The New HPX

Courtesy of absolutevista.com, I now have a new computer. This page will eventually tell about my experiences thus far, but for now enjoy the pictures. Click on each thumbnail for a larger picture. Be careful- some are quite large and will take time to show on a slow connection. Please excuse the quality as I am not a professional photographer by any means. Except for the desktop screenshots, all pictures were taken with my Kodak 4-megapixel Easyshare and edited with Corel Paint Shop Pro X2. The thumnail pics were done with IrfanView. Oh, if you see only one picture per line then resize your browser window. It should be friendly to 1024×768 resolution or higher. They should be two across.

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Closed BoxOpen Box

The box for the computer. Sorry for the shipping labels- they are pretty much permanent.

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AccessoriesInstructions

Some of the accessories and the setup instruction sheet. The power brick in the left picture is easily recognizable, but the others probably aren’t. They are an HDTV antenna (back), another antenna (FM I believe), a remote controller to use the included remote (pictured later) with another device like a TV, and a pair of headphones.

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Closed ViewKeyboard

The closed computer (left) and the computer opened up, at least the keyboard (right). Note that not only is the computer large enough to have a keypad on the right, it has room for a place to put the remote on the left! Just above the keyboard is a control panel that is lit up. These are touch-sensitive buttons- not just a cool display. There are closeups of this below.

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Panel 1Panel 2

The closeups are pretty much shown from left to right as they appear. The left picture starts with the power button, the only “real” button that actually goes down when you press it unlike the others. Next to the power buttons are three buttons that will load up HP’s Quickplay software with two buttons that will go right to the DVD/Blu-ray player or the external input (antenna or s-video). Those buttons are repeated in the right picture, and beside them are the standard controls you would see on a standard multimedia keyboard. Just to the right of that (not pictured) is a button that will dim the entire panel for “theater mode.”

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Panel 3Panel 4

On these two pictures you see slider controls that will adjust the volume or treble/bass. Pretty neat on the surface, but I found it really doesn’t work that well in practice. I found it much easier to tap the [-]/[+] buttons directly than to use the slider. Pressing the treble/bass button will switch between the two. An on-screen display pops up when you press either of these controls. To the far left is of course the mute button. Not shown to the left of that is a button that will turn off the wireless networking, both WLAN and bluetooth. The control on the far right opens the CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive. The light you see below the treble/bass slider is the num-lock light. The caps lock has a similar light.

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Fingerprint ReaderRemote

The picture on the right is a closeup of the fingerprint reader in the dead center of the control panel above the keyboard. The icons on either side are the theater mode (left) and wireless toggle (right) mentioned earlier. With UAC on Vista I have found this to be an incredible resource, saving me from having to type in the admin password every time I want to install something, run certain programs, or even delete unwanted icons from my desktop (whose idea was it to protect the desktop?!?). I have yet to check if the fingerprint reader can be used at the BIOS level, but I hope it can for security reasons. The picture on the right is a closeup of the included remote sitting in its bay to the left of the keyboard. The switch to the right of it releases the remote.

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Left1Left 2

Here are the ports on the left side of the computer. From left to right are two USB ports, the LAN port for wired networking, HP expansion port to connect to a docking bay or port replicator, VGA out, HDMI out, E-SATA port, 1394 (FireWire) port, digital memory card reader, and ExpressCard port.

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RightFront

Quite a bit less on the right since that is where the optical drive is. There are two more USB ports in addition to the drive. The picture on the right is of the ports on the front of the computer. As you can see, we have the IR remote sensor, microphone input, and two headphone inputs.

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Rear 1Rear 2

These two pictures are from the back of the machine. There are air vents on either side. In addition to that are the IR emitter port (remember the accessory above?), audio input, s-video input, antenna input, and audio output ports for 7.1 sound. I am a little confused at this because to this day I have not figured out how to get Quickplay (the only way to play Blu-ray, which can use 7.1 audio) to use anything but the left/right channel! I can play DVDs through another player and get 5.1 sound, but as I said only HP’s Quickplay will play Blu-ray.

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SizeSoftware

The left picture shows the stickers at the bottom corner. As you can see it comes with the Core2 Extreme (X9000), Vista (x64), and NVidia (8800M GTS). The right picture is a bad photo of the webcam just over the screen. An LED lights up when it’s on so there should be no surprises. I hope this is hard-wired so a hacker can’t turn the camera on without the LED lighting up. Um- excuse me while I find some electrical tape to cover it. I think it’s by my tinfoil hat… 😛 If you look closely, you will also see a microphone to the right of the webcam. The computer has two built-in microphones just above the screen on either side of the webcam.

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DriveDisc

The Blu-ray drive, with and without a disc. Since I have already seen the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, I chose to rent a Blu-ray movie instead to test this out.

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QuickplayBluRay

HP’s Quickplay software in action in select mode and full-screen mode.

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Enchanted 1Enchanted 2

Two more pictures from Enchanted. Notice how in the picture on the left the menu works a little differently from DVD movies. I am not sure if this is just Enchanted or other Blu-ray titles as well. Clearly you can do more with Blu-ray. Even some of the included games are a bit more involved than your standard DVD fare.

