Review: HP TouchSmart 600

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Short version: HP’s TouchSmart 600 isn’t the perfect solution for a touchscreen based home computer, but it comes pretty damn close. The TouchSmart system works well as an internet home appliance, but the thing that makes it special is also where it starts to show some problems.

Features:

  • 23-inch touchscreen
  • Blu-ray playback
  • Multiple inputs for video devices
  • Wireless keyboard, mouse, and Media Center remote
  • MSRP $1479.99 as reviewed

Pros:

  • TouchSmart interface is fun to use
  • Perfect for a media appliance
  • Clean design keeps clutter to a minimum

Cons:

  • Integrated graphics lack processing power
  • Appliance style case could hamper repairs
  • Fingerprints on the touchscreen can be distracting

Full review:

The TouchSmart 600 is one of the next generation of touch screen computer appliances developed by HP. While it’s not the ideal computer for a business or gamer user, it is ideal for a casual user or someone who wants easy access to media, or has a limited amount of space and needs something that can fulfill multiple roles.

The system I reviewed came in a fairly decent configuration, sporting an Intel Core 2 Duo 9600, 4GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GT230. This makes the TouchSmart a fairly capable machine, albeit mainly useful from a media and internet appliance standpoint. It is worth noting, however, that HP recently came out with an upgraded version of the hardware, including a option to select a Core i7 720QM or Core i7 820QM processor.

The part that makes it stand out from other systems is, of course, the touchscreen. HP built a custom interface over the top of Windows 7, and it works really well. The interface allows you to access Hulu, Twitter, Netflix, and a really nice recipe program. For the most part, the Hulu and Netflix interfaces are customized and optimized to work with the touch screen. The Netflix interface is particularly well done, and scrolls by nicely with the flick of a finger. I also (being a photographer) enjoyed the Canvas program. It really takes advantage of the multi-touch functionality, allowing you to shrink, enlarge, drag, and otherwise manipulate your images on the touchscreen. If you move at a slower pace, the screen is about 98% accurate. If you move too fast though, you do lose a bit of accuracy. The screen is responsive, but you do have to be careful not to flick too fast. Running programs in the background will definitely have an impact on the responsiveness.

Cosmetically, the TouchSmart looks good. The black plastic shell fits in well no matter where you want to put it, and the 23 inch screen doesn’t have too much glare, though as you may be able to see in the pictures, it is extremely glossy and reflective. When I first took this machine out of the box, I immediately thought it would be ideal for in a den, dorm room, and even potentially in the kitchen. The TouchSmart comes with a low profile wireless keyboard and a standard wireless mouse. You technically don’t have to use the keyboard or mouse, due to the touchscreen having a keyboard, but don’t expect to be able to type with any speed using the on-screen keyboard. I supposed it’d be fine for Tweets or Facebook updates, but I’d be reluctant to use it for anything more strenuous.

It’s worth noting that the TouchSmart 600 also came with some Microsoft Surface programs, which, while pointless, are quite fun as technical demos. The Globe in particular is nicely executed, using multi-touch to rotate, zoom, and generally manipulate the world.

The bottom line: The TouchSmart 600 is a cool computer. The touchscreen is fun to play with, if not entirely practical for everyone. The custom interface makes it an ideal media platform, and I’d recommend for pretty much everyone except a power user. Casual games work great, but the TouchSmart lacks the computing power needed to run anything too graphically intensive. Prices start at $1049 directly from HP, but you can get it from other retailers at better prices.

Click here for HP’s TouchSmart 600 website and for more information.

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