You might know HP's Spectre product best as a home for the company's high-end, high-concept laptops. With the SpectreOne, announced today, HP brings an all-in-one PC into that fold. The question is whether its features match its high-price.
HP says the SpectreOne will begin at $1,299 when it launches in the U.S. in November. In addition to the stylized design, the SpectreOne includes a non-touch, 23.6-inch, 1,920x1,080-pixel display, a touch pad, and near-field communication (NFC) technology, dubbed HP TouchZone. It also has no built-in optical drive.
The touch pad makes HP the second vendor, behind Vizio, to launch a non-touch-screen all-in-one with a touch pad for Windows 8. I found HP's touch pad generally more responsive than Vizio's during a brief hands-on, but it still seems odd that a $1,299 Windows desktop would not also include a touch screen. Further, the 23.6-inch display feels small compared with the 27-inch displays common to Vizio and other all-in-one PCs in the same price range. Unlike Vizio's touch-pad-equipped CA27-A1, HP also includes a mouse in the SpectreOne.
The TouchZone feature is unique, and I hope it's the start of a trend throughout the PC industry. Via a sensor built into base of the unit, you can log into the SpectreOne or transfer files to it by simply swiping a smartphone or another device equipped with an NFC transmitter sticker. HP includes two stickers in the box with the SpectreOne.
HP wasn't interested in discussing the traditional PC specifications of the SpectreOne, on "lifestyle" grounds, but it cites a 1GB Nvidia GeForce graphics card, "the latest Intel processors" (Core i5 or better, HP tells me), and Condusiv (formerly Diskeeper) ExpressCache among the various options. I've seen the latter in a few high-end gaming PCs before. Essentially it puts a small solid-state hard drive directly on your motherboard to speed up boot times and access to your mostly commonly launched applications. It generally works well, but it can be an expensive option for a solid-state drive to which you can't read and write manually.
HP also announced three more-traditional all-in-ones today, including two Envy-branded TouchSmart systems, and a non-touch Pavilion all-in-one. Now that Windows 8 has its own well-developed touch software, it makes sense that HP would make TouchSmart a secondary brand and roll those mainstream PCs into its Envy product group. They're still too proper-noun heavy.
Aside from the TouchSmart name, those Envy systems should feel familiar. They're essentially the same version of the Envy 23 , but with a touch screen. The 23-inch Envy TouchSmart 23 will start at $999, and the 20-inch Envy TouchSmart 20 at $799 when the two systems launch in October.
Finally, HP has also updated its true-blue Pavilion line with an aggressively priced non-touch all-in-one. The $449 20-inch Pavilion 20 has nothing particularly remarkable about it other than its price. You will have a hard time finding a 20-inch all-in-one desktop at such a low price. That system goes on sale in October.