Evaluating successive generations of HP’s TouchSmart series reminds us of shopping for a new car. If you fall in love and buy this year’s model, you must never, ever visit the showroom to look at next year’s model or you’ll be hit with a bout of buyer’s remorse faster than you can say “planned obsolescence.”
We’re not suggesting that HP is intentionally designing these machines to have a shorter-than-normal useful life or that it’s been adding frivolous features to new models; it’s just that the company’s engineers keep making design improvements that are significant enough for us to wonder why we heaped such praise on the previous iteration. The changes this year are a wee bit more incremental, but HP gets a major assist from Microsoft in the form of Windows 7, which is not only vastly superior to Vista but also offers far better native support for HP’s touch applications. Fortunately, owners of previous-generation TouchSmarts have the option of upgrading to Windows 7 and downloading the latest version of HP’s software.
But let’s get back to the matter at hand: Just what makes the TouchSmart 600-1055 so damned sweet? There’s the display, for starters. Last year’s model had a 22-inch display with a native resolution of 1680x1050; this one has a 23-inch screen with a native resolution of 1920x1080, making it the perfect partner for both the slot-feed Blu-ray drive and the integrated HDTV tuner.
The TouchSmart 600 includes an HDMI input, so you can plug in your gaming console of choice and make dual use of the high-def display.
As has become typical of the TouchSmart series, HP builds the rest of the machine using a lot of notebook components to keep everything thin enough to mount on the wall and cool enough to minimize the need for noisy fans. And this machine is whisper quiet—we had to put our ear right over the top vent to hear the fan, and its signature was barely audible over the sound of the air it was inhaling through the grill. Getting back to HP’s component choices, the designers mounted Nvidia’s GeForce GT 230M in a PCI Express x16 MXM module and paired it with a dedicated 1GB frame buffer. The CPU is a mobile 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 paired with 4GB of DDR3/1,333MHz memory (no doubt we’ll see an Arrandale quad-core in next year’s machine. Sigh.)
We had refrained from benchmarking all-in-one machines until Dell sent us its XPS One 24 (May 2009), which came with an Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 desktop CPU; so it’s only fair that we benchmark HP’s offering, too. (We still don’t run our gaming benchmarks on all-in-ones, though, since this class of machine clearly is not designed for gaming.) As you might expect, the Touch-Smart suffers in comparison to the Dell and to our previous zero-point rig, with benchmark results roughly 35 percent slower. But when we went online to get the XPS One 24’s current price, we discovered that the product had disappeared from Dell’s website.
HP’s own TouchSmart applications are vastly improved over the two previous generations, and now there are third-party apps, too. The integrated Netflix, Pandora, Rhapsody, and Hulu clients are the most important of these, and there’s also a touch-optimized custom browser. You’ll still find yourself dropping out of the TouchSmart interface to use programs such as Word and Photoshop, but HP’s software is much less of a novelty than it used to be. And we’ll repeat our caveat about all-in-ones: This machine makes a great second computer; don’t expect it to be your one and only.
HP TouchSmart 600-1055
Five on the Floor
Blu-ray drive; HDMI input; improved touchscreen UI; touch-optimized third-party apps.
Weak benchmark performance; integrated audio amp needs more power.
Intel Core 2 Duo P7450 (2.13GHz)
4GB DDR3/1333 (two 2GB sticks)
Nvidia GeForce GT 230 (1GB dedicated memory)
Integrated TV Tuner
AVerMedia A323 MiniCard Hybrid ATSC
Realtek HD Audio
750GB 7,200rpm SATA 3Gb/s
Slot-feed Blu-ray/Super-multi DVD burner
Windows 7 64-bit Benchmarks
HP TouchSmart 600-1055
Premiere Pro CS3
1,860 sec (-45%)
199 sec (-28%)
2,019 sec (-39%)
2,079 sec (-1%)
Our desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700, 2GB of Corsair DDR2/800 RAM on an EVGA 680 SLI motherboard. We are running two EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI mode, a Western Digital 150GB Raptor and 500GB Caviar hard drive, an LG GGC-H20L optical drive, a Sound Blaster X-Fi, and a PC Power and cooling Silencer 750 Quad. OS is Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.