HP TouchSmart IQ506 First Look

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HP recently updated their experiment with touchscreen computing in the form of the TouchSmart IQ550.  This all-in-one desktop offers a complete redesign over the former models with a gorgeous 22″ touch-enabled display, proprietary wireless keyboard and mouse combination, Media Center remote, TV tuner and unique TouchSmart software.  The thing even offers mood lighting.  In our first look at the device, I’ll give an overview on some of the more interesting features of the new TouchSmart flagship model.

Specifications:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T5850 (2.16GHz, 2MB L2 Cache)
  • Memory: 4GB PC2-5300 DDR2 RAM
  • Hard Drive: 500GB 7200RPM SATA
  • Optical Drive: SuperMulti Lightscribe-capable DVD Burner
  • Graphics: NVIDIA Geforce 9300 M GS (256MB dedicated, up to 2GB shared)
  • Network: Gigabit ethernet
  • Wireless Networking: 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth
  • Audio: Integrated HD Audio, stereo speakers
  • 5-in-1 memory card reader
  • 5 USB 2.0 ports, 1 FireWire
  • Headphone, line in, line out and digital audio out jacks
  • Integrated webcam and array microphone
  • Dual-format NTSC/ATSC television tuners
  • 22-inch widescreen 1680×1050 touch display

Build and Design:

The new TouchSmart line is well designed; HP has a very stylish piece piece of kit to offer.  By using a number of notebook parts, they’ve kept the footprint of the machine relatively small while packing a lot of new technologies.

The most striking part of the machine is the display.  It’s big, bright, and, as HP will tell you, made to be touched.  It’s a 22″ widescreen display with a resolution of 1680×1050.  HP wrote a proprietary system that sits on top of Windows Vista (and only Vista — it requires Aero to run) to take advantage of the touchscreen display.  There’s a capacitive touch “button” on the lower-right hand corner of the machine that launches it.  It comes with music and video applications, a weather widget and a few other items.  You can add your own applications, too and use it as a launcher, though it drops out of the HP TouchSmart interface and back into regular Vista to run.  As soon as you close the application, however, the TouchSmart interface will pop back up.

HP has taken a very minimalistic take on the computer with this device.  With both 802.11b/g/n and their proprietary wireless keyboard and mouse, most consumers will only need one cord: power.  The legs are made of a clear plastic, giving the impression that the computer almost floats gently above the surface.  A slot-loading optical drive is recessed on the right side.  CD/DVD only; no Blu-Ray is available.

The touch technology itself is responsible for a fair amount of the thickness of the TouchSmart.  HP wants to make similar achievements in the notebook industry, but the size just isn’t there yet.

Inputs:

  • 5 USB 2.0 ports
  • 5-in-1 memory card reader
  • Headphone
  • Line-in, Line-out
  • Digital Audio out

The new IQ506 TouchSmart also includes an integrated TV tuner.  HP helpfully added an IR blaster to help record from digital boxes as well. 

Performance:

The TouchSmart PC manages to be a compact unit by taking advantage of notebook technology where applicable.  As a result, this isn’t the most powerful machine in the world; it’s not going to be running Crysis.  That’s okay, though; HP has the Blackbird for that and it does it well.  To HP, this is about changing the way people interact with their computers, so it’s important to keep that in mind.

The biggest thing that HP could have done to improve performance, even using notebook components, would have been to replace the integrated graphics with a discrete solution.  In the Vista performance advisor, the TouchSmart was given a score of 3.9; this was due entirely to the graphics.  Everything else sat 4.8 or higher.

Stay Tuned

The full review will be up in a couple of days when we’ve had the TouchSmart in the offices a bit longer.  Speaking in a preliminary sense, however, it’s obvious that HP has taken a risk with this line of computers.  The technology is definitely still nascent, and it’s always very difficult to introduce a new paradigm.  Given the fact that I sat and played Mahjongg for an hour the other night just because it was fun playing with the screen, it may have just paid off.

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