As the 2008 – 2009 school year approaches you’ll probably find yourself shopping around for a notebook and having one that functions as a Tablet PC is certainly an added bonus and well worth considering. The Pavilion tx2500 is actually no more than an update to the Pavilion tx line that HP introduced a couple of years ago. The tx1000 and tx2000 proceeded the tx2500 and the design has stayed pretty much the same (notable is that the tx2000 added Wacom pen technology whereas the tx1000 was touch screen only), what’s new and notable with the tx2500 is an AMD platform called Puma and an updated graphics card chipset from ATI that boosts 3D performance.
Specifications of tx2500z under review:
The HP tx2500z covered here was ordered direct from HP and has the following specs:
- Processor: AMD Turion X2 Ultra dual-core Mobile ZM-86 2.40GHz
- Screen: 12.1″ diagonal WXGA HP BrightView widescreen (1280 x 800)
- Memory: 3.00GB DDR2 RAM
- OS: Windows Vista Business 32-bit
- Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 3200
- Ports: Three USB 2.0 ports, an ExpressCard/34 slot, S-Video, VGA, Consumer IR, 5-in-1 digital media card reader, Microphone, 2-headphone ports (1-SPDIF), Modem port, Ethernet port
- Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n , BlueTooth
- HP Imprint Finish (Echo)
- Battery: 6-cell
- Microphone + Webcam
- FingerPrint Reader
- Input: Keyboard (101-keys), touchpad with on/off button, touch-screen display and Wacom active input
Considerations for Tablet PC Functionality in School
The benefits of having a portable computer at school are obvious — you can take your laptop to class, the library, the student union, school yard or wherever you study or do work and be able to write notes, email and do research wirelessly. Most school campus’ these days are blanketed with hotspots. I’d say it’s almost a necessity for a student to be taking a laptop to college, and many schools in fact require them.
The one major drawback of using a laptop in class to take notes instead of a regular old pencil and paper is of course the fact it’s impossible to copy down certain items such as chemical formulas, graphs, math symbols, venn diagrams and so on. With a Tablet PC this limitation is overcome because you can simply draw on the screen in the same way you would draw and diagram with a regular pen and paper. Using applications such as Microsoft OneNote it is very easy to organize class notes and either type input or use the pen to write on the screen.
The input technology used in the tx2500z is powered by underlying software from the company Wacom. Wacom has years of experience and various patents related to electronic pen input technology. The pen input is so accurate and sensitive that it actually has 256 levels of pressure-sensitivity. Most people that use a Tablet PC for the first time these days are surprised at just how responsive the pen and screen is for writing.
There are several applications out there for the Tablet PC platform that can enhance the experience of using a Tablet. PDF Annotator, EverNote, drawing applications are some that come to mind. Specific markets such as medicine, industrial engineering and law have niche software products as well. As a student you’ll probably find that Microsoft OneNote or EverNote are important applications since they’re both geared towards taking and organizing notes.
Processor and Performance of tx2500z
With the updated AMD platform performance gets a boost. The AMD Puma is a dual-core 64-bit capable chip. HP offers a 2.0 GHz, 2.1GHz and 2.2 GHz processor — the notebook under review actually has an AMD ZM-86 2.4 GHz processor and it seems HP has since removed that processor selection from its site. While performance certainly is good with this fast clocked 2.4GHz dual core AMD, the heat it generates is not a worthwhile trade-off. Frankly, I’d be happier with a low voltage Intel Core 2 Duo processor. For my needs, a fast processor doesn’t buy me much performance gain in things such as blogging, surfing, researching or doing work. I don’t game at all so the ATI HD3200 graphics processor is not much of a gain. Where the improved graphics performance of the HD3200 will help is for students in disciplines such as engineering that need to render 3D CAD models. The ATI HD3200 is on par with about an Nvidia 8400 graphics card in terms of performance, so light gaming is even quite possible.
Below are some benchmarks comparing performance of the tx2500z to some other laptops on the market:
Cinebench tests the processing and graphics capability of a computer. It is multithreaded allowing two processor cores to work at once rendering a detailed 3D image. I ran the CPU benchmark using Cinebench to compare the results to other notebooks:
The Turion X2 Z-86 2.4GHz processor outdid some speedy Intel Core 2 Duo processors with its score on this test.
3DMark06 measures the graphics performance of a computer. You can see that the tx2500z still can’t hold its own with gaming notebooks that have higher end graphics cards, but it still scores a very respectable 1520.
