HP TouchSmart 610-1030a (BZ524AA) all-in-one PC

HP TouchSmart 610-1030a review: A touchscreen PC with great specifications and an excellent design

HP TouchSmart 610-1030a (BZ524AA)
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Excellent design, good configuration and performance, lots of features

Cons

  • Screen accuracy not great, only two simultaneous touch inputs, reflective screen

Bottom Line

The HP TouchSmart 610-1030a has a new design that allows it to sit almost horizontal on a desk so that you can use its touchscreen a little more comfortably. However, it's only a two-point touchscreen and it's quite reflective. The configuration and features of the PC are strong, but its price may put most people off.

Would you buy this?

HP's TouchSmart series of PCs has been around for a while, and we've had fun playing with most of them. The HP TouchSmart 610-1030a aims to make the new-ish form factor even more fun to use by incorporating a new stand that allows the machine to be laid down almost flat on a desk. But apart from being a touchscreen PC, the TouchSmart 610 is a feature-rich desktop PC with a high-end CPU and a large allotment of RAM.

The touchscreen and stand

The TouchSmart 610-1030a has a 23in screen that makes use of IPS (in-plane switching) LCD panel technology to provide wide horizontal and vertical viewing angles. It's a vibrant screen with good brightness and contrast, but it's a glossy, so it will also do a good job of reflecting room lights. The panel employs optical touchscreen technology, which means you can use it while wearing gloves, or even by using an implement of some sort — in the past we've used broken umbrella stems. [The umbrella stem is a long story. Or at least a boring one — Ed.]

You can use the touchscreen to navigate Windows and the PC's file system with your fingers, to launch music and video files, and also to sift through pictures. HP's TouchSmart software can also be used as main interface for the PC, and you can use it to easily launch music, video and photo applications that are, for the most part, finger-friendly.

Want a touch-capable notebook instead? Check out our round-up: the best and worst tablet notebooks.

There are a couple of things about the screen that are annoying though: It only accepts two simultaneous finger inputs, and its accuracy is not great toward the edges of the screen. By having only two inputs, the on-screen keyboard can't be used for 'touch-typing' and some two-player games can't be enjoyed as much as they could be with four or more inputs.

You can use the TouchSmart 610-1030a either by leaving it in its original vertical position, or you can tilt it back and move it down on its stand so that it is positioned almost horizontally on the desk (you can adjust the webcam to suit this new position, too). Its hinge mechanism is well engineered and makes it easy to move the screen up and down. The main reason for using the horizontal form factor is so your hands don't get tired pointing at the screen; and while it's suitable for gaming (you can play games such as R.U.S.E by pointing at things on the screen), it's also a more comfortable way to browse documents and Web sites. One drawback of using the screen horizontally is that reflections and fingerprints can be a lot more visible depending on the brightness of your room.

Specifications and performance

We like the overall design of the TouchSmart 610, and some of the quibbles we had with the previous TouchSmart we saw (the TouchSmart 9100) are gone. In particular, the bezel around the screen has a nice matte finish; the Blu-ray drive on the right side is much easier to access; the CPU is a high-end Intel Core i7-870 (it's also available with a Core i5-660 or Core i3-560). The configuration is quite decent for a home PC; along with the Core i7 CPU, you get 8GB of SDRAM, two 1TB hard drives (set up in a RAID 0 array), and 1GB AMD Radeon HD 5570 graphics.

The machine recorded times of 25sec and 48sec in our Blender 3D rendering and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, respectively, and a zippy 48min in our video transcoding test. What these times tell us is that the processing power in the TouchSmart 610 is excellent and you'll be able to use it for all sorts of tough tasks, including video editing and gaming. However, its score of 7437 in 3DMark06 is not stellar; it's indicative of a machine that's just a little above-average for gaming, which means you probably won't be able to run most games at the screen's native resolution of 1920x1080. In our hard drive transfer test, the RAID 0 setup helped supply a speed of 60 megabytes per second, which is very fast.

See how the TouchSmart compares to Lenovo's ThinkCentre M90z.

Other features

In the audio department, the TouchSmart 610 features Beats Audio software, which does a good job of supplying a rich and deep sound through the PC's relatively small speakers. The Beats Audio can be switched on or off, but we don't see the point of keeping it switched off. When it's switched on, the sound is powerful enough to fill a small apartment and it's good enough for music and movies. If you want more 'boom', you can attach a subwoofer. For quick access, there are physical volume controls on the left side.

You can use the TouchSmart 610 as a central entertainment point in your bedroom — or even in your living room if your place is small. Not only does the unit have a good configuration and high-definition screen, it also ships with a Blu-ray player and an integrated digital TV tuner. Its cordless peripherals and remote allow you to control the PC from afar.

Other software to come preinstalled on the TouchSmart 610 includes HP's LinkUp software, which allows you to view and control another computer on your local area network through your TouchSmart. You have to download and install the LinkUp software on all the other computers that you want to access through the TouchSmart. It can be good for PowerPoint presentations, but anything too graphics-intensive will clog your wireless network.

Conclusion

While the design of the TouchSmart 610 is nice, we're still not convinced that users need a touchscreen interface for their home or office PC. It's fun to use the touchscreen at first, but eventually you get bored and revert to the mouse and keyboard. And if you're giving presentations, you'll get more use out of the cordless peripherals than the touchscreen. The touchscreen also makes the TouchSmart 610 expensive. In an age where awesome laptops can be purchased for under $1500, the TouchSmart's $2699 price tag is hard to swallow. Consider it if you have deep pockets and want to experiment with the touchscreen interface for your entertainment and gaming tasks.

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