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September 27, 2008

In an IT world increasingly dominated by notebook PCs, be they small low power netbooks or fully fledged desktop replacements, the regular desktop PC is becoming increasingly marginalised – a fact only exacerbated by the slow decline of PC gaming. All-In-One PCs like the Apple iMac and today’s specimen, the HP TouchSmart IQ500, have only enhanced this impression, though in the case of the TouchSmart PC things aren’t as straightforward as that.

Why is that, then? Well, the clue is in the name because whereas the likes of the iMac content themselves to regular PC duties, albeit in a compact and all inclusive shell, the HP throws a touchscreen into the mix as well. This is matched with a custom touch interface for accessing music, video, photos and all manner of other things, while a TV Tuner and a 500GB hard drive make this into something of a multimedia centre, too

This is, in fact, the second generation of TouchSmart PCs, the first being the IQ770, but the IQ500 is so far removed from the original, that it feels like an entirely new product. Indeed, when we first set eyes upon the IQ500 at HP’s global launched event in June (see: Hands-On with HP TouchSmart IQ500), we’re not ashamed to admit we were somewhat smitten. Whereas the original TouchSmart was a rather bulky affair, the IQ500 is more like the great majority of All-In-One PCs in being slim, compact and thanks to some curvaceous lines and a clever stand, very good looking.

A smart glossy black bezel and silver trim surround a 22in, 1,680 x 1,050 LCD display that, like the iPhone, uses capacitive rather than resistive touchscreen technology. All you really need to take from this is that whereas older touchscreens required a certain level of pressure, the screen on the IQ500 responds to the lightest of touches. It’s also an impressively bright and colourful effort, bringing out photos and video with no shortage of fidelity, even if the glossy finish renders it more reflective than many. Going back to that stand, the system employed by HP is indecently simple but also incredibly effective. At the front are two little Perspex legs, both of which are balanced against a large adjustable arm at the back. It can be adjusted to offer anywhere between a 10 degree and 45 degree viewing angle and is suitably stiff and secure that it provides faultless stability.

Either side of the screen are an assortment of connections and shortcut buttons. On the left, for instance, are a couple of easy access USB ports, headphone and microphone jacks, above which sits a button for adjusting the ‘ambient light’. This runs along the bottom edge of the machine, lighting up the keyboard in the dark, and though we’d sooner see a backlit keyboard, this does the job well enough. Meanwhile on the right are a memory card reader and a four-pin FireWire port, above which sit some volume controls.

Things only improve with the provided peripherals. Both the keyboard and mouse are wireless, something the iMac doesn’t offer, and are excellent. Indeed, the keyboard in particular stands out. It’s very slim, slotting nicely underneath the machine when not in use, has strong, responsive keys and a faultless layout. Likewise, the provided remote is large, easy to handle and feels every bit as well put together as the rest of the TouchSmart PC.

Predictably enough there are more connections on the back, hidden discreetly behind a removable panel. These include three more USB ports, an Ethernet port, an S/PDIF digital audio out, a regular 3.5mm audio output, a TV Aerial input, S-Video out, an audio Line-in and infrared receiver for the remote. All of which is pretty sufficient for a machine of this type, though if one were being picky a couple of video inputs (i.e. HMDI or Component) might extend the machine’s uses somewhat.

Of course, despite the TV Tuner and multimedia leanings the IQ500 is still a PC, but, it must be said, not an especially powerful one. Presumably to help maintain a relatively quiet and cool machine HP has utilised mobile components rather than desktop ones and though there’s nothing essentially wrong with this, those on offer here are somewhat threadbare. Its 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5850, for instance, means in raw terms the IQ500 isn’t much faster than, say, the Samsung R510 - a relatively modest entry level laptop.

This, for the most part, isn’t a problem while navigating the sumptuous touch sensitive interface (more on which in a moment), but even with 4GB of RAM and 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium this shouldn’t be misconstrued as a genuine desktop replacement - it simply doesn’t have the grunt for such a role. A relatively measly nVidia 9300M GS with 256MB dedicated memory only reinforces this point.

Still, if the IQ500 is no powerhouse it’s largely because it’s not meant to be - its duties are likely to be web surfing, video and TV viewing and the occasional bit of photo editing. For these tasks it’s perfectly capable, while the inclusion of Draft-N wireless and Gigabit Ethernet means you should have no problems streaming content to or from the IQ500. Moreover, the inclusion of integrated Wi-Fi and wireless peripherals meant that, provided you connect nothing else, the IQ500 is essentially a one cable device - that one cable coming from the relatively large AC adapter. This means the IQ500 should generate an absolute minimum of clutter, something all All-In-One PCs should aspire to. Some praise must also be reserved for the integrated speakers. There’s no “5.1 surround sound” trickery going on here, just two discrete full-range drivers, but they’re very good ones, capable of pumping music out with impressive clarity and dealing with TV audio capably, too.

Of course, the IQ500 was always going to live or die on the quality of its touch interface, so it’s about time we got onto that. Initial impressions are, as before, very strong. Upon launching the TouchSmart PC interface from the desktop, or via the ‘Home’ button at the bottom right, you’re greeted by a tile based arrangement that’s unintimidating and simply invites interaction.

