TouchSmart tx2z 12.1" Multi-touch Tablet NotebookManufacturer:
as configured (varies by configuration)Lowest Historical Price: $809 HistoryIntroduction
A popular trend in computing and portable devices in particular is multi-touch input. While it lacks the "wow" factor of a glove-controlled computer interface like in "Minority Report," multi-touch has proven to be an appealing alternative, and Windows 7's improved support for it is evidence the technology is here to stay. The selling point of the 12.1" HP TouchSmart tx2z convertible tablet PC is its multi-touch display, a feature present in just-released or soon-to-released offerings from Acer, Dell, Toshiba, and possibly Apple if rumors of its cloaked-in-secrecy tablet are to be believed. The tx2z series already has a built-in niche audience, but will mainstream users want to pay its premium price?Unboxing and First Impressions
The tx2z looks bulky (1 3/8" thick) and feels heavy. With the 6-cell battery, it's a touch over 5 pounds, and it seems like more when you've tucked it in your arm in slate (i.e. tablet) mode for any period of time. Although not distracting, the swirly Reaction HP Imprint Finish is kind of cheap-looking. The pack-ins include a stylus pen and a microfiber cloth which will come in handy for all the smudges that'll appear from flicking and swiping the glossy screen with your fingers.Specs
The tx2z I received came configured with Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit), a 2.3GHz AMD Turion X2 Ultra Dual-Core Mobile Processor, 4GB memory, a 500GB 5400 Hard Drive, and a tray-loading SuperMulti optical drive. A solid state drive would've made sense in a setup like this, but that's not available. It also included a Wireless N-card, Bluetooth, and a fingerprint reader, all optional, depending on your needs. Review
The first time you boot up, it takes about 10 minutes to go through the initial loading and setup screens. The tx2z immediately detected the available wireless networks, and it was a cinch to log on to my secure network. The touchscreen and Windows 7 touch keyboard worked right out of the box. It was fairly easy to move through setup without using the keyboard or trackpad.
While the Help menu offers instructions on system-wide gestures, you'll find that multi-touch is fairly intuitive, especially if you've used an iPhone or other touch-enabled devices. To right click, for example, you press down with one finger and tap with another finger. I found it easier to use two hands for some gestures, like zooming out. Rotating an image was fun the first couple times, but it would be just as easy to click a button.
Although touch gestures are obviously easier to execute when the notebook is in slate mode, it's not awkward to touch the display in laptop mode since the capacitive touchscreen requires very little pressure. If you look closely, the touchscreen layer adds a noticeably "grainy" effect to the display, and while clarity is sharp, this could be a deal breaker for certain users.
As for text input, the touch keyboard is snappy, and predictive text is out of the way but easy to select. Simply touch a small tab on the side of the screen, and the keyboard slides onto the desktop. The touch keyboard yielded much faster and more accurate results than the handwriting recognition which, while not horrible, rendered my first attempt at writing "hello" as "he11.o". The automatic learning feature adapts to the quirks of your handwriting, but do you want to wait that long?
Ironically for a tablet PC, the textured trackpad (with vertical scroll bar) and full-sized keyboard are very comfortable and easy to use and among the best I've used in any notebook. More than a few times, I found myself gravitating back to the traditional input methods.
Aside from the notebook's heft, another drawback was that the chassis became fairly warm to the touch after just a few minutes in slate mode. Not uncomfortable, but the heat might bother some. The fan also got annoyingly loud when slate mode was in operation.Conclusion
It looks like the tablet idea is still waiting for someone to get it just right. Since it's optimized for touch with large-sized buttons and icons, the HP MediaSmart software on the tx2z is fun to use, and I could see its potential when I surfed the web in slate mode. For day-to-day computing, however, it's not as compelling, say, when you have to tap a few times to select the correct row on a menu. (If you have thick fingers, it's a problem.) For now, the tx2z's appeal appears limited to niche users. This could change with more software that's designed with touch input in mind. Otherwise, it looks like those seeking a more complete touchscreen experience will have to continue to wait.Image Gallery