• Attractive, durable design
• Fantastic keyboard
• Impressive performance and battery life
• Glossy, reflective screen
• No Firewire, eSATA, USB 3.0, optical drive or dedicated docking station
• Bad touchpad design
Few companies have found success selling convertible notebook tablet PCs to consumers. In truth, when it comes to consumer-oriented tablet PCs, HP has long been the leader of the pack. The 12-inch HP TouchSmart tm2t tablet PC offers the latest Intel Core i3 and Core i5 processors, optional ATI switchable graphics for high performance HD video and gaming, and a multi-touch display with Wacom pen input.
The HP TouchSmart convertible notebooks were the first consumer tablet PCs to offer on-screen multi-touch control and the TouchSmart tm2t raises the bar yet again. Sure Apple's iPad is great, but does the HP TouchSmart combine a user-friendly tablet experience with the power of a laptop running Windows 7? Keep reading to find out.
Build and Design
The TouchSmart tm2 is an impressive update to HP's convertible notebook design. Like its predecessors, the tm2 functions as either a standard notebook or you can rotate the screen 180 degrees to turn the notebook into a tablet and write directly on the screen using the included digital pen. However, HP engineers made several interesting changes both inside and outside to make this tablet PC far more appealing than previous versions.
For starters, the overall chassis design has completely changed; the design of the Pavilion tx2000, tx2500 and TouchSmart tx2 were essentially identical aside from some minor tweaks to the exterior colors. The all new TouchSmart tm2 features a much thinner main chassis that also feels lighter and more durable thanks to the use of aluminum and magnesium alloys. The two-tone body combines glossy and matte blacks with a Champaign-tinted aluminum keyboard surround and screen lid. HP abandoned it's very popular (and frequently copied by other manufactures) Imprint Finish in favor of stylish etching on the right palm rest and the screen lid. The "wave pattern" etching not only looks nice but also provides some much-needed texture when you carry this smooth and rounded tablet around all day.
The second major change to the TouchSmart comes from the use of Intel processors. All previous HP consumer tablets featured AMD processors, and while those processors performed well many consumers complained that there was no option for Intel processors with lower power consumption (and lower heat output.) The use of the new Intel Core-series processors is also one of the main reasons that HP was able to make the tm2 thinner without making it dangerously hot to the touch.
Despite being noticeably thinner in the front than the old TouchSmart tx2, the tm2's metal chassis is quite rigid and doesn't suffer from flex even when twisted between my hands. Weighing in at almost four and three quarters pounds, the tm2 might not be any lighter than the old tx2 but the new tablet "feels" lighter thanks to the thinner body and tighter fit of the metal. It gets a little heavy to carry around in tablet mode all day, but it's great for sitting at your desk and taking notes.
Screen and Speakers
The 12.1" WXGA display is less grainy than the display panel used in the tx2500, but it's still a little grainy compared to notebooks without touchscreens. This slight grain is very common with tablets and is an acceptable trade-off considering the multi-touch and pen tablet functions. It is glossy and reflective, but if you like high-gloss screens then you'll love this one. The screen is hard to read under direct sunlight and brightly lit indoor spaces. The viewing angles are perfectly usable but, depending on how the tablet is tilted, sometimes it may be very hard to read because the colors invert at sharp vertical angles.
The tm2 features an active digitizer like a true tablet PC should. You can use your fingers or the pen. The pen is solid but it's a pretty basic pen. It reads the screen when it's about an inch above and then disables the touchscreen, this way your hand doesn't interfere if you rest your palm on the screen when writing. The WACOM pen technology used is fantastic, just remember you can't keep picking the pen up or the touch feature will be activated again and your hand might trigger something on the screen.
The screen automatically changes orientation when rotated into tablet mode and you can also manually change the screen orientation in 90-degree turns using a button on the edge of the screen. The small hinge is exceptionally sturdy just like ever HP consumer tablet we've reviewed in recent memory. The pen feels nice as well and although it's cool to use your fingers to navigate on the screen I often used the pen simply because it is a little more accurate. At the highest brightness setting the screen is bright and the colors are rich with good contrast, but you can't tell what the exact brightness setting is because there isn't an on-screen indication for brightness levels, which would be a nice feature to have on this high-gloss display.
Like all HP TouchSmart PCs, the tm2 includes pre-loaded HP TouchSmart software that lets you immerse yourself in a very tactile user interface. You can flip through albums in your music library, or use a flick of your finger to scroll through hundreds of photos and videos. It's even possible to play a number of games using the on-screen controls. Of course, whether it's taking handwritten notes of transforming a photo into a painting you can use your finger or the digital pen to provide instant on-screen control.
The tm2 also has great Altec Lansing speakers that provide exceptional Dolby Advanced stereo sound, but like any notebook or tablet, serious audiophiles will want to use a good set of headphones or external speakers for listening to their music libraries.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Media Controls
The island or Chiclet style keyboard on the tm2 is solid with zero flex and soft key presses. The keys are accurate and responsive and I enjoyed typing on this keyboard. The keys are coated in the matte black finish with a nice texture that should hold up well over time. The keys are easy to read and this is another nice improvement over prior HP tablets.
The Synaptics touchpad is the same model we've seen on a number of HP notebooks over the past year. The touchpad is gesture enabled so you can "pinch" your fingers on the touchpad to zoom in and out when viewing images or websites. The integrated touch buttons make it easy to accidentally hit the left or right touchpad buttons when you don't want to. In addition, the position and default sensitivity of the touchpad make it easy to cause the cursor to jump up a few lines when typing if you happen to brush against the touchpad surface. That said, a recent touchpad driver update helps to resolve this issue with a palm check feature. Still, because of the integrated buttons the cursor often jumps out of position just as start to press down on the left or right touch buttons.
Input and Output Ports
The tm2 has an adequate selection of ports but previous HP tablet owners might notice a few omissions. You still get three USB 2.0 ports, a multi-card media reader and an HDMI port. Unfortunately, compared to previous HP tablets you lose the Expansion Port docking station connector and the ExpressCard slot. HP also switched from a dedicated microphone jack and two headphone ports to a single combo microphone/headphone jack.
HP TouchSmart tm2t right side
HP TouchSmart tm2t left side
While three USB ports might seem just fine on a 12-inch notebook, we were a little sad to see HP didn't make one of the USB ports a combo USB/eSATA port or a USB 3.0 port.
HP TouchSmart tm2t front
HP TouchSmart tm2t rear
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