This is split into two, with primary applications dominating the centre of the screen and a strip of lower level ones below. Each can be navigated by dragging or flicking your finger across them, with the screen responding to the speed and ferocity or these movements. You can also customise and re-arrange all the programs, dragging and dropping them into your own desired locations. In addition, the larger tiles will display information relevant to that program so, in the case of the weather application, it shows the weather for that day within its tile.

Fundamentally the TouchSmart interface is focussed on multimedia, with music, video and photos being the mainstay of its functionality. Here the TouchSmart performs very well. Both the Music and Photo applications feature a rather smart album flip style interface, along with more conventional grid based systems - with music displayed using album art.

Playlists can be created by dragging and dropping and you can control the music playback from any screen using media controls in top right corner, or through the provided remote. Like any good media player it’ll keep an eye on your music folder, updating as files are added, while you can also opt to use your iTunes music folder if that’s what you happen to use. For anyone who wants to do very minor edits to photos the Photo application is perfectly capable, too. In it you can crop, rotate, auto-enhance and remove red-eye and if you decide the changes aren’t that good, you can always revert back to the original. Everything is arranged intuitively, making it easy for any novice to quickly control.

All is much the same in the Video segment, with large, friendly and easy to use controls. It’s a shame, though, that while you can playback regular video files, you can’t watch DVDs through the TouchSmart interface. This, of course, can be done using Windows Media Center, but it seems like an odd omission.

Elsewhere there’s a moderate assortment of applications, some useful, some less so. We liked the RSS Feed reader and weather applications, while the ability to play chess and solitaire using the touchscreen was nice, though hardly revolutionary. Unfortunately, things like the notes application were less useful. It might look nice but its assortment of sticky notes doesn’t cry out as a killer application, whether it’s simply for writing or recording messages.

We were also a little disappointed by the browser because, though it does the basics pretty well, it lacks a little refinement. To scroll pages you can’t just drag the page around, you have to use the scroll bars either side of the page. You must also rely on Windows’ own and rather basic on-screen keyboard for inputting text, where we’d sooner see something bespoke that’s more attractive and easier to use.

Indeed, if there were one criticism of the TouchSmart interface it would be that it doesn’t quite go far enough. What has been done is excellent; everything works very nicely and is more or less instantly intuitive. Yet, once you’ve played around with it a bit, you can’t help but wish for a little bit more. It would be nice, for instance, to have a custom email client and some kind of basic word processing tool, so that the number of tasks that require the normal OS are greatly reduced. If and when HP achieves this, the TouchSmart will truly be a device that changes the way people use PCs. Still, just to re-iterate, what is there works very well and though the price is comparatively high, the potential uses are numerous. As a TV come PC for communal areas of the home, particularly a kitchen or play room, the IQ500 has great potential and even if you don’t use the touchscreen functionality regularly, this is still a very capable All-In-One PC, a fact helped greatly by the use of wireless accessories. Inevitably this is a machine that will split opinions, one you’ll either “get” or not, but if the idea appeals then it’s definitely worth investigating further and hopefully HP will continue to refine the interface over the coming years.

04:15 AM Sep 27 2008



its a good one ..thx vijay

September 26, 2008

Logitech TrackMan

Average Price: $25
An important fixture on my own desk, my Logitech TrackMan has been with me for 10 years now. I was more than pleased to see the TrackMan take a substantial lead, and while I rarely come across trackball users in my daily grind I'll always know I'm among a rather passionate group of trackball devotees here on Lifehacker. Universally users gave the same reasons I have for using it: it cuts down or completely eliminates RSI pain, with practice using your thumb to control the cursor is extremely precise, and it's nice to not have to devote desk space for moving a mouse around.

Logitech MX Revolution

Average Price: $70
The most popular mouse in the traditional slide-it-around-the-desk category, the MX Revolution has endeared itself to many of you. The rather severe looking indentation on the left side is comfortable and keeps your hand in a more neutral position than a traditional mouse. Within the indentation is a thumb side wheel which functions as an application switcher—essentially Alt+Tab on steroids attached to a thumb control. The primary scroll wheel is a much-loved feature based on Logitech's MicroGear technology. Instead of clicking through a range of motion like most scroll wheels it is free spinning for faster and smoother movement.

Logitech G5

Average Price: $50
Although marketed as a gaming mouse, the majority of readers selected the G5 for the gaming features that make it great at home, on the desktop of a power user. The mouse has a tray in the bottom that allows you to adjust the weight to your preference from no additional weight to 36 grams tucked inside. It has on-board sensitivity switching allowing you to go from 400 to 800 to 2,000 dpi instantly depending on the sensitivity you desire for the application you're using.

Logitech MX 1000/1100

Average Price: $70
The MX1000, while no longer in production, was the first laser-based mouse on the market, and many of you early adopters still have your original purchase. The MX1100 is a subtly-tweaked replacement for the MX1000. Sporting a larger and broader profile than many mice, readers with bigger hands found the MX1100 to be quite comfortable. The MX1100 shares the MicroGear scroll wheel with the MX Revolution for extremely fast scrolling that several readers noted was great for moving quickly through large web sites or spreadsheets.