PCMark05 measures overall system performance of a computer. The tx2500z is on par in performance with much larger 15.4″ notebooks that have Intel Core 2 Duo processors, so you know the system will perform well for most any basic needs.
Heat and Noise Generated by the tx2500z is a Problem
The major problem I’m finding with the tx2500z is that the heat can really get up there if you’re not in a very cool room. If you’re using the tx2500z on your lap in a semi-warm room (say 74) while doing work such as installing programs, watching a DVD or even just doing a lot of opening and closing of programs the heat this machine puts out from the back right side can be rather insane. Indeed, I found the temperature uncomfortably hot on my lap after 30 minutes, the fan was going crazy pumping out hot air right onto my knee. So the tx2500z is certainly best used on a desk, even though that shouldn’t be the case given its size.
If you’re taking the tx2500z to class and it starts making a lot of noise you can really distract people around you. In a quiet lecture hall the tx2500z will be audible to just about everyone if the fan revs up to its highest speed, and if the noise doesn’t annoy you it’s certain to annoy at least a few in the room. It’s a real shame that this is the case, you’ll basically have to make sure the lecture you’re going to is in a cool room and I’d advise doing things such as underclocking the processor, making sure you’re in low power mode, and even tweaking the bios so that the fan doesn’t come on as frequently. Of course, the average student has neither the time nor know how to figure out these issues. The best advice I can give is actually to go for the slower processor in the Puma family, the 2.40GHz speed is just too much heat and the performance boost over the 2.0GHz is probably unnoticeable. Honestly I think a 1.6GHz ULV Intel Core 2 Duo would be best for this machine, but HP has its reasons I guess, they’ve never released a tx series tablet with an Intel processor (odd).
Build Quality and Chassis Construction
The tx2500z is a consumer targeted Tablet PC and the price point is excellent for a Tablet PC, it is simply the most bang for the buck Tablet PC on the market. However, you have to make trade offs for such a price. Most business Tablet PCs are constructed of durable metal alloy materials, but they also cost around $2,000. The tx2500z is made mostly of plastic, but costs about $1,000. Because the tx2500z has a plastic case it feels a little flimsy in places. The palm rest areas have a little bit of flex, but nothing bad. The lid is made of plastic, which doesn’t offer the best protection to the screen, and you can see ripples on the screen if you give a solid push to the lid. When you tap on the case you can tell it’s not very well reinforced inside and any shock to the system in terms of a drop could spell trouble for the hard drive or other internal components. Just be careful and don’t drop your tx2500z and you’ll be alright though!
Criticisms aside, I do compliment HP on making a hinge that’s solid feeling. While typing there’s not much wobble to the screen (just a slight amount if you really bash hard on the keyboard), and when you give the hinge a clockwise turn to convert to tablet mode it feels very sturdy and reassuring. A latch holds the screen firmly down and in place when in tablet mode and yet it is easy enough to push in the release button to then pop the screen up and rotate back into notebook mode. The entire experience of converting to tablet mode and back to notebook is easy to do and it feels like you could do it thousands of times and never have an issue with the hinge or the durability — good engineering at work here.
Keyboard Input and Touchpad Area
The keyboard on the Pavilion tx2500z is full-size with few sacrifices despite the fact this is a 12.1″ screen portable notebook with limited real estate. The only major sacrifice is the top row of function keys that are very small. Using the keys HP placed up there such as Home, End, PgDn and PgUp is tough to do and basically requires you to lift one hand off the keyboard to press one of the buttons due to their being so small. Other than this there is little to complain about. The feel of the keyboard is nice, and there is no sag to it. The key travel is fairly short and allows for fast typing. The keys are full sized and there’s nothing quirky going on that would make things hard to use.
The touchpad is rather unique. Instead of a regular cutout style touchpad with a smooth feel the tx2500z uses a dimpled area in a slight dip below the keyboard. I have to say I was skeptical at this design at first but the touchpad turns out to be very responsive in use and I find it easy to control the on screen movement of the cursor with it. In addition, vertical scroll area provided on the right side of the touchpad is very effective and a joy to have for scrolling through web pages or long documents. If the touchpad is not your cup of tea there is a button right above it to toggle it on/off and even a light right there to indicate the status of the touchpad being on or off. Great design touch!
Of course, since this is a touchscreen capable Tablet PC you can always go ahead and reach out and touch the screen to move the cursor about. Options abound!
