- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It may take some doing to put the HP TouchSmart tx2 under the tree on Christmas Eve - HP’s online store says it won’t ship units until after Christmas - but even if you resort to using an “IOU,” your gift recipient may not mind.

The just-under-5-pound notebook-cum-tablet computer is something of a powerhouse, even if it is far from “ruggedized.” That’s not to say it can’t travel, but I suspect this is a computer more likely to perch on a notebook stand at home, with occasional travel, than to be the staple of a hardy road warrior, just by virtue of its features.

Here’s what you get for your money, about $1,100 list price, but $200 less from the HP Web site (www.hp.com) if you’re willing to wait for delivery: a Windows 7-based computer with a 64-bit AMD Turion X2 processor running at 2.20 GHz, 4 gigabytes of RAM, about 450 GB of usable hard disk storage out of a total 500 GB, and a rewritable DVD drive with LightScribe, which, on compatible media, etches a label design onto the unrecorded side of a disc. All this with a 12.1-inch, diagonal measure, color screen, complete with built-in webcam and microphone.

That’s quite a lot for the price, and I didn’t even include the pop-out remote control, memory-card-reader slot or the - wait for it - touch screen and tablet built into the device. You get not only a notebook, but also a screen that turns around to become a Tablet PC, complete with stylus. Not only is it a convertible tablet, but it’s also a touch screen, which lets you operate many features with the press of your finger, even in programs such as Microsoft Office 2007, where I just saved this document using my right index finger.

Much of this may seem beyond the needs of the average user, but most of us are not average anymore. The at-home computer isn’t just for doing the finances or sending e-mail; it’s where your recipes and family photos may reside, where HD movies are downloaded for viewing and where projects are initiated and completed. Having a range of features, not to mention the unit’s portability, is a plus in such a situation. Wi-Fi also is built in, making hookups to an at-home wireless network simple. If hard-wired links are your thing, there’s also an Ethernet port.

HP recently upgraded the TouchSmart software, and while the unit I bought (we’re home users, too) didn’t have the latest version, I expect that upgrade, when received, will run without flaw, particularly on a computer with the aforementioned 4 GB of RAM and a 64-bit processor, which is itself professional grade. Still, the current version has been capable enough for my purposes.

Integral to the TouchSmart experience is the Media Smart software, which users can employ to view photos, play music stored on the computer or tap into things such as the Sonos ZonePlayer, the latter having “appeared” in the MediaSmart music options when I fired up the software. All this can be controlled with the press of a finger, the stylus or the built-in touch pad.

The media features bring me to the sound of the built-in Altec Lansing SRS Premium Sound system that comes with the unit. The sound is rich and deep, whether it’s Luciano Pavarotti singing “La Boheme” or Keith Green singing the ‘70s gospel tune “Rushing Wind.” I heard those, by the way, via Pandora.com, which is included with the Media Smart software, a very nice touch. Also nice is the one-button launcher built into the screen panel.

The touch pad and keyboard are more than adequate for even this ham-handed user. An expansion port will connect various docking solutions. Bluetooth is another option for adding wireless keyboards and mice if you need them.

There’s one feature I’m avoiding, and it’s a personal choice: the screen lid has a fingerprint reader, and the Digital Personal software is installed to give one-finger access to your system and even some Internet passwords, but I’ve had poor success with those things. You might enjoy it, but it’s not for me right now.

What is for me, and for my wife and maybe for you, is this HP portable. It’s one of the better values I’ve seen this year, and even if you have to wait a few days into the new year to get one, it’ll be worth it; I promise.

c Send e-mail to mkellner@ washingtontimes.com.

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