Logitech MX 510/518

Average Price: $45
While not as flashy as its bigger brothers in the Logitech line and with just a hair less sensitivity at only 1800 dpi, the MX518 makes up for it by being much more economical than say the $70 Revolution. Despite the lower price tag the MX518 still has 8 programmable buttons with conveniently-located forward and backward buttons under your thumb.

Logitech VX Nano

Average Price: $55
The Logitech VX Nano mouse ruled the laptop category. Readers loved the extremely small USB receiver, so small you can leave it in all the time without worry about damage to the laptop or the receiver. When not on the laptop the receiver tucks inside the mouse for storage. Despite its small size, the Nano has the same fast scrolling technology of the larger Logitech mice and five programmable buttons.

Microsoft Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000

Average Price: $60
Breaking out of the Logitech streak, the Microsoft Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 also wins an award for having an absurdly long name. Similar to the thumb based Alt+Tab on the Revolution, the scroll wheel on the Laser Mouse 6000 functions as an application selector when depressed. Many readers noted that the shift in their grip angle while using the Laser Mouse 6000 did away with recurrent wrist pain. Battery life is long enough be a notable feature.

Evoluent Vertical Mouse

Average Price: $70
The readers who used the Evoluent Vertical Mouse were vocal about how much it had done to relieve pain they experienced with using the computer. It's the only mouse we opted to include an "in use" photo for, to avoid it being confused with a simple three button mouse. You really have to see the thing standing up with the hand on it for the full effect. The comfort with the Evoluent stems from the vertical position of the hand. By mousing in a handshake instead of a palm down position you prevent your forearm from twisting unnaturally. Basic shape aside, the Evoluent sports programmable buttons, smooth scroll wheel, and small rubber lip at the bottom to cradle the pinky finger to keep it from touching the desk.

Kensington Expert Trackball

Average Price: $80
The Kensington Expert is stationary like the Logitech TrackMan but with the ball placed in the center of the mouse and significantly larger. The most loved feature of the Expert was by far the scroll ring. Surrounding the oversized trackball is a scroll ring that readers found immensely functional, allowing them to use everything from the tip of their fingers to a full out twisting motion to scroll quickly through documents and web sites. A small but nice touch is that the Expert comes with a nice gel wrist pad right out of the box to complement the ergonomics of the trackball design.

Wacom Tablet

Average Price: $60 to $700+
Some readers ditched a mouse altogether and did all their "mousing" with a graphics tablet. Entry level tablets start at around $60 for the Wacom Bamboo (pictured right) and can begin approaching a grand as you get into the higher-end, larger models. While the learning curve for switching from a mouse to a tablet is a little steeper than switching between different styles of mice, many users found that like the hand/arm placement of the Evoluent mouse using a pen on a tablet put their body in a more natural position and relieved pain. It helps when switching over to using a tablet to not having your old mouse plugged in but to spend a week or two using just the tablet. After that it's easy to switch between the two when you need to because of applications or to mix up input to help with RSI.

September 25, 2008

Tomorrow sees the launch of Google’s iPhone Killer, The G1 is made by HTC in Taiwan and is a direct competitor to Apples iPhone. The G1 is the first phone to use Googles Android operating system. T-Mobile is the launch partner in the states.

Google Phone

The new Google phone is rumoured to have a touch screen like the iPhone but includes a slide-out Qwerty keypad. The phone has previously been referred to as the HTC Dream and the “Kila”, the project name given by T-Mobile.


Google announced its plans for Android last year alongside the unveiling of the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of mobile phone makers and networks whose stated purpose is to “accelerate innovation in mobile and offer consumers a richer, less expensive, and better mobile experience”.

As part of this plan, they made Android a so-called “open platform”, which means no one is charged to use it either in a device or as a basis for writing applications. As a result, anyone can write programs that will run on an Android phone - from maps and calendars to word-processing software and games.

A similar developer community has already sprung up around the iPhone, whose software is controlled by Apple although anyone can write applications that will run on it. Users of the phone and the iPod Touch have downloaded the 3,000 applications available from the iTunes store more than 100m times since it opened on July 8 this year. But iPhone applications are only available through the iTunes store, meaning that Apple controls what is available to users.

Applications for the Google G1 Phone can be downloaded from anywhere, although there is talk that Google, HTC and T-Mobile will set up some sort of applications repository, though weather Google will exercise the tight control that apple does on the iTunes store in some cases Apple has banned applications that compete with apple applications

The hope for Google is that ultimately Android will help more mobile phone customers get online through their mobile phone and use Google services on which Google can sell advertising.

Being the first to market will be a feather in the cap for HTC, the Taiwanese company known mainly as a maker of handsets that run on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system.

LG and Samsung will unveil their first Google-powered mobile phones next year. Spyshots of the Gphone aka the HTC Dream via  Gizmodo and rizzn.com