- Review Price: £1467.00
The HP TouchSmart IQ810 is essentially an upgrade from the TouchSmart IQ500 we reviewed a little while ago, but with a full HD screen, slot-loading Blu-ray drive and more powerful internals, it’s a pretty major step up (though our review sample of the IQ500 wasn’t the highest configuration available). Of course, the IQ810 also retains its predecessor’s DVB-T TV tuner, making it a very capable home theatre system.
First things first, let’s get the extras out of the way. You get an excellent full colour startup guide that is without exaggeration larger than the PC itself, making the already simple setup even more of a doddle. Other bits worth mentioning include an IR extender cable, 3.5mm to twin phono audio cable, USB A-B cable and a soft black cleaning cloth.
As far as peripherals go, there is a black Media remote, wireless mouse and keyboard. The glossy remote is really quite large, which makes it easy to hold. Buttons are high-quality soft-touch affairs, and are logically laid out.
The wireless mouse and keyboard come pre-paired to the IQ810, meaning all you have to do is insert the batteries (AA for the mouse, AAA for the keyboard) and everything works. The mouse has a glossy black finish is surprisingly resistant to fingerprints, and matches the PC perfectly. It’s symmetrical, has three buttons including the two-way scroll wheel, and uses an optical sensor. The keyboard is finished in a very attractive matte textured black, has a good layout and is a pleasure to type on. But what makes it special is its slim profile, which at its thickest is just over a centimetre.
Moving onto the PC itself, it’s again virtually identical to the IQ500 in terms of design. Not that that’s a bad thing, as everything about that machine was sleek and desirable. As already mentioned, setup couldn’t be simpler. Just pull out the transparent plastic and metal ‘leg’, plug in the huge power brick (weighing almost a kilo and over 20cm long), and you’re done.
Naturally with a large, integrated screen, the unit is quite heavy too at just over 16kg, but it’s very easy to move about thanks to its svelte dimensions. The transparent plastic feet raise it to a comfortable viewing height for most desks and allows you to slip the keyboard underneath the machine when not in use.
Aside from a few stickers, the front of the IQ810 looks stunning. The casing around the screen is glossy black plastic, of the finger-print and dust-loving kind, but at least there’s only one button set into it. Otherwise the only thing that breaks its clean lines is the subtly integrated webcam. Inside bezel surrounding the screen looks like it’s simply a black part of the display thanks to a smooth glass sheet that covers both it and the screen. This is a trick HP also employs to great success on its Pavilion notebooks. The glossy casing is offset from the matte black speaker-bar beneath it by silver trim that runs around all the IQ810’s edges.
Even the all-in-one PC’s sides and back aren’t unattractive. This is, of course, where you’ll find the bays and connectivity, but they’re all either well-hidden or nicely integrated. On the right side is the LED backlit power button near the top, while near the bottom are an optical drive indicator, volume controls, a card reader and four-pin FireWire port. The volume controls are very large and easy to use without having to look around the side. The memory card reader will accept SD/SDHC, MMC, MS/Pro and xD. Behind this section is the slot-loading Blu-ray drive.
At the top are ventilation slots and an HP Pocket Media Drive bay, which takes proprietary HP drives through USB. On the left, meanwhile, is a large button which switches on blue LED lighting along the unit’s underside, illuminating your keyboard. You can set it to various strengths by repeatedly pressing the button. Below this are two USB ports located very close together, and 3.5mm headphone plus line-in jacks.
Behind this is a removable cover, under which there’s a plethora of other connections. Three further USB ports are followed by a Gigabit Ethernet jack, digital and analogue audio outputs and an S-Video input. There’s also another line-in, and an IR-out port for the supplied IR extender cable. By now you might have noticed what’s missing here: any form of digital or even high-definition video input. This is a real shame, and goes against the everything-for-everyone ethos the IQ810 seems to otherwise embody.
I mean come on HP, you give us a gorgeous 25.5in screen theoretically able to show content from any capable console in glorious high definition, but no way to plug these consoles in unless you’re willing to hook your PS3/Xbox360/Wii in through S-Video – in which case you should be committed. If HP sold televisions I might at least see a reason, but as it is the company has seriously narrowed the appeal of this machine. The only excuse is that this is a failing with many all-in-one machines, including the Apple iMac.
The lack of high-definition video inputs is even more of a pity considering that the IQ810’s screen is rather good – for a TN. This is definitely not a display for those who hate reflections though, since the aforementioned glass sheet makes it a very decent mirror. Whether you can condition yourself to ignore those reflections or not is a personal thing, much like the rainbow effect on DLP projectors. Get past this, and there’s much to love about the pictures this TouchSmart produces; a good thing considering you can’t adjust the display except through software. For one thing, there is no banding at all. Backlight bleed is so minimal as to be unnoticeable, and greyscale differentiation is fairly good, if nothing too special. At the cost of pure whites, you get excellent black detail, which is an ideal compromise for entertainment purposes. Text is also never less than sharp.
On the negatives list, while horizontal viewing angles are quite good overall, as always with TN panels there is some colour and contrast shift. Still, it’s nothing that will ruin a little family viewing. There is also noticeable dot crawl, meaning under some rare scenarios the screen will display flicker, and a slight bit of noise is introduced into films. Overall though, it makes for a pretty nice display.