HP is pretty generous with the number of buttons on the tx2500z and I’m happy to say they’re all real buttons and not the touch sensitive kind that so many laptop makers are putting on notebooks these days. The buttons are all easy to push, though slightly cheap feeling. Here’s a list of what you get in terms of hardware buttons:
Front of tx2500z:
- Power button, on the front left side, just slide to the right to turn the power on and a blue light indicates power state
- Wireless on off switch, slight to right once to turn all wireless off (turns orange color) slide to right again to turn all wireless on (turns blue color)
Top of keyboard:
- Volume up
- Volume mute
- Volume down
The problem with the volume buttons being on the keyboard area is of course that you lose access to them when you go into tablet pc mode. You can push the Windows Mobility center button on the screen to bring up an on screen volume adjuster in Tablet PC mode though.
- Touchpad on/off button is located right above the touchpad
On the bottom right corner of the screen there are a number of short cut buttons and media buttons for use in tablet pc mode.
- HP QuickPlay launch application button: push this to bring up a splashscreen providing access to various HP QuickPlay applications such as music playback, DVD playback, sling box player.
- DVD player launch button: this brings up the HP QuickPlay DVD player application.
- Windows Mobility Center button: This brings up an application that allows you to do things such as control volume, display brightness, wireless on/off.
- Screen rotate button: Push this button once to rotate the screen 90-degrees clockwise. The screen by default will rotate 180-degrees when you convert to Tablet mode from notebook, so you’ll need to use this button to switch into a vertical screen landscape mode.
Overall that’s a lot of buttons, and the great thing is that they’re all illuminated with a blue light so they’re easy to find.
Port Selection on the Pavilion tx2500z
HP touts the tx2500z as being an entertainment oriented convertible notebook, but it’s missing any type of digital display output media ports — there’s no HDMI, DVI or DisplayPort ports. Oh well, this is really the only shortcoming in terms of ports. What you do have are the following ports:
- Three USB 2.0 ports
- ExpressCard/34 slot
- VGA monitor out
- Consumer IR
- 5-in-1 digital media card reader
- 2-headphone ports (1-SPDIF)
- Modem port
- Ethernet port
- HP Expansion Port 3
This is really just about everything you need in terms of ports for a mobile PC solution. It’s definitely good for your average 12.1″ screen notebook. You can get an expansion dock called the XB 4 if you need more port options while at a desk.
Right side with some adapters in:
The tx2500z comes with optional BlueTooth and a range of Wi-Fi cards. I went with a card that supports 802.11 a/b/g/n. 802.11n Is the latest frequency range to be added to the 802.11 spec and offers the fastest wireless and most throughput. However, 802.11 b/g will be just fine for most so if you want to save a bit of money go with that. During the configuration process HP doesn’t indicate what brand of wireless card you’ll be getting, though usually with an AMD platform it is Broadcom, and indeed that’s what the tx2500z has on board. Specifically it’s the Broadcom 4322ag wireless card.
Worth mentioning is you get a remote control that fits right inside the ExpressCard 34mm slot. The remote is a nice to have I suppose, but how far away can you really sit and watch a movie on a 12.1″ screen? The IR the remote uses is consumer level so it has pretty good range.
The screen for the tx2500z is a 12.1″ WXGA (1280 x 800) widescreen with glossy finish. It also is touch enabled and has active input. The screen is bright enough and nice for viewing movies, but because of the extra layer it has to accommodate for the passive touch input it has a grainy look quality to it. This is the same for any tablet pc with passive touch though.
The 12.1″ viewing area is a bit small unless you’re used to it. I usually have an ultraportable computer so it didn’t seem like limited viewing to me, if you’re used to having a larger 15.4″ screen this could be a surprise for you.
The tx2500z has two Altec Lansing speakers located on the screen. The positioning is great because they aim forward toward you and when in Tablet PC mode you still get good audio. I was impressed with the speaker quality for such a small notebook. Granted there’s no real bass and they’re a bit tinny, but relative to other small notebooks I’ve used it’s pretty good. I really like the fact there are dedicated audio buttons to easily control volume up, down and quick mute. The two headphone ports on the front side are nicely located, one of which is SPDIF for high quality digital audio output to that nice set of speakers you have.
Some people have reported issues with stuttering during DVD and MP3 playback, I also got a little of this. There is a simple fix though, it turns out to be a conflict with the wireless card and to resolve just do the following: Wi-Fi. In device manager, go to Control Panel > System > System Properties > Hardware > Device Manager > Network adapters -> Broadcom adapter -> Advanced -> Disable Bands -> Disable 802.11a. See the screenshot below for what this looks like.
