HP TouchSmart IQ770

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HP TouchSmart IQ770

When HP designed the TouchSmart IQ770, it must have been thinking of that old saying, “No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like the kitchen best.” This PC is tailor made for serving up—and scarfing down—digital media in the kitchen.

By combining the keyboard-free convenience and built-in display of a tablet PC with the I/O ports and features of a media-center desktop computer, the company has created a unique machine. We’d be even more excited about the IQ770 if HP had created software that took better advantage of its capabilities. But let’s examine its positive attributes first because there are many.

The 19-inch widescreen display makes this machine look massive, but it measures just 14.5 inches wide and 10 inches deep at its base (the motherboard tray extends an additional two inches, left and right, over the base). You’ll need 22.5 inches of width and between 16 and 19 inches of height (with the display fully elevated) to accommodate the entire unit, but we set it up on a bar-height, 27-inch-square table in our kitchen and had just enough room for two plates of spaghetti and two glasses of Chianti (this with the wireless keyboard parked in its garage beneath the CPU tray). Cozy, but doable. And the TouchSmart is blissfully quiet.

The machine ships with Windows Vista Home Premium, which integrates both Tablet PC functionality and Windows Media Center, so you can use one fingertip to control the entire machine. We recommend using the provided stylus, however; who wants to stare at a screen covered with fingerprints? The touch screen was usually very responsive and accurate, but there were times when the machine would beep in response to a stylus tap and then do nothing. On other occasions, a tap would activate the window behind the one we were trying to manipulate. These anomalies, however infrequent, will confuse novice users and annoy experts until they grow accustomed to the machine’s response times.

We found the touch screen particularly useful for web browsing, assuming your favorite sites are bookmarked and you don’t need to search. When tapping won’t cut it, you can wield a wireless keyboard, a two-button scroll-wheel mouse, or a TV-style remote control. (The former two use RF, the latter IR.) The display itself is very bright but also highly reflective—particularly when you’re working in a dark room.

We got a kick out of walking up to the machine and using it like a kiosk, and we can easily visualize it as the information hub for a busy family home; it’s far better suited to such a task than an inexpensive laptop would be. We’re more than a little disappointed, however, in HP’s TouchSmart software. HP SmartCenter looks as though it could be customized to boil the entire user interface down to a dozen hyperlinks. The UI features three large buttons and up to nine smaller ones; we set the three large buttons to display important information: the current date (with a link to the HP SmartCalendar), the time (with a link to two additional time zones), and the current weather conditions (with a link to a weather forecast).

But when we went to customize the other nine buttons, we encountered a nonsensical roadblock: Most of them serve fixed functions. You can choose to display or hide a button, but you’re given just three fully customizable buttons. You can’t change the photo-editing button, for instance, to launch Photoshop Elements instead of HP’s very limited PhotoSmart Touch. You can create a new button to do that, but remember, you have only three slots. What’s worse is that while you can change the home page that the Internet button navigates to, you’ll have to use another of those three slots if you’d prefer Firefox to display that page instead of Internet Explorer.

We appreciate the HP SmartCalendar’s ability to maintain schedules for both individuals and groups, but why can’t it synchronize with our increasingly ubiquitous smartphones? Meanwhile, the novelty of scrawling handwritten notes and recording voice memos within HP SmartCalendar wears off quickly.

Most of the IQ770’s I/O ports are up front, so the only cord sticking out of the back of our test unit was the power cable. This enabled us to push the whole shebang tight against a wall. We’d like to have more than just two USB 2.0 ports up front (there’s a IEEE-1394 port here, too), but four more are in the back. The backplane also hosts a gigabit Ethernet port, mini-VGA output, 5.1-channel analog audio output (1/8-inch stereo connectors), a 5.1-channel digital audio output (coaxial), an IR output, and a second IEEE-1394 port.

HP’s TouchSmart IQ770 could never serve as our primary PC—we knew going into this review that it wouldn’t compete with our zero-point reference platform, and it’s clearly not designed for hardcore gaming—but we’d rather have multiple PCs dedicated to particular tasks than one machine that’s crappy at everything. This one has definitely earned a place in our dream kitchen.

MOM'S KITCHEN

Well designed, great display, very good touch screen, relatively small footprint.

HELL'S KITCHEN

HP’s TouchSmart applications are so limited that they’re virtually worthless.

8

SPECS
  HP TouchSmart IQ770
CPU 1.6GHz AMD Turion TL-52
MOBO HP proprietary board
RAM 2GB PC2-4200 DDR2 SDRAM (two 1GB sticks)
LAN Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11a/b/g, Bluetooth
HARD DRIVES 320GB (7,200RPM SATA)
OPTICAL Slot-load 8x SuperMulti DVD burner with Lightscribe
VIDEOCARD GeForce Go 7600 (445MHz core/500MHz RAM)
SOUNDCARD Integrated Analog Devices SoundMAX HD
CASE HP Custom
BENCHMARKS
  HP TouchSmart IQ770
3DMark06 Game 1 (FPS)
5.3
3DMark06 Game 2 (FPS)
8.7
FEAR 1.07 (FPS)
29.4
Quake 4 (FPS)
17
All benchmarks run at display’s native resolution of 1440x900. 3DMark06 tested with no AA and 8x aniso. FEAR benchmarked with no AA, soft shadows on, and 8x aniso. Quake 4 benchmarked at High Quality, 4x AA, 8x aniso.
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