So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
HP TouchSmart PC IQ500
Give your PC the finger
- Intuitive interface, great screen, good speed
- Doesn't have an expansion slot, nor a D-Sub or DVI port
A relatively new-breed PC with an intuitive touch-screen interface that would be just as useful in an office as in a home environment.
Interacting with your PC by directly using your hands instead of a peripheral is not something new, but it's not yet mainstream either. In fact, it seems like a bit of a novelty when you first start using the TouchSmart PC. It's not until you launch HP's own TouchSmart interface that you quickly realise how useful, and how much fun, it can be.
This interface allows you to access your media libraries by dragging, holding and tapping your fingers on the screen, similar to what you can do with the iPod Touch — although the HP doesn't support multiple inputs. It's a very easy-to-use interface (it can also read your iTunes music library) and it looks great on the PC's 22in glossy LCD screen.
We should probably talk a little about the hardware first. The TouchSmart PC is an all-in-one unit that's slim (it's about 6cm thick) and rests on the desk much like a fold-out photo frame. It's about 46cm tall and very different to the TouchSmart IQ770 Desktop PC . It boasts a powerful configuration, which drives the 64-bit version of Windows Vista and HP's TouchSmart interface, and its performance in our benchmarks was typical of a well-rounded PC. Our WorldBench 6 benchmark recorded a score of 73, while iTunes took 1min 42sec to convert 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s. Both results indicate that the unit will run office and multimedia applications comfortably, and it will also multitask without dragging its heels.
Running the show is a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750 CPU, along with 4GB of RAM (all of which can be used as the 64-bit version of Windows has been installed), integrated Intel (G965 Express) graphics and a 320GB hard drive (which isn't much storage space these days). You can get different configurations, of course, and prices start from $1999, which isn't too bad for a new-breed PC.
The question you have to ask yourself when looking at this PC though, is "Why would I want something like that?" The answer is style. HP is hoping this PC will bridge the gap between PC technology and consumer electronics, and that users will set it up in their living room as a kiosk of sorts. Of course, the touch screen is handy when all you want to do is play music and videos — indeed, it's liberating to be able to use your fingers to select and drag music to a playlist, or hit a few icons on the screen to start watching a DVD — and you can also use your fingers to write and draw, but you'll want to use the supplied cordless keyboard and mouse for conventional tasks such as using the Internet and office applications.
But it's not just for the home; the suitability of this PC for making presentations in a boardroom and for installing something flashy in a reception area is apparent. Its screen possesses wide viewing angles and reproduces colours vibrantly. For small presentations where a projector is overkill, this unit will run slideshows and videos without any hesitation.
In our tests, we had lots of fun using the touch-screen to navigate around Windows and launch applications. The only place where the touch-screen was inaccurate was in the lower-right area of the desktop, near the System Tray (we've seen inaccuracies at the edges of screens before; for example, Fujitsu's LifeBook T2010 (3.5G)). You will have to calibrate it before you use it, in order to get the best results.
Although the screen isn't high definition — it comes close at 1680x1050 — we still think the TouchSmart could benefit from a Blu-ray drive and an integrated high-definition TV tuner. (A TV tuner is supplied in the IQ508 model.) These components would definitely make the TouchSmart the main focal point of a home entertainment set-up, although you could argue that its 22in screen just isn't big enough for that sort of thing. (A 27 or 30in version of this unit with built-in Blu-ray and TV tuner would be something to behold!)
The unit's built-in speakers produced fuller sound than we were expecting, and you do get a decent bass kick out of them, although they do rattle at high volumes. The volume can be adjusted via the control buttons on the right-hand side of the screen.
Interestingly, the TouchSmart doesn't have an ExpressCard slot, which indicates that it's not entirely based on mobile technology, and this is reinforced by its 3.5in, 320GB hard drive. This drive spins at 7200rpm, so it provides good speed. A notebook hard drive, on the other hand, would probably hinder the TouchSmart's performance a little, but it would save energy, too. During our tests, the TouchSmart PC consumed about 87W when running the TouchSmart interface, and 7W when the computer was shut down, but still switched on at the outlet. This is more economical than a typical PC and monitor configuration though.
For connectivity, you get integrated 802.11 draft-n, Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth 2.0, so you won't need to add anything to it in order to get the fastest possible network connection speeds. There are five USB 2.0 ports to accommodate external storage devices, but three of these are inconveniently located at the rear of the PC. You might want to plug in a USB hub to make more ports available to you. You also get an SD memory card reader, digital audio output, a mini-FireWire port, a webcam, and microphone and headphone ports. The right-hand side of the unit features a slot-loading DVD burner.
As you can see, the basic foundations of a PC are there, but the TouchSmart PC IQ500 offers a very different user experience thanks to its intuitive touch-screen interface. We like it a lot and think it's a great concept, especially for users who use a PC to primarily play music and view photos and videos.
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