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MEDIA CENTRES / INTEL VIIV

HP TouchSmart All Bells & Whistles But No Value

By David Richards | Thursday | 17/05/2007

The massively overpriced and underperforming HP touch screen media centre has finally been released in Australia. The big problem with the $3,699 device is that one is stuck with a combined built in touch screen and PC when the rest of the media centre market gives one a choice of PC and choice in size of screen.

And with Linux and AMD now starting to deliver a superior media centre solution than the Intel Viiv, Windows Media Centre offerings the chances are that within 18 months the HP device could well and truly be outdated as consumers move to media centres developed by Hi Fi and Video companies that have the skill set to deliver great sound and video output as opposed to more PC processing grunt.  

The TouchSmart IQ770 (RRP $3,699) is an all-in-one, Windows Vista compatible, touch screen PC which delivers access to family schedules, television, music and a built-in photo kiosk designed to make printing digital family photos easy. It is also a full blown application PC so when one member of the family wants to watch a movie or TV on the attached touch screen no one else in the family can easily get access to their emails.

This has resulted in a big move away from the HP type of device to devices like the Apple TV PC, which is designed to be IP capable so that entertainment content such as music and movies can be downloaded from either a web site or hard drive and watched in the lounge while application computing is left to a PC or notebook. 

While HP claims that it is putting its stamp on innovation leadership with the launch of iconic product design they seem to forget that consumers are a lot more IT savvy than in the past and that great design is not going to hide poor engineering. Nor is the consumer going to pay over the odds to simply get a media centre with a touch screen attached.

Another problem with this device is that one is forced to use the remote control at all times to use the basic functions of the system. Typing is also a pain due to the keyboards downward slope, although it might make sense if you have the keyboard in your lap something that I have never done in my life. At first glance the 19" LCD screen and 256MB GeForce 7600 graphics chip sound appealing, but the system has an odd resolution (1,440 x900) that some games might not support. In our tests, the TouchSmart IQ770 seemed to really struggle at the standard resolution during F.E.A.R and Call of Duty 3. You will need to either leave your gaming to another system, or deal with a lower resolution in order to get the frame-rates you want.

But at the end of the day it's up to you. You may fall in love with it instantly. Then again the last combined Media Centre and LCD TV screen from Fujitsu was a total flop and has been discontinued from sale in Australia.

The new HP 'touch enabled' PCs are available now through Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, the Good Guys, Retravision and PC specialists.

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