HP TouchSmart PC - FIRST LOOK

At CES 2007, Pocket-lint was given the chance to have a hands-on with the new touchscreen home PC from HP, the TouchSmartPC, but will the home computer based on a concept design for an interactive table it has been working on for the past couple of years work? We take a closer look.

The main thing you'll notice about the new PC is that it sports a rather large 19-inch widescreen display on a moveable arm. The computer, still in a desktop format of sorts is hidden behind the screen making the whole thing look like something you would find behind a till in your local John Lewis or one of those do-it-yourself photo booths.

That image is propelled even further when you realise that the screen is touch sensitive and the screen's arm sports three different positions, including one that is designed make it easier to walk up to the screen and use it while you're standing up.

According to HP it should be used in high footfall areas of your house like the lounge, kitchen or hallway, which is why, although a wireless keyboard and mouse are included, they are hidden away under the casing when not in use.

Hidden behind the screen is a space for a compact printer on the back and the TouchSmart PC also features consumer friendly technology like Lightscribe and a memory card reader at the front.

Get past the hardware and it’s also the industry's first all-in-one PC based on Microsoft Windows Vista with touchscreen technology. Working with Microsoft from the outset, HP has managed to get around 18 months ahead of the nearest offering a Touch Screen, All-in-one PC running Vista on to shop shelves.

The aim of the TouchScreenPC is to become the hub of the digital home and act like a notice board and information centre for the family.

Although it runs the Microsoft's new Windows Vista operating system, HP told us the traditional vision of the desktop computer isn't the focus here.

Instead it's an interface, which HP are calling SmartCenter and it is very much like Apple's Dashboard for OSX application that centres around a homepage which features a heavily customisable user interface.

The screen can be set to display applications and information like diary dates, a digital notice board so you can leave written, picture or video messages, for the rest of the house and options widgets like weather details or stock prices, which, as long as you are connected to the Internet, will display information in real time.

Users will also be able to view photographs in a more interactive environment than just viewing them in Paint or a standard photo package - and then print them directly to a printer that docks on the back of the device via a newly designed cable to reduce the mess of cables at the back. Conveniently the prints pop out the front like it really is one of those photo booths we mentioned earlier.

Beyond the HP SmartCenter, the computer will come with a Vista remote control and personal video recorder offering with HD and SD TV programming so you'll be able to watch TV and video on it as well.

Verdict

Although we haven't lived with the PC in a home environment, our first concern that while looking great, both in hardware and software terms, was that we weren't sure where we would be able to put this in our pokey little home that wasn't the spare room or the office.

The only way for this PC to work would be to place it in an area of your home that gets plenty of traffic like the kitchen. While in America the kitchens and hallways of most homes are massive, finding space in your kitchen for a full sized desktop computer might be a struggle for most.

Unfortunately HP won't be making a smaller 17- or even 15-inch screen version.

If you can stump up the space next to your toaster however, the software is very intuitive and at first glance, looks to offer something that you might actually want to use on a daily basis. What it would be like to live with we aren't yet sure, but overall the SmartTouch looks very promising.

Expect a full review of the new PC in the coming months. The TouchSmart PC will be available in the UK in Febuary.



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