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But the concept just won?t go away and HP has spent the last four years scurrying away at it, this time with the consumer launch of Vista in mind...

HP Touchsmart IQ770 PC

But the concept just won’t go away and HP has spent the last four years scurrying away at it, this time with the consumer launch of Vista in mind.

The result, the TouchSmart IQ770 PC, proved to be one of the real stars of CES this year. It’s certainly a brave piece of design, but the TouchSmart impressed all who saw it.

The wide-aspect panel runs at 1,440 x 900 – what you’d expect on a 19-inch wide desktop panel, and 720p HD video looks fantastic on it. There’s no disfiguring digitising mesh or opaque, touch-sensitive membrane either.

HP has used infrared sensors around the bezel, leaving the panel’s ample brightness and wide viewing angles undiminished. It’s a responsive and accurate solution to the touchscreen problem, to the point that you don’t even need to make physical contact with the screen for your touch to be recognised.

You do have to get within a millimetre or two, though, so you can’t quite use Minority Report-style gestures. It’s HP’s SmartCenter software that’s the killer stroke. Touch the Home button on the bezel, and you’ll be greeted by a set of big, friendly icons. You can customise this with applications, web links or one of HP’s proprietary applications.

Much of the time you’ll find yourself in Media Center, with mixed results. The new-look parts lend themselves particularly well to touch. More of an issue is the screen transition between SmartCenter and Internet Explorer, or to another area of Media Center: where we’d expect a smooth fade-in, fade-out approach, there’s often flickering or a black screen.

Nonetheless, for a ‘version one’ piece of software, it feels remarkably mature.

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