To this point, most tablet notebooks have served primarily a business or educational function, but HP has added a new twist with it’s Pavilion tx2500z. Not only does this compact system have full tablet and touch functionality, but it also boasts multimedia features and above-average 3D performance. This update to the tx2000 owes its stronger performance to AMD’s new “Puma” platform, which consists of new processors and much improved integrated graphics. However, while the HP Pavilion tx2500z has improved in some areas, the lackluster display hasn’t. And you’ll sacrifice battery life for Puma’s performance boost.
Pavilion tx2500z Design
The tx2500z sports the same high-gloss look as HP’s previous tx2000 tablet and wears the “Echo” inlaid finish, a subtle grid pattern that extends from the black lid to the silver keyboard deck and palm rest. Measuring 12.1 x 8.8 x 1.2-1.5 inches, the tx2500z maintains the same build and form as its older brother and weighs 5 pounds with its 8-cell battery.
In tablet mode, the notebook, with its large battery and protruding base, can feel heavy in the crook of your arm, but the optical drive can be swapped out for the in-the-box weight saver to bring the system to a slightly more reasonable 4.8 pounds. However, we noticed that one corner of the system—the upper-right corner—gets very hot: at one point, we measured the temperature at 130 degrees.
On the right side of the tx2500z is a VGA port, an expansion port for HP’s dock, Ethernet, S-Video, and one USB port. Along the front are two headphone and one mic jack, and on the left, you’ll find the DVD burner, an ExpressCard/34 slot and a 5-in-1 memory card reader. Two USB ports, a modem jack, and a Kensington lock are positioned on the back.
Spacious Keyboard, Novel Touchpad
We continue to be big fans of the tx2500z’s spacious keyboard. The keys are full size, the spacing between them feels much like a standard desktop, and the coating makes for a comfortable and smooth typing experience. Our only reservation is that the top row of function keys, including the Delete key, have been shrunk to save space.
HP continues to use its unique inverted nub design on its touchpad, which provides precise cursor control. A separate column of nubs on the right makes scrolling easier and less error-prone than conventional touchpads.
Display and Sound
The 12.1-inch widescreen display is surrounded by a half inch-thick bezel, which houses a fingerprint reader and a slew of blue LED-lit buttons for changing the screen orientation, launching Quickplay, Windows Vista Mobility Center, and the DVD player. The right side of the display holds media playback controls. A 1.3-megapixel webcam lies above the display and provided good resolution during a SightSpeed video call.
Like its predecessor, the 1280 x 800 resolution, matte widescreen display is relatively dull; even adjusting the brightness to 100 percent still left images and Web pages looking washed out. Similar to the tx2000, the screen’s vertical viewing angles are poor: Tilting the screen back results in a distracting glare. When we slid Anchorman into the built-in optical drive, we found horizontal viewing angles to be slightly better but still not great. The system’s Altec Lansing speakers provided strong audio; Will Ferrell’s voice filled a small bedroom.
With no changes made to the built-in microphone, the tx2500z’s recordings remained disappointing. We had trouble getting decent volume from the audio input, and the model lacks any tools for isolating voices to record meetings.
Working in tablet mode on the tx2500z was a pleasure because the LCD is void of any wobble and is firmly secured to the keyboard. The dual-mode touchscreen/digitizer display, similar to the tx2000, offered accurate input performance in both modes. The screen was responsive to touch, and double-clicking icons with our finger was easy and required only a soft press. Scrolling down a long article on NYTimes.com was accomplished by just swiping an index finger down the page.
The tx2500z’s stylus is comfortable for long-term use and has a left-click button on its spine. We liked the generous hover zone on the LCD, and its palm rejection was flawless; we never mistakenly hit anything while leaning on the display to take notes. The handwriting recognition was impressive; the machine responded well to our messy scribblings and quickly deciphered what we were writing. However, frequent tablet users will miss having some sort of scrolling wheel or additional buttons, such as configurable quick launch buttons, around the screen.
Puma Power Boost
The first system we’ve tested with AMD’s Puma platform, the tx2500z had decent scores on paper. With 4GB of RAM and a new 2.2-GHz AMD Turion X2 Ultra Dual-Core Mobile processor, the tx2500z produced a solid PCMark Vantage score of 2,298, which, while about 200 points below the average for a thin-and-light, is still respectable. However, its PCMark05 score of 3,685 is more than 100 points higher than the category average. In a side-by-side comparison of everyday activities with the previous tx2000 (running 4GB of RAM, a 32-bit version of Vista Ultimate and a 2.3-GHz AMD Turion 64 X2) we didn’t see any noticeable performance differences. Microsoft Word launched on both systems in 7 seconds and both machines handled multiple open programs just as smoothly.
Where we saw the biggest change was in graphics performance. As part of the new AMD platform, the chipset features integrated ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics. AMD’s promise of “three times the 3D graphics performance of comparable competitor graphics” isn’t too far off: The tx2500z notched an impressive 3,719 3DMark03 score—2,578 points higher than the tx2000’s score of 1,141. Similarly, the tx2500z scored 1,656 on 3DMark06. The Vista Windows Experience Score also jumped from 3.0 on the tx2000 to 4.0 on the tx2500z. The 5,400-rpm, 320GB hard drive is big and fast enough to hold your media, but the 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate OS took a long 1 minute and 30 seconds to boot.
The 8-cell battery included with our configuration produced just okay endurance, lasting 3 hours and 54 minutes with Wi-Fi on. That’s 21 minutes less than the tx2000. The 6-cell battery had us reaching for the power cord much sooner, running for just 1 hour and 20 minutes with Wi-Fi on. The tx2500z managed a decent 15.9 Mbps at 15 feet from our access point, but at 50 feet wireless performance decreased to 8.7 Mbps.
Software and Warranty
In addition to a 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security 2008, HP bundles the tx2500z with a host of multimedia programs, including Muvee AutoProducer Basic Edition, Corel Painter Essentials 3 and HP Games (powered by Wild Tangent). The company backs the notebook with a one-year limited parts and labor warranty and one year of 24/7 technical support.
Pavilion tx2500z Verdict
With configurations starting at $1,049 ($1,703 as tested), the Pavilion tx2500z is certainly much better in the graphics department than its predecessor, and AMD’s new Turion X2 Ultra processor provides plenty of pep. However, while the dual-mode touchscreen adds functionality, it continues to detract from the viewing quality. Moreover, we’d like to see HP do more with this convertible by adding some of the same cool touch applications it now offers on its TouchSmart PC. Despite a few weaknesses, we recommend the tx2500z for those who want multimedia muscle combined with a smooth Tablet experience.