All-in-one systems are nothing new; Sony, Apple, Gateway and even Dell all have systems that integrate the monitor and PC. But with exception to Apple’s iMac, none of these systems have been particularly hot sellers. Maybe they were ahead of their time, or simply not powerful enough to be taken serious enough, after all who wants to spend money on a system that cannot last the test of time? With the wave of digital convergence upon us, it only makes sense that a home PC should leave the office and enter the family room where it can truly be used by everyone – it just has to look stylish enough to be show off. Enter the HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC, a truly powerful all-in-one entertainment system featuring an attractive touch screen display.
Features and Design
We first spotted the new HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC concept at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. Touted as the perfect companion to your home’s kitchen or office, the TouchSmart IQ770 features an innovative touch screen display that you can use either with your finger, or the included stylus. When compared to other systems from a pure design perspective, the TouchSmart IQ770 definitely screams PC rather than art, the Sony VAIO W series or Apple iMac are both much better looking systems. HP doesn’t even try to hide the DVD drive or media card reader, and there are more stickers on the system than a Volkswagen Vanagon at Woodstock. However, to most people the piano black finish is a good enough reason to give the system prominent placement in the home.
The keyboard and mouse are both minimalistic enough to be left out in the open as well. Upon inspection you will notice that the keyboard lacks any sort of riser prongs and slopes downward towards the top of the keyboard. The mouse has an attractive, yet rugged look and feel to it. Both the keyboard and mouse lack any sort of media keys short of a volume control, leaving those functions to the remote control. It would have been smart to at least include some programmable shortcut media keys on the keyboard. As it stands, you must basically have all three peripherals nearby for any sort of use from a distance.
Built around an AMD Turion X2 TL-52 mobile processor, the IQ770 comes with 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a 320GB hard drive, Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB graphics adapter, slot loading lightscribe DVD writer, and 19” LCD display. What we think really makes this system stand out though is the integrated pocket media bay so you can add even more storage space, the 1.3 megapixel camera, coaxial digital out and the integrated NTSC and ATSC TV tuners. Other features include integrated 802.11 a/b/g WiFi, 5.1 audio out, FireWire and 4 USB inputs, and an 8-in-1 media card reader. Video inputs for both the ATSC (HDTV) and NTSC tuners are on the side of the system, and can look rather cluttered with all of the cables connected to it. The TouchSmart IQ770 really includes just about every bell and whistle we could think of, short of a next generation DVD player.
The back of the TouchSmart IQ770
The side of the system has your video in/outputs
Last, but not least, you have the touch enabled 19” LCD display with a 16:10 aspect ratio. Either way you look at it, the touch screen really is the crown jewel of the whole system. You can decide not to use it, and lower the screen font size to a setting that you choose, but we recommend making the best of it and using the touch screen to its full potential. The LCD screen is attached to the rest of the system, but still retains a minimal neck that allows you to tilt and adjust its height, although it cannot swivel.
Software preinstalled on the TouchSmart IQ770 includes Microsoft Vista Home Premium Edition, HP’s SmartCenter and Calendar system, Roxio Creator for burning and archiving data, muvee autoProducer for creating home videos on DVD (Microsoft Windows Vista also has this feature built-in), Microsoft Works 8, Adobe Reader 7.0, Norton Internet Security 2006 (60-day trial), and preinstalled ISP services such as AOL and EarthLink. The TouchSmart IQ770 comes with a one-year parts and labor warranty on the hardware, and a 90 day warranty on the software.
HP TouchSmart IQ770 Looks Great in the Kitchen
Setup and Use
Getting the TouchSmart IQ770 going is fairly straight forward: plug in the system, make sure the mouse, keyboard and remote have batteries in them, and then turn everything on. Follow the setup prompts from Vista so the system can connect to the Internet and your home network, and then you are in. You will need to go through the Media Center setup wizard if you want to use the system for TV viewing. If you plan on using the ATSC tuner, you will need to purchase an OTA (over the air) HDTV antenna to get your favorite stations. We used a $30 Terk antenna with this system, and received OK signal reception that was bested by our in-house plasma and LCD displays. If you plan on connecting a printer directly to this system, HP recommends their Photosmart A510 or A610 series printer which tucks in nicely behind the LCD and stays out of view.
