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Maximum PC Staff

Mar 10, 2010

HP TouchSmart tx2

At A Glance

Skin

Outstanding touch screen; excellent handwriting recognition.

Skinned

Heavy for an ultra portable; loud under load; poor performance; expensive.

Don't touch me there

We’re unabashed fans of HP’s Touch-Smart desktop machines, so we were really looking forward to getting our digits on the new technology in a convertible touch-screen notebook PC. But our eager anticipation only made the reality of the TouchSmart tx2 all that more disappointing.

This is the first convertible touch-screen PC designed for the consumer market, and its underlying hardware—which in our review unit included AMD’s best mobile CPU—delivered enough horsepower for this machine’s touch-screen elements. Benchmark performance, on the other hand, was dismal (more on that later).

You can use the TouchSmart tx2 as a conventional notebook PC or rotate its 12.1-inch screen 180 degrees, lay it flat, and use the machine’s tablet functionality. The 1280x800 touch screen uses active digitizing technology and supports the use of either a fingertip or a digital pen (as opposed to the simple stylus that HP shipped with its first-generation TouchSmart desktops). The digital pen delivers hover feedback (it doesn’t have to touch the screen to activate user-interface elements, such as tooltips) and considerably more precision than a fingertip.

The pen is particularly useful for drawing diagrams and jotting notes, and HP’s handwriting-recognition software is nothing short of excellent. It had no problem recognizing even our sloppiest handwriting as fast as we could scribble. The vaunted multitouch feature—which lets you manipulate objects and certain aspects of the user interface—is really only useful with HP’s very basic MediaSmart applications.

That could change once Windows 7 hits the market, since the new OS is slated to offer native support for multitouch screens. (This machine came with the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium).

If you don’t have a work surface and don’t need to type, you can put the machine in tablet mode and cradle it in one arm. But we found that our elbow and shoulder could tolerate this position for only about 20 minutes because the TouchSmart tx2 is so heavy for its size: five pounds, one ounce (with the optional eight-cell battery). Adding the power supply brings the weight up to five pounds, 13 ounces. Replacing the optical drive with the plastic “weightsaver” shell sheds five ounces, but renders the machine much less useful.

As you can see in the chart below, the TouchSmart tx2 is abysmally slow with hardcore applications. And while the machine was nearly silent when idle or playing a movie, it sounded like a hair dryer when given a heavy load. The battery delivered two hours and 51 seconds—long enough to watch both Boogie Nights and its supplemental disc—using HP’s recommended settings (which balance battery life with performance).

We made many allowances for the performance of HP’s touch-screen desktops, with the caveat that they shouldn’t be a Maximum PC reader’s only computer. We can’t do the same for a notebook. And while we can ignore the TouchSmart tx2’s crappy gaming performance—no one buys an ultra portable to play games—we can’t ignore this machine’s other shortcomings and high price tag.

Benchmarks

Zero-Point Notebook
HP TouchSmart tx2
Premiere Pro CS3 (sec)
1860
2,580 (-27.9%)
Photoshop CS3 (sec)
237
316 (-25%)
ProShow (sec)
2,416
2,310
MainConcept (sec) 3,498
4,643 (-24.7%)
Fear 1.07 (fps)
14
13.0 (-7.1%)
Quake 4 (fps)
29.1
15.9 (-54.6%)
Our zero point notebook uses a 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, 2GB of DDR2/667 RAM, an 80GB hard drive, GeForce Go 8600M and Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit Edition).
Specifications

HP TouchSmart tx2
CPU AMD Turion X2 Ultra Dual Core ZM-86
RAM 4GB DDR2 SDRAM (two DIMMs)
ChipsetAMD ATI RS780M
Hard Drive
400GB Toshiba MK4058GSX (5,400rpm)
Optical Optiarc DVD RW AD-7581 8x (w/Lightscribe)
GPUAMD ATI Radeon HD 3200
Boot/Down 148 sec/23 sec
Lap/Carry Weight
5 lbs, 1 oz/5 lbs, 13 oz
THE VERDICT

HP TouchSmart tx2

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