We got a quick glimpse into HP's newest TouchSmart model about two weeks ago in our labs thanks to HP and found the unit pretty much a nice upgrade for the series. Featuring a newer UI which replaces the older SmartCenter UI, the TouchSmart UI allows for easy customization, a smoother web 2.0-like feel and features two-finger touch support. Gone too are the bulky behinds of the older model, the new IQ500 packs a slim and svelte figure and a design inspired by a trendy document bag. If you're worried about scratches on the unit, you'll also be pleased to know that the 22-inch panel features scratch resistant glass that should hold up well for normal usage. Prices are expected to start from US$1,399, so it's well within reach by many.
The new UI is definitely the highlight for the unit, allowing users to add different applications to the sliding panels via a drag and drop interface. Panels can be accessed with a simple flick of a finger, though the scrolling was a tad quick and does take some time to familiarize 'finger travel' on the screen. Playing music is a simple affair using the same drag and drop interface while viewing pictures using a two-finger pinch motion which is pretty similar to Apple's own.
The pretty IQ500 does have some flaws though, though we'll be looking to see if the final retail version will address the issues that we've mentioned to HP during the sneak preview. The sensitivity of the UI still needs a little adjustment, and the glossy surface (which won't be changed, most likely) does leave us scratching our heads, especially since the unit will be touched most of the time. Visible fingerprint smudges tend to become really unsightly, as some of you with glossy piano black products may have come to realize. We'll give it a more in-depth review when we get our hands on the retail unit, so do keep an eye out for our article!