We've seen a lot of tablet PCs and touchscreen desktops over the years. Many, like the Toshiba Portege M700 or Eee Top, have impressed us greatly. But, strangely, the best reason to buy them has rarely been their headline feature.
Is it the technology itself, or the lack of a killer application for touch that holds it back? HP has certainly addressed the former the Touchsmart TX2. One of just two notebooks that can track multi-touch gestures – the other is the Dell XT – it comes kitted out with a capacitive panel that can track several fingertips doing different things at once.
Although the screen is sophisticated enough to handle lots of gestures, the software used here can interpret just a few – tapping, double tapping, zooming text or rotating pictures and opening the pre-installed MediaSmart 2.0 application.
Perhaps it's a century of QWERTY conditioning, but the multi-touch gesturing feels – in its present incarnation – even more artificial than using the trackpad and keyboard.
Things that you feel you should be able to do, like manipulate two edges of a window, iPhone-style, just aren't an option. Worse, there's little documentation or on screen help that describes the multitouch abilities.
Better to come?
Still, the Dell XT was improved massively after release. We know the screen is capable of more gesture tracking, and there's a driver out for the TX2 and Windows 7 already.
Perhaps multitouch on this machine will come into its own yet. Fortunately, the TX2 doesn't rely on multitouch to be great.
The large battery pack - which lasts for well over five hours - doubles up as a comfortable grip when the lid is flipped into tablet mode, which leaves one hand free to stab away at weblinks and double tap on icons.
It makes the notebook slightly heavy for a 12incher, but the trade-off is worth it. There's a stylus for making handwritten notes, too, and the screen is sharp and clear, without the fine grain you often get on touch panels.
Despite a desktop that's drowned in bloatware, the TX2 is fast and responsive thanks to a 2.2GHz AMD Turion processor, which is as good as Intel's current Core 2 range. There's a lot of noise from the system fan, though, but to compensate the speakers are a cut above those you'd usually find on a small laptop.
As a first generation multi-touch machine, it's no real surprise that the TX2's gesture inputs need polish. Fortunately, it's a good enough laptop in its own right that it doesn't have to rely on multi-touch to get it recommended.