Tablet PCs have traditionally been aimed at niche business markets. HP, however, is attempting to persuade home users to embrace the format, with its TouchSmart tx2-1000 series. Given the bad press tablet PCs usually generate, HP is taking pains to describe the TouchSmart tx2-1020ea as a notebook PC, but it sure looks like a tablet to us.
The tx2-1020ea is available for around £1,000.
There's plenty to like about the tx2-1020ea's design. It has an attractive charcoal-grey chassis -- although we're not fans of the rather odd bubble motif -- and feels very robust. Thanks to a sturdy hinge, the screen swivels smoothly and should be able to withstand the occasional knock.
The DVD writer sits on the left-hand side of the chassis, along with a multi-format card reader and 34mm ExpressCard slot. On the right-hand side, you'll find a Gigabit LAN, VGA and USB port. A further two USB ports are located on the rear, next to the battery.
Tablet PC screen sizes are never easy to get right. They need to be big enough to write on, but large screens also mean more weight, which is problematic if you're looking to hold the tablet PC in one hand while jotting notes with the other. The tx2-1020ea has a 12.1-inch screen with a 1,280x800-pixel resolution. With the four-cell battery, the tx2-1020ea weighs 2.1kg, which may be too much for some.
You can interact with the screen in one of two ways: using the stylus -- stored neatly in the right-hand side of the chassis -- or your fingers. A pleasing touch is that the tx2-1020ea will detect when you're scribbling with the stylus and ignore any contact your fingers make with the screen. Move the stylus away from the screen and you can start prodding once again.
The tx2-1020ea's display can recognise multitouch gestures, allowing you to browse through your photo album by dragging two fingers across the screen, for example. While Apple's MacBook, however, can detect three- and four-fingered gestures, the tx2-1020ea can only deal with two fingers.
Another caveat is that the majority of gestures will only work within HP's MediaSmart suite of applications, consisting of playback utilities for DVDs, photos, music, video and so on. That said, some gestures do work in other non-HP applications. In Internet Explorer 7, for example, you can zoom in and out of Web sites using a pinching gesture.
Other features include a capacious 400GB hard drive ticking along at 5,400rpm, 802.11n wireless and Bluetooth.
We've grown accustomed to seeing Intel processors in the majority of laptops these days, but HP has opted to go with AMD for the tx2-1020ea. The processor of choice is the dual-core Turion X2 Ultra ZM-84. This ticks along at 2.3GHz and comes with 4GB of RAM to back it up.
In the PCMark05 benchmarking test, the ZM-84 CPU helped the tx2-1020ea to return a score of 3,803. That means the tx2-1020ea isn't blisteringly fast, but it won't have any trouble with the demands of Vista and most third-party applications.
An ATI Radeon HD 3200 processor takes care of the graphics, but the tx2-1020ea still only managed to clock up 1,852 points in 3DMark06. It will cope with some games if you hold back on the detail and resolution settings, but, then again, we can't see many gamers opting for a tablet PC.
HP generously supplies two batteries as standard. The four-cell battery lasted 1 hour and 5 minutes in Battery Eater's intensive Classic test, while the eight-cell version managed 2 hours and 29 minutes. In the much less intensive Reader's test, these figures increased to 3 hours and 9 minutes, and 6 hours and 19 minutes respectively. Opting for the eight-cell battery adds considerable bulk, pushing the total weight to 2.3kg.
There's plenty to like about the HP TouchSmart tx2-1020ea. It has a sturdy design, looks good and comes with a decent set of features. Its multitouch capabilities are limited but it's the perfect platform on which to try out Vista's excellent tablet PC features, and, thanks to the large screen, scribbling notes using the stylus is effortless.
Edited by Charles Kloet