HP TouchSmart IQ500t All-in-One Desktop PC
The 22-inch TouchSmart 500t is essentially a faster, slimmed-down version of the 25.5-inch HP TouchSmart IQ816. Both all-in-one PCs are multitouch capable, as is the 18.5-inch Dell Studio One 19. Multitouch aside, the $1650 500t's closest competitor in features and speed is the Lenovo IdeaCentre A600; though the A600's 21.5-inch display lacks touch, it'll cost you $500 less.
The IQ500t's 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo P8400 processor delivers good--but not great--performance compared with all-in-one rivals. Its 4GB of DDR2-800 memory meets the standard one expects to see on top-of-the-line all-in-ones, and although the A600 has DDR3-1066 RAM, the difference was negligible in our performance tests. As shipped, the IQ500t came with a discrete nVidia GeForce 9600M GS graphics card and a 1TB hard drive; the former is about what we expect from an all-in-one PC at this price, while the latter is an excellent touch, topping the all-in-one category for storage capacity alongside the Lenovo IdeaCentre A600 and the 24-inch Apple iMac.
Even with a faster processor than the A600, the TouchSmart IQ500t returned identical scores in our WorldBench 6 test suite. The graphics of the two machines ran neck-and-neck as well.
The IQ500t's display features excellent contrast and impressive saturation. Text is extremely readable, and interacting with the display by touching it elicits a crisp response. Watching movies on the system's integrated Blu-ray drive is a treat, but the beauty of the screen owes part of its allure to a glossy treatment--also found on some of HP's desktop monitors--that's both a blessing and curse. It livens up images with vivid color and increases the richness of the screen's blacks. But you can't help but stare at yourself in dark scenes or backgrounds: The mirrorlike effect is powerful, almost distracting.
Five USB ports grace the case of the IQ500t, two on the left side and three on the rear. You'll find the volume controls for the integrated speakers on the right, just above the five-in-one media card reader. The very front features a Webcam, and the rear is where you'll find a mass of connections: gigabit ethernet (the system also includes 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi), a coaxial S/PDIF output, a TV-tuner input, S-Video, and a basic analog audio input. Although that seems like a lot more connectivity compared with the A600, when was the last time you used S-Video? And while the S/PDIF output is great for integration into your existing home theater setup, HDMI would have been a better choice.
Upgrades on the IQ500t are limited to replacing the hard drive and the memory. As with most all-in-ones, the process is more complicated than upgrading a desktop, but an included upgrade manual walks you through each step quickly and easily. A comprehensive system health and security utility comes as part of the software bundle. It's a great one-stop resource for checking your system's performance and connections, and among other tidbits it has features for planning backups and evaluating your current storage capacities. I like this utility almost as much as I enjoy HP's TouchCenter, which is a full-fledged, iPhone-style scrolling dashboard that lets you access RSS feeds, music, applications, games, and anything else you want to throw in. This is the standard that all other touchscreen all-in-one PCs should work toward, period.
HP's included input devices aren't quite as innovative. They win points for going wireless, but the standard keyboard and the generic two-button mouse offer no additional functionality beyond the three volume-control buttons on the former. HP tries to alleviate that (and increase your use of the system's HDTV tuner) by throwing a Media Center-themed remote control into the mix, but why couldn't that functionality be built into the keyboard or mouse? One system, three separate external input devices--it's a bit much.
HP's TouchSmart IQ500t and Lenovo's IdeaCentre A600, two closely matched titans fighting it out for supremacy, are equally great in performance marks, display quality, and included software bundles, though the IQ500t gets bonus points for having a multitouch display with excellent tailored software. The HP also provides slightly more connectivity, while the Lenovo has better upgradability and input devices. In the end, only you can decide whether the ability to poke the panel and pop up programs is worth the $500 difference in price.