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The TouchSmart series is the vanguard of touch on the desktop, pre-dating evenby years.
Yet, despite the extra lead time, HP has still failed to deliver an immersive touch experience; its TouchSmart UI is still suffering from poor multi-touch capability and lagginess,.
Part of this is hardware; HP's choice to go infrared for the touch technology means that the screen can sometimes get confused by having more than one finger on the screen at once. The rest, though, is entirely down to the software. We've mentioned Windows' deficiencies when it comes to touch interfaces before (something Windows 8 will hopefully address), so usually it comes down to the vendors to bridge this gap. What you get is everything from a token effort to bundled software, to a full-blown interface. HP's actually done all three here, although TouchSmart 4.0, its interface, leaves a lot to be desired.
The TouchSmart UI now has a desktop: an area where you can drag post-it notes, magnets (the HP term for widgets), songs, photos and add graffiti to. It's analogous to iOS and Android homescreens, with multiple homescreens to swipe through — although there's no indicator to let you know what screen you're on.
In addition, you can pin items to this desktop, so no matter what screen you swipe to, they stay visible. You can remove magnets that you add to the desktop, or playback songs or albums from the desktop, but rather ridiculously, you can't edit or resize post-it notes, or zoom and rotate photos or graffiti; you have to go into individual applications to do this (and even then the photo editing application seems to lack the ability to zoom). The default size chosen for desktop elements is quite small, too, and this — in combination with the lack of ability to move multiple items at once — makes the TouchSmart's desktop nowhere near as intuitive as it could be.
The lack of video hardware acceleration further detracts from the experience, with the interface often slowing down and exhibiting lag, something unacceptable these days when even smartphones can do it.
Although HP has failed to live up to the TouchSmart promise in many regards, once you get into the software it can be fun: browsing photos; drawing; playing back movies and music; making notes from text, drawings, video or audio; and making slideshows of photos with music.
The custom apps for web interfaces are a nice touch, with eBay, Twitter and Facebook all receiving makeovers to better suit fingers than mouse, although it does greatly slow down all proceedings; keyboard and mouse are just better suited for doing things quickly. HP has also included something called "Recipe Box", which is exactly what it sounds like, bringing us one step closer to the kitchen PC. Tragically, there appears to be no ability to enter your own recipes or download more, and the current selection is quite meagre.
Also bundled in there is R.U.S.E.; specifically, a multi-touch version of the game, although we were unable to play it to see just how much touch contributed to the experience, due to Ubisoft's Ubi.com account servers being down. As usual, DRM only hurts the paying customer.