HP TouchSmart 9300 Elite: The Consummate Workhorse
At a Glance
HP's TouchSmart 9300 Elite is a business-centric, all-in-one powerhouse. It may not be much to look at, but it delivers excellent performance, sits on an easy-to-adjust stand, and even tackles multimedia rather well.
Our review model, priced at $1599 (as of February 9, 2012), came packed with an Intel Core i7-2600 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT425M graphics card, a slot-loading Blu-ray drive, a high-definition webcam, and built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. As befits a business PC, our model ran the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional.
In our PCWorld Labs' WorldBench 6 benchmark tests, the TouchSmart 9300 Elite earned an impressive mark of 148, putting near the top of its category, big-screen all-in-one PCs, for performance. By way of comparison, our current top-rated big-screen all-in-one, the Lenovo IdeaCentre B520, scored only slightly higher, at 156.
The TouchSmart 9300 Elite performs acceptably in graphics tests, though it's hardly a gaming machine. In our Unreal Tournament 3 tests, the system managed a frame rate of 37.1 frames per second (at high quality settings, and 1920-by-1200-pixel resolution). The aforementioned IdeaCentre B520 managed a frame rate of 48.2 fps in the same tests, while the current second-place all-in-one on our chart, the HP TouchSmart 610 Quad, sustained 47.2 fps at a lower resolution.
The TouchSmart 9300 Elite is not impressive aesthetically. The solid, matte-black bezel surrounding the glossy 23-inch display is sharply squared off at the corners. A small silver HP logo adorns the lower left corner, over matte-black speakers that are separated from the rest of the bezel by a thin silver line.
The system sits on a glossy and very solid plastic black stand, which is by far the most attractive part of the design; too bad you can't really see it, since it's behind the screen. It borrows the design we saw in HP's TouchSmart 610: The entire display slides down continuously until it's almost parallel to the desk, which makes tapping away on the touchscreen much more convenient. It's a nice touch (ha!), and one that's likely to show up on more HP machines later on.
Peripherals are sleek but boring: You get a flat, wireless HP keyboard with smooth, chiclet-style keys and a shiny wireless mouse. The keyboard is easy to type on and provides good feedback, though the keys are so flat that the design takes a little getting used to. Extra buttons on the keyboard include volume controls, a dedicated Internet button for firing up the browser, and a sleep button. The mouse is a tad heavy and large, but it moves smoothly and feels comfortable in the hand.
On the left side of the PC, you'll find a multiformat card reader, two USB 2.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks, and volume controls. There are no ports on the right side--just a slot for the optical drive. On the back, behind a somewhat inconvenient panel, are four more USB 2.0 ports, an ethernet port, an audio-out jack, a DisplayPort, and a Kensington Lock slot. Some versions of the TouchSmart 9300 Elite include a TV coaxial connector and an IR-emitter-out, but ours didn't.
The TouchSmart 9300 Elite's glossy, 23-inch LED-backlit widescreen display has a native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels (full high definition). The touchscreen is very responsive and accurate, and I found it generally easy to use. The display looked excellent, though slightly dark (there's no quick way to adjust brightness on the monitor or on the keyboard), with crisp images and good color fidelity. Off-axis viewing angles were better than most, though I noticed some loss of clarity and brightness as I moved from side to side.
The all-in-one's multimedia playback was excellent--and there's a Blu-ray player to boot--suggesting that HP intends for users to put this machine to work as an HDTV on occasion. The speakers are so loud that sitting within 2 feet of the computer with the speakers at maximum volume was almost painful), and decently full, with good-but-not-great bass performance. Video looked very good on the TouchSmart 9300 Elite's glossy screen, with little to no artifacting or fuzziness, even in HD streaming tests.
Still, the system lacks some features I would expect in an all-in-one that I wanted to double as a TV. Our review model came without a built-in TV tuner (no surprise there), HDMI-out, an eSATA port, and any USB 3.0 ports. So the TouchSmart 9300 Elite falls a little short of being an awesome multimedia powerhouse.
The bundled applications consist of HP's standard TouchSmart software, which adds a finger-friendly overlay for interacting with your PC. You also get a full complement of business-oriented software, including HP's Power Assistant power profile manager, Protect Tools, and HP Advisor.
Ultimately, the HP TouchSmart 9300 Elite does what it's supposed to do: perform business tasks quickly and easily. I'm a little disappointed with the lack of extras (especially on something called "Elite") and with the boring-yet-functional design. But you can find plenty of consumer-oriented offerings from HP and others designed to look a little nicer on your desk. If you're looking to get things done, the TouchSmart 9300 Elite fits the bill very nicel indeed.