Review updated 7/21/09: The 25.5-inch TouchSmart IQ816 is one of the nicest all-in-one PCs we've tried. Though its general-purpose performance is slightly weaker than that of rival all-in-ones (let alone cheaper desktop rigs), it makes up for its minor shortcomings with a huge multitouch display and extras such as ambient lighting.
Its specs are showing signs of age, however. The 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 processor is fine, but the chip is coupled with 4GB DDR2-667 memory, versus the DDR2-800 or faster varieties found in newer all-in-one PCs. Additionally, the 750GB hard disk--though capacious--isn't quite the same as the 1TB drive found in HP's own TouchSmart IQ500t, or in competitors such as the Lenovo IdeaCentre A600 and Apple's 24-inch iMac.
The TouchSmart's WorldBench 6 score of 81 backs up our conclusion that it'll do just fine on everyday tasks. But 81 is also the lowest score we saw from any high-end all-in-one PC we tested (those with screens 20 inches or above). Even the $944 Dell Studio One 19 whizzed past the IQ816 with a result of 93.
The IQ816's native resolution of 1920 by 1200 (high for an all-in-one) allowed it to run all but our 2560-by-1600-resolution graphics tests. Tested at 1920 by 1200, its Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and Unreal Tournment 3 frame rates hovered at a little under 30 frames per second. The TouchSmart's sweet spot for more playable frame rates seems to be 1680 by 1050: At that resolution it achieved an average of 41 fps in Unreal Tournament 3 at high quality settings. At 1920 by 1200, however, it managed only 23 fps.
The screen makes high-definition content look good. You'll want to make sure, though, that you attain the perfect viewing angle, as looking down on the IQ816 from above makes the whites of the screen appear blown out, and glancing at it from below darkens the image considerably. One additional frustration: You can't use the touchscreen to select the Blu-ray features of your movie. Instead you must tap a virtualized remote to move between selections. Lame.
The exterior of the IQ816 is a slick, glossy black. Enjoy it, because you won't have much to do inside the case. Your upgrading options are restricted to adding to or replacing the memory, as well as replacing the hard drive in the IQ816's sole 3.5-inch bay. Although that doesn't sound like a lot, the system's upgradability is right up there as one of the best examples in the all-in-one category.
A total of five USB 2.0 ports are split across the side and rear of the IQ816. A mini-FireWire 400 port sits underneath an MMC/SD/SDHC card reader on the system's right side, so you don't have to hug the system just to connect an external device. The slot-loading Blu-ray reader and DVD burner, a Sony Optiarc BC-5600S, conceals itself on the right side of the case. A gigabit ethernet port is on the side/rear (even though the IQ816 comes with an integrated wireless 802.11b/g/n minicard), along with connection options for S/PDIF audio, S-Video output, and a standard cable coaxial input for the included TV tuner. All of that adds up to a great amount of connectivity for an all-in-one PC, and we especially like how the IQ816 can transform into an HD-ready television after you press just a few buttons.
HP's tweaks are what separate this system from its peers. For starters, you can adjust the color and brightness of the ambient light that points down from the PC to whatever you desire. It's a nice nod to the ambient-lighting setups of modern LCD televisions, and it's pretty fun to play with. Beyond that, the system's TouchSmart Center software brings Apple-like customization to your display. You can drag and throw giant icons around to create your own easy-to-access application listings, manage and play your multimedia content, and launch your favorite programs at a touch of the screen. No more fooling around with a hard-to-navigate Start menu or tiny Windows icons--HP has repurposed the desktop specifically for a touchscreen audience, and it's an awesome change.
Not so grand are the system's wireless input devices. They're dull. The glossy black mouse is of the two-button generic variety; and the keyboard, while slim and sleek, contains no additional functionality save for volume-control buttons, a mute button, and a sleep button. Yawn, indeed.
Finding an all-in-one PC that blends awesome functionality, design, and usability in a single, touchscreen-based package is difficult. But the TouchSmart IQ816's slick look, integrated touch-based software, and acceptable performance are a powerful combination.