HP TouchSmart TX2-1020ea review

Price when reviewed

The tablet PC was one of those pieces of technology that looked like it was doomed to never catch on; then the iPhone was released and suddenly touchscreens were the future. Unfortunately for HP, the trend of unconvincing tablet PCs is continued by the TouchSmart TX2.

HP TouchSmart TX2-1020ea review

The name provokes optimism – the last time we saw an HP TouchSmart PC it was the spectacular TouchSmart IQ500, a desktop system with a 22in touchscreen display that, for the first time, hinted at a bright future for desktop touch-operated systems.

Unlike a device like the HP Pavilion TX1080ea, the TX2 has a capacitative touchscreen. This means controlling the screen with the pad of a finger is easier, although a stylus is included. It also means the TouchSmart is multi-touch capable, enabling you to use gestures such as pinching or rotating by holding one finger steady and swirling another around it.

The bundled software works well. Press the wave button on the right hand side of the screen and a five-button panel loads, allowing you to prod the screen and load a MediaSmart module, depending on whether you want to browse through photos, play a DVD, listen to music, watch a video from your PC’s hard disk or watch TV. The last of these gives rise to a little feature-frustration, as the TX2 doesn’t have an integrated TV tuner.

Each application is intuitive: you’re faced by large icons that don’t require much accuracy to select correctly, and the buttons for controlling playback or adjusting settings are easy-to-use. The MediaSmart software is occasionally a little rough around the edges, though. Each time you make a selection by poking the screen, for instance, you get a glimpse of the old-fashioned white Windows mouse pointer, which ruins the illusion that you’re using a bespoke, cutting-edge piece of software.

But if the software is well-executed, the hardware is less so. The problems start with the 12.1in screen. It’s not just the size of the 1,280 x 800 panel, it’s the brightness. Like many tablet PC screens, the touchscreen hardware has added a mottled, grainy layer to the screen, which affects visibility. This, coupled with the glossy finish, means that even indoors we were constantly adjusting it to see properly. The problems are compounded by the single joint holding the screen onto the body of the laptop, which we found was prone to folding backwards after multiple taps or dragging our fingers across the screen.

And then there are the looks. HP’s marketing makes the TX2 look spectacular, but in person it’s less impressive. The lid is adorned by a rather fussy, if light, swirly design, and a similar motif is plastered all over the wrist-rest. The screen is obviously going to suffer its fair share of fingerprints, but it’s disappointing that the rest of the glossy chassis suffers too – the effect didn’t win any admirers in the PC Pro office.

The foibles continue with the TX2’s cooling. The 2.3GHz AMD Turion X2 Ultra processor throttles down when it’s not being fully used, but even at just under 1.2GHz it was still asking plenty of the TX2’s cooling fans. A small fan at the front right-hand side of the chassis was whirring away virtually the whole time we were using the system, and it whirred louder, and the body became hotter. The processor is helped by 4GB of RAM, and the TX2 ran to a usable overall result of 0.93 in our benchmarks.

All that power-intensive cooling took its toll in our battery tests, with the TX2 running for just an hour and 11 minutes under heavy use. It managed just shy of three and a half hours under light use, but even so, it isn’t the best companion for DVD watching on a long flight. You could save battery power by watching video from the hard disk – the Toshiba drive inside the TX2 has a capacity of 400GB, which is plenty for applications and video.

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