Unfortunately, the speakers don’t live up to this visual prowess. While they produce a nice amount of depth and retain clarity even at high volumes, they’re let down by a lack of bass, leaving explosions and the like sounding rather tinny. Of course, with the IQ810’s large selection of audio outputs it’s easy to hook up external speakers, but this does defeat the all-in-one concept somewhat.
Moving onto the PC’s innards, this TouchSmart is slightly more powerful overall than the IQ500 Andy looked at before. It still uses notebook components, which means that at under £1,500 it’s not going to be a powerhouse. Heading the lineup is an Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 running at 2.1GHz. Because this is the older Santa Rosa platform, it only features a front side bus of 800MHz, and has 3MB of cache. This is backed up by 4GB of DDR2 RAM, all of which can be used by the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Premium.
There’s also plenty of storage on hand courtesy of a 640GB Samsung SpinPoint, a normal desktop hard drive running at the standard 7200RPM. The graphics card has been upgraded to a 512MB nVidia GeForce 9600M GS from the rather pitiful 9300 in the IQ500, meaning this machine should actually be able to handle some light gaming. On the wireless end the HP is unusually-well specified for a desktop, with Draft-N Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 EDR. Overall then, it should be more than able to cope with anything but high-end gaming.
Apart from the obvious size advantage, the other plus to using mostly notebook components is that the IQ810 runs virtually silently! Listening to it, it can be difficult to tell if the machine is even turned on, which makes it ideal in the sitting room or bedroom.
Now let’s examine the vaunted touchscreen interface, which is really what the TouchSmart range is all about. Similarly to the iPhone, the touchscreen on the IQ810 requires only the lightest of touches. One disadvantage is that the panel outputs a lot of heat, meaning it gets warm to the touch and sitting right in front of it can feel a bit like having your face close to a heater.
The other thing that really works against the TouchSmart is that fingerprints and grease-trails from swiping fingers across the screen are easily visible, especially from certain angles. So if you want this machine to be the centerpiece of your entertainment experience and impress all your friends, you’re going to have to clean the screen after almost every use. This creates yet more work for using a system that already requires extra effort for most tasks compared to using a good old mouse and keyboard.
With these niggles out of the way, let’s take a look at HP’s TouchSmart interface, a custom application that allows you to perform a range of activities using only your fingers. The TouchSmart software is turned on by default when you start up the machine, though at most a few taps will bring you back to the standard Windows desktop. From here, you can always call it back using either the software shortcut, or the aforementioned button on the IQ810’s front.
It must be said that TouchSmart looks very slick. Visually, the software is easily a match for the iPhone’s beautiful interface. The Home’ section is divided into two strips of icons called tiles, a large one along the top for the most commonly used apps, and a smaller one at the bottom where you can see more tiles at once. Of course you can freely drag tiles between these two strips. Dragging the strip to the side scrolls steadily, while fast movements will flick through the icons with realistic inertia.
The mainstays of TouchSmart are its photo and web browsers, and music and video players. There’s also a calendar and weather ‘channel’. The photo browser and music player are very competent and really show off touch interfacing at its best.
The touch-based web browser feels like a missed opportunity. It’s incredibly basic, but even the basics it doesn’t quite get right. You see, TouchSmart PCs support multi-touch just like the iPhone, but it’s criminally underused and fails to work in the one area where you really need it to. I’m referring to scrolling web-pages in the aforementioned browser. Using the side bars with a single finger is never a problem, but try to scroll anywhere onscreen using both fingers, and as often as not the browser takes your straight to the bottom of the page and refuses to let you scroll back up.
Meanwhile, the only other area where multi-touch is used is the rather pointless ability to zoom the upper row of tiles slightly on the home screen. The single biggest problem with TouchSmart though is how limited it is, and how quickly you find yourself needing to go back to Windows. Essentially, this is a PC which should be capable of so much, yet TouchSmart doesn’t seem to offer much functionality beyond what you’d expect from a half-decent PMP.
Another area where HP really needs to get its act together is in providing a custom onscreen keyboard, rather than the small pathetic Windows default effort. The only saving grace here is that Microsoft’s handwriting recognition works almost flawlessly on the IQ810. As a last point, HP sells a wall-mount for the IQ810, which makes the touchscreen nature even more useful.
The IQ810 doesn’t stack up too badly as an all-in-one machine. Compared to the fairly similarly-priced Sony VGC-LV1S all-in-one, for example, the Sony might feature an HDMI-input and a faster CPU, but the HP wins out with out with a larger screen and hard drive, far better video card and of course touch functionality all for only £100 extra. Other options are Dell’s XPS One and, of course, the Apple’s 24in i-Mac. These two machines are a good hardware match in terms of value for money, so it really comes down to whether you want touchy Windows or not. The one thing to keep in mind here is that you might ‘soon’ be able to upgrade the HP to Microsoft’s Windows 7, which is being built with touch interfacing in mind.
HP’s TouchSmart IQ810 gives you 25.5in of touch-screen PC goodness. The TouchSmart interface is limited in its usability and still needs work, but then you’re not paying that much of a premium for it.
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