HP tx2500 tablet PC impressions

I bought my first tablet PC a few weeks ago. Or as it happens to be, it’s also my first laptop as well. It’s a HP Pavilion tx2590eo but it seems like these are usually simply referred as the tx2500-series. I couldn’t even find any sensible model comparison on HP’s site so I don’t know what the actual differences are. The only thing I know that, in the shop I bought this from, with 200 euros more I could’ve gotten a slightly faster processor, hdmi and a gig more memory. A rather pathetic upgrade for the price in my opinion. But processors and RAM are the most boring aspects of this, or almost any, laptop anyway so let’s forget about those for now. This is quick enough for its price, all right? The only thing some people might find lacking is the display adapter which is an ATI Radeon HD 3200 and if you find this kind of bullshit deeply fascinating, find some benchmarks with Google. There are bound to be dozens of them. For the rest of the review I’ll be trying to stick with the more practical aspects of the laptop.

Or actually before the practical stuff let’s be superficial for a moment here and talk about the looks. If you want to be cool, don’t buy this. This is a seriously ugly laptop. And not even in the good sort of nerdy and engineery way the IBM/Lenovo Thinkpads are. The tx2500 is just a collection of elements that are considered cool nowadays: silvery plastics, blue LEDs and glossy black surfaces that attract fingerprints miles away. The underbelly of the laptop looks like a plastic version of some amateur modder’s first Quake wall texture: it’s a messy collection of beveled surfaces, grates, screws and it’s got more hieroglyphs sticked on it than the other side with the keyboard on it. The hinge which swings the display around when you convert it to laptop mode also makes the whole thing look more brittle even though the hinge mechanism actually feels quite solid in practice.


Whisky bottle and a robusto sized cigar for scale

This is a 12″ laptop which I think is almost the perfect size for a laptop if you still want to keep it more or less portable. The laptop actually fits into my camera bag very nicely. Typing with the keyboard is also very easy and despite the size of the laptop, most of the keys seem to be positioned and sized correctly. Only the left shift seems a bit slim to me but it took only about three jabs with my pinky to learn to aim at it correctly. The screen’s resolution, 1280×800, sounds quite small but in practice it matches the physical screen size very well. I haven’t yet gotten around into trying to install 3dsmax or XSI on the laptop and I think that with those the display would be almost entirely covered with the GUI stuff. But for 2d applications and some 3d ones as well (like Silo and Mudbox) the resolution works well enough. Actually way better than I expected in the first place since I’ve grown accustomed to the 1600×1200 resolution I usually work with on desktop computers.

Like most, if not all, current convertible laptop/tablet PCs, you can convert this into tablet mode by swiveling it around a hinge and then tilting the display on top of the keyboard. The display latches in place with the magic of some magnetic hooks. Fascinating. The only place I remember seeing such resolute hooks prior to this laptop was in the Hellraiser movies. The Wacom Penabled touchscreen works very nicely. When using the pen, the display ignores all the other touches which is great since I’m used to resting my hand on the drawing surface. To help combat smudges left by filthy hands, HP has even included a cleaning cloth for the screen so you don’t have to stick the laptop in the dishwasher that often. And there’s also a pouch with a zipper included for the laptop if you’re one of those guys who like to bag all of their material possessions individually in the fear of matter meeting antimatter. Anyways, back to the screen. The feel of using the pen is very familiar and approachable if you’ve used tablets before. The somewhat slick surface feels a lot like the plexiglass surface on a Wacome Graphire 3. I have one on my home desktop computer so I felt instantly at home when I did my first doodles in Artrage. The pen itself is very basic. Just a straight ball point pen alike plastic stick with the basic exchangeable Wacom pen nibs, an eraser and a single button on the side. The button (the “right mouse button”) is very hard to press. It’s very flat so it’s quite hard to find and the pressing itself is a surprisingly laborous mechanical process. After using the tablet for a few weeks already, my pen button hit ratio is still around 50%. But drawing and painting with the pointy end is what you will be doing for the most of the time and it is very easy and the overall feeling of it is on at least the same level as on Graphires and even despite the missing ergo-stuff compared to those Intuos pens I haven’t suffered from any discomfort, pain or nausea caused by the tablet’s pen yet. But if you desperately need a more buxom pen, I think there’s one you can order from Wacom.

