The TouchSmart IQ770 is designed to be a family Media Center PC. We first encountered it at CES 2007, where it was touted as the digital alternative to placing sticky notes on a refridgerator, and it's finally made it these shores.
Its touch-sensitive screen is supposed to be the ideal space for scribbling text notes that can be seen by the entire family, and its upright, all-in-one design apparently gives you freedom to position it in rooms where a full desktop PC and monitor aren't appropriate.
Can it replace the humble Post-It note? Is a kitchen-bound Media Center PC a ridiculous concept? Let's investigate.
The TouchSmart IQ770 is an odd-looking thing. Unlike most all-in-one PCs, it has a V-shaped base section that allows the screen to be raised, lowered or angled as desired. It's certainly clever, but its attractiveness is subjective -- some people in our office thought it was attractive; others hated it.
TouchSmart IQ770 doesn't clutter your work area with needless wires. It occupies only as much room as a standard TFT monitor and is self-contained, barring the wireless keyboard and mouse. Even adding a printer needn't add clutter -- the base of the IQ770 contains a dock designed to accept an HP PhotoSmart Touch photo printer.
It's in HP's best interests to limit your reliance on the keyboard and mouse, so it's no surprise to see a stylus slotted at the top left of the screen. There are also shortcut keys for controlling media playback -- these are logically positioned just above the slot-loading DVD drive in the base section. To the right of this you'll find an easy-to-access memory card reader, so it's easy to get files on and off the thing.
The TouchSmart IQ770 ships with Windows Vista Home Premium edition, which includes Media Center. This makes it exceptionally simple to browse your movies, music and images via the touchscreen, mouse or keyboard, or via the bundled infrared remote control. HP supplies a 320GB hard drive, which is big enough to stash a few hundred DivX movies, or to record a similar amount of content from the bundled analogue and Freeview TV tuner card.
Videos and images look great on the IQ770's 19-inch widescreen display. It runs at a native resolution of 1,440x900-pixels, but its biggest selling point is its sensitivity to touch. It uses a passive stylus instead of a digitiser, which means it can also accept inputs from your finger. The screen has a hard coating that can be wiped clean in case of greasy fingerprints.
Getting media on and off the machine is simple enough -- there's a slot-loading DVD rewriter drive at the front of the base section, alongside an 8-in-1 memory card reader that supports most popular formats. The IQ770 packs a gigabit Ethernet port (1,000Mbps) for high-speed LAN connectivity, but if you do intend to use the PC in the kitchen you'll be better off using the integrated Wi-Fi adaptor. This supports 802.11a/b/g networks.
The IQ770's software package is appropriate for its target audience. It includes the Microsoft Works 8.5 office productivity suite, Cyberlink DVD play, Roxio Creator Basic, Muvee autoProducer and a 60-day trial version of Norton Internet Security 2007. HP also includes software that mimics the behaviour of Post-It notes. This lets you leave on-screen notes for your family and is an alternative to putting sticky notes on the fridge, although we couldn't see ourselves using it frequently.
HP offers a one-year pick-up and return warranty covering parts and labour, which isn't particularly generous. Anyone who's prone to kitchen-based accidents or has yet to master the intricacies of the deep fat fryer is advised to get extra cover.
HP has put plenty of thought into the internal design of the PC. In order to keep the machine cool, quiet and compact, it uses several parts normally found inside laptop computers. The main players are the 1.6GHz AMD Turion 64 TL-52 processor, and a couple of 1GB SO-DIMM laptop memory modules.
Graphics duties are handled by an Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics chip, which again, was originally designed for a laptop. It has 256MB of its own dedicated video memory, but can draw a further 256MB from system memory should you require a bit of extra oomph. It won't be rubbing shoulders with any Alienware or Dell XPS systems, but it'll let you indulge in the odd bout of Half-Life 2.
The TouchSmart IQ770's performance is average. It felt occasionally sluggish in everyday use, but this never becomes intolerable. Its laptop-oriented components helped it achieve a PCMark 2005 score of 3,765 -- about what we'd expect from a mid-range laptop.
Graphics performance was slightly more impressive: the Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 clocked up 2,294 in 3DMark 2006, and 19 frames per second in F.E.A.R -- although we had every single graphics enhancement on the maximum setting, plus anti-aliasing at 4x and anisotropic filtering on 8x. It won't shy away from most games, provided you do without the fancy effects.
On the whole, we find the PC's performance acceptable, but this is definitely not the sort of PC you'd want to edit hi-def video on. And don't even think about upgrading it with faster components unless you're extremely confident with PC hardware.
You can easily get a better-specced normal PC for the same money, but that misses the point. The IQ770 is simply one cool piece of kit. Having a Media Center machine in your kitchen is probably the height of decadence, but if you've got the money to burn and don't want to play the latest games at the highest quality settings, you won't be disappointed.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide