A Tablet PC for Joe and Jane Sixpack as well as geeks? (HP TX1000 Product Review)
HP and AMD were looking for non tablet users to evaluate a new “convertible” tablet pc and I raised my hand. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could adapt my computing lifestyle and become more productive at the same time. Plus, there was the chance that if I could find all the drivers, x64 Vista might actually run beautifully on the Turion x64 x2 processor. I knew it would ship with 32 bit Windows. I told the AMD folks up front that I’d be installing x64 on the machine. If you order this Tablet PC from the HP web site, one of the options if you customize is an upgrade to x64 Vista Ultimate. Yes, there is hope! This is the first I’ve seen of an option for 64 Bit Vista pre-installed. Thank you, HP, for making the commitment to 64 bit computing.
The HP Pavilion TX1001xx Tablet PC arrived on Tuesday, March 20th. I’ve had a few days to experiment, I’ve spoken to HP a bit about the unit, and this is the first of several posts about my experiences and opinions.
As much as Bill Gates has wanted tablet pc’s to become the mainstream choice of road warriors, students, and entertainment aficionado’s everywhere, the tablet pc has been a concept that hasn’t yet grabbed the attention of middle America. I’m trying to frame my experience both as the target market (students, teachers, entertainment enthusiasts looking for a small machine to travel with is my guess as to the real target) and how it fits in with my own probably higher end needs.
I won’t keep readers in suspense. I mostly like this convertible tablet after 4 days of use. But I’ve used it mostly as a traditional notebook since I’m still trying to train myself and/or the handwriting recognizer.
The unit I was provided is the top of the line model with all the bells and whistles. Specs include an AMD Turion x64 x2 TL-60 with 2 gigs RAM and an embedded Nvidia 6150 video chip with 128megs (shared) memory.
It arrived nicely packaged in typical HP style and included the Tablet PC, a regular and extended use battery, power cord, two sets of earbuds, a remote control for the consumer IR (that stores in the ExpressCard/34 slot), a quick setup guide, manuals, etc. I was able to attach the extended life battery, assemble the two piece power cord and plug it in to be charged without reading anything (DOH!).
The computer came with a 160 gig SATA drive in a large C:\ partition with Vista Home Premium 32 bit installed and a small mostly hidden D recovery partition. HP offers a $19 option on their web site with customized orders for actual recovery media. I used Vista’s disk manager utility to shrink the partition to about half its original size, and then installed Vista Ultimate x64 as a dual boot. The drivers and bits I needed were actually in a flat folder on the original C drive, except for the software needed for the fingerprint reader. It wasn’t available as a restore from the Recovery bits either. HP is sending a CD so that I can install on the 64 bit side.
My initial impression is that the computer is extremely well made. Nice piano black finish (which is HP assured me is extremely durable. This model comes with a touch screen (and stylus) and is easy to convert to tablet mode. The coolest feature is the embedded Authentec fingerprint reader (and accompanying software). I’ll have a lot more to say about that soon.
I’ve calibrated the tablet and more or less can use the stylus in tablet mode, but I scribble faster than the learning mode of handwriting recognition is able to cope with. There are 50 sentences. I’ve been through them all once and am doing additional training. I’m a Type A personality and it’s really hard to slow down and write at a speed that the recognizer can keep up with. When I do slow down, I think that the recognizer does its job. So I fear that I’m the one that has to be trained and not the tablet. I’ll need some time to work through this before I have a real verdict. I also have to figure out how to incorporate handwriting in my day to day computing life. I tried a grocery list but it came out in Klingon the first time. I’ll keep trying. Personally speaking, my own needs have not generally included scribbled notes. My handwriting has degenerated over the years and is worse than my doctor’s and I type 90 wpm. This may take a LONG time.
This machine is to be marketed as an “Entertainment” system and I was disappointed that there was no DVI or HDMI out (plain VGA is the highest quality supported) and that there was no firewire port. I went looking at retail for an ExpressCard/34 firewire card so that I could try video editing on this machine, but struck out completely. Even the local Apple Store didn’t have one. I’m thinking about ordering one online. When I asked HP, I was told they hadn’t tested any cards like this with this computer, so I’ll be breaking new ground.
HP offers a few choices for wireless NICs. 802.11b/g – 802.11a/b/g and a 802.11b/g/draft n. The machine I received had the a/b/g. I had some real issues copying large files over my network wirelessly. The connection dropped out on all my G networks (all Atheros based routers and access points). I downloaded and installed a newer driver from the HP support site (this driver was not present on Windows Update and out of the box, x64 Vista installs an old June 2006 Broadcom driver). I’m chugging along on 802.11a fine with this driver copying over the network (same Atheros on the other end) but G drops out. Note that on my Acer Ferrari 4000, the wireless 802.11 b/g (no A) Broadcom chip has received several updates from Windows Update and has no issues copying over the same network. My friends at D-Link are sending me an ExpressCard/34 802.11 draft N card. I’ll report back on how that works.
There was alot of software installed on the 32 bit side, enough to make the Vista desktop look cluttered. HP has a “Quick Play application that handles images and music and videos (included Media Center Recorded TV dvr-ms unprotected files). The included remote works with this app. I much prefer the richness of Microsoft’s Windows Media Center which is included in every version of Home Premium and Ultimate. Both a licensed version of Microsoft Works and a trial version of Office 2007 were pre-installed. If you custom order this machine, you can order a licensed version of Office 2007 as well. Office 2007 is my preferred choice over MS Works.
I was not excited to see lots of AOL and Yahoo related software. The homepage was preset to some HP/AOL hybrid. Norton Internet Security 2007 had been pre-installed and it slowed the system to a crawl. I removed it and installed a trial version of ESET’s NOD32 (which I run on my own machines) and the performance difference was like night and day. HP states they need a well supported AV solution and I understand that. But I will still recommend removal of Norton and replacement with another less system crippling AV before doing anything else.
HP tells me that the TX1001xx (model number may vary depending on options) will be available widely at retail in early April. While I don’t know the specs of what will be at retail, when I priced a customized machine as close as possible to what I received, the price was around $1950. Pricing a model with x64 and a little more customization was around $2050.