HP has refreshed its HDX range with the release of the HDX9313TX. Not much has changed in terms of design since we reviewed the Pavilion HDX9004TX, but some tweaking under the hood has improved performance. However, the 9313TX has many high-end components but no fine tuning. This impacts on performance and causes the overall user experience to suffer.
The laptop's nickname — the Dragon — refers to the design of the chassis, but it seems more descriptive of its size. The notebook is a beast, on par with the HDX9004TX and easily surpassing the size of its main competitor, the Alienware Area-51 m15x-R1. This seems necessary in order to fit its plethora of hardware components and its back pain–inducing 20.1in LCD screen. At 7kg, it certainly won't be competing with the Macbook Air for the mobility crown.
Don't expect to use it like a typical notebook — its sheer size will easily cause it to topple from your lap. Still, at least it won't burn your lap: two exhaust holes on the back of the notebook provide cooling, rather than heat dissipating through its bottom or keyboard.
The notebook boasts a 20.1in Ultra Brightview Widescreen Display. Although this is touted to be "high definition", its resolution maxes out at 1680x1050. This pales when compared to the 1920x1200 offered by the Area-51 m15x-R1, although the monitor's missing pixels aren't going to ruin the Blu-Ray experience. The notebook has an HDMI port to enable full HD resolution on a plasma or LCD screen. Unfortunately, it has no audio passthrough, so you'll have to connect digital audio and video separately.
The 9313TX's screen sits atop a dual-hinge support, allowing it to be adjusted to angles not possible for a conventional notebook. Horizontal viewing angles are excellent, but changing your vertical adjustment angle quickly washes out most colour. HP's use of a gloss panel accentuates colours, but also means that the notebook becomes almost unusable in any situation involving anything above dim light. We tried to play games and movies in a well-lit office, and glare made it impractical.
This is unfortunate, given the bevy of entertainment features available. A digital/analog TV tuner allows easy access to live television through HP's own Quickplay program or Windows Media Centre. Integrated Altec Lansing speakers provide the notebook's sound; there are four speakers in the screen panel and a Triple Bass Reflex subwoofer on the underside of the chassis. The maximum volume won't shatter your ears, but the bass was surprisingly good.
Touch-sensitive keys above the keyboard give the user access to the notebook's QuickPlay functions, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and volume and equaliser settings. There's even a 'cinema' button that fades the buttons' backlights to minimise distraction when playing a game or watching a movie in a dark room. The buttons work well, but we're a little confused as to why HP chose to place the fingerprint scanner above the keyboard, rather than in a more practical position.
The touchpad's textured design uses the same material as the rest of the chassis. Unfortunately, it is somewhat resistive in normal use and takes some getting used to.
Under the hood, the 9313TX is driven by an Intel Core 2 Extreme X9000 CPU running at 2.8GHz, with an NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTS in charge of the notebook's graphics. Media capabilities are enhanced by the laptop's Blu-Ray player. The notebook has 640GB of storage thanks to two 320GB hard drives, which spin at 5400rpm. This may sound great for BitTorrent junkies everywhere, but the slow drives impact on the notebook's performance.
Performance isn't lacking in the 9313TX, but because of the mismatched components it fell a little short of expectations. Our WorldBench 6 tests yielded a result of 83, improving somewhat on the Pavilion HDX9004TX but overshadowed by the 106 achieved by the Alienware Area-51 m15x-R1. The m15x also came out in front in 3DMark06 tests, scoring 9127 as opposed to the 9313TX's 8038. On the other hand, our iTunes encoding test — converting 53min of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s — shaved two seconds off the m15x's time, managing it in 62sec.
The Dragon certainly isn't a slouch, but its performance when multitasking and compressing files aren't all they could be. Fortunately, this doesn't seem to impact gaming performance — we played Alone in the Dark and G.R.I.D. at an average of 40-50 frames per second — but those programs that rely heavily on hard drive speeds, such as video editing and compression, are likely to suffer.
Given the notebook's massive 180 Watt power supply, we expected this behemoth to be bereft of staying-power in terms of its battery. Nevertheless, the 9313TX impressed us. Its nine-cell Li-Ion battery lasted 1hr42min in our worst-case DVD rundown test. This is a huge increase on the Pavilion HDX9004TX, which lasted a measly 60mins, and is miles ahead of the m15x's 59mins. Though the notebook's size isn't ideal for mobile working conditions, the 9313TX should have enough juice for those situations where you find yourself without power and need to finish editing that HD documentary on Paris Hilton's dog.