This unit being tested has a 6-cell battery. The 6-cell sticks out of the back of the notebook, but it does not elevate the back like the 8-cell battery does. A run down test on the tx2500z in which the screen was dimmed all the way down (it’s still quite viewable in a semi-darkened room at this brightness), wireless on and light work being done yielded 3 hours and 40 minutes before the notebook went into hibernate with 6% battery remaining. During informal testing in coffee shops while on battery I would get 2 hours and still have just over 40% battery remaining. Not bad battery life at all for the 6-cell. If you really need longer you could get the 8-cell, but that increases weight and makes the tx2500z more bulky.
The keyboard for the tx2500z feels very nice and the travel is just right for fast typing. The buttons are nice and springy, but not too much so. The one major complaint is the top row of keys being so small and shrunken, but you have to make sacrifices in terms of size somewhere when dealing with a smaller 12.1″ screen form factor machine.
The dimpled style touchpad is fantastic, it responds very well and the scroll area provides a nice shortcut for scrolling up and down through long documents or web pages. The dedicated touchpad on/off button is great to have too.
Some screens “feel” more like paper than others and the tx2500z glossy screen combined with the HP provided pen doesn’t feel much like paper, you pen digitizer nub glides over the screen so input does feel a bit slippery and it takes some getting used to. I’ve used the ThinkPad X61 Tablet and Latitude XT and both generally felt more like writing on paper. That said, I didn’t have much trouble writing accurately once I was used to the screen.
The pen itself feels fine to hold, though it’s not the highest of quality. The side button is rather cheap feeling.
I think a decision to buy the tx2500z really comes down to whether you think having Tablet functionality will benefit you much in your school studies. Taking notes electronically in class is definitely a powerful and handy thing to have. You do have to be a bit geeky or willing to learn the ins and outs of the Tablet features of Windows Vista, but once you’re used to using the pen input functionality and put in the time necessary to learn how to use Microsoft OneNote properly (or whichever note taking software you go with) then you’re definitely empowered. Many textbooks come in electronic versions these days, so if you can consolidate taking notes and carrying books to a Tablet PC then you’re golden (just make sure to back everything up at the end of each day to an external drive so you don’t lose a lot of precious information). Are there better Tablet PC and notebook convertibles than the tx2500z? Definitely there are, this is not the most solid feeling Tablet I’ve used and it runs darn hot, but once you look at the price you pay for a better convertible notebook (about twice the price) then you’ll probably be willing to accept some of the drawbacks of the tx2500z.
My biggest concern with the tx2500z for school use is that if you’re taking this to class the noise and heat issue could be a problem. If you are in a silent room the fan could become so annoying that fellow students will glare at you. You might have to figure out ways to keep the fan from running constantly so as not to annoy classmates. If there’s a lot of ambient noise in a classroom (such as fans, blowers or a general noise din from outside) then it’s not a problem because the tx2500z fan noise will be masked. But if many of your classrooms are so silent you can hear a pin drop, you’ll want to keep this noise issue in mind.
Overall if the shortcomings of the tx2500z aren’t deal breakers for you usage at school, I think this is a great option for students and since most in school are on a budget it will definitely fit the bill better than other $2,000+ Tablet PC devices that are on the market.
- The price is excellent for a Tablet PC convertible
- Good performance with new AMD platform, ATI HD3200 graphics help with 3D performance
- Great touchpad and nice feeling keyboard
- Lots of hardware buttons making it easy to quickly perform certain tasks
- Hinge is nice and easy to convert into Tablet PC mode
- Web Cam, built-in dual microphones
- Nice design and attractive looking notebook that is a good size for portability
- Has both touchscreen and Wacom pen input for the best of both worlds
- Noisy fan that tends to run constantly especially in warm rooms or when doing a lot of intensive work
- Lots of heat buildup at the back right side of the notebook, especially when under intense usage
- Plastic case is a bit flimsy in places, won’t survive drops well
- Top row of buttons are small and hard to use
- If using in Tablet PC mode while you’re standing it will become too heavy to hold after a while
- Glossy screen and lid pickup up fingerprints like a magnet so you have to clean them
Pricing and Where to buy
The HP tx2500z notebook is available configure to order at HP.com and varies in price depending on the promotions and marketing going on during any given week. Right now the starting price is at $899, which is really great. Don’t forget the student discount that HP offers. And if you liked this review and it was helpful to you, we’d really appreciate you using this sponsored link to click through and buy this HP notebook so that HP knows you were here and found the review helpful