HP is trying something new -- on one hand the TX1020ea is a business-like touchscreen Tablet PC, and on the other it's a home-oriented Media Center laptop. It might not be the most powerful PC we've ever seen, but its low price tag makes it worth a look
HP is trying something new -- on one hand the TX1020ea is a Tablet PC, and on the other it's a Media Center laptop. Does this juxtaposition of business-like touchscreen and home-use Media Center work, or is it the digital equivalent of the chocolate hot-air balloon?
The TX1020ea is a nice-looking unit. The silver highlights and glossy black lid are somewhat cliched (and prone to picking up smudges), but you won't be ashamed to use it in public. Our only gripe is that the tight-fitting keyboard and assorted shortcut buttons that litter the screen edge give it a slightly cluttered look.
It may be small, but it's pretty heavy. The chassis and battery clock in at 2.55kg, which is what we'd expect of 14- or even 15-inch laptops. We attribute this to the heavy hinge mechanism that transforms it from standard laptop mode to tablet mode.
The hinge allows the screen to be rotated through 180 degrees and placed, facing upwards, against the keyboard. You can then use it as a sort of digital notepad, controlling the software with the stylus or your fingers. Unlike lesser laptops of this sort, the screen doesn't feel as if it's going to fall apart in your hands and there's a locking mechanism to prevent it from flying open.
Unless you're showing off to your mates, most of you will be using the TX1020ea in the standard laptop mode. Here, we found the mouse trackpad to be of the highest calibre -- its mottled swiss-cheese-style surface feels good to the touch and it's highly responsive without being too sensitive.
Rather than use an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, HP has given the nod to the less trendy AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-50 chip, clocked at 1.6GHz. It's a dual-core processor, so you needn't worry -- it's not as slow as its modest clock speed suggests. The CPU is backed by 1GB of RAM, although the Nvidia GeForce Go 6150 graphics card borrows 128MB of this for its own use. You may want to make use of Vista's ReadyBoost feature or things will get sluggish in memory-intensive applications.
The 120GB Fujitsu hard drive is something of a slap in the face. It's fine for business users and anyone who doesn't intend to hoard media files, but it's too small for a multimedia laptop. Spend any significant amount of time on file-sharing networks and you'll run out of room quicker than you can say, "Who's got the next series of Lost?" DVD playback and recording is made possible thanks to the LightScribe-capable LG GSA-4084n optical drive.
Unsurprisingly, the TX1020ea doesn't have a TV tuner card. You can add one yourself, and control the whole shebang via the bundled HP Media Center remote. It may be a tad difficult to see what's on the screen from a distance, but it's possible to connect the laptop to a larger screen, via the D-Sub or S-Video ports on the right side.
The remote is something of a gimmick as you're more likely to control the laptop while it's in your hands. But you and a friend can enjoy a movie together and listen to audio, each with your own headphones, thanks to the inclusion of two sets of headphone ports -- a feature we really like.
The aforementioned shortcut buttons come in handy when flying solo -- there's one for launching HP's QuickPlay software (a bit like Media Center, but also rather rubbish, so ultimately pointless). Another lets you launch the Windows Mobility Center, where you can adjust the display brightness, volume and performance modes (for high performance or long battery life). There are also shortcut buttons for adjusting playback (pause, rewind, and so on) and for switching between portrait and landscape screen orientation.
HP includes a 5-in-1 memory card reader supporting SD, Memory Stick, MMC and XD storage cards. There's also a thin ExpressCard/34 slot (where the remote control lives) and three USB ports.
You get HP's standard one-year carriage and return warranty along with Vista Home Premium Edition, and a half-decent selection of software. There's a 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security Suite, Roxio DVD burning software and Microsoft Works 8.0, so you can get productive with the laptop straight out of the box.
The TX1020ea is not very quick. The AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-50 may be dual-core, but it only managed a rather pedestrian 2,606 in our PCMark 2005 test. It's fine for day-to-day tasks such as watching movies or doing your homework -- provided your homework isn't anything to do with video editing.
Gaming isn't the TX1020ea's forte. It'll run games such as Doom 3 or Far Cry at low resolution, but the 1 frame per second in F.E.A.R and 216 in 3DMark 2006 speaks for itself. A gaming machine this is not.
Battery life wasn't particularly impressive either. It ran for just 100 minutes in our BatteryEater test, so you should consider splashing out on an extra battery if you're away from electricity for any length of time.
The Pavilion TX1020ea is a nice-looking and versatile machine. We like that it can be used in tablet mode, and having Media Center courtesy of the Vista Home Premium Edition operating system is a definite bonus. It's not as sexy as the Sony Vaio TZ, but it's decent value at £799.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide