PCs in their traditional form have become part of the fabric of everyday life. But let's be honest: most of us wish our electronic friends were that bit more intuitive - typing on keyboards and clicking mouse buttons simply doesn’t feel natural. It's for that reason that machines such as the HP TouchSmart IQ770 could be the future.
It’s not only the first HP product to feature a touchscreen display. It's actually the first proper consumer PC we’ve seen that offers such a feature. In fact, the interface is so carefully designed that you can perform a number of everyday PC functions by just using your finger - you don't need to touch the keyboard or mouse at all. See Keep in touch, below.
No matter where you put the HP TouchSmart PC, its striking looks will stand out. The piano-black unit has silver accents and a graceful, Z-angled cabinet, and there’s even room for you to stow away the keyboard and mouse when not in use. You can also dramatically reposition the screen itself to find the ideal viewing angle.
The unit’s many extras include a 1.3Mp (megapixel) webcam and microphone (perfect for voice over IP), a memory card reader, analogue and digital TV tuners and connectivity options for Bluetooth, 802.11a/b/g and Gigabit Ethernet. The slot-loading DVD writer even has LightScribe disc-printing facilities.
An HP photo printer dock is situated on the base behind the display, while the upward angle of the base holds a bay for HP’s Pocket Media Drives - these will set you back £100 for 80GB or £130 for 120GB and enable you to carry your data around with you. This seems to us a perfect way of easily moving audio and video content from one location to another.
One slight concern is that there’s no HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface). This seems like an oversight, since this could clearly double up as a next-generation TV.
Predictably, perhaps, the TouchSmart PC is more about overall presentation than performance, and those looking for a powerhouse PC will find that it lacks basic speed. Equipped with 2GB of memory, a 1.6GHz Turion 64 X2 TL-52 mobile processor and an integrated nVidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics chip, the system produces only average performance when set alongside comparably priced systems. Then again, you really should expect to get less performance for your money when you consider the sheer convenience and usability of the touchscreen technology.
Internally, the HP has far more in common with laptops than with desktop PCs, which means it will be difficult to upgrade. This could be a problem in a few years’ time, and is worth bearing in mind. But for the time being, the TouchSmart’s performance is adequate, and you’re unlikely to feel the need to tinker.
And at least the graphics controller is very solid, producing acceptable framerates in our games tests, even if the TouchSmart's performance wouldn't approach that of a standard £1,200 PC.
Keep in touch
The Touchsmart's 19in widescreen display functions as both a viewing screen and a navigation tool. Though you perhaps won't want to rely solely on the touchscreen when you're sitting at a desk, it provides a highly responsive alternative to traditional mouse navigation. The screen is extremely robust, and its surface can be wiped clean within seconds, so you don't need to worry about punching a hole in the glass, or getting the screen dirty. And, since the TouchSmart is a hefty beast, neither do you need to worry about knocking it off the table.
In our view, the touchscreen contributes vitally to the product’s adaptability to a wide range of environments in the home, from queuing up media content in the living room to accessing recipes in the kitchen. And usefully, you also have the choice of a well-weighted stylus, should you prefer to use a pen rather than a finger.