The HP TouchSmart tm2-1010ea can swivel. Its 12.1-inch touchscreen twists around, transforming a humble laptop into the kind of tablet device that we're all continually informed is the future. For £730, however, you could buy a more powerful standard laptop instead. It's also more expensive than the priciest Apple iPad. The question is: does the tm2-1010ea's touchscreen interface add enough value for you to part with your hard-earned pennies?
The tm2-1010ea looks slightly odd. The whole design clearly centres around the swivelling touch panel, and the eye is drawn to the conspicuous gap between the screen and the chassis. The laptop's design is eye-catching, but we're not overly thrilled by it -- the whole unit looks more like a toy than the productivity-boosting machine it will doubtless become once placed in your capable hands.
Although the overall design could use some work, we were pleased by some of the details. The lid and chassis are etched with a flowing design that brings to mind either wispy, swirling clouds or a large pile of spaghetti, depending on how hungry you are. The keyboard, with its isolated buttons, looks particularly modern and fresh. The square shape of each key is pleasing, as is the glossy black plate that fills in the gaps between the buttons.
The keyboard is also comfortable to type on. The keys themselves don't offer much travel, but they are pleasingly springy, so typing at speed for extended periods of time is no problem at all. The trackpad is similarly brilliant -- it's massive, smooth and responsive, and a world away from some of the cramped, knuckle-splintering oddities we've had to grapple with in the past.
Around the sides of the tm2-1010ea, you'll find all the usual connections -- VGA and HDMI outputs, three USB sockets, an Ethernet port, a multi-format card reader, and a 3.5mm headphone socket. There's no 3.5mm socket for a microphone, though, and there's no optical drive either, although an external USB drive comes included in the box.
Touch of class
The tm2-1010ea's 12.1-inch, touch-sensitive display offers a maximum resolution of 1,280x800 pixels, which is about ideal considering that a higher resolution would cause icons to render at a smaller size, making hitting them with your fingers pretty tricky.
As it stands, though, hitting the mark is simple enough. Windows 7 isn't exactly an ideal basis for a touch interface, as it's built very much for navigation with a mouse and keyboard, but finding your way around using the touchscreen is dead simple. You tap once to click something, twice for a double click, and hold your finger to the screen for a moment to bring up the right-click menu.
Perhaps the greatest accolade we can bestow upon this touch interface is that we often found ourselves using it instead of the trackpad and keyboard. The screen itself is responsive to the touch, although, if you don't fancy smearing the screen with grease, there's a stylus housed in the chassis that you can pop out for a quick prod.
Actually looking at the display is reasonably pleasant too. It's clear, sharp and bright enough to neutralise most of the reflections that result from its glossy coating. The screen doesn't have great viewing angles, although, if you can't quite make out the display, it's no disaster -- the screen swivels in just about every direction, so readjusting the angle as you slowly sink into an armchair isn't much of an ordeal.
Bitter tablet to swallow
Swivel the screen around and down, and the tm2-1010ea will be in tablet mode, with not a button in sight. While far from unusable in this configuration, there are a few issues that stop the tm2-1010ea from really working well.