Hands On: HP’s Omni 27 – War of the Big Screen All-in-ones

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hp omni 27HP introduced their first 27-inch all-in-one desktop, the HP Omni 27, late last year. As the second major company to introduce a big-screened all-in-one, the Omni 27 naturally invites comparisons with Apple’s iMac. How does it fare? Will Lenovo’s A720 knock it off its perch?

Just a couple of years ago, HP was suffering something of an identity crisis. Their major all-in-one product line, the TouchSmart line of touch-capable desktops, was enjoying unexpected succes, but that success came with a cost – more than one of their competitors chose to boost their design portfolio by brazenly copying the design of the TouchSmart systems.

That copying means a diluted look and branding for HP, so they had to go back to the drawing board. Several months ago, one of their product managers told me that the big theme behind the new design philosophy was to create something that looked like no other all-in-one on the market, and wasn’t the same sort of tripod designs that most companies – including HP – had been using so far.

hp omni 27 hp omni 27
Take a look at our full gallery of photos for the Omni 27 here!

The result was the TouchSmart 320, TouchSmart 420 and TouchSmart 520 desktops. Each one has the same defining features, such as a solid aluminum frame that wraps around the entire system and extends below, into the heavy stands. It’s a contemporary feel, and exudes design and quality. Perhaps most importantly, it achieves these qualities while looking like few other computers on the market.

After all that work, and a successful design to boot, it’s no surprise that HP chose that look as the basis for their Omni 27 all-in-one. 

While the Omni 27 might look like all the other TouchSmart desktops, it has one very important difference – it doesn’t actually have a touchscreen display. HP forewent that specific luxury in order to keep the system’s cost down. As a result, you can pick up the Omni 27 for just shy of twelve hundred bucks: it carries an MSRP of $1,199.99. 

hp omni 27That’s definitely a big drop away from its biggest competitor (for the moment), which is Apple’s 27-inch iMac. HP had to make a number of allowances to widen the $500 margin, and while they aren’t immediately noticeable, they do rear their head from time to time. The Omni has a very nice screen, for example, with wide viewing angles, but it can’t really compare to the iMac – the former has a resolution of 1920×1080, while the latter has a resolution of 2560×1440.

For those of you playing along at home, that means a difference in the density of the displays of 81.6 pixels per inch to 108.8 pixels per inch. It might not sound like much on paper, but in fact the iMac, which also comes with a discrete graphics card for its $1,699 starting price, offers users almost twice as much screen real estate; it’s an important consideration for users who like to have a lot of simultaneous information on screen.

Again, though, that’s a $500 difference – so despite the cutbacks, the Omni 27 still carries a big advantage. 

Other notable features offered by HP include a pair of USB 3.0 ports, which is increasingly valuable as companies release more and more high-speed peripherals. An integrated webcam, microphone and speaker set make the Omni a fun and easy communications platform, too. HP also redesigned their wireless keyboard and mouse for the new system, and while the mouse really feels like a bit of the same old, same old, the new keyboard is great. Outstanding, even.

hp omni 27 hp omni 27

But that’s where the awesome train ends. Want that TV tuner you see in the pictures? An extra fifty bucks, please. How about Bluetooth? Another twenty. And let’s be honest, HP: “Fast, easy, trusted Web browsing with Windows Internet Explorer” should not be one of your selling points for your own system.

Still, the Omni 27 is a quality piece of equipment packed into a contemporary, cutting-edge design. For the moment, it’s a wise choice if you want a big-screened all-in-one and find the iMac too pricey. The real question is whether it can stand up to the Lenovo IdeaCentre A720, which is attempting an introductory price point of $1,299 – and that includes its ten-finger multitouch 27-inch screen. Even the HP reps had no idea how Lenovo is managing to pull that off.

Stay tuned for our full review of the HP Omni 27, and be sure to check out our hands-on video of the IdeaCentre A720.

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