Part of its premium product branding, the TouchSmart 610 utilises Beats audio for its speakers. After our experience with the HP Envy 14 Beats Edition, we were ready for disappointment, but thankfully, that wasn't the case here. The large speakers here produce a room-filling volume with only the slightest hint of distortion at maximum. Otherwise there's plenty of clarity, depth and punch. Though they do suffer from the bass bias that's synonymous with the Beats name, this is actually an advantage for movies and games – and you'll want to do plenty of both considering the 610's rather lovely screen.
We're seeing a real trend towards high-quality displays recently, with standout examples such as the Samsung Series 9, Apple iPhone 4 and Eee Pad Transformer. With iMacs now also utilizing IPS displays (the panel type used in professional-grade monitors such as the Dell UltraSharp U2410), it's only logical that HP follows its example, and the TouchSmart 610 sports a 23in, Full HD (1,980 x 1,020) IPS display.
As expected from IPS, viewing angles are simply superb – though there was a hint of colour shift, something we would sooner associate with PVA. Colours were generally accurate and saturated, helped by the screen's glossy finish, with deep blacks and good greyscale differentiation rounding off a strong performance. Overall, the 610 is a joy for entertainment, photography work, or even design and art – the high-quality panel makes it all possible.
Touch on the TouchSmart, meanwhile, is about what you would expect from the optical touch system. It accepts input from your fingers or any other object, and will recognise up to two simultaneous fingers – enough for the most common gesture controls. It's reasonably accurate and very responsive, though it doesn't match the experience of a capacitive display.
HP has now had several generations to perfect its TouchSmart software interface and it shows, as it's one of the slicker solutions we've seen on a Windows platform. You can arrange icons to your heart's content against dynamic backgrounds that move with your gestures. You can pin photos and shortcuts to this background much like a notice board, and it's all very slick and (potentially) visually attractive.
A number of touch-based games and applications are included, but the stand-out here really is the aforementioned Ubisoft R.U.S.E. for Touch. R.U.S.E. is a real-time strategy game (RTS) which has also been optimised for the PlayStation Move and works nearly as well with the touch screen. We're not sure we wouldn't prefer playing with the mouse and keyboard in the long-term, but there's no denying the novelty and sheer intuitive joy of playing with nothing but your fingers, and the screen's sloped angle makes it quite comfortable to use for extended periods.
Speaking of fingers, the biggest down-side of all this touch goodness is the amount of finger-prints easily visible on the 610's glossy screen, so you'll be putting the included cleaning cloth to good use.