Touch, Feel and Go!
Touch, Feel and Go!
Obviously, the initial instinct for us, and probably any user confronting the HP TouchSmart PC for the first time, is to reach out with our fingers and touch. The glossy 19-inch wide screen display was quickly dotted with our fingerprints, though it certainly held up much more admirably than we expected. HP has said that they have tested the screen with a variety of icky stuff, from oil to peanut butter, and it has fared rather well. Given that one of HP's ideal locations for this PC is in the kitchen, it's probably no surprise that such tests have been done. Based on our experience, you'll end up having to clean the touchscreen (of fingerprints at least) regularly, unless you don't mind the smudges.
Unlike resistive touchscreen technology commonly found in tablet PCs and other touch based electronic devices like the Nintendo DS, HP has gone for optical based technology that relies on thin strips of sensors lining the inner border of the wide screen display. This implies that physical contact between the finger/stylus and the touchscreen is not actually required. Simply putting your fingers close to the surface such that the sensors could pick up their presence is sufficient to trigger the desired response. Of course, hovering over the touchscreen is much more tiring than just touching the screen, so we doubt anyone will be using it in this fashion.
Since our fingers or even the included stylus are generally thicker and pudgier than a mouse cursor, some modifications were needed to enable the touchscreen interface to work. HP has included a touch optimization program that will increase the size of the icons and menus, optimizing them for touch. Not everything translates well though, and some of the icons we noticed got rather ugly and pixelated when enlarged.
It can also get rather tiring using the touchscreen. While the concept of touch interfaces may look intuitive and cool, doing work with such an interface is a different story. It could be our lack of exercise, but we found our arms aching just from using the touchscreen for a short while. In a way, the touchscreen interface parallels the Wiimote controller introduced by Nintendo for its popular new console, the Nintendo Wii. Both are fresh interfaces that can be very intuitive with almost no learning curve. However, the jury is still out on whether these new interfaces can be anything more than a gimmick. In our case, we soon got back to using the keyboard and mouse for its precision and speed, especially for dreary tasks like managing our folders and files. For one, the 'right-click' equivalent for the touch interface is to hold the finger there until the menu appears and that takes longer than simply using the mouse. We have to admit, playing games like Chess Titans and Solitaire using our fingers was a guilty pleasure and it was also easier navigating simple applications like multimedia controls by touch just like a remote. While there are probably other aspects of the interface that we haven't explored thoroughly, one cannot yet fully eschew the traditional keyboard and mouse input, especially for a home PC.