HP TouchSmart 300-1230 review

All-in-one entertainment PC with a 20in touchscreen
Photo of HP TouchSmart 300-1230
£799

The latest edition of HP’s TouchSmart 300 is a solidly built all-in-one desktop PC with a 20in, 16:9 widescreen touch-sensitive display. Just under three inches thick, it sits on two stubby legs, with a third leg that folds out backwards. Depending on how far that stand is extended, the screen can be tilted back at an angle of up to 40 degrees.

It’s smart to touch
The operating system is Windows 7 Home Premium, complete with touchscreen capabilities. We found the touchscreen quite accurate, bar the occasional spot of fiddlinesswhen trying to select small menu items (more Windows 7′s fault than HP’s, we suspect). Multi-touch gestures such as ‘pinch to zoom’ are supported, with HP providing the TouchSmart 3.0 software from which the machine takes its name.

TouchSmart 3.0 provides an array of compact and user-friendly apps gathered under one hub, all of which are designed to work well with the touchscreen. A paint program lets the user literally finger paint, with a neat interface which makes altering colours and brush sizes a snap. Another app lets you can scrawl handwritten notes to yourself using another app.

Other software
Intuitive music, video and picture management facilities are also provided, along with a calendar, Twitter widget – even a simple recipe app, should you choose to drag the PC into the kitchen (just don’t get flour on that screen!). Overall, this is a neat collection of touch-powered mini-utilities, even if scrolling through the apps under the main hub has a slightly sluggish and imprecise feel.

When it comes to firing up a word processor, you can pull out a virtual, on-screen keyboard can be pulled from the side of the desktop and tap away (it helps to have the display tilted back for this). HP also includes a wireless keyboard and mouse, because as anyone who has used a typical virtual keyboard knows, it’s far from ideal. The mouse is pretty bog standard, but the keyboard is a little more impressive, a slimline model with a quiet and pleasant typing action.

Technical specifications
Let’s move on to some vital statistics. The TouchSmart 300′s innards comprise a 2.2GHz Athlon II X3 400e processor, backed up with 4GB of RAM, a 750GB hard disk, and a GeForce G210 graphics controller with 512MB of on-board memory. The latter component obviously limits the entertainment capabilities of the computer in terms of gaming, but we were pleasantly surprised to discover that it could older but still moderately demanding games such as Dirt 2.

Cranking the visuals up to the panel’s full native resolution of 1,600×900 obviously wasn’t an option for a playable frame rate, but down-tuning to 1,280×720 produced fairly smooth and reasonable-looking results. This isn’t a unit that keen gamers will be considering – but it’s worth noting that for casual players, it’ll do the job to an extent.

That’s entertainment…
The TouchSmart 300′s entertainment facilities are really geared towards movies and TV programmes. It offers decent DVD picture quality, which is nicely bright if not hugely crisp, and faster scenes move smoothly with no noticeable ghosting. The built-in speakers kick out some passable noises – and at a surprising volume – although turning them up too much means the inevitable distortion kicks in, with a slight buzzing sound coming from the unit.

A coaxial TV input is provided on the back, along with an S-video input, and there’s a TV tuner on board. The TouchSmart 300 also comes with a full-size TV remote control, all of which makes it a viable choice for a second television. Other ports include five USB (two of which are on the side), a headphone socket, S/P-DIF digital out, an Ethernet port, and a 6-in-1 multi-card reader.

To round the deal off, HP has thrown in an integrated webcam (with built-in mic), plus thoughtful extras such as a good quality cleaning cloth to keep the touchscreen in good nick. The company has clearly made sure there’s plenty on board, which is one of the reasons that the TouchSmart 300 is such a hefty piece of kit. That said, it would still have been nice to see an HDMI port tucked away somewhere.

Company: HP

Contact: 0845 270 4142

Positives
  • Smart looking and well integrated all-in-one.
Negative
  • Bit expensive for a system with a 20in screen; graphics a bit underpowered.

Verdict

HP has packed a number of features into this all-in-one, including a TV tuner plus remote control. The TouchSmart software is slick too, but you do pay for all of this - the £799 price tag seems a bit steep given the 20in screen size. Still, this is a solid all-rounder that can even handle gaming at a pinch - although don't expect the GeForce G210 to handle anything remotely serious at the native resolution of the panel.