So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
HP TouchSmart PC IQ545A
The HP TouchSmart PC IQ545A is a desktop PC with a 22in LCD touch screen
- Lovely design, touch screen, the TouchSmart interface is a lot of fun, quiet, excellent display
- Low storage capacity, hasn't evolved much from previous models
We like the HP TouchSmart PC IQ545A. We just wish that HP had put more effort into the latest version of its touch-screen PC.
Price$ 2,299.00 (AUD)
It's designed to be an entertainment hub, with the HP TouchSmart interface offering easy access to music, videos and photos (as well as a range of other functions, such as customisable application launchers, a sticky-note-style memo function and a calendar). The TouchSmart interface runs atop of Windows Vista Premium (64-bit), and is a lot of fun to use; for example, the music interface lets you drag and drop album covers to create a playlist.
Outside of this interface, the touch screen is of dubious usefulness; using Windows Explorer with a touch screen is a painful experience, for example, and more often than not you'll end up reaching for the bundled Bluetooth mouse (a wireless keyboard is also included). On a purely visual level the 1680x1050 screen is exceptional, however. It's glossy, so reflections can be annoying at times, but colours are extremely vibrant and the viewing angles are great. We didn't notice any choppiness during video playback.
The all-in-one case of the HP TouchSmart PC IQ545A is the same as other PCs in the series: it's a picture-frame style design, with the TouchSmart leaning back at a slight angle.
In fact, apart from some minor design tweaks, the only thing that really separates this PC from the other TouchSmarts are the (mildly) upgraded specs. It has a Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile T6500 CPU (which runs at 2.1GHz), 4GB of DDR2 RAM (all of which is accessible thanks to the 64-bit version of Vista), a 320GB hard drive that spins at 7200RPM and a DVD burner. It also has an integrated Intel 4500MHD graphics card with 128MB of memory. In our iTunes MP3 encoding test the HP TouchSmart scored a time of 1min 29sec, which is what we expected from the CPU.
The HP TouchSmart PC IQ545A only scored 71 in our WorldBench 6 test suite, which is nothing to get excited about. Even the ASUS U80V notebook we tested recently was able to beat it by 20 points. It also has a smaller hard drive than the HP TouchSmart IQ518, which is disappointing given the focus of this PC on multimedia playback.
Even more disappointing is the absence of a TV tuner; we really think this is a shameful omission on an entertainment PC like this one.
You do get modern networking options (Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11n Wi-Fi), as well as a range of other ports and slots: an SD card reader, line-in, headphone jack, SPDIF, FireWire, and five USB 2.0 ports (three of which are placed beneath a removable cover on the back). There is also an integrated webcam, and on the side of the PC there are physical volume controls.
Overall we were disappointed with the HP TouchSmart PC IQ545A. It's not that it's not a great PC; it's just that it's a missed opportunity. Integrated Blu-ray playback, a TV tuner and a larger hard drive would make this PC so much better. While the touch screen is certainly a lot of fun, it's not really that useful outside of the TouchSmart interface. However, once Windows 7 is released you're likely to get a lot more mileage out of the touch screen (a free upgrade is included).
Having said that, we have to admit: we really do still love it. We love the design, we love the touch screen and we'd love to have a TouchSmart in our living room. Hopefully when the next generation TouchSmart PC is released by HP, it will have undergone a real evolution.
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