The HP TouchSmart 600 is the new addition to our lounge, kicking out the old Apple/NewEgg hybrid. It works well, is space-efficient, and the touch screen is fun & surprisingly useful.
2012 update: I’ve got a (not for the faint of heart) tip on how to install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on this PC here: http://www.waded.org/2012/03/02/installing-windows-8-consumer-preview-on-a-hp-touchsmart-600/. As for hardware failings, the AC adapter (power cord) started failing, causing the PC to turn off as if it’d been suddenly unplugged, and not allowing it to turn back on again until you actually unplugged the power from the wall!) We convinced HP support to send us a new AC adapter, and have not had trouble since.
Touchscreen? But you’ll get gorilla arm!
A touchscreen’s no substitute for a keyboard and mouse when trying to nail down a blog post, but Windows 7’s “natural user interface” paired with touch hardware is surprisingly useful. I’ve built up muscle memory with a keyboard & mouse I just can’t shake when working, but when sitting down to surf, watch videos, or help a child over-the-shoulder, touch makes sense & works. Mekhi, 3, uses the touch screen as if all computers had them.
This generation all-in-one PC uses a type of screen which recognizes at most 2 contact points. You don’t actually have to touch the glass (getting within 1/8th inch is close enough.) No pressure’s required and it works with fingernails, but be wary of your palm & knuckles. 1 or 2 fingers touching + 1 knuckle floating nearby feels like 1 or 2 points of contact, but it’s 3, and interaction gets erratic… the scroll, zoom, or click you didn’t intend comes from that knuckle. You’ll learn what hand positions work & what positions cause problems as you go.
Does the screen get greasy? Yes. But it’s bright, and unless it’s off you won’t notice the streaks. This neat-freak is happy to report the manual says generic glass cleaner is recommended for use on the screen. (I always thought Windex was a bad idea due to screen coatings, but HP must’ve colluded with someone to make it work.)
Apps: The ritual cleaning of a new PC
This PC comes with Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7. These are downgraded versions of some of the Surface table apps:
- Surface Globe’s got wow factor, but it doesn’t provide the functionality you might expect in map apps: for example, it can look up addresses, but it do directions. It’s just a globe you can fly around. Bing Maps (the web version of the same maps) is quite a bit more useful & supports touch, and I suspect Google Earth’s got some funtimes multi-touch support now.
- Blackboard is a fun physics game; my nieces and nephews have a great time with it.
- Garden Pond is a bit frustrating, as is Rebound, the most ill-advised table hockey game, ever.
- Lagoon is a koi pond screensaver.
- Surface Collage is a creative wallpaper-maker for kids and kitschy adults, though HP didn’t install it by default. (Read on.)
Free software we added:
- Windows Live Essentials (Photo Gallery, Writer, Movie Maker, Messenger)
- Windows Security Essentials (free top-rated virus scanner that doesn’t nag)
- Zune 4.0 (awkward when using touch due to WinAmp-style small controls, but otherwise this is our favorite media app)
- Skype (already installed, but was an old version)
- Surface Collage (add this by choosing “Change” on “Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7” under “Programs and Features” control panel)
- WorldWide Telescope, the amazing astronomy version of Surface Globe
- Office 2010 Beta
What HP provideth and we uninstalleth:
- Norton’s anti-virus (naggy and irrelevant)
- HP’s own “TouchSmart” apps (calendar, photo viewer, RSS reader, Hulu, etc.) I don’t much care for the big-sweeping-gestures touch interfaces in these apps, and these were all redundant with the apps I prefer
- HP Games: this package of games is bamboozleware. Mekhi started to like a Bob The Builder game that claimed in its many WildTangent speed bump screens “unlimited plays”, so I let him play it, start to like it, and then it started demanding payment.
- Works (Office 2010 Starter will make this irrelevant)
Color-adjustable lighting is a really nice detail. It can be set to any color of the rainbow using the HP Ambient Light app, and there’s a dimmer switch on the left side. I’m not sure whether this feature’s on models other than the 600xt.
I wasn’t a big fan of the piano (shiny) black finish, but it’s growing on me. Turn a desk lamp on & the color lighting and it looks pretty good.
The easel stand is very strong, and much better thought out than the Apple Cinema HD display this all-in-one replaces. It tilts back between 5 and 40 degrees, and a rubber foot ensures it doesn’t slip. Don’t get any crazy ideas about tilting it back 90 degrees. The manual specifically forbids putting it on its back, I suspect because of the weight of the glass.
The 23” screen is bright and evenly lit except for at the very bottom. Colors seem accurate. The screen is glossy 1920×1080; of course I wish it was matte and 1920×1200 but that’s hard to come by these days.
The speakers are loud for built-ins, but I wouldn’t use them to fill a room with sound. They’re fine for sound effects & listening to music when sitting in front of the PC.
The built-in webcam is standard hardware.
The wireless mouse is nicely matched and works well. The wireless keyboard is space efficient, but not the best. The keys are very flat and my fingers hit the lower edge when using the space and arrow keys. Both mouse and keyboard seem to be infrared-based, accounting for epic battery life.
Though it doesn’t affect appearance, there’s a cheesy plastic cover over the ports in the back. I predict it’s what will break first, especially if the kids find it. Day-to-day use USB ports are thankfully on the sides.
Performance & Power Usage
We customized the hardware online with an Intel P8700 processor because that chip’s more efficient than the stock chip and supports Windows XP Mode and Virtual PC.
The resulting Windows Experience Index is 5.9 (Memory 7.0, Graphics & Gaming Graphics 6.4, Processor 6.1, Primary Hard Disk: 5.9).
I suspect a Intel T6600 processor would make the score 5.7 or so (and it does not support virtualization.)
On the Windows 7 “Power Saver” plan, I measured 3 Watts at sleep, 45W with the screen off, 70W with the screen on, and 90W at the highest workload I could manage. It’s better for the environment and my power bill than the old PC, for certain. (I got these power metrics using a Kill-A-Watt.)
The boot screen describes our model as “TouchSmart 600-1005xt”. I believe the retail (for example Best Buy) model that’s comparable is the TouchSmart 600-1055.