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 this unit a distinct advantage over other desktop replacement or media oriented units. A large 17in widescreen gives you a broad viewing area, an HDMI port provides some rarely seen connectivity and with HP's sleek patterned finish this notebook also has a touch of style. More importantly it does the job well.
With a 1.66GHz T5500 Core 2 Duo CPU from Intel and 1GB of DDR2 667MHz of RAM it scored a 93 in World Bench 5; a very nice score 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 all the bells and whistles of the HP Pavilion Entertainment PC family, but also contains 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, which indicates how long the system will last under average daily usage, 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. In 3DMark 2001 SE it scored 18814, clearly showing that old games are no problem. In 3DMark 2006 it only scored 2176, highlighting that this card will run the latest games, but will likely run them at medium settings only.
The 17in screen has a maximum resolution of 1440x900 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. If you are going to play games or watch movies, 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, which will appeal to gamers and number crunchers alike. There are a couple of squashed keys, but the layout is generally comfortable to navigate. A set of media controls, common to this family of notebooks, sits above the keyboard. Another couple of common, but nice features are the 1.3 megapixel webcam built into the top of the screen and a five-in-one media card reader, which supports SD/MS/MS Pro/MMC and xD cards. We also appreciate the thoughtfulness of having two headphone ports for sharing a movie. The 120GB 5400rpm SATA hard drive should suffice for most storage needs, and a Dual Layer DVD-RW drive is included to help you back-up data. Alternatively, if you want to hook up some external storage there are four USB 2.0 ports to accommodate peripherals.
If you don't have an HDMI capable TV you 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 focussed system, including gigabit Ethernet, FireWire, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g, a 56Kbps modem and Bluetooth 2.0.