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HP's touch-screen desktop continues to intrigue me

Cool Tools By , Network World
December 15, 2011 09:24 AM ET
Keith Shaw

Network World - The scoop: TouchSmart Desktop 610 Quad series, by HP, starts at $1,350

What is it? The latest version of HP's all-in-one TouchSmart line combines a desktop computer, touch-screen LCD monitor and a television into one large device (no more separate desktop tower, etc.). Specs include the second-generation Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, 8GB of memory, 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium OS, a 2TB 7200 RPM hard drive, 1GB AMD Radeon graphics card, slot-loaded Blu-ray drive (free upgrade to Blu-ray writer) and 802.11n wireless and Gigabit Ethernet port.

The 23-inch display is large enough for all of your computing needs, including watching TV (if you connect your cable/satellite coax line into the back), as it supports 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution. Built-in stereo speakers include beats audio technology, and it comes with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (and a TV remote control) to help reduce cable clutter. An HDMI input lets you connect a game console (Xbox, PS3) or other HDMI video device to the unit.

ANALYSIS: Will touch screens kill the keyboard?

Why it's cool: The idea with the touch-screen and other integrated features is to get the computer away from its traditional locations (office, den, etc.) and into other spaces, such as a central living room or kitchen area. It's meant to be a system that the entire family can use -- this becomes obvious when you see the HP TouchSmart overlay, which turns the display into a "virtual refrigerator," letting users place notes and other items onto the screen. HP uses the term "magnets" to describe the widgets, post-it notes and other shortcuts (such as a photo or piece of music) that users can touch to activate. The TouchSmart overlay comes with additional apps, such as direct access to Netflix, Twitter, eBay, photos/video/music and even a recipe app (see? kitchen placement!).

Another feature -- the back of the unit can tilt more than 60 degrees downward, making it almost flat to the ground. This makes it easier for kitchen counter placement, where the user is standing and looking downward, rather than on a desk or table, where the user is sitting. The system also features HP LinkUp, which lets you wirelessly access, update and save documents on any other notebook on the home network from the desktop unit.

Some caveats: With all of the latest specs regarding processor speed and memory, I was a bit disappointed that USB 3.0 ports were not included -- transferring existing photos, videos and music would be easier with a faster connection port. I also encountered difficulty with the Netflix app on the HP overlay; it didn't recognize my login information, even if I opened up the browser and logged in correctly. The overlay and touch-screen is a nice extra, but most users would likely return to the mouse-and-keyboard inputs after the novelty wears off.

Bottom line: If you're looking for a single unit that combines a TV, computer and monitor (as well as something you can attach your video games to), the TouchSmart series is worth a look. I'd recommend this unit for use in a dorm room, for example, where space is limited for a TV and computer. In office scenarios, the TV inputs are likely useless, and the touch-screen aspects go away as well.

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