HP TouchSmart tm2-1010ea Review - Audio, Video and Tablet/Touch Review

Aurally, the tm2 is nothing less than accomplished. The volume levels it achieves without distortion are impressive considering the laptop’s size, and because the stereo speakers are integrated into the screen’s bezel rather than the bottom half or even (as is the case with many small laptops) its underside, the sound’s transmission is never impeded. There’s plenty of detail and even some half-way decent bass on offer, so headphones are not a requirement.

We’re not nearly as impressed with the TN-based screen though. From the ideal viewing angle, it is at best average. Colours are bright and punchy thanks in part to its glossy coating, but this also causes distracting reflections. Black differentiation is poor, meaning you’ll miss out on dark detail in films. However, there’s no sign of banding, backlighting is even and sharpness good.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned ideal viewing angle is very narrow, with contrast and colour shift whether off-axis horizontally or vertically. Of course this is more of a problem on a device with tablet ambitions than it would be on a traditional laptop, and HP’s effort even falls short of already mediocre examples like the Packard Bell Butterfly Touch. This is even more of an issue as, thanks to its Wacom-enabled pen technology, the tm2 posits itself as an artist’s tool.

There is no sensor to deal with screen orientation when the tm2 is in ‘tablet mode’. Instead, there’s a manual orientation button on the screen’s side. We actually prefer this solution, as it’s not only more flexible but also less temperamental than an accelerometer, and moving the tablet about won’t inadvertently change your desktop’s orientation around.

Thanks to its capacitive touch layer, this convertible tablet laptop supports up to two finger touch-sensing. It’s nice and responsive, though the hardened plastic doesn’t feel as pleasant as glass. Navigating through Windows 7 is easy enough, and for many interactions HP has added a choice of two touch interfaces.

The first (and most forgettable) of these is a third-party, young-children-oriented interface called Magic Desktop. It gives parent-controlled access to kid-friendly applications such as EasyPaint and EasyMail, and some basic learning and games. While not exactly streamlined or even all that intuitive, it’s straightforward enough that your little ones should be able to get around, and there’s a master password preventing access to the OS.

Far more interesting is HP’s TouchSmart interface, which we last saw on the HP IQ810 all in one PC. It’s slick, intuitive and offers customised touch access to media, internet (a skinned Internet Explorer), organisational applications and favourites like Twitter. What it does, it does very well indeed.

Unlike many tablets, not to mention rivals such as the Packard Bell Butterfly Touch and Acer Aspire 1825, touch is not the only way to interact with the tm2’s screen. It integrates Wacom’s digitizer tech to provide a battery-free, pressure sensitive stylus that’s great for handwriting and, of course, sketching or drawing. The capacitive plus digitized combo covers almost any usage scenario, and yet another advantage is that, as soon as the screen ‘senses’ the pen (from about two centimetres away), it will no longer respond to finger presses, avoiding accidental cursor movement no matter how you hold the tm2 while scribbling.

The stylus is fairly comfortable in the hand and features a pressure sensitive eraser on its top and a single ‘right-click’ button. For handwriting it works a charm, but unfortunately the screen’s abysmal viewing angles make using this convertible tablet laptop for art a difficult proposition, especially when working in colour. It’s a real shame as the pressure sensitivity would otherwise make it a credible alternative to using a graphics tablet like the Wacom Bamboo Pen & Touch – with the added advantage that you’re drawing directly to the screen, though as a surface the hardened plastic doesn’t compare to the more paper-like experience dedicated tablets offer.

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