As a registered geek, I never thought I’d see the day when I didn’t want to build myself an impossible screaming desktop for personal use. My real world personal desktop was getting long in the tooth (i.e., it was Circa Windows XP hardware wise and to beef it up would require a new proc, more RAM, better video, and more HD space).
Somewhere between the list of components for a new box (not to mention a high end monitor), I gave in to temptation and started playing with an IQ504 in a local store last summer. The sleek design actually was (to me) the best of that genre and really appealed to me. And it was just, well, a lot of FUN to use.
The IQ816 was “to die for” but at least $500 more. For my purposes, the IQ506 had enough awesomeness. (And I already have two Media Center OCUR/DCT boxes connected to high res widescreen displays for HDTV goodness). At the time, I didn’t have any Blu-Ray DVDs so I was pretty happy with the specs of the IQ506.
So I ordered myself an IQ506 in early October. Before the stock market and the economy took an atomic nose dive. And I knew someone that could put the old desktop to good use, so I gifted it. I’m not sorry I spent the money even though it is going to now put a cramp in my holiday plans.
Click the image above to watch a VERY entertaining demo.
And after 5 weeks, I’m still as much in love with this computer as day one. This is a FUN machine. It’s possibly the best family oriented machine I’ve seen and unless you are a hard core pc gamer, it is a machine to seriously consider as a general purpose machine.
The touch screen interface doesn’t take long to become accustomed to (and you always have Windows Vista’s default interface available when you want it.
It’s kind of neat to drag my fingers along the bottom to bring up the various applications. And yes, you can add RSS feeds and view web sites within the interface.
Above shows how my blog appears inside the TouchSmart interface. I think it is cool that I can drag my finger up and down over the website to scroll. It’s like having the best of a tablet pc interface with all this neat HP touch functionality at the same time. Did I say it was fun?
There isn’t much not to like about the IQ506. My biggest beef was that these come with Vista x64 Home Premium and some trialware and Symantec crapware with 60 days of Live Update pain. But, I easily formatted the hard drive, installed Vista x64 Ultimate SP1 and then the apps (including TouchSmart) that I wanted from HP, plus all the drivers are on the HP support site. Sure I could have done a Windows Anytime Upgrade, but it’s much better to have Ultimate and do a complete image backup after you get your apps installed and everything running perfectly than it is to use an OEM “recovery” which puts you back to crapified whatever. Shame on Microsoft for not including this in Home Premium. Maybe with Windows 7 this will change.
Anyway, I’m having lots of fun with my IQ506. My advice is – go get yourself one of these. If you are impatient, some of the Best Buy stores have started carrying these. And start having FUN.
Full specs as supplied by HP:
|Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit edition with Service Pack 1|
|Intel Core2 Duo Processor T5850|
|PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM|
|Integrated Nvidia GeForce 9300 M GS HD graphics module with 256MB dedicated video memory and support for Microsoft DirectX 10|
TV and entertainment experience
|TV Tuner: Dual-format NTSC or over-the-air ATSC high-definition TV tuner, HP Media Center remote control with IR (infrared) receiver|
|500GB 7200RPM [gigabyte is defined as 1,000,000,000 bytes, accessible capacity may vary]|
|Slot-load SuperMulti DVD Burner|
|10/100/1000 BaseT network interface; Integrated Bluetooth and 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN with built-in WLAN antenna|
|Integrated High Definition Audio with 2.0 sound capabilities|
|High-performance 2.0 Speakers|
|667MHz Front Side Bus|
|5-in-1 memory card reader supports Secure Digital (SD, SDHC), MultiMedia Card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro
1 FireWire (IEEE 1394) port (front); Headphone (front); Line-in (back); 5 USB 2.0 ports(2 front, 3 rear)(5 available); Line-out (back); Digital Audio Out (back)
Software, full versions
|HP TouchSmart Music – Create playlists with your favorite music; HP TouchSmart Video – Watch, record and upload your personal videos using touch; HP TouchSmart Photo – Share your fun and memorable moments in life with family and friends; HP TouchSmart RSS Feeds – Get the latest news right at your fingertips; HP TouchSmart Browser – Browse the web in a whole new way; HP TouchSmart Calendar – Manage your busy schedule and stay in touch with family; HP TouchSmart Notes – Quick and easy text and voice notes right at your fingertips; muvee autoProducer Basic: Automatically create professional looking home videos and burn to DVD; Cyberlink DVD Suite Deluxe: Automatically fix and edit videos and create CDs and DVDs. Edit, burn and archive data to discs; Microsoft Works 9: Includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database and calendar; Adobe Reader 8.0: Read and print PDF files; HP Total Care Advisor: Customizable desktop tool provides support, system health and shopping information|
Software, introductory versions
|Norton Internet Security 2008: Protect your PC out of the box (60 days of complimentary live updates)|
Trial Internet service
|Easy sign-up to major dial-up and broadband Internet Service Providers
High Speed Internet Services Comparison Shopping
|21″(L) x 2.6″(W) x 17.4″ (H/D)|
|One year of hardware parts and labor coverage, 90 day software toll-free phone assistance|
I was looking for a machine to use to process my digital photos that had more working space (pixels), more hard drive space and good color rendition and spent a couple of hours playing with this amazing laptop in (of all places) a Best Buy store.
