HP TouchSmart IQ506 Review

Touch and Go


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Posted September 25, 2008

Eric Grevstad

(Page 1 of 3)

The next generation of this product is going to be terrific.
-- HardwareCentral review of HP TouchSmart IQ770, February 23, 2007

Yeah, we know, we're all thinking it, so we might as well say the word and get it out of the way: iMac iMac iMac.

More like next year's iMac, actually, since Apple hasn't yet brought the iPhone's multi-touch LCD technology to the desktop as Internet gossipers predict. That makes the HP TouchSmart IQ506 and slightly less fancy IQ504 unique -- 22-inch widescreen monitors with not only built-in Core 2 Duo PCs but touch screens you can use to launch applications and flip through photos, videos, and music albums and playlists with a tap or flick of a finger.

The all-in-one design, a wireless keyboard and mouse, and 802.11b/g/pre-n WiFi plus Bluetooth make setup as simple as plugging in a single power cable -- unless you want to use the built-in TV tuner/personal video recorder or don't have a wireless router for Web access, in which case you'll add a coax or Ethernet cable, respectively. (You'll want to keep the AC cable on the floor, by the way; it's connected to a huge, heavy notebook-style power brick.)

The TouchSmart isn't perfect. Our opinion of the touch-screen interface swings to and fro but averages maybe two-thirds great, one-third gimmick. And though its 4GB of memory, 500GB hard disk, and Windows Vista Home Premium 64-Bit Edition are more than enough for multimedia and productivity work, the HP isn't intended for high-speed gaming.

And $1,500? That's not bad, but it isn't a bargain, either. Why, it's the same price as a smaller-screened, smaller-hard-drive, half-the-memory, no-TV-tuner, no-touch-screen iMac.

Uh, wait a minute. Maybe HP has something here.

Lean Into It

It's not as slim and chic as the Apple desktop, but the IQ506 is considerably trimmer than last year's first-generation TouchSmart IQ770; the PC is now built into the back of the display instead of a clunky monitor base. Adjusting the angle of the prop-up easel stand adjusts the monitor's tilt (between 10 and 40 degrees), though there's no height adjustment or swivel other than moving the 24-pound computer.

The TouchSmart is strikingly handsome, with transparent plastic feet to better show off what HP calls the piano-black bezel and espresso-toned side panels. The computer itself measures 18 by 21 by 3 inches, which translates to a living-room, dorm-room, or den footprint of about 21 by 9 inches counting the easel but not counting the keyboard and mouse, although you can stash those items under the PC when not in use.

Matte and glossy black, respectively, adorn the wireless keyboard and mouse. The latter is a standard scroll-wheel laser mouse, with no browser Back button or other programmable buttons. The keyboard is much more impressive -- an elegantly low-profile (three-quarter inch thick) slice with a first-class if notebooky typing feel. HP even announced at presstime it'll offer it separately to other PC users, dubbed the Wireless Elite keyboard and priced at $60.

The keyboard and mouse use four AAA and two AA batteries, respectively. We were pleased to see that both input devices worked fine as soon as we fired up the PC, with none of the out-of-sync angst or pushing tiny connection buttons we sometimes get with wireless peripherals.

You won't find fancy multimedia buttons on the keyboard, but you will find controls for audio volume and mute (duplicated on the TouchSmart's right side). The built-in 4-watt stereo speakers are predictably short on booming bass, but more than adequate for music and movies even at high volume.

Pretty Much a Sealed Box

An addendum to the user manual details the screwdriver surgery needed to access the IQ's two SO-DIMM memory sockets and SATA hard drive, but we doubt most users will ever try. It'd take still more spelunking to find the Intel Core 2 Duo T5850 processor -- a mobile dual-core CPU clocked at 2.16GHz with 2MB of Level 2 cache.

The choice of a 35-watt laptop processor helps keep the computer cool and quiet. Apart from music and DVDs, the HP's loudest sound is the background breeze from a cooling fan; it's pretty much audible only in an otherwise silent room.

Another designed-for-notebooks component, Nvidia's GeForce 9300M GS with 256MB of dedicated memory, eight processor cores, and DirectX 10 and HD video support, handles the system's graphics. Four gigabytes of DDR2/667 memory; a 500GB, 7,200-rpm Seagate Barracuda hard drive; and a slot-loading DVD±RW drive from TSSTcorp round out the primary hardware.

Again, all of the above are crammed into a compact, monitor-piggybacked casing: The GeForce card is a PCI Express x16 (version 1.0) MXM module, while the WiFi adapter and AverMedia NTSC analog/ATSC over-the-air HD TV tuner fill the Pegatron motherboard's two PCIe x1 mini slots and two 2GB memory modules provide the system's maximum of 4GB.

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Tags: wireless, iPhone, Intel, HP, nVidia

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