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HP TouchSmart 520xt review: HP TouchSmart 520xt

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We would not argue that the HP TouchSmart 520 is a slow computer overall, but it is not as fast as the more affordable Lenovo IdeaCentre B520. On every application test, the Lenovo system outperforms the HP by a noticeable margin. The TouchSmart 520 will handle common consumer tasks with acceptable speed, but if you need a desktop for more-demanding chores like HD video editing, large batch image file processing, or gaming, the Lenovo IdeaCentre B520 is a better choice.

The connectivity options on the TouchSmart 520 are useful, but the IdeaCentre B520 wins out here as well in terms of multimedia versatility. Highlights of the TouchSmart 520 include an HDMI input for using the display with external video components (cable box, game console, etc.), a pair of USB 3.0 jacks, a TV tuner, and a coaxial digital audio output. You also get a useful set of hard-display control buttons on the side of the TouchSmart for adjusting the brightness and other settings.

On the Lenovo, alternatively, you get an HDMI in and output, which lets you use the IdeaCentre B520 with an external monitor. You also get component video input for connecting legacy devices, as well as a set of backlit, touch capacitive controls on the front of the Lenovo for swapping between video signals, volume control, and display settings management. Those control buttons not only offer more functionality than the HP's side-located menu controls, but they're also easier to use since Lenovo put them on the front of the system. And they don't add visual clutter since the LED backlighting fades when you're not using the buttons. The HP's only connectivity edge comes by way of its USB 3.0 jacks. Those inputs are welcome, but USB 3.0 devices have not become overly common yet. Given the choice, we'd prefer the Lenovo's HDMI output.

Juice box
HP Touchsmart 520 Average watts per hour
Off (watts) 2.39
Sleep (watts) 35.48
Idle (watts) 100.8
Load (watts) 48.21
Raw (annual kWh) 357.22404
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $40.54

The TouchSmart 520 commits the cardinal sin of providing no power consumption advantage over a faster competitor. Both the TouchSmart and the IdeaCentre B520 fall in the higher range of power draw among all-in-ones in general, but it's a shame that HP can't at least extract some benefit from using a lower power laptop CPU.

HP includes a two-year parts and labor warranty with the TouchSmart 520, an uncommonly generous departure from the industry-standard one-year coverage plan. You also get 24-7 toll-free phone support and a variety of support resources available on HP's Web site, as well as on the system itself.

The HP TouchSmart 520xt has difficulty standing out among HP's own touch-screen all-in-ones, as well as those from other vendors. We could like this system if it had a more aggressive price for its given components, but unless HP makes some value adjustments, we can't recommend this desktop.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

HP TouchSmart 520 Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 2600s; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6450A graphics card; 2TB 5,400rpm hard drive

Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.7; 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 2400; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB AMD Radeon HD 6750 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive

Apple iMac 27-inch (3.1GHz, Summer 2011)
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.7; 3.1GHz Intel Core i5 2500; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 6970M graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Lenovo IdeaCentre B520
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 3.4GHz Intel Core i7 2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 555 graphics card; 2TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Signature Edition
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 3.3GHz Intel Core i7 2720QM; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 540 graphics card; 3TB 5,400rpm hard drive

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