HP is one of the first vendors to announce a laptop specifically built to run Windows Vista, and somewhat surprisingly, its initial offering is a convertible tablet. Unlike other tablets, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X60, which are aimed primarily at business users, the HP Pavilion tx1000us targets the more average consumer. HP refers to it as an entertainment notebook, and the system includes media control buttons, dual headphone jacks, a touch screen that works with any stylus or your fingertip, and a new, high-gloss finish--all of which add to its consumer-friendly vibe. The $1,299 base price Pavilion tx1000us (our review unit cost $1,720) isn't set to ship until February 28, which is disappointing, and the AMD Turion 64 X2 processor wouldn't be our first choice, but in terms of performance and features, our first experience with a Windows Vista laptop has been a positive one.
The HP Pavilion tx1000us measures 12 inches wide, 8.75 inches deep, and 1.5 inches high, slightly narrower and deeper than the Fujitsu LifeBook T4215 tablet. It's large enough to work on for long stretches, but the small 12.1-inch screen can strain the eyes a bit over time. The tx1000us weighs 5 pounds (5.8 pounds with the AC adapter), which makes it easy to tote around in a laptop bag or carry around as a tablet, but it's a little on the thick side for easy handling.
As a convertible tablet, the tx1000us uses a center hinge to swivel the screen around, allowing it to fold down over the keyboard. The hinge feels sturdy, and the lid locks down cleanly when in tablet mode. Using the system in tablet mode may take a little getting used to. Unlike most other tablets, the HP Pavilion tx1000us uses a touch screen, not an active stylus. That means that you can use any stylus or any stylus-like object--even your finger. That can be very handy and certainly adds a little bit of that Minority Report-feel as you whip windows around with your fingertip.
You may need to adjust your writing style, however, because the touch screen isn't as responsive as traditional tablet screens--if it were, resting your palm on it would drive the system crazy--so a firm hand and deliberate pen strokes are needed. Whether you prefer this or an active stylus system is largely a matter of personal preference. We like the idea that if you lose your stylus, you're not out of luck.
The Pavilion tx1000us uses the Home Premium version of Windows Vista, which includes all the features home users want, including Aero effects, while forgoing some of the business-oriented security and networking features found on the Business and Ultimate editions. While Vista doesn't offer too many new features aimed squarely at laptop users, tablets get a few new programs including Pen Flicks, which enables basic navigation (forward, back, scroll) and commands (copy, paste, and so on) via simple stylus movements. We found the response a little tricky, but with more practice, we could see it being a useful way to work quickly.
The 12.1-inch LCD screen offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, average for a screen this size. The high-gloss screen (HP calls it "BrightView") is great for playing games and watching movies, although reading and typing in well-lit situations gave us a little too much glare. Built into the screen's border are a fingerprint reader, buttons for rotating the display orientation, and a Webcam.
The system supplies most of the connections you'd expect, including three USB 2.0 jacks, a mini-FireWire jack, an ExpressCard slot, a media card reader, and VGA and S-Video outputs for hooking up an external monitor. We would have liked to see a PC Card slot and a regular FireWire jack. Networking connections include a modem and Gigabit Ethernet jacks, and integrated 802.11b/g wireless plus built-in WWAN, which requires a separate subscription from a service provider. One useful extra is a tiny, credit card-style remote control for controlling media files and volume that's able to be tucked into a slot in the system's base.
You'll also find the touchpad is a little unusual. It's the same color and material as the rest of the keyboard tray, demarcated only by small, indented dots in the shape of a traditional touchpad and scroll bar. It's a stylish look, but we found a little too much drag when moving a finger across it. There's a good reason most other touchpads are made of a smooth, slick material.
Our review unit included a 1.8GHz AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-56 processor, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a 160GB hard drive running at 5,400rpm, and a 128MB Nvidia GeForce Go 6150 graphics chip. HP plans to offer configuration options when the system is available, but has not yet announced what those options will be. The stock components are certainly acceptable for everyday productivity and multimedia use, and we found the system to be responsive, even if Intel's Core 2 Duo CPUs generally perform better, run cooler, and extend battery life.
Compared to another early Vista laptop, the Toshiba Portege R400, the Pavilion tx1000us is positively speedy, beating that much more expensive Toshiba (which has an ultralow-voltage 1.2GHz Intel Core Duo U2500 CPU) in both the Photoshop CS2 and iTunes encoding tests (beating out even the Core 2 Duo Fujitsu LifeBook T4215 tablet in the Photoshop test). We're conducting additional testing on both Vista systems and will update this review as new results become available.
Our battery testing, using CNET Labs' DVD battery drain test, gave us 120 minutes of battery life, not exceptional for an entertainment-oriented system. That should be enough for a single DVD, but not much more. However, in anecdotal testing, we used the system for nearly three hours without exhausting the battery.
HP backs the system with the standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty. The company will also cover the cost of returning the system for repairs throughout your warranty. The company's toll-free telephone-support lines are open 24/7 and offer free help during your warranty period. The HP support Web site includes real-time chat with tech support, and you can troubleshoot problems by searching through the site's robust FAQ database.