Things only improve with the provided peripherals. Both the keyboard and mouse are wireless, something the iMac doesn’t offer, and are excellent. Indeed, the keyboard in particular stands out. It’s very slim, slotting nicely underneath the machine when not in use, has strong, responsive keys and a faultless layout. Likewise, the provided remote is large, easy to handle and feels every bit as well put together as the rest of the TouchSmart PC.
Predictably enough there are more connections on the back, hidden discreetly behind a removable panel. These include three more USB ports, an Ethernet port, an S/PDIF digital audio out, a regular 3.5mm audio output, a TV Aerial input, S-Video out, an audio Line-in and infrared receiver for the remote. All of which is pretty sufficient for a machine of this type, though if one were being picky a couple of video inputs (i.e. HMDI or Component) might extend the machine’s uses somewhat.
Of course, despite the TV Tuner and multimedia leanings the IQ500 is still a PC, but, it must be said, not an especially powerful one. Presumably to help maintain a relatively quiet and cool machine HP has utilised mobile components rather than desktop ones and though there’s nothing essentially wrong with this, those on offer here are somewhat threadbare. Its 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5850, for instance, means in raw terms the IQ500 isn’t much faster than, say, the Samsung R510 – a relatively modest entry level laptop.
This, for the most part, isn’t a problem while navigating the sumptuous touch sensitive interface (more on which in a moment), but even with 4GB of RAM and 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium this shouldn’t be misconstrued as a genuine desktop replacement – it simply doesn’t have the grunt for such a role. A relatively measly nVidia 9300M GS with 256MB dedicated memory only reinforces this point.
Still, if the IQ500 is no powerhouse it’s largely because it’s not meant to be – its duties are likely to be web surfing, video and TV viewing and the occasional bit of photo editing. For these tasks it’s perfectly capable, while the inclusion of Draft-N wireless and Gigabit Ethernet means you should have no problems streaming content to or from the IQ500. Moreover, the inclusion of integrated Wi-Fi and wireless peripherals meant that, provided you connect nothing else, the IQ500 is essentially a one cable device – that one cable coming from the relatively large AC adapter. This means the IQ500 should generate an absolute minimum of clutter, something all All-In-One PCs should aspire to.
Some praise must also be reserved for the integrated speakers. There’s no “5.1 surround sound” trickery going on here, just two discrete full-range drivers, but they’re very good ones, capable of pumping music out with impressive clarity and dealing with TV audio capably, too.