The Star Attractions
The HP TouchSmart PC
Although HP ostensibly had four major products at the launch, all eyes were naturally on the HP TouchSmart PC. This is a device that HP feels deserving of a brand new category by itself or as Mr Koch reminded us repeatedly: it is an 'iconic' and revolutionary product. As demonstrated by Ameer Karim from HP's Digital Home Solutions division, fingers are all you need to navigate through this system as the touchscreen is based on optical technology rather than resistivity, hence there is no need for a stylus.
According to HP, our basic sense of touch is more intuitive and has a lower learning curve than the typical mouse and keyboard, making it suitable for the entire family from the young to the old. There is always the fall back to the mouse and keyboard for those who are too attached to your shortcuts and mouse gestures and here, HP shows its attention to detail. For example, HP has gone for a laser mouse instead of the more common optical technology so that it will work on all surfaces, including glass and polished metal, surfaces that one could conceivably find in the kitchen, which happened to be the setting for the media demonstration. For the most part however, one could rely on fingers alone and a storage bay ensures that the wireless keyboard and stylus can be stowed below the PC out of sight.
The interface where you interact with this device is called the HP SmartCenter, but it is in fact a custom application layer on top of the Windows Vista operating system. One can personalize the applications that appear on screen, with the more frequently used ones like calendar and music prominently displayed. Anyone who has used Windows Media Center should be generally familiar with this interface, more so if you have tested the new Vista Home Premium edition. Icons are large and easy to select, including specially enlarged ones for the Internet Explorer browser to fit fatter fingers. Users can create custom post-it notes to stick on their virtual desktops and just as easily, merge them into the calendar through HP SmartCalendar application.
Other notable features include an internal FM/TV tuner, a slot loading DVD burner with LightScribe technology and a bay for HP's Pocket Media drive, its proprietary external hard drive product. It is indeed a versatile machine that seems to have everything. Which begs the question of where exactly do you place it so as to maximize its capabilities? For one, the kitchen is unlikely to have television connections though we imagine some users would prefer it in the kitchen so as to have easy access to recipes and shopping lists. It all depends on the individual.
This PC is powered by AMD's Turion 64 X2 TL-52 processor, a surprising choice considering its weaker performance relative to Intel's Core 2 Duo range. Perhaps HP was leery of increasing the cost of this product any further as going Intel is presently more expensive. As it stands now, the HP TouchSmart PC is not exactly targeted at the mainstream with an estimated street price of US$2499 in Asia Pacific and it is also not expected to be available until at least April 2007 even if you wanted one now.
The HP Pavilion tx1000
HP's director of notebook design, Stacy Wolff was one of the speakers at the launch and he was able to give us a glimpse into the design process, including the genesis of the unique HP imprint on the notebook exterior. As he also remarked, "Thin is in," and the HP Pavilion tx1000 notebook does an admirable job of keeping a slim, low profile despite its entertainment driven focus, measuring slightly under 4cm.
Music, photos and videos can be viewed and played easily through HP's QuickPlay feature without a need to boot into the operating system. This ease of use is supported by the hardware. Besides a small remote control that fits into the Express Card slot. The notebook's audio capability is delivered through integrated Altec Lansing speakers. We didn't really have a chance to test those speakers but from our previous experiences with previous HP notebooks, they were pretty decent albeit somewhat lacking in bass unsurprisingly.
The only complaint against it as a multimedia monster would be its relatively modest 12.1-inch widescreen display. It makes up for that with its 180 degrees of movement that allows for the best viewing angle. Additionally, the display is a touchscreen panel that can be converted into a tablet style slate. A stylus is provided of course but you can use the tips of your fingers for input. In fact, one could do away with both the stylus and the touchpad. A well-placed fingerprint sensor at the edge of the screen is all you need for authentication to all your accounts and even secure websites. In the end, HP probably has to juggle between the portability and multimedia aspects of this notebook and users will need to evaluate if they can accept the compromises made.
Again, AMD provides the Turion 64 X2 dual core processors that power this notebook. While we feel that Intel probably has the edge now in terms performance, low thermals and power consumption, AMD does offer a competitive advantage and its mobile products have been improving steadily. The NVIDA GeForce Go 6150 graphics has limited gaming capability, but one shouldn't expect too much from a notebook that weighs under 2kg including a 4-cell battery. The GPU however does a dandy job in aiding video playback needs, be it SD or HD clips. Particularly for an affordable price of US$1299, this notebook should be well suited for students, general consumers and office drones alike.