Do I now have the perfect “home, multimedia, on the road and around town” mobile notebook/tablet pc? Last year I had a chance to be one of the first to get a look at HP’s TX1000. I liked it a lot (see reviews) but felt that it could be world class with a few improvements. Several months later, I became involved in “Help HP Design their next notebook” along with several other bloggers. I contributed my own wishlist and submitted the entire list of comments and suggestions from readers. Basically, I want it all. I don’t want an all business notebook that is light on features that I need for my digital photography and multimedia needs, but I do want a notebook that lets me attend to personal business efficiently (Office 2007) and is fun to use.
Almost exactly one year after receiving the TX1000 for review, HP contacted me and asked if I was interested in looking at the HP Pavilion TX2000 Entertainment PC. Of course I said yes. And I won’t keep anyone in suspense. I REALLY like this notebook. Below are my first and early impressions in detail.
The TX1000 series was not a true Tablet PC and as I wrote a year ago, handwriting recognition was pretty iffy and slow. The TX2000 series is definitely a “real” tablet, with a good active digitizer. It even understands my hen scratches (a tough thing to do since not only has my handwriting degenerated over the years, but because I type 99% of the time, when I do use a pen or pencil, ten minutes after I’ve written something I might not be able to read it myself!)
HP has listened carefully to end users. (And I don’t know of any other computer manufacturer that has gone to this much trouble to solicit feedback, yet alone incorporate it, in a consumer notebook product.) Circuit City is describing the TX2000 as an HP Pavilion TX2000 12.1″ Touchscreen Entertainment Laptop. I’m guessing that the word “touchscreen” has less of a “business only” connotation than “tablet”, but it is a true tablet pc.
The nitty gritty: The machine I received was one at the top of the line. According to the website (as of April 11, 2008), models start at $899.99 for a base configuration and with HP’s recommended Config, currently cost $1168.99.
The hardware I received:
Turion 64 X2 TL66 (2.3 GHz 512+512 L2 Cache)
4 GB DDR2 System Memory
Fingerprint Reader + Webcam + Microphone
Wireless a/b/g/n (draft) + Bluetooth
250 GB SATA 5400 RPM hard drive
LightScribe 8x DVD+/-RW Double Layer
Wireless Remote Control (for Windows Media Center and Quick Play)
6 cell & 8 cell Lithium-Ion batteries
Tablet Pen Digitizer and Cord
12.1” (1280 x800) WXGA Nvidia Go6150 powered graphics (shared memory)
2 sets earbuds
I’m forever converted to x64 computing, so a machine with 4 Gigs of RAM, Vista Ultimate x64 and a dual core AMD Turion loads an impressive deck. (Actually the top processor offered in this series, the AMD Turion(TM) 64 X2 Dual-Core Mobile Technology Gold Edition TL-68 (2.4 GHz, 512KB+512KB L2 Cache) is one of the faster of its kind.)
Setting up and firing up the TX2000 for the first time was a breeze. HP includes their standard poster for folks that can’t figure out how to insert the battery and assemble the two pieces of the power cord. After powering it up for the first time, the typical OEM Windows Vista setup screens appeared including license acknowledgement and after Windows setup completed, HP’s own registration application. It’s all pretty slick as you can see from the shots below. A short video was next and a few screens asking me if I needed an Internet provider. Since I’m a very happy Comcast broadband user, I was all set.
HP’s default wallpaper is shown below. This same design is imprinted (black on a striking piano black finish) on the top pf the notebook.
I “pointed” the a/b/g/n wireless at one of my 802.11n (draft 2.0) networks and was off and running, actually speeding. Windows Vista downloaded a ton of updates while I looked around and worked on personalizing my drive configuration. The 250GB hard drive was configured as a single volume (Drive C) and one of the first things I did was change the hidden recovery partition drive letter to F and then shrink the C drive, create a D drive and format as NTFS. I like to keep my data (including images, videos and music) on a non system drive. Old habits die hard!
There’s no question that the TX2000 is an Entertainment Notebook PC (and is deserving of that label). The stereo speakers (Altec Lansing) are quite good for a laptop. I’ve certainly seen my share of crappy, tinny laptop speakers driven by cheap chips over the years). There are TWO earphone/earbud out ports. Couple this with tablet functionality and turning the TX2000 into tablet mode, watching a DVD on an airplane with a travel companion is a great experience. Both of you can enjoy the DVD while everyone around you can watch the movie offered by the airline that you’ve already seen twice. I carry some great Shure sound isolating high performance earbuds which provide an incredible experience, but entry level inexpensive earbuds are available as options from HP with the TX2000. It’s not a bad idea to carry a set of these if you want to share with someone not carrying their own earbud gear. HP includes Quick Play button functionality (which launches Vista) to give you one button access to your music and more.
Windows Vista Media Center is a powerhouse on its own and is included in every version of Vista Ultimate or Home Premium. For $100, you can order an optional HP USB Digital/Analog Tuner w/Remote for a premium Live and Recorded TV experience. On top of that, HP has added enough additional entertainment features that I was tempted to look for the kitchen sink 😉
Kitchen sink aside, HP includes a link to SlingMedia’s web site for a 15% discount on a Slingbox (and the Sling Media player is pre-installed). StarZ Vongo is also pre-installed. The basic version of muvee autoProducer is pre-installed (along with the option of activating a 21 day free trial of the fully featured version). Cyberlink full version software is also pre-installed: Power Director 6 (for the Steven Spielberg in you), Power2Go v5 (media burner), Label Print and YouCam (webcam effects). HP Photosmart Essentials is also included.
