Style and ease of use are hallmarks of the 12.1in HP tx2522, and it also has adequate processing power. It's pitched at home users who require the functionality of a tablet, but without the exorbitant price tag most tablets command. But its battery life is bad. Really bad.
It ships with only a 4-cell battery, and this lasted 1hr 5min in our DVD run-down test, which isn't an inspiring result for a laptop with a 12.1in screen that is ripe for use while out in the field. You'll want to get a spare battery or two if you plan on using it for more than an hour while away from an outlet.
Under the hood
HP has kept the price of the tx2522 manageable by basing it on AMD technology, which is something seldom seen in the laptop space — or anywhere for that matter since the Intel Core 2 Duo came out. It runs an AMD Turion X2 Ultra Dual Core Mobile Processor ZM-80 CPU — this is probably the longest CPU name to ever grace the specs page of a tablet PC — which is a dual-core CPU that runs at 2.1GHz. It has a power rating of 35W, which isn't special. For example, it's the same as Intel's much zippier T-series Core 2 Duo CPUs. But you'd have to pay much more for a comparable tablet with a T-series CPU and, for the most part, the little AMD Turion does a decent job in many applications.
The tablet has 2GB of DDR2 RAM installed, as well as ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics with 64MB of dedicated RAM. Storage is handled by a 320GB, 5400rpm hard drive, and you also get a built-in DVD burner.
It scored 54 in our WorldBench 6 application suite, which is not a fast score, but it means that the unit will run everyday office applications without any problems. It can even be used to run Photoshop, albeit slowly. You can use it for some 3-D rendering, too, as its time of 1min 48sec in our Blender 3D test is not too bad at all for a 2.1GHz CPU.
Multitasking while running office applications and browsing the Web won't slow down the machine, and its performance while processing our messy handwriting in tablet mode was smooth and responsive. It was also quite good at encoding MP3s, as it only took 1min 40sec to convert 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s. This is a decent score for a 2.1GHz CPU, but it really did have to work hard and you could hear the tablet's fan reach its maximum spin speed a short time into the task. Video file and DVD playback was smooth.
The unit is approximately 30cm wide and 22cm deep and has 1.8cm wide keys. It's very easy to type on and there aren't any keys in non-standard positions. Not all the keys are big though. Seldom-used keys such as Delete, Escape and the F-keys are all smaller than the alphanumeric keys.
When in tablet mode, the unit's capacitive-type WACOM touch screen can be used either with the supplied stylus or with your finger to navigate. You'll need to keep this in mind when brushing dirt of the screen with your finger in laptop mode, as you'll drag the cursor or pointer away from your focal point. Using the pen is the easiest way to navigate the screen. Using Vista's built-in tablet functionality, its accuracy was excellent for writing notes, whether they were in cursive or printed letters, and you can rest your hand on the screen as you write, without the arrow pointer moving away from where you are writing. The only area in which navigation wasn't precise was in the top-right corner, near the close button of most program windows.
One of the buttons on the bezel of the screen allows you to rotate the screen; others offer shortcuts to Windows Mobility Centre, and to HP's QuickPlay and DVD interfaces. QuickPlay launches a menu that can be used to access entertainment modules such as the TV software (if you choose to install an HP ExpressCard tuner) and the DVD player software.
Touchpad could be better
The only component we found a little hard to use was the touchpad. It doesn't have enough vertical room, which makes it awkward to press the left- and right-click buttons, and its surface is level with the rest of the chassis (meaning it doesn't have a frame around it). However, it does have bumps on it; despite these, it was often hard to feel where on the pad we were and often navigated too far off it, at which point the pointer stopped moving. It might take a while to get used to it.
Ports and slots
Connectivity is a mixed bag with this tablet PC. It has three USB 2.0 ports, but none of them could singularly supply power to a typical 80GB, 2.5in Maxtor external hard drive. We had to use two USB ports to power our drive. This could be inconvenient if you also have a mouse and a USB key or other device plugged in at the time. You also get a D-Sub port, an SD memory card slot, an ExpressCard/34 slot, a 56Kbps modem, Gigabit Ethernet, and, most importantly, built-in 802.11n networking and Bluetooth adapters. It lacks a FireWire port, but that's not such a big deal as the machine isn't really suited to editing video off a camcorder.
In the end, decent performance, good ease of use and accurate tablet functionality are let down by very poor life away from an outlet. If you want it to last you more than an hour while on the road, the only option is to invest in spare batteries.