Actually, writing about discomfort, pain and nausea instantly reminded me of the vast customization options this laptop offers for the shortcut buttons on the lid. You know, the only physical buttons you have when you’re in tablet mode? Along the side there are four media buttons (play/pause, rewind, forward and stop) and on the front, next to the media buttons, there are four others. From one of the buttons on the front you can rotate the display which is handy if you want to work on portrait orientation (which is a bit more tricky than landscape orientation because of the much narrower viewing angles there). Another button opens the Windows mobility center where you can rotate the display which is handy if you want to work on portrait orientation. Then there’s a button with which you can launch a software to watch DVDs. I might be a bit behind the times but I’m used to this workflow when it comes to DVDs:

1. Insert Disc
2. Software starts

But that’s probably just me. Then the last button. It opens the HP Quicklaunch software with which you can launch a software to watch DVDs. What the hell? I surely need to rotate my screen more frequently than I need to move around the canvas or zoom in Photoshop so good call there HP. Ability to launch a DVD player in a blink of an eye, AOL Toolbar and syphilis were the top three items on my wish list when shopping around for a tablet PC and HP graciosly fulfilled two of my wishes.

But okay, who gives a damn about the default configuration since you’re going to customize it anyway, right? The funny thing though is that you can’t. There are some menu items somewhere in the control panel that claim to customize two of these buttons but apparently launching a DVD player is still such a brilliant discovery by HP engineers that they won’t let the customizing change things because the customers don’t actually know what’s best for them. Besides, who changes their brush size in Photoshop in this day and age anyway? So it was time to move onto heavier tools. There’s a brilliant application called Autohotkey which lets people do loads of powerful customization regarding shortcuts. The four media buttons were customized easily. I even scripted one of those buttons to alternate between two different keystrokes so I could alternate between two tools in Photoshop with a single button. Sadly, the screen rotate and the Windows mobility center buttons’ funtionality is so deeply buried somewhere that they can’t be manipulated even with Autohotkey. Luckily the two remaining buttons could be scripted with a bit of extra work since they required that I replace an exe-file (luckily Autohotkey has an exe compiler too!) and catch a command line argument to separate the two different button presses from each others.

So there I was, I had six customizable buttons on the lid which is just enough to use Photoshop with relative ease without constant tapping with the pen. After I got things set up in Photoshop just the way I wanted, I flipped the lid to enter the tablet mode just to see that the media keys don’t work at all while in tablet mode. Yes, the laptop disables half of the buttons on the lid, that are most easily and ergonomically accessed while in tablet mode, when you switch to tablet mode. There are some media buttons on the regular keyboard as well that can be accessed with the fn-key so there’s no reason whatsoever for anyone to use the four buttons on the lid, ever, so I would’ve preferred if HP would’ve shipped the computer with a loaf of bread instead of those four useless buttons that sit there mocking and laughing at me. Devices like this are the sole reason why we see so many alcoholics on the streets these days.

I decided I had been suffering a bit too much for my art so I decided to do something more lighthearted instead and I decided to install the drivers for the Behringer BCD3000 DJ console. It’s basically a MIDI controller for software DJing and it has an integrated sound card. A nice piece of kit for its price. This will hardly surprise anyone at this point but of course the sound card part of the drivers didn’t work at all. Neither the regular driver or the ASIO driver. But I was okay with it since who needs audio when DJing anyway? So in addition to the raging alcohol problem I gained from customizing the buttons, I was now starting to think that satanism really isn’t that bad of an idea. Self mutilation and all. Sweet.

So, I guess now it’s time for some sort of a conclusion. Drawing with it is really enjoyable and for the same price range you can think if you want to have a 12″ tablet PC or a 12″ Wacom Cintiq, which is in many ways a tablet PC without the PC (many people might disagree with this simplification but luckily I don’t listen to reason). Lack of customization still bugs me but luckily I had an extra Nostromo N52 pad lying around. It’s basically a small piece of a keyboard with a palm rest and a dpad for the thumb designed for gamers but it works with Photoshop and other programs just as well so that solved my shortcut woes pretty efficiently. Although using the Nostromo limits the ergonomy and portability of the whole thing a bit so I think I’ll only be using it at home. As if just using a tablet PC publicly wouldn’t make you look like a big enough of a dork already… And as for the BCD3000 drivers, I’m still awaiting a reply from Behringer but I don’t mind that much really since I’m only a bedroom DJ and I can do the mixing on my desktop computer just as well. So even though this computer made me feel like a Linux user from time to time, I like it very much now but I wouldn’t recommend it to others before HP gets its act together.