Electronic Arts Trial Version of Sims Life Stories is also pre-installed. It’s not really my “thing” but HP certainly includes a rounded selection of entertainment vehicles.
HP included a lot of other software (loaded to the gills, actually), including a 60 day trial version of Microsoft Office 2007 Student and Teacher (which I am replacing with a full Office 2007 Ultimate and Expression Web). The S&T version may be just right for the average user, but I’m accustomed to the Ultimate version of Office 2007 and I do author PowerPoint decks. Also preinstalled was a 60 day trial of Norton Internet Security. Norton is one of my least favorite apps, and after 10 minutes, I uninstalled it (and substituted Eset’s NOD32 which I like a lot as it is lightweight but strong). I do understand the need to include a working AV product out of the box.
Much of the included software has easy access shortcuts on the default desktop and/or in the system tray, but some only appears on the Programs menu.
The TX2000 is currently shipping with updated drivers and Vista Service Pack 1 pre-installed. This means that out of the box, the machine doesn’t need to download hundred’s of megabytes of updates and fixes and that the drivers are SP1 compatible. (My review unit needed some updates from the HP Support site, including a BIOS update and some drivers, but HP has one of the best systems I’ve seen and their “Softpaqs” are nearly bulletproof. After installing the HP updates, I made a few passes at Windows Update and downloaded and applied a few rounds of updates before SP1 was offered.) After Vista was done downloading about 121 megs, SP1 installed in about 25 minutes.
The networking options for wireless vary, but the higher end selection of a/b/g/n (draft) 802.11 with Bluetooth certainly meet all my criteria. The hard drive choices are 160, 250, or 320 GB 5400 RPM SATA. For an optical drive, HP included a LightScribe SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-RW with Double Layer Support.
Like the TX1000 series, the TX2000 NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) Go 6150 graphics chip drives the display. Video memory is shared and not dedicated (one of the few things I dislike). You can, however, alter the amount of dedicated memory in the system BIOS settings. The Video rating is what drives down the overall Windows Experience rating. In spite of the rating system (which I don’t think really represents any real time normal usage), I’m happy with the performance of this notebook.
The TX2000 has 3 USB ports (but no Firewire-fortunately the ExpressCard 34 firewire cards I bought work just fine so I can hook up my Canon HV20 camcorder and import and edit video). Video out is VGA (I’d prefer HDMI or DVI). A 12.1 inch screen runs a max resolution of 1280 x 800. It weighs about 4.5 pounds and at its thickest is 1.5 inches.
After using the fingerprint reader on the original TX1000, I don’t think I’d consider purchasing any notebook or tablet that didn’t include one. I use the TX2000’s fingerprint reader for convenience. Much easier than typing in long passwords on web sites and having it actually encourages me to use different strong passwords for individual websites. One trick I learned living in a changeable climate where outside is 10 degrees and inside is 70 – my fingers when cold don’t register the same way as they do when at normal room temperatures. So on each hand, I’ve registered two fingers at room temperature and two more when I’ve just come inside from colder weather. And I have a warm and cold thumb as well. This insures quick and positive authentication.
While providing business class tablet pc features, the TX2000 is an entertainment centric pc. As I look around at what is available from manufacturers that include true tablet functionality, a webcam, fingerprint reader, media center and music player functionality, the TX2000 stands alone and in a class by itself. This would actually make a great business machine. While I doubt Enterprise IT types would be interested in mass deployment (sadly), anyone with a small or home based business should take a good hard look at this one. I’ve got a friend in the real estate business that would LOVE the TX2000.
Anyway, I’m about to take the TX2000 on an extended road trip. I’ve loaded up both Adobe’s photo processing software and Nikon Capture NX as I plan to do some digital editing of what I shoot with my D300. I’m hoping that the weather cooperates. The TX2000, my Nikon D300 and various necessary odds and ends all fit nicely in my Kata 101 photo backpack. I’ll be posting a follow up on performance (and more) after my return. In the meantime, I see that Circuit City is starting to receive a pre-configured model, so if you want to check the TX2000 out yourself..
I finally got to do something I’ve wanted to do for longer than I can remember. My fascination with Hot Air Balloons began some 30 years ago when I saw one up close anchored in front of Rosie O’Grady’s in Florida. I’ll probably never get to the mother of all balloon festivals in Albuquerque until I retire, but it is on my list of “someday I will…” dreams.
The big “if” about these events is that they are weather driven. The lift offs are scheduled for dawn and just before dusk because that’s when the winds are supposed to be the lowest. In the summer, it’s always a crap shoot as to whether the late afternoon brings thunderstorms.
I got lucky. Last Saturday the 7PM-ish lift off at the Hillsborough Balloon Festival actually happened (but the later balloon glow did not nor did the second day of evening activities as there were, er, tornado warnings posted along with t-storm warnings).
I shot something like 20 gigs of RAW digital. It was gorgeous, amazing, inspiring.
Up, up and away!