And I took it home. I like the machine alot, but it isn’t perfect because as shipped, with Home Premium, it doesn’t include two things I need, RDP Host and full image based backup. (It’s stupid that MS does not include full image backup in the Home SKU. Probably the single most helpful software when disaster strikes. Ultimate Extras are a joke and don’t matter to me at all. You can read about the specs at http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/sony-vaio-aw125j-h/4505-3121_7-33309981.html but this post is more about my continuing adventure in transforming the machine into an x64 Ultimate (instead of Home Premium).
This is the first VAIO I have owned. I’ll write about it when it is running the OS I prefer.
Windows Anytime Upgrade from inside the GUI displayed a browser string and would not lead me to the correct web page. I contacted MS support who told me I needed to get this upgrade from Sony. I know how to get to the anytime upgrade site, but I was concerned.
Well, I’ve been having adventures now for a couple of weeks. Bottom line is that using a regular x64 Ultimate DVD and performing and in place upgrade installs a new copy of Vista. And many of the Sony supplied utilities don’t work and definitely the WinDVD Blue Ray software does not work. A format and clean install of x64 Ultimate, and then an attempt to reinstall Sony drivers is only partially successful. And forget trying to reinstall the apps I really wanted. No can do.
I made some noise and got hooked up with a very senior support VP office. Exchanged email. Had a phone call. Some MS folks were conferenced in as well. This happened on 11/12 and afterwards I responded by email:
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me. I’m thrilled that you are going to provide me with an x64 Ultimate install DVD and all Applications for this machine.
While I didn’t get the DVD and drivers to fix me up overnight as initially promised, a week later (11/20) I got another phone call. This time Sony asked to conference some more Microsoft folks in and I agreed. So a bunch of people were looking at my issue. Sony acknowledged the problem scenarios and said that the WAU should work, but I’d need to uninstall and reinstall some apps and they were working with MS on the issue with WinDVD. I thought I was promised that a WAU upgrade would be sent on that first con call (11/12) but maybe I misunderstood.
So last night I was told it would take 7-10 days to ship me a WAU DVD x64 SP1 Ultimate WAU disk. (And I don’t know how they would ship it.) That threw me, as I don’t quite understand why the MS folks that promised to send me the DVD can’t grab one and stick it in a FEDEX envelope. So I expressed some displeasure and they said they would expedite and ship it “express” (whatever that means). Update: that meant express mail and it just arrived 11/22. And Sony was supposed to email me instructions and a KB fix link as they had successfully performed the upgrade and other than these “work arounds”, I should now be able to perform the upgrade.
suspect I will see the DVD WAU media around XMAS and I’m not sure when Sony will be emailing me the instructions and KB fix info.
I asked what they were doing for the user community, and they said that they would get the information up on their esupport site.
All in all, I am happy that the Sony and MSFT folks are going to fix me up with what I need to get the OS I want on this machine. But the waiting is horrendously painful. Sony should ship these with x64 Ultimate to begin with.
HP was kind enough to send me an early near production version of their soon to be released (July 31) MediaSmart Connect Home Theater component. I’ve had a few minutes to take a VERY quick look and the first impression is: It’s great!
Nice looking hardware, piano black finish (production units will have a neat Zen imprint) with a solid heft/feel. Connections for component and HDMI (720p and 1080i supported on both). An HDMI cable is included (nice touch). Audio jacks include RCA stereo (analog) and Optical Digital (SPDIF). No Coax digital, but that suits me just fine. I ranted some about the lack of Optical output on the ”competing” (and I use that term loosely) Linksys DMA-2100.
802.11a/b/g/n (Draft 2.0n) wireless (and 10/100 Ethernet) connect this device to your home network. The device sports USB ports front and rear and includes a HP Pocket Media Drive Bay (the 21st century version of sneaker net storage used to move your digital “stuff” between computers and devices).
If you are looking at size and aesthetics, this image shows the sizes of the x280n, the Linksys DMA-2200 (the 2100 is even smaller and as I blogged, chintzy in feel and cheap looking), the D-Link theater component size DSM-750, and an Xbox 360. For me, it is a draw between the component sized D-Link which, in the real world would fit nicely on the rack that holds my home theater receiver and the HP x280n which would fit nicely and discreetly on top of or under the TV. Top to bottom: HP MediaSmart x280n, Linksys DMA-2200, D-Link DSM-750, Xbox 360.
HP includes a really nice handheld remote. It’s certainly the best of the remotes offered with any of the extenders I’ve seen. It’s backlit (which for me is a must in a darkened room). Setting up the x280n was menu driven and simple. It found several of my 2.4GHz “N” networks (I’m not certain it is seeing 5GHz N yet, more to come). I associated it, entered the WPA2-PSK passphrase and it was off and running. The first thing it did was check for new firmware. Finding a newer version, it downloaded and applied the newer firmware. After a reboot, it was back up and ready for action.
