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Hands-On with the HP TouchSmart IQ500 PC

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‘Digital Home' and ‘Connected Living' are sound bites that are bandied about with relative abandon these days, normally accompanied by their spiritual cousins ‘leverage' and ‘synergy'. Their meaning is easily lost through the cacophony of marketing that surrounds them, but all it's really about is IT companies like HP breaking out of its traditional constraints and becoming the centre of technology in the home.

HP's showcase ‘Connecting Your World' event this week had exactly this as its theme and the star of the show was undoubtedly its latest TouchSmart PC. We looked at its previous effort, the IQ770, in May last year and though it impressed, it was clear HP still had some work to do in order to convince people that a touch sensitive PC was what they wanted/needed in their kitchens and living rooms. Is the new version, the IQ500, the answer?

In terms of design it's a definitive step in the right direction. Though the IQ770 was impressive in many respects, it was still a fairly bulky machine. This new version addresses this problem, housing the main components within the screen itself, rather than the base, and creating a far slimmer, more attractive and living room friendly machine in the process. In essence it has embraced the approach of the Apple iMacs and other all-in-one PCs and it's much the better for it.

Indeed, HP has long been a strong design company and the IQ500, or TouchSmart 2 if you like, looks the business. Standing on two clear plastic legs with a larger tilting stand at the back it has an enviable simplicity that should lend itself to any environment. A nice slim glossy black bezel and near button-less front fascia only accentuate this point, while the 22in diagonal size is just about right, proving neither too large or small.

Hidden around the edges and the back is a wealth of connectivity, too. On the left edge are a couple of easily accessible USB ports, along with headphone and microphone jacks. These are joined by a button that (de)activates the ambient light that emanates from below the screen to light up the keyboard. It's a nice touch, though a backlit keyboard would have been even better.

Not that there's anything wrong with the provided keyboard. It's slim, nicely arranged and from my brief time with it felt good to type on. Naturally it is wireless, too, as is the mouse, while a remote control will be included as well for long distance operation.

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