HP TouchSmart 320 Review: Great Value for an All-in-One, Touchscreen Is a Nice Extra

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Touchscreen computers have it tough. While tablet and phones leverage touchscreen technology really well, standard computer operating systems just haven’t been built with a touch-first focus. That’ll change a bit with Windows 8, of course, but PC users still live in a Windows 7 world.

So the ultra-short, to the point review of the HP TouchSmart 320: At $650, it’s a pretty killer deal for an all-in-one computer; the fact that it has a touchscreen is a nice extra, even if you never end up using it.

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The machine measures around 20 inches wide by 8 inches deep by 16 inches tall, weighs  around 20 pounds and features a 20-inch 1600×900 multitouch monitor, four gigabytes of memory, one-terabyte hard drive, HP’s Dr. Dre-endorsed “Beats” audio, Wi-Fi connection and a DVD burner. It’s a handsome