Touch is a great way of interfacing with products, as abundantly proved by smartphones such as the Apple iPhone 4 and tablets like the excellent Asus Eee Pad Transformer. Unfortunately, we haven't found it as useful on most all-in-one (AIO) PCs we've looked at, as on an upright display it's more tiring than just using a mouse and keyboard.
HP looks set to change all that with its brand-new TouchSmart 610, which folds down to a comfortable 30 degrees for extended touch sessions. As it also throws in a Full HD 23in screen, multiple HDMI inputs, a Blu-ray player and digital TV tuner, USB 3.0 connectivity, a Core i5 CPU and 1.5TB of storage along with dedicated graphics, we're hopeful that this PC can finally take on the mighty 22in iMac for the sub-27in all-in-one crown.
As expected, compared to the sharp, aluminium lines of the iMac, the 610 doesn't quite hold up. However, as it's far more adjustable than the pitiful tilt of Apple's machines, your fingers will thank you for its lack of sharp edges – especially when carrying the PC between locations.
When put up against less premium rivals like the MSI Wind Top AE2400, its combination of matt black and glossy gunmetal grey is quite attractive. Only the glossy black stand, which matches little else about the PC, sticks out like a sore thumb. We wish HP had kept the finish more consistent. Build quality is excellent, with no unwanted flex or creak in the panels.
Thanks to its unique sliding hinge mechanism, which allows for its semi-horizontal positioning, the TouchSmart 610 is also height-adjustable in its upright mode - already a definite advantage over most AIO rivals. However, this is limited to raising the screen's base from 2.5 to 5.5cm off your desk. Height adjustments are also quite stiff, and you'll definitely need two hands to perform them. Tilt is far more forgiving and very generous.
Sliding the 610 into its 'easy-touch' position, meanwhile, is smooth but still takes a little effort. Also, it's important to ensure that you have enough free desk space in front of the machine, and that the mouse and keyboard are out of the way. We will cover what it is like to use the TouchSmart with your fingers later on in the review.
Last of all, unscrewing a section of the PC's base and re-attaching it to its rear allows it to act as a wall-mount. While this will doubtless have limited appeal, especially since you'd lose out on the machine's tilting ability, it's nevertheless a thoughtful inclusion.
Topping things off nicely, the 610 stays very quiet even under load.