If you do not plan on using AOL or EarthLink as your ISP, we recommend that you uninstall that software immediately to prevent any “auto” updates or reminders. You might even want to uninstall muvee autoProducer if you decide that Vista’s DVD Maker is good enough for you. Norton Internet Security 2007 software is worth having around in our opinion, and is less CPU intensive than other security software out there.
There are basically three options to choose from to access your data. You can either use the integrated Windows Media Center interface, HP’s integrated SmartCenter interface, or the Vista desktop. Windows Media Center will allow you to easily watch and record television, access your videos, music, pictures, and online content. It’s what you will see with any version of Vista Premium or Ultimate Editions. The HP SmartCenter interface will give you access to the basic Media Center functions like playing video or music, in addition to other programs and information such as your calendar, weather, Windows Live Local, and games. Basically the SmartCenter program is nothing more than a faceplate consisting of shortcuts to commonly used programs; but it works well and has purpose. If you plan on using the system in your kitchen, then this is the screen you will likely want to use. You can personalize SmartCenter to include specific programs, the order that they appear and even the appearance of the user interface. Both, the Windows Media Center and SmartCenter interfaces are very responsive to the touch screen, whether you decide to use your finger or the included stylus. We noticed that the system took considerable time entering and exiting both of these programs, but once you were in, they operated normally. This “lag” time could be the result of using a mobile based CPU and only 2GB of RAM (Vista could always use more memory). Worth noting is that the remote control does not come with a SmartCenter button, you must access it through the Windows Media Center interface, or by using the button located physically on the system itself.
The TouchSmart IQ770 touch screen worked well in our tests and responded promptly to our requests using basically anything to touch the screen with. There were a couple instances of where we thought the touch screen would come in particularly handy. You might want to keep recipes handy on the system, and access them while cooking, maybe check your calendar by simply tapping it rather than whipping out the keyboard and mouse. Another cool scenario where the TouchSmart IQ770 touch screen would come in handy would be during a dinner party. Imagine showing the album art of the playing artist, and allowing your guests to browse your music collection at the tap of a finger. You could even plug the coaxial digital out connection to your home theater and play music through its speakers. And with its large hard drive and media bay, you can store plenty of songs. The TouchSmart IQ770 is certainly a system of utility.
As mentioned in the previous section, we found the lack of any sort of media keys a major downfall of the keyboard. You are forced to use the remote control at all times to use the basic functions of the system. Typing is also a pain due to the keyboards downward slope, although it might make sense if you have the keyboard in your lap. We had no problems running any applications on the system, Photoshop was quick to start and the system didn’t appear to feel crippled while multitasking. If you are a hardcore gamer, this is probably not the system for you. At first glance the 19” LCD screen and 256MB GeForce 7600 graphics chip sound appealing, but the system has an odd resolution (1,440 x900) that some of your games might not support. In our tests, the TouchSmart IQ770 seemed to really struggle at the standard resolution during F.E.A.R and Call of Duty 3. You will need to either leave your gaming to another system, or deal with a lower resolution in order to get the frame-rates you want.
The TouchSmart IQ770 is the perfect companion for any home, and really excels when it can be used for multiple tasks. Keep in mind that this is a pure entertainment system, and should be thought of as such. The font size alone will inhibit any sort of prolonged office use. With that being said, the TouchSmart IQ770 is the most powerful and full-featured all-in-one system we have seen to-date. We like that you can upgrade the memory to a hefty 4GB and even add more storage via the Pocket Media drive bay ensuring the TouchSmart IQ770 will live a long and healthy life. In the game of power, neither Sony’s W series systems nor Apple’s iMac can touch the TouchSmart IQ770. Improvements we would like to see on future models include media keys on the keyboard, a shortcut to the HP SmartCenter on the remote control and a way to hide the DVD drive and media card reader to give the system a cleaner look.
• Powerful and simple to use
• Touch screen works as advertised
• Useful GUI interfaces
• Upgradeable memory and storage
• Integrated ATSC tuner
• Keyboard lacks media shortcut keys
• Mobile CPU
• Could use a cleaner look
• No next-generation DVD drive