Most home computers today look and feel like office equiment, even though the business at hand is usually listening to music, watching DVDs, organizing and printing photos, and surfing for embarrassing pictures of "American Idol" contestants. With this in mind, HP threw out the old computer design rulebook to create the most family-friendly PC I've seen.
The TouchSmart IQ770, a striking one-piece system with a stowaway wireless mouse and keyboard, fits perfectly in the den, the kitchen or anywhere else you'd like to keep digital media and information at your fingertips. And I do mean fingertips—the beautiful 19-inch display is actually a touch screen that responds to your fingers or a stylus to navigate through Windows Vista programs. Whether you want to open a file, click a Web page icon or even play solitaire, simply touching, tapping and dragging your finger on the screen conveniently re-creates computer mouse commands. HP enhanced the concept by creating its own SmartCenter software, adding useful touch-based applications and streamlining access to your favorite programs. For example, the message center lets you create virtual Post-its or even record voice notes for family members. SmartCenter lets you manage photos, keep a family calendar and view local weather right out of the box. Go through the easy customization steps and any program or Web page you like is just a touch away.
The TouchSmart system is also a powerful all-in-one media center at a price of $1,799. In addition to CD, DVD and MP3 playback, it has a built-in TV tuner (both standard definition and broadcast high-definition channels), Vista's Window's Media Center software for recording your favorite shows, and a huge 320-gigabyte hard drive. There's even a cleverly designed slot that lines up with an optional photo printer to create your own personal photo kiosk. Choose and edit pictures using the mouse, finger or stylus, then press the on-screen print button and the PC deposits a snapshot into your waiting hands.
I have only two significant requests for future TouchSmart upgrades. A faster processor would be welcome—this isn't an ideal gaming PC. And an automated system for removing peanut butter fingerprints from the screen would be a major step forward. Yes, a soft, damp cloth works fine, but it lacks that Jetsons-era pizzazz.