11 Responses to “HP tx2500 tablet PC impressions”

  1. cheft Says:

    What OS are you running? And what’s your driver version? The driver shipped with the unit did not install very well on Vista. The new driver from the website works.

  2. admin Says:

    You’re talking about the bcd3000 driver, right? I use the latest from Behringer’s site, version 1.2. I also tried installing the older one, 1.1.2, using Windows XP compatibility mode but it didn’t make a difference. I’ve also tried disabling all “unnecessary” hardware from the Windows device manager like the DVD drive, fingerprint reader, WLAN, bluetooth etc but to no avail.

  3. Conrad Says:

    Can you post your autohotkey script? I’m curious how you grabbed the button presses for the front buttons. I keep accidentally hitting them and it’s driving me insane!

    Thanks!

  4. peeba Says:

    Here you go:

    foo = %1%
    if foo = MY_DVD
    {
    Send ^{NumpadSub}
    }
    else
    {
    Send ^{NumpadAdd}
    }

    To get this working, you need to use the .exe compiler that comes with autohotkey and replace C:\Program Files\HP\QuickPlay\qp.exe with it. Both of the buttons refer to the same exe but it uses a command line argument to separate between the two of those and the script detects it. Here I’ve sricpted the buttons for the default photoshop zoom in / zoom out hotkeys (ctrl + / ctrl -).

  5. DJ FelipeMau Says:

    you managed to do bcd3000 work? I have a tx2500 money and I do not know else to do …

  6. peeba Says:

    I still haven’t found a good way to get the bcd3000 working with the laptop and Behringer never replied to the message I left at their support site. But I think that using the bcd3000 only as a midi controller and getting an external audio interface would work though.

  7. tareq Says:

    Hey there…

    I am debating whether I should get a cintiq 12wx or this tablet pc. I just can’t justify getting a cintiq if I could get this entire computer for same price. I know all the major information already from google over the past few months. I just wanted to know if you ever tried running maya or mudbox on this machine. I found one at a store here that lets me upgrade memory to 8gb, expanding the graphics part to about 2gb (useless info I know ) but lets say I was working on texture map for something and I wanted to open maya or some 3d program to apply and check I suppose…and I heard photoshop pressure sensitivity doesnt work on this…so how do you texture with this if you had to ?

    I’ve heard from another person that zbrush will run fine on this, i..use..mudbox…lol. perhaps the time has come to use zbrush lol. Either way..did you try any 3d app on this ?

    I couldnt track your email on this page so mine is protomind@hotmail.com. Care to help out ? :)

  8. peeba Says:

    I haven’t tried any 3d software on the laptop mostly because of the rather low resolution of the display. Most of the traditional 3d softwares like Maya, 3dsmax or XSI use a lot of screen space for the interface. I mean, you definitely can run those programs on the tablet but it just wouldn’t be as comfortable to use as on a desktop machine. Additionally, I think that the GPU processing power (instead of just the memory) might be a slight bottleneck but for texturing work, I think that the tablet would work just fine.

    Pressure sensitivity with the pen definitely works in Photoshop and everywhere else. After all, the tablet and pen tech is provided by Wacom :)

    Oh, and if ZBrush works, I don’t see why mudbox wouldn’t. At least on desktop computers, I haven’t noticed any massive differences in speed myself.

  9. Jason Says:

    tareq I think you had mistaken HP Touchsmart TX2 with Tx2500. TX2 uses N-trig and has troubles with photoshop pressure sensitivities on Adobe’s side. As of now there is still no driver for it. You can only dual boot into Linux and use photoshop with pressure sensitivities from there. I own a Tx2500 so it’s fine with photoshop.

  10. Graphics Card Says:

    I know that C64 is the best graphics device…

  11. Curtis. U Says:

    I have a Tablet PC too! As a matter of fact, its an HP Pavillion tx 2524 Entertainment PC. ALSO my first tablet and laptop ever! I can understand your virdict because I have just received it from repair due to a random faulty hard-drive. I got it back, and now Im contacting an HP technician for the third time because it can’t run fullscreen programs.

    I have been haveing quite a bit of trouble with mine, and by now, you have probably had that computer for a long time. Could you give me any information that might make using my computer more easier? that would be great.

    Thanks for your time!

    -Curtis