HP once built its TouchSmart line using notebook components because they required much less active cooling. Limiting the number of fans inside the machine made it quieter. This TouchSmart not only uses a desktop CPU—Intel’s low-power Core i7-2600S, running at a stock 2.8GHz—but HP has also packed a discrete GPU inside this TouchSmart’s chassis. AMD’s Radeon HD 6550A might not be a barn-burner of a videocard, but it is vastly superior to the GPU core integrated into the Core i7. The Radon HD 6550A is DirectX compatible, but that doesn’t mean it will deliver a satisfying performance with highly demanding games. Playing Metro 2033 at 18 frames per second—in DirectX 10 mode—is not very satisfying. But no one will buy this type of a machine for gaming.
When you're not using the TouchSmart keyboard, you can slide it beneath the monitor to recover space on your desk.
All-in-one computers provide extremely limited upgrade options, so we were happy to see that HP planted plenty of memory inside this one: 8GB of DDR3/1,336MHz running in dual-channel mode. While we like having a 2TB hard drive at our disposal, the one HP selected spins at just 5,400rpm. HP makes up for that by including a combo slot-feed Blu-ray player/DVD burner. The rest of the package is pretty much what we expect to find in a machine of this type. There’s an integrated 1MP webcam (unlike some earlier TouchSmart models, this one cannot be tilted independently of the rest of the chassis); an integrated HDTV tuner; Bluetooth, Wi-Fi (802.11n), and gigabit LAN networking; a 6-in-1 media card reader; and six USB ports (including two USB 3.0 ports on the left side).
HP has long provided an HDMI input that you can use to connect a videogame console or a set-top box to the computer’s display, but it moved the input-select button into a group of four other buttons—including the disc-eject button—on the right side of the display. We invariably pushed the wrong button unless we were looking right at the correct one. We like the rest of the new chassis design. It easily swivels left and right, and it tilts very far back, which makes the touchscreen easy to use while standing. The entire chassis is much thinner than earlier models, and the built-in handle at the top makes the computer easier to move. This TouchSmart produces more fan noise than earlier models we’ve evaluated, but we’ll happily trade a little noise for faster performance.
The 23-inch LED-backlit display is bright and vibrant. We wouldn’t rely on it for professional photo or video editing, but it’s a solid choice for noncritical apps and for watching TV and movies. The speakers integrated into the front of the display are better than average, and there’s a subwoofer output if you want to beef them up (and a line-out jack if you want to replace them altogether).
HP built its own touchscreen user interface because earlier versions of Windows weren’t well suited to touch gestures. Windows 7 is much better, but HP has once again come up with a significant improvement: a UI it has dubbed Magic Canvas. Magic Canvas consists of a very large desktop that scrolls left and right. A rotating carousel of square icons at the bottom of the screen, above the Windows 7 taskbar, can launch touch-optimized programs, including a web browser. You can also add your own icons to the carousel. If the window you need is not currently displayed on the screen, a click on its taskbar icon will instantly bring it front and center no matter where it is on the Magic Canvas.
HP was offering a $300 instant rebate on this machine at press time, taking its online price down to just $1,200. That’s an exceptional price for a computer this powerful.
HP TouchSmart 520-1070
Magic Canvas UI; fast CPU (for an all-in-one); discrete GPU; lots of memory.
Poorly placed display input switch; 5,400rpm hard drive.
HP TouchSmart 520-1070
ProShow Producer (sec)
Metro 2033 (fps)
Best scores are bolded. Metro 2033 benchmarked using DirectX 10 with resolution at 1280x720, quality at medium, antialiasing at MSAA 4x, texture filtering at AF16x, and PhysX disabled. All other benchmarks performed at display’s native resolution of 1920x1080.