Ignoring all that unseemly fuss about Apple's entry into the tablet market, if you wanted a tablet in the past, you were largely stuck with something that looked like it was designed to be used in a hospital ward, rather than in your lounge room. That's because generally speaking, most tablets were designed with exactly that in mind, in order to service the kinds of vertical markets that previous Windows tablet operating systems suited best.
Windows 7 includes touchscreen compatibility as standard, and so it's not surprising to see more consumer-centric tablets being launched. The tm2 is HP's latest stab at a tablet, and at least at a visual level, it's rather nicely decked out. It uses the standard convertible tablet set-up, so you can either twist the screen down flat for a full touchscreen experience or flip it up and operate the tm2 as a standard 12.1-inch notebook PC. There's a subtle wind motif — at least we assume it's a wind motif — engraved on the lower right-hand side of the keyboard and again on the upper left-hand side of the display screen back. Tastes in engraved designs will vary, but we found it made a nice contrast against the metallic look of the system.
The tm2 features an Intel Core 2 Duo processor SU7300 1.3GHz, 4GB of RAM (up to a maximum of 8GB), 500GB HDD, switchable 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4550 graphics and no on-board optical drive. Instead, you get an external LightScribe SuperMulti DVD±RW with double-layer support. As basic specifications go, the tm2 is exactly that; quite basic, and with an eye towards battery life rather than pure number-crunching power. As a tablet PC, the 12.1-inch, 1280x800-pixel display features a capacitive multi-touch capable display.
Ports include three USB 2.0, VGA, modem, Ethernet and standard headphone. Wi-Fi is supported with in-built 802.11a/b/g/n support. On the software side, the tm2 runs Windows 7 Professional, so clearly HP isn't entirely tilting this system towards consumers just yet. Other software pre-installed includes Cyberlink DVD suite, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Shockwave Player, Motorola SoftStylus, HP Total Care Set-up, HP Advisor, HP Wireless Assistant, HP Help & Support Center, HP Software Update and HP MediaSmart. On the trial-ware front you get a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office 2007 Pro, 20-day trial of Muvee Reveal and 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security.
From a pure benchmark point of view the tm2 should be capable of most tablet-specific tasks. We managed a respectable but not stunning PCMark05 score of 3720 and 3DMark06 score of 3201, with the ATI graphics running in full power mode.
What was more of interest to us was the battery life. The tm2's six-cell battery should give solid performance given the use of a low power CPU and the option to switch graphics to the lower power in-built Intel graphics solution. By default when you unplug the power it will attempt to switch to the lower power graphics solution, but we ran our standard full-screen video playback test over the tm2 in both full power and low power modes.
With the in-built ATI graphics running the show, the tm2's battery conked out in three hours, 13 minutes. That's not a stellar score for a 12-inch notebook, but it's not a terrible score either. Switching over to the Intel graphics solution, which is what the tm2 will do by default unless you tell it not to, made some serious amends, adding one hour and three minutes to playback time for a total of four hours and 16 minutes. Remember, our video playback test is deliberately brutal in order to display effective worst-case scenarios. Using the tm2 in a more restrained manner, especially if you're only using the on-board Intel graphics should allow you a bit more battery life than this.
As a working laptop, the tm2 is fine, but then at this price point it absolutely should be. We weren't thrilled by the flattened mouse pad that features a bottom section that's clickable in the style of Apple's clickable trackpads, but that's a minor quirk. What we did find in extended use of the tm2 was that the touch features were nice but not essential in everyday consumer tasks. There's still clearly a market for vertical applications in the tablet space, and in that context the tm2 is a solid purchase option. The definite lag in touchscreen applications, especially if you opt for a grubby digit rather than the supplied pen led us back to standard mouse controls most of the time.
As a laptop, the tm2 is an attractive proposition that's arguably a bit expensive for most consumer uses. While it's nice that Windows 7 offers up touchscreen capability, there's still a serious lack of killer consumer-based Windows applications to make it an attractive proposition. If you're an existing tablet user looking to upgrade, the tm2 is a very fine machine, but for non-tablet users we'd advise holding back and picking up a similar non-tablet laptop for less money.