All-in-one touchscreen PCs have been materializing on retail and e-tail shelves at an alarming rate over the past year, and in 2011 HP seeks to take things up a notch with their new TouchSmart 610 and TouchSmart Elite 9300 computers. While there weren't any specifics offered during the conference as to the configurations of these units, there's one very interesting feature that HP added.
The stands for the new models now allow them to actually swivel down to a 60-degree angle. If your immediate reaction was "the only thing my touchscreen PC experience was missing was chronic neck pain, thank you HP!" then you aren't alone, but keep two things in mind: the stand works perfectly fine as an actual stand (this is just an option), and for certain uses like store kiosks, this could be a big improvement. Consider the swivel a value-add that opens up the TouchSmart to other markets, allows for different usage scenarios, and reaching forward and manipulating a flat surface in front of you as opposed to at an angle could potentially be more comfortable.
As we said, nitty gritty details weren't readily available during the press call, but the consumer-oriented TouchSmart 610 is now available for purchase on HP's website. The AMD-based model 610z starts at $800 (with the current $200 instant rebate) and comes with an Athlon II 250 (dual-core 3.0GHz), 4GB RAM, 750GB HDD, and a Radeon HD 4270. Upgrades can take the CPU up to the Phenom II X4 910e (quad-core 2.6GHz), you can bump the GPU up to an HD 5570, and you can also add a Blu-ray combo drive. Other features include a 1.3-megapixel webcam, Beats Audio, 802.11n WiFi, wireless keyboard and mouse, and a copy of RUSE (a PC game that's supposed to benefit from the touch interface).
There's also an Intel model, the 610xt, which starts at $1150 (with the current $300 savings). The base model comes with an Arrandale i5-650 CPU (dual-core + Hyper-Threading 3.2GHz), and can be upgraded as far as a quad-core i7-880 (3.06GHz). There's currently a free upgrade to 6GB RAM (from the normal 4GB), as well as a 1TB HDD (instead of 750GB). The stock GPU is a GeForce G210, or you can upgrade to an HD 5570 1GB for $30 (or a 2GB 5570 for $80 - yeah, forget about that card!) Other features and accessories are the same as the AMD model.
The more business-focused Elite 9300 bumps the webcam up to two megapixels and features a 90% efficient power supply, but isn't expected to be available until May.
If there's one thing we do appreciate, it's the gradual simplifying of HP's notebook designs over the past year. There's a much appreciated move away from glossy plastics in the industry, and HP's newer notebooks are becoming more and more minimalistic in their appearances. There aren't any major updates to any of HP's lines other than a greater push towards improving the aesthetics and entertainment experiences except for one: HP has migrated Beats Audio down to its consumer dv6 and dv7 lines. These notebooks both feature quad speaker Beats Audio setups (previously the exclusive domain of the Envy line) and draw more than a few design cues from their more expensive Envy cousins.
Actually, there's one more major change in HP's notebook lineup that's going to be very welcome to a lot of us. This one hasn't been aggressively announced: the triumphant return of dedicated touchpad buttons. The clickable touchpad seemed like a great idea when Apple introduced it, but every iteration that's appeared on a Windows notebook has been difficult at best, dire at worst. Such are the sacrifices that must be made in the name of right-clicking. Welcome back dedicated mouse buttons, we missed you!
The new dedicated-mouse-buttons and Beats-Audio-enabled HP dv6 and dv7 notebooks (along with their refreshed but newly right-clickable G series notebooks) are set to start showing up in retail in mid-to-late March.