The TouchSmart line from HP has always held something of a special place here at DTR. A 23-inch display sits on top of the TouchSmart 610, promising a world of interactivity limited only by your imagination. We found a few flaws with the last version – can the 610 overcome? Read on for our first thoughts.
HP currently divides the consumer TouchSmart desktops into two different models. The 310 serves as an entry-model unit for customers looking to save some cash, while the 610 packs a few more features for a few more dollars. The biggest difference between the two is that the 610 is just physically bigger – the front is taken up by a 23-inch, 1920×1080 display.
That display is one of two major features that HP decided to upgrade for this generation – the extremely wide viewing angles are indicative of the panel’s underlying IPS technology. With the exception of Apple, no companies really seem to bother putting really nice displays into their all-in-one computers; it’s a really nice touch to see HP looking to remedy the situation.
The second, and perhaps more noticeable addition to the new TouchSmart 610 is the ridiculous stand. That’s not a perjorative, by the way – the stand is ridiculously cool. Pushing down on the TouchSmart slides the unit down into a reclining position, making it more comfortable for extended touchscreen usage. The wrist and hand pain caused by extended usage of traditionally oriented touchscreen panels is alleviated by the reclining position.
It’s a big innovation, and it’s very good (we’ll go into its design in greater depth in the full review), though it feels like HP has room to refine it in the next generation. Adjusting the TouchSmart up and down requires using both hands and sufficient force that you’ll probably want to stand up when you do it.
As always, HP built a speaker bar into the bottom of the the TouchSmart 610’s display, and after watching a few videos, it’s safe to say that it sounds as good as ever. HP has always put a lot of stock into the media playback properties of the TouchSmart systems, and the new one is no different. What is different is the addition of HP’s beats Audio branding – it’s present on both the all-in-one itself as well as on the keyboard. Without too much investigation, it seems like a simple software audio tweak – disabling it just takes the bass down a couple of notches.
Speaking of the keyboard, it’s actually been improved over the model used for the last several TouchSmart generations. The keyboard has always been of extremely high quality, and, in fact, is easily among the highest caliber of keyboards we’ve used. It’s extremely thin, with laptop-style keys. The wide keys found on the old models have been replaced with chiclet-style tiles, and it works well. There are discrete keys for mute, volume up, volume down and enabling the beats Audio. Given the room, it seems silly to not include actual brightness buttons instead of a Fn+F key modifier, but whatever, it all works.
One of the more exciting additions to the new models is the presence of R.U.S.E. R.U.S.E. is a strategy game developed by Ubisoft set right around the time of World War II. You start the game playing as a member of the Allied forces fighting against the Nazis.
Two things make this game stand out from those normally included with manufacturers’ systems. One, it’s an honest-to-God full game. That means for those of us without TouchSmarts, it’s gonna run $50. Two, R.U.S.E. has supposedly been specially enhanced to take advantage of the TouchSmart’s multitouch touchscreen. In practice, it seems to work pretty well. We may not be ready for the touchscreen to entirely replace physical controllers for gaming, but the TS 610 shows that we might not have too long to wait.
In all, the TouchSmart 610 is an exciting, refreshing update to a line of computers that, despite all the distance they’ve come, still have a long way to go. We’ll have a full review up early next week covering the 610 in greater detail, including closer look at the fancy new stand and free-with-every-purchase copy of Ubistoft’s R.U.S.E. Be sure to stop back in order to catch all the new details.