HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC
With an IQ of 770, this TouchSmart must be a genius, surely?
Review According to the famous maxim, a camel is a horse designed by committee, and it's not hard to spot the hand of a committee in the design of the HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC.
The guts of the IQ770 are laptop components that have been shoehorned into a compact desktop unit that doesn't look much like a desktop PC. The base unit houses an Asus motherboard built around and Nvidia GeForce Go 6100 chipset, a dual-core AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-52 processor running at 1.6GHz, 2GB of dual-channel DDR 2 memory (PC2-4300) and GeForce Go 7600 graphics with 256MB of dedicated Ram.
On the front, there's a slot-loading DVD writer, playback control buttons and two card-reader slots. Behind a flap that's rather grandly labelled as a "Connectivity Center", there are stereo RCA, s-video, four-pin mini Firewire and a pair of USB 2.0 ports. Moving to the rear, we have the mains power plug, vents for the cooling fan, Gigabit Ethernet, three more USB ports, a six-pin Firewire connector, co-axial digital audio and three 3.5mm audio jacks.
In addition, there are three rather more obscure ports. One is a mini jack for a supplied infra-red receiver, another is a mini VGA output, to which you attach a supplied VGA adaptor and the third is a USB port that is located very close to a power terminal and which takes a special cable so that you have the appropriate connections to attach a small HP inkjet printer, which you can sit on top on the IQ770 base unit behind the screen without any need to plug in another mains cable or to have a USB cable drooping down and looking unsightly.
HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC with HP inkjet printer attached on the base unit, behind the screen
The final connector on the base unit is an RF port for the integrated analogue and digital TV tuner, which works superbly well in conjunction with Windows Vista and the large screen.
It's clear that HP has worked hard to make the base unit small and compact, although it loses something of the neatness once you plug in the various adapters and cables. If you use a wireless connection to your router you can get away with just a single power cable and a TV aerial cable, which is just about as wireless as you could wish. Above the base unit is the 19in TFT touchscreen which we'll come to in a moment, and between the two is what we can only describe as a slab of grey and black plastic.
It's a huge unsightly thing that acts as a mount for the moving arm that supports the screen and which also acts as a drive bay for an HP Pocket Media Drive. An 80GB removable drive costs £65 and while there's no harm in adding a drive, we can't help but think that the design could have been done more elegantly. The Apple iMac anglepoise design is a case in point.
HP has instead gone for battleship engineering, and we were shocked to find that the IQ770 weighs a whopping 17.3kg. This means that you'll be plonking down it in your kitchen, living room, study or wherever and never moving it again. It's far from portable, which is a crying shame as a combined PC, TV and media centre that uses a minimum of cabling is the sort of device that could reasonably have more than one home.
The 19in LCD has a native resolution of 1440 x 900 and a 16:10 widescreen aspect ratio, but it also responds to prods and strokes with your finger. This is more intuitive than a mouse when you're clicking links on web pages and also a snap when you want to use the media player. An added benefit is that you can slip the keyboard into a housing in the front of the base unit when it's not in use.
Although Windows Vista Home Premium edition has Tablet PC features the screen doesn't use a digitizer so you can use the stylus that HP supplies in a holder on the top of the screen or you can navigate with your finger. The screen has a hard surface that you can easily wipe clean so concerns about fingerprints can be put to one side.
As a long-time Windows user, this reviewer found the touchscreen was something of a gimmick that served little use. However, a sample of the Nintendo generation that we asked completely disagreed and found it to be fabulous. As HP offers a wireless mouse and keyboard - in addition to the touchscreen and Windows Media Centre remote - you're practically spoiled for choice. The only criticism we can reasonably offer is that you pay a high price for all this hardware.
Well, there's the other criticism: that laptop hardware isn't much cop in the performance stakes, but provided you use the IQ770 to browse the web and to watch movies you'll be perfectly happy. Try playing Oblivion on it and you'll likely have a different view on the matter. And the noise generated by the cooling system can be loud enough to interfere with your enjoyment of movies if the room is quiet, though it's less of an issue if there's plenty of background noise.
Perhaps this is a price you have to pay for housing the power supply neatly inside the base unit, instead of having an external laptop-style power brick.
There's not much in the way of software besides Microsoft Works 8.5, Roxio Creator Basic and the inevitable 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security. Vista includes the Tablet application Windows Journal, which uses the hand writing functionality of the screen for note-taking, and you also get HP's Sticky Notes application so you can write virtual Post-it notes, which is a frivolous use of technology by any standards. But, again, the Nintendo generation love it.
PCMark05 test results
Longer bars are better
The performance of the IQ770 compares quite poorly to a decent Intel Centrino Duo laptop, such as the Evesham Zieo N5-HD that we recently reviewed. However it has all of the oomph that you need for every day tasks such as e-mail and watching TV. That overall PCMark05 score of 3825, for example, compared to the Zeio's 5357. When it comes to 3DMark06, the HP scored 2256, the Zeio 2984.
It's a surprise that the IQ770 is capable of playing modern games as it has a relatively high-resolution screen with plenty of pixels to push. However, we achieved respectable frame rates in Half Life 2 and FEAR: Extraction Point. But if you fancy playing Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, this PC shouldn't be on your shopping list.
Either you're excited by the prospect of an all-in-one PC with a touchscreen or you're not. Judging by our experiences, adults will be thoroughly confused by the split personality of the HP, shocked by the enormous weight and unimpressed by the price - a pound less than £1300. But the kids are gonna love it.