HP this week unveiled the newest iteration of their touch-enabled all-in-one desktop line, the HP TouchSmart 310. An entry model in the series, the 310 partners a 20-inch, multitouch display with HP’s latest version of their custom software suite. Given the frustration that the last version of the suite cultivated, did HP finally get it right? Read on for our first thoughts.
- Processor: AMD Athlon dual- and quad-core CPUs
- Memory: 2-8GB DDR3 SDRAM
- Display: 20 inches, two-finger optical multitouch
- Resolution: 1920×1080
- Hard drive: 500GB – 1.5TB SATA
- Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 4270 integrated graphics
- Optical drive: DVD+/-RW slim drive with LightScribe
- Networking: Gigabit Ethernet
- Wireless networking: 802.11n Wi-Fi, optional Bluetooth
- Dimensions: 16.22 x 20.47 x 4.65 inches (HxDxW)
- Warranty: 1-year limited hardware with one year of limited software and hardware support
A new design for a new revision
The last few TouchSmart models have all relied on the same design laid out by the TouchSmart product team. Since the inception, however, the market has been flooded with all-in-one, and specifically multitouch all-in-one desktop computers, and the waters have been muddied. It’s hard for a company to differentiate themselves when your competitors’ products look just like your own.
So HP decided to redesign the TouchSmart lineup, and it actually looks great. While the original design was nice, relying as it did on a three-point, tripod-style setup, it had a few issues. Changing the angle of tilt could be frustrating thanks to the way the rear stand was constructed.
The new revision completely does away with that style, eschewing it for what looks like an upside-down “T” when viewed from the side. The tilt can be changed just by gently pushing the display back and forth. The overall theme still looks the same, with ports and inputs relegated to the sides, clad in a silvery plastic.
While the design is not quite cutting-edge, the whole look is modern. More importantly, the TouchSmart 310 feels very sturdy, despite its low price – $699 for a 20-inch, multitouch all-in-one desktop is a great deal – with no really weak spots or dangling bits of trim.
The software is good…surprisingly good
The first TouchSmart all-in-ones that we reviewed had a usable software overlay, hacked as it was into the Windows desktop. The next revision, however, felt like it took a huge step back. While the suite itself looked nicer, there were a lot of usability problems. Responsiveness of the software was just not where it should be, and there were several fundamental UI issues.
Thankfully, HP realized that the software needed work, and the new update takes things in an entirely new direction.
James Moulton, SVP of Desktop Organization in HP’s Personal Systems Group:
|“Each generation of TouchSmart is a reflection of what HP has learned from its customers, complemented by the latest technologies. The TouchSmart PC’s unique interface lets users do more than just basic computing – it acts as the anchor of one’s digital lifestyle, encouraging creativity, organization and a truly immersive experience.”|
The new update replaces the ribbonesque interface (one main ribbon on top, a second, smaller, ribbon on the bottom) with a scrolling disc of icons on the bottom. In terms of responsiveness, there was almost no lag – icons spun precisely as they should. To launch a program, just tap an icon and it would pop up on top.
Unlike other touch-oriented systems, like Android and iOS, a touch-enabled desktop needs to be able to multitask without restriction. That means that despie its limited interface, multiple programs need to be able to launch and run concurrently.
HP has what appears to be an ingenious solution. After a program is launched, a couple of fingers swivelling across the screen automatically shrink the application into a cube and paste it onto the TouchSmart’s background. The background itself can then be scrolled through, just by touching it anywhere on the screen.
One really cool aspect of engineering the software like this is the parallax effect that HP added to the wallpaper. As you scroll through the desktop, items in the foreground move at a different rate relative to items in the background.
While we didn’t see it demonstrated, an HP rep also mentioned that the TouchSmart will ship with software to generate these movable backgrounds with pictures that customers take. The effect won’t be as strong as the ones included by HP, but being able to customize it even that much is a nice bonus.
It games and reads comics, too
While the TouchSmart 310 has limited gaming potential thanks to its integrated graphics setup, HP is including a new strategy game on all units – R.U.S.E., from Ubisoft, will be available with its touch-oriented design, exclusively from HP for one year. This isn’t any cheap flash game, either; it’s a full-on game available for regular desktops and notebooks, too.
A worthy update
In all, HP has crafted a worthy successor to the TouchSmart lineup. The TouchSmart 310 is offers a lot for the money, and the necessary redesign feels successful. Most of all, the new software felt refreshingly capable in our brief hands-on time with it. It really seems like HP listened to the desires of both critics and customers. While our final opinion will have to wait until we get some time with a review unit, HP feels like they’re off to a good start.