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SizeSoftware

In another attempt to show you just how large this computer is I have set a desktop keyboard on top of the HPX. As you can see, this computer is just as wide. There’s a little story with the keyboard comparison- one of the posts on Absolute Vista after their contest ended linked to a site that did a photo comparison with an HP tablet PC. Not knowing how a tablet PC compared with a regular laptop I wrote John back that it would have been a better comparison for me if they used a desktop keyboard instead, since they have a size most people know, or can at least understand just by looking in front of them. So I figured, why not? So here it is. Anyway, the picture on the right is the software I received as a bonus to the computer. Dead center on the bottom is Norton IS 2008. Though I hear Norton software has improved from its bloated, crippleware infamity, I still do not trust it. Notice in the screenshots below that Avast! and Comodo have replaced the previously Norton IS 2007 trial. I had thought Office 2007 was to come with this computer, but I guess I got Norton instead. Fortunately I already had a license from Microsoft’s ultimate steal promotion (Office 2007 Ultimate for $70!) last year. It pays to take continuing education classes sometimes…

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DesktopWindows

Two boring screenshots, with some lame site showing on the right. Okay, I am kidding. It is only thanks to their contest that I have this computer and am writing this right now, so it’s only right to give free advertisement for their site. 🙂 The desktop background is from a site where I found a lot of breathtaking pictures. Just underneath the taskbar is the name of the photographer, Rob Laddish. I forgot to bookmark his site, but I am sure a search on google or whatever engine you use will yield good results.

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Well, now that the eye candy is out of the way, how about some of my thoughts and stories? Well, after a few emails back and forth with John from AbsoluteVista, I received the two packages via FedEx. When John gave me the tracking number he forgot to tell me who was delivering it, so on my third try (tried USPS and UPS first) I found FedEx was going to deliver it, and so I headed home from work in anticipation and, nothing. I looked it up again and yep, it was on the truck to be delivered. I waited a bit, and a little after 5PM the van pulled up, and I was at the door before the delivery guy could ring the doorbell. I signed for it and I was ready to go. From the picture above, you can probably guess that the computer was not packaged inside another box to hide the contents from view, but it didn’t matter as it arrived safe and sound. I examined the computer box and saw that it had been opened before- probably John checked it out to make sure it worked. This was a potential concern if I wanted to sell it, and I did think about that considering the value of this thing. However, the want to keep this won out and here we are. I opened it up and realized that this thing was enormous for a laptop. Good thing I didn’t go out and buy a laptob bag for this- I think I will need an art bag (holds sketch pads) to transport this around!

Next up was the software box. Everything that was in this box is pictured above. Again, from the list on their website I was able to see that I received everything, with Norton 2008 apparently substituted for Microsoft Office, as the only Office on this computer was a 60-day trial. As I also said, it was no big deal since I already had Office 2007 Ultimate. Right away I installed Paint Shop Pro since I use this a lot. As soon as I do my week at camp this summer, I will be checking out Video Studio as well. The rest I saved for later.

I hooked up the computer, turned it on, and went through the initial setup. Vista had me create an account and finally I was looking at the Vista desktop for the first time. Incredible- what a difference. 1920×1200 resolution. Until now I had only used up to 1152×864. But- only the one account, and an administrator account at that? I thought Vista made people create a user account without administrator privileges? Well, in the interest of security I went ahead and did that, and now I am operating from a standard user account. One of the things it kept reminding me to do (other than registering) was to make a fingerprint profile to make logging in easier. I actually decided to skip this for awhile and just login by password. This lasted less than a week before I finally got tired of UAC asking me for the administrator password and registered two fingers to my administrator account. What a pain! It took untold amounts of swiping to even get it to tell me it got the finger, but I had to do it four times (turned into 30+!) to get to know the finger. Then more times than not, it would tell me that the fingerprints were no good and I had to start over?!? Well, it finally took and I decided (much later) to register two other fingers to my standard account, so now whenever I have to reboot or I just turn on my computer, the account I log into depends on what finger I choose to use to sign in. I still use the passwords from time to time so I don’t forget them though.

Well, time to install some of my own stuff. I quickly found out it was best to do this from the administrator account. UAC may come up with the “are you sure?” prompts, but at least I didn’t have to swipe my finger or enter a password. One of the first things I decided to install was a real mouse- I really hate touchpads. I will only use them if I have to. I uninstalled Norton 2007 right off. “Are you sure? You may lose your trial period…” Only a few times in my life have I ever been more sure. Next up, Avast, make a retore point, Comodo, and how about updating some drivers? I would start with the video drivers. I find on NVidia’s site that I would have to get them from HP or risk losing function of the media controls. Fine- I go to HP’s site and it wants the model number. Of course, HPX wasn’t good enough, it wanted “Pavilion xxx.” Naturally this was at the bottom, in the back. Always the most inconvenient of places. Carefully lifing it up and contorting myself so I could read it, I memorized it, entered it in, and voila! The drivers. Downloaded, went to install video drivers right away. Being video drivers the screen went blank at some point. You-know-whose law being what it is, the drivers fail at this point. I wait and wait, and nothing but a blank screen, so I can’t even find out what went wrong. Sigh. I reboot, restore, then find it lost my fingerprint information. Oh joy! Registration again. You know how that went, just like before. Comodo would have to be reinstalled too. The video drivers were in my download folder and were now gone thanks to Vista’s restore feature- yeah, restore the folder to its original empty configuration… No matter as I wouldn’t be trying those again. Hopefully future updates will go through the HP/Windows update features.

It is fortunate I have been using someone else’s computer for so long. It has kind of weaned me off of some programs so I really didn’t have much to install. There are a couple more things I want to install that were on my old computer, and I eventually will, but for now I am satisfied. Anyway, next up was to try the new media features, particularly blu-ray. Having seen the Pirates movies before, I decided to go rent a movie- Enchanted as you know from above. Excellent movie as I found out. And this computer does an excellent job playing them- not a single problem with the movie. Well, an annoyance. Quickplay apparently doesn’t save the position of the movie if you stop in the middle. When I wanted to continue, I had to go through everything again (blu-ray ad- why? I already have blu-ray and this is a blu-ray title!; previews- this is where the menu button/option comes in handy; FBI threats) before finally being able to find my place again. Moving on, I decided to try the media center. I went through the setup, hooked up the HD antenna that came with the computer, and found I only received a few channels on it. No sign of the multiple channels of one station my brother gets on his HDTV either, like PBS-1, PBS-2, etc. I guess I need a real antenna. I haven’t yet tried the satellite over s-video, but I will. And I will start doing some recording too.

How is it for games you might ask? Well, I can’t answer that as of yet- I have been a little busy getting acquainted with these things to give my freebies a try. When I get back from camp I will give Gears of War and Viva Piñata a go. I expect some nice speed and nice detail. I have tried MAME though. Definitely an improvement on frame rates. Some of the unplayables like California Speed, Gradius 4, and others have become more enjoyable if not full speed. California Speed gets about 65-75% in game, but San Francisco Rush only gets about 50%. For those who are not MAME-geeks, Seattle/Vegas games like these two require hardware not currently sold in the consumer market to get full speed, though some who have overclocked Core 2 CPUs to 4GHZ and beyond have gotten pretty close. Emulation requires a lot of power. Dreamcast emulation should be nice when I get around to it.

Video I have just started to get up and running again. A few of the apps I’m used to no longer work, like ProjectX, but others like avi.net and mediacoder seem to be working. So far the encoding speed has improved by 50-100%, but I expect when I find more 64-bit and more multi-threaded applications I will see this go up immensely. There will be more on this as I figure out what applications are best on this hardware/OS.

Now for a couple of disappointments. First off, the 5.1 sound in Quickplay- is this only allowed over HDMI? Why even bother with the analog 7.1 output then. At least other apps don’t have this restriction. I am still trying to figure out how to play blu-ray in Media Player Classic- it claims to be a blu-ray player, but it looks like certain codecs need to be installed by programs like PowerDVD, and I know pack-in versions of this and WinDVD don’t allow more than stereo sound. That’s only for the pay versions. I may have to invest in one. Another dislike is no SPDIF (digital audio) out. Apparently digital out is over HDMI only as far as I can figure. I know there are converters out ther, but they are expensive. There is also no s-video output, so I can’t use my analog TV as a second monitor for games or video (typical uses of mine). Again, there are converters available, like VGA to s-video, but they can be expensive or low-quality. The placement of the keys and touchpad have been problematic as I am not used to them. I had to find a tweak to disable the caps lock key after hitting it accidentally over and over again. As for the touchpad, there is a button to disable it. I kept gliding my thumbs over it when typing. I am more comfortable with a real mouse anyway. I have had issues with Vista x64 and applications I am used to using, but I guess it’s not much different from moving to XP from 98. Eventually I will get sorted out on this. The last thing is where do I find a laptop bag for this beast?? It won’t even come close to fitting in a regular bag! Okay, that one was kind of lame.

Where do I go from here? Well, a lot more testing is needed for sure, like with regular PC games and real 64-bit multithreaded video applications. More media center use as well. I have only had this for a few weeks after all. However, I will be away for a week so I won’t be updating this during that time. I suppose you can consider it finished- for now.

Oh, I almost forgot.  Click here to read the story I wrote for the contest.

5 thoughts on “The New HPX”

  1. Hope the new computer is still working out well for you. I use Vista x64 100% now, and it works great for my games and video editing. (real old games work better under dosbox) Glad you found the pics on my site. 🙂 For anyone else who’d like to see them, you can find them at http://laddish.net. We added some cool new ones from the Greek Islands taken early 2008.

  2. Still using it- the computer rocks. Unfortunately I have run into a few issues here and there, but the same can be said by anyone of their computer. I have Windows 7 preordered, and as soon as I can upgrade one of my hard drives, the beta will be installed. Thanks for the incredible pictures Rob!

  3. randki towarzyskie

    I am sure that i will come back to your website soon. Keep us posting interesting articles

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