By David Ponce
It’s time to conclude our review of the HP Touchsmart 600-1055 and to bring our giveaway to a close. For those of you who didn’t follow, the previous article is here. We decided to combine parts 2 and 3 into one, simply because the initial article contained all the info you needed on the machine’s hardware, leaving us with only with the Touchsmart Suite of applications to review. If you’ll recall, we’re trying to determine if this all-in-one can serve as an entertainment hub and replace your TV, your DVD/Blu-Ray player and your CD/Stereo.
So, keep reading to find out in some detail just how it does. The early verdict? Works as advertised, but nagging software inconsistencies mar an otherwise excellent product.
So how does this machine do as a DVD/Blu-Ray player? Turns out this is a fairly straightforward question and is simple to answer. Very well! The screen is large-ish (at 23 inches) and sporting a full 1080p resolution, the Blu-Ray image is sharp and appealing. The integrated player has several controls specifically designed for touch use, such as oversized volume buttons. Overall this part of the machine works as expected and the touch interface is used in an intuitive and logical manner, providing a value add for the user.
However, we thought about using the included Hulu app. Well, it looks quite good and it’s clear an effort has been made to make it touch friendly. Elements are arranged logically and easily accessible, everything is large and easily touchable… But it’s the scrolling through long lists that becomes somewhat tedious. Rather than use the more intuitive flick to scroll up or down, HP opted for a “Page Up, Page Down” approach, requiring you to touch an element above or below whatever show, or channel is currently selected and scroll entire chunks at once. After a while, it becomes almost tempting to use the mouse’s scrollwheel. This is of course not a huge issue, as everything is functional and perhaps comes down to personal preferences created from using an iPhone for too long. That being said, while Apple might not have pioneered touch interfaces, they did make help make them more mainstream and some of their design dynamics are slowly becoming ubiquitous. Why HP went a different route is beyond us and ultimately not that important.
The point being that the Touchsmart 600 performs really well as a Bluray player and the included Hulu application will be appreciated by its customers, design intricacies notwithstanding.
It turns out that the Touchsmart 600 comes with some really good speakers. Of course, they’re small, so we’re not talking about earth shaking bass. But they deliver clear sound and more importantly, are distortion free even at higher volumes. This allows you to fill a room with sound without getting a feeling of loudness.
The included Rhapsody and Pandora applications of course expand on the good speakers and allow you to use the PC as an elegant music station. The fact that these applications are created for a touch interface makes them fun to use. Creating a playlist is as easy as literally dragging and dropping a track with the tip of a finger. And… surprise, surprise… flick scrolling is present! It’s not very smooth, but it’s there and does add somewhat to our enjoyment of the applications.
HP asked us to determine if the Touchsmart 600-1055 could be used as an entertainment hub. Our response is a qualified “yes”. Here’s what we mean. The Touchsmart 600 is perfect for a broad range of people, from the space-starved college student, to the family that wants something to congregate around in the dining room. It’s great for mainstream users. They will get a competent, solid piece of kit with an entire suite of software designed to make the most out of the touch interface. Slight and intermittent sluggish performance as well as confusing design inconsistencies in the software mar an otherwise flawless performance, but aren’t serious enough to tarnish what is in effect a good product.
However, the Touchsmart 600 isn’t so much for another kind of PC users: the media-center builder, or the gamers or just simply the more advanced and tech savvy individuals. The lack of certain outputs and inputs (no HDMI out, no component in) limits this PC’s ability to be used outside of what HP intended. The sealed form factor makes upgrading or replacing components daunting if not impossible. This is simply not that kind of PC.
So… to clearly answer HP’s question: this is an entertainment hub with solid computing abilities, albeit one with a fairly closed design, limiting its ability to be anything more than that.
+ Nicely designed software that takes advantage of the touchscreen
+ Integrated music and video applications designed for touch
+ Good quality speakers that complement the viewing and listening experience
– Small design inconsistencies
– Occasional sluggishness
As you may know, HP is giving away one of these all-in-ones to a lucky reader. To enter, just leave a comment on this post and we’ll select a winner by Thursday, 11:59 EST. US and Canada only, enter once… or we’ll give you nightmares.