I elected to set it up as a Media Center Extender first and verify that my OCUR/DCT high def streaming was good to go. No problem there. Since I can do MCX setups in my sleep, and at the speed of light, I was able to quickly get through setup and watch Live and Recorded HD TV.
Exploring the HP MediaSmart interface:
I had a short amount of time to explore HP’s MediaSmart proprietary interface for Media Sharing. I used Windows Media Sharing and UPnP streaming from a server. I have yet to setup HP’s own MediaSmart gateway software, but I’ll get to that. HP has developed a slick and intuitive interface which can be used with Windows XP, Vista, and most likely will be future proof, at least for a while. I like the HP interface and functionality slightly more than D-Link’s MediaLounge interface. Linksys has no such secondary interface. I was easily able to start playing some music and access my photos and play a slide show. This works almost exactly the same way it does on the Media Center Extender interface. All in all, in my first look, a nice, user friendly, solid piece of hardware with great functionality.
I’ll be updating this post as time permits as I continue to explore and experiment.
I’ve recently returned from a week in Seattle and the HP TX2000 behaved like a champion. It is certainly the right size for economy class air travel. I have a chronically bad back. A heavy notebook in a large size backpack has proven hazardous to my health in terms of pain and suffering. I easily traversed airports and did tons of walking and standing while I was away with the TX2000 (and a Nikon D300 w/lens) packed away in a Kata R101 backpack. (And on the plane, it fits nicely under the seat in front of me where I can be sure no one throws it around.)
Before I left home, I recorded a few TV Shows with an external USB tuner I already owned using Vista’s Windows Media Center. (HP does have a tuner for the TX2000 but I have not had the opportunity to see/try it.) The passenger in the middle row seat on my outbound flight asked some questions as I had the TX2000 in tablet mode and was watching some of this recorded TV via Media Center. He had earbuds and I let him plug into the spare earphone port. The TV in my hotel room was an old CRT tube type and I just can’t watch those after living with LCD’s and Plasma’s. Watching recorded TV on the TX2000 was a much better experience than watching anything on the hotel television.
One of the first travel incidents that happened to me was that I broke off a prong on the Jawbone BT earplug A/C power plug. It’s a two piece deal, USB plugs into the wall wart. I now very much appreciate the three USB ports on the TX2000 (and I’d definitely been scratching my head wondering how I could use three at once). One port each for my Moto RAZR phone, my IPOD Touch, and my Jawbone BT adapter. Obviously notebook has to be powered on to charge up these items, but I found a routine of waking up, plugging in, showering, etc. reading email and doing morning online stuff before leaving the hotel was enough time to charge everything for the day.
Battery life on the TX2000 was pretty decent. Even with the smaller 6 cell battery installed (to save space and weight), I found that by using Power Saver mode coupled with an electrical outlet halfway through the day for a quick drink of energy that I could pretty much get through a day of presentations and meetings (not constant use). Like other true tablet pc’s, the screen can be a little hard to read in bright sunlit settings. A few times where I was sitting in an enclosed courtyard environment with natural bright sunlight I had to move around a bit and turn up the brightness.
Wireless connectivity “just worked” thanks to the built in Broadcom 802.11a/b/g/n wireless radio. No matter what SSID I needed to connect to, there were no hassles. I had a chance to use the wired Ethernet as well on this trip and had no issues. Not that I wouldn’t expect this great performance, but I am sure glad that HP did not use the problematic Intel 4965 wireless chipset (lots of driver issues).
After taking some NEF+JPG images with my Nikon D300, I used a Lexar Professional USB 2.0 high speed Compact Flash Reader to get images into the TX2000. While the TX2000 has a built in media reader, it does not handle the larger format compact flash cards (which is true of all other notebooks I’ve seen). I’m pleased to report that some batch processing with Adobe on this 64 bit Ultimate machine with 4 gigs of RAM is very acceptable (as compared to the TX1000 which was quite slow). It was pretty neat to put the TX2000 in tablet mode and play a slide show of the day’s photos for some friends. Speaking of friends, quite a few of them (30 or so) had some hands on with this TX2000 on this trip. Since I’d been talking about it and blogging about it, there was a lot of interest. Even folks I didn’t know (on the airplane and at the conference) wanted to take a look at the machine. Definitely thumbs up from a very discriminating crowd of geeks. Only a couple of friends that are business tablet users felt that it would not suit their specific needs. Even people I didn’t know wanted to take a look at the TX2000. On my outbound trip, TSA at my local airport at the security checkpoint said, “is this a new laptop” and went off to inspect it. I think they were curious and not alarmed. When they handed it back to me, the comment was, “this looks pretty cool”.
All in all, it was a great trip. The TX2000 was a great machine to take on the road, serving all my needs.