Seeing the HP Pavilion TX1260ea gives us a sense of déjà vu. It's physically identical to the HP Pavilion TX1020ea we reviewed back in June, with the major difference being a slightly faster CPU and more memory.
Like its not-so-distant relative, it's still a half-tablet, half-Media Center hybrid, but will its improved specification help it succeed where the previous model failed?
The TX1260ea is a nice-looking unit. The silver highlights and glossy black lid are very unimaginative from a design standpoint, but you won't be ashamed to use it in public. Our only gripe is that it picks up fingerprint smudges with impunity, and the tight-fitting keyboard and assorted shortcut buttons that litter the screen edge give it a cluttered look.
These buttons have various functions. One lets you launch HP's QuickPlay software (a poor man's Media Center). Another lets you launch the Windows Mobility Center, where you can adjust the display brightness, volume and performance modes, for high performance or long battery life. There are also shortcut buttons for adjusting playback -- pause, rewind, and so on -- and for switching between portrait and landscape screen orientation.
It may be small, but the TX1260ea is heavy for its size. The chassis and battery weigh in at 2.55kg, which is what we'd expect of 14 or even 15-inch laptops. We attribute this to the heavy hinge mechanism that transforms it from standard laptop mode to tablet mode.
The hinge allows the screen to be rotated through 180 degrees and placed, facing upwards, against the keyboard. You can then use it as a sort of digital notepad, controlling the software with the stylus or your fingers. Unlike lesser laptops of this sort, the screen doesn't feel as if it's going to fall apart in your hands and there's a locking mechanism to prevent it from flying open accidentally.
Unless you're showing off to your mates, most of you will be using the TX1260ea in the standard laptop mode. Here, we found the mouse trackpad to be of the highest calibre -- its mottled Swiss cheese-style surface feels good to the touch and it's highly responsive without being too sensitive.
There's very little difference between the TX1020ea and the TX1260ea. The main disparity is in the TX1260ea's use of an AMD Turion 64 TL-56 processor, clocked at 1.8GHz and 2GB of RAM. This is a notable improvement over the 1.6GHz TL-50 chip and 1GB of RAM in the TX1020ea.
The extra memory is especially welcome here, as it negates the need to use Windows Readyboost to improve performance. It also means the integrated Nvidia GeForce Go 6150 graphics card, which borrows 128MB from system memory, takes a lower proportion of system resources.
The TX1260ea has pretty good storage for a laptop of this price point. Its 160GB drive is better for hoarding movies and digital images than the 120GB drive in the TX1020ea. You also get a built-in DVD drive so you can watch DVDs or make backups. There's also a 5-in-1 memory card reader supporting SD, Memory Stick, MMC and XD storage cards.
The swiveling 'convertible' screen on the TX1260ea is both a help and a hindrance. The display quality is fair but the panel is so reflective it looks as if the screen is covered by a thick layer of Vaseline. And you can forget about using it outdoors -- the whole thing turns into a mirror in direct sunlight. The one good thing about the screen is that it's touch sensitive, and unlike some displays you can use the accompanying stylus or your finger to control it.