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In an IT world increasingly dominated by notebook PCs, be they small low power netbooks or fully fledged desktop replacements, the regular desktop PC is becoming increasingly marginalised - a fact only exacerbated by the slow decline of PC gaming. All-In-One PCs like the Apple iMac and today's specimen, the HP TouchSmart IQ500, have only enhanced this impression, though in the case of the TouchSmart PC things aren't as straightforward as that.
Why is that, then? Well, the clue is in the name because whereas the likes of the iMac content themselves to regular PC duties, albeit in a compact and all inclusive shell, the HP throws a touchscreen into the mix as well. This is matched with a custom touch interface for accessing music, video, photos and all manner of other things, while a TV Tuner and a 500GB hard drive make this into something of a multimedia centre, too.
This is, in fact, the second generation of TouchSmart PCs, the first being the IQ770, but the IQ500 is so far removed from the original, that it feels like an entirely new product. Indeed, when we first set eyes upon the IQ500 at HP's global launched event in June (see: Hands-On with HP TouchSmart IQ500), we're not ashamed to admit we were somewhat smitten. Whereas the original TouchSmart was a rather bulky affair, the IQ500 is more like the great majority of All-In-One PCs in being slim, compact and thanks to some curvaceous lines and a clever stand, very good looking.
A smart glossy black bezel and silver trim surround a 22in, 1,680 x 1,050 LCD display that, like the iPhone, uses capacitive rather than resistive touchscreen technology. All you really need to take from this is that whereas older touchscreens required a certain level of pressure, the screen on the IQ500 responds to the lightest of touches. It's also an impressively bright and colourful effort, bringing out photos and video with no shortage of fidelity, even if the glossy finish renders it more reflective than many.
Going back to that stand, the system employed by HP is indecently simple but also incredibly effective. At the front are two little Perspex legs, both of which are balanced against a large adjustable arm at the back. It can be adjusted to offer anywhere between a 10 degree and 45 degree viewing angle and is suitably stiff and secure that it provides faultless stability.
Either side of the screen are an assortment of connections and shortcut buttons. On the left, for instance, are a couple of easy access USB ports, headphone and microphone jacks, above which sits a button for adjusting the 'ambient light'. This runs along the bottom edge of the machine, lighting up the keyboard in the dark, and though we'd sooner see a backlit keyboard, this does the job well enough. Meanwhile on the right are a memory card reader and a four-pin FireWire port, above which sit some volume controls.