In an Australian first, we take a look at the HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC, an innovative concept designed to turn computing into a hands-on experience. It has plenty of power for the home user and with a widescreen 19in touch-screen monitor, it can also function as a user-friendly organiser, photo kiosk and multimedia entertainment centre.
Despite the supplied wireless keyboard, mouse and stylus, you can't help using your fingers to swiftly navigate through Windows Vista and the supplied HP SmartCentre software. The screen is neither heat nor pressure sensitive, but rather uses two cameras to determine where your pointer is placed, regardless of whether you use your finger, the stylus, a pen or anything else you can think of. Overall it was accurate and responsive with only very minor accuracy problems towards the very corners of the screen and far more enjoyable than using the mouse most of the time.
We looked at a UK version of the TouchSmart PC, as no Australian specifications have yet been decided by HP. With an AMD Turion 64 X2 (1.6GHz) Dual-Core CPU and 2GB (2x1024MB) of DDR2 533MHz RAM, it handled multi-tasking in Windows Vista Home Premium without any noticeable performance problems. The built-in array of microphones (two microphones working in conjunction for higher quality sound) pick up voice clearly from a comfortable sitting distance and there's also a 1.3 megapixel camera which will be ideal for so live Internet video chat.
The HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC has a DVD-R/RW drive, DVB-T digital TV tuner, integrated speakers, 8-in1 media card reader (Compact Flash types I/II, MicroDrive, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro, SecureDigital, MultiMediaCard, as well as xD Picture cards) and an abundance of connectivity options. Combined with the large widescreen monitor and the 320GB hard drive (plenty of storage for your media) this makes for a good media centre experience.
Many of the connectivity ports such as the USB 2.0 port, S-Video, FireWire and RCA audio ports can be accessed from the front of the unit, immediately below the screen. More connectivity, such as a coaxial digital audio port and a 10/100/1000 LAN port can be found at the back with further USB 2.0 ports and another FireWire connection..
The HP SmartCentre software (Integrated within Windows Media Centre), gives you access to a few key Windows features, like Windows games and Windows Media Centre but can be customised to meet your needs. SmartCentre has been intuitively designed for the touch-screen functionality and includes an easy-to-use photo library and calendar/organiser that will suit the family home nicely. Within the organiser you can hand write notes, leave audio messages and set reminders for other users of the computer. With one touch, you can scroll through Windows Media Centre to watch a movie, record TV or listen to music.
By changing between touch-optimised and mouse-optimised settings within the SmartCentre software you can adjust the interface to suite your needs. The key differences between the two settings is the size of on-screen items like scroll bars and icons. Navigating by touch is fun, but if you're a veteran mouse and keyboard user you can always switch back to the standard mouse-optimised style (you may also wish to give the screen a wipe to clean off grubby fingerprints).
Regardless of the touch-based interaction, the kiosk-style form factor adds a whole new feel that's significantly different to the standard desktop. The monitor is mounted on top of the PC, which acts as a base (and counter-weight) for the whole chassis. The screen is height adjustable and can tilt on a hinge, allowing it to be placed in different modes. Lifting the monitor to its maximum height, like you might with any other standard desktop screen, puts it at a comfortable position to use like a desktop computer. Lowering the TouchSmart PC's monitor to its lowest point positions it more like a TV and it can be used as such.
The HP TouchSmart PC has also been optimised for an HP Photosmart A716, with a docking space behind the screen with specific ports and cables included in the package. This being said, the system can also be used with any other printer, just as you would with a standard desktop PC. HP have also added support for their external hard drive which houses a 2.5in notebook drive in capacities of 80GB or 120GB and slots into a special dock on the side of this machine. It uses a USB 2.0 interface, so you can always connect it via a USB cable to any other machine (with software).
The wireless keyboard has its own hide-away dock under the computer and you also get an HP Media Centre remote control in the package, which we found simple to use as a navigation tool within Windows Media Centre and SmartCentre.