Compared with last year's clunky TouchSmart IQ770, HP's new TouchSmart design is a major leap forward. The new TouchSmart IG504 and IQ506 models now follow a more typical all-in-one design philosophy, featuring a screen and the computing innards housed in the same casing, propped up by an adjustable foot in the back. As the name implies, the TouchSmart is still touch-sensitive, and based on the specification sheets for each model, it also looks like HP has addressed the value issues we had with the previous model.
The first improvement is the screen, now a 22-incher, up from last year's 19-inch LCD. The price has also dropped, down from $1,779 for the old model to $1,299 for the IQ504. The IQ506, with a TV tuner, a faster CPU, and a larger hard drive, well go for $1,499.
If its design and its value proposition have improved, the purpose of the TouchSmart remains the same. It will work like a typical Vista-based PC in all respects, but the touch-screen functionality and HP-designed TouchSmart software open the system up to an easier walk-up usage model, where you can simply stand in front of the system and use your finger to navigate, rather than having to sit down in front of the mouse and keyboard. HP showed us a new version of the software that includes a touch-sensitive media browser in addition to the original photo-cropping and note-taking tools, among others.
Given the 22-inch display, the TouchSmart makes a legitimate claim as a secondary screen for watching video. For that reason, we were disappointed that HP doesn't include a Blu-ray drive in at least the higher-end IQ506. From a raw performance standpoint, though, we were glad to see that both new TouchSmarts have the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium and 4GB of RAM. The new models retain the Bluetooth and 802.11b/g wireless support found in the original, but they now support wider-bandwidth 802.11n Wi-Fi as well.
For its core specifications, the TouchSmart IQ504 includes a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750 CPU, 4GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, a 320GB, 7,200rpm hard drive, and an integrated Intel GMA X3100 graphics chip. The IQ506 comes with a faster 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo T5850 processor, the same RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and a 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9300 M GS graphics chip. Both will be available in the U.S. on July 13.