Review: HP TouchSmart tx2z

HP has been tinkering with touch tech for a couple of years. But they have yet to nail the bull’s eye with a machine that mixes mature hardware with a haptic interface that feels like more than just a half-assed effort.

So, we were cautiously optimistic with the TouchSmart tx2z. The good news? As HP’s first multitouch convertible tablet, it’s got a lot of potential.

First off, the tx2z’s touch interface has improved. The marketing jargon for the expanded interface is “capacitive multitouch technology” which translates to sophisticated multifinger gestures like pinching, rotating, flicking, double-tapping and dragging for navigation. The big difference is that these functions aren’t buried within a touch-based software suite. Want to zoom/shrink, or scroll within programs like Firefox, MS Office, or even the desktop? All it takes is a little pinching and poking on the tx2z’s screen. Although the 12-inch display doesn’t provide tons of space for all the hot finger-on-touchscreen action, it’s a small quibble given the screen’s overall responsiveness.

Converting from notebook to tablet also proved painless, thanks to a solid hinge and the included pen. After swinging the 1280 x 800 screen around (and folding it back), we found two goodies. First, using the pen automatically disables the touchscreen (to prevent palm-related havoc), and second, HP included an active digitizer for handwritten input. This made reckless activities like e-mailing while strolling around the block surprisingly easy. Even jotting down quick notes using a finger (instead of the pen) gave us minimal hassle.

Unfortunately, HP didn’t build the otherwise decent tx2z on the strongest foundation. Even with its 2.4-GHz AMD Dual Core processor and 4 GB of RAM, the 64-bit version of Vista it shipped with ran freakishly slow. Granted, a lot of the lag was due to the ridiculous amount of bloatware that launched during startup — but a five-minute boot-up on a spanking new notebook is unforgivable.

Holding down the graphics department was ATI’s integrated Radeon 3200 GPU, which produced similarly mixed results. We’ll put it this way: Gaming and light photo editing is technically possible, but heavy use of any graphic-intensive app is pretty much out of the question. However, when we weren’t trying to eke out a couple dozen extra frames in Crysis, the 3200 sufficed.

So, here’s the skinny: As a productivity-driven, convertible tablet, the tx2z is a solid offering. Both the touch and pen-based interfaces were responsive, and proved useful across a number of on-the-go work applications. We would’ve enjoyed a few more gestures thrown into the mix for a little more, uh, “razzle dazzle” but it’s clear that HP focused on core navigation &mdash which is fine.

However, when it comes to non-touch/tablet functionality, the tx2z is largely old hat. If you’re looking for a highly portable (and reasonably priced) convertible, it’s worth a look. Otherwise, you’re better off snagging a more even-keeled rig.

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