Editors' note: This review incorrectly attributed HP's TouchSmart technology to N-Trig. It is instead a product of NextWindow Limited.
Above all else, we have to credit HP for taking a risk with its TouchSmart all-in-one PCs. No other Windows desktop vendor has ventured into the relatively uncharted touch-based waters, and any future developments in touch on the desktop will likely use the TouchSmart series as a reference point. As much as we admire HP's pioneering spirit, it's still fair to ask whether you should spend money on one of these PCs, in this case the $2,099 25.5-inch TouchSmart IQ816. If either touch- or large-screen all-in-ones are important to you, this pricey TouchSmart will deliver on both accounts. If you're instead looking for either a complete digital entertainment PC or a self-contained computer for productivity purposes, other all-in-ones have more to offer.
We weren't overwhelmed by the practicality of HP's custom TouchSmart software when we reviewed a smaller model earlier this year. With no new software included on the TouchSmart IQ816, that largely hasn't changed. The good news is that HP has opened up its TouchSmart development kit to the software community at large, which means that a lot of new touch-capable programs could be forthcoming.
We're certainly glad that HP has invited third-party developers to contribute to the TouchSmart platform. Considering that only one application has made it to the TouchSmart Community Download site since its October launch (making three overall, counting the two launch programs), we can't exactly say that software developers have embraced the TouchSmart as much as say, the iPhone. Perhaps they need more time. Aside from those three extras, the core HP TouchSmart software is aimed squarely at families.
A menu screen anchors the TouchSmart software. The full screen, icon-based display lets you scroll through shortcuts to the various bundled TouchSmart applications. A note taking/painting tool, a calendar, a photo viewer, a weather application, and music and video players form the core of the TouchSmart software suite. Each is easy enough to use, but also very basic in functionality. We don't mind the simplicity, as these applications are designed for you to walk up and spend only a few seconds writing a note, building a slide show, or cueing a playlist.
The idea behind the TouchSmart is that a connected family will put it in a central location, and either store media on it directly or stream media to it from other PCs on a home network. The large 25.5-inch display also makes the TouchSmart IQ816 the largest mainstream all-in-one PC available. A built-in slot loading Blu-ray player and a TV tuner round out this system's digital entertainment capabilities, which provide a reasonable degree of functionality for the price. Our biggest complaint here is the built-in audio output, which barely gets loud enough. Fortunately it comes with a variety of analog and digital audio outputs, which we recommend putting to use.
|HP TouchSmart IQ816||Sony Vaio LV180J|
|CPU||2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100||3.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400|
|Memory||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||512MB Nvidia GeForce 9600M GS graphics card||256MB Nvidia Geforce 9300M GS (integrated)|
|Hard drives||750GB, 7,200rpm||320GB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray burner||Blu-ray burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11n wireless||Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11n wireless|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)|
While we can see using the TouchSmart as digital media hub, it's not the best-designed all-in-one for the task. Sony's Vaio LV180J features VESA-compatible wall mounting, as well as an HDMI input, complete with an input signal toggle button to go from the Windows desktop to the video from a connected component. You might give the TouchSmart credit for its larger hard drive, and it technically has a wall mount bracket, although it's nonstandard. You can also purchase a VESA-compatible mount from HP for $50. The HDMI input is a bigger coup for Sony, and HP has no similar capability. The Sony lets you connect game consoles, DV cameras, and other HDMI-equipped devices with little to no hassle, making it a truly useful feature.
We also have trouble with the TouchSmart for productivity, and this seems to be where HP pays a price for choosing a slow 2.1GHz laptop CPU. We don't suggest that performance is the primary purchase factor for this system, and it handles most common tasks well enough. Yet among two other recent all-in-ones, a $1,250 Dell midtower as well as Apple's
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)