV they can always use the S-Video out, or output to a monitor using the VGA port. A port replicator ensures more options are available. The notebook has an array of connectivity options befitting an entertainment focused system, including gigabit Ethernet, FireWire, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g, a 56Kbps modem and Bluetooth 2.0.