You'll have to do one or the other, I'm afraid. Either set the values by script or commit records.
The commit is needed in order for auto-enter to work as there is no "connection" between quote and quoteItemHardware to use for auto-entry until the QuoteItem record is saved (committed) back to the server.
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Hmmm, I suppose that you might add another occurrence of QuoteItemHardWare that links directly to Quote. Then your auto-enter expressions would work to auto-enter data from Quote if they are redefined to refer to Quote from the context of this new occurrence. (There's a drop down in the calculation dialog for selecting context.)
aaaaaannnd phil for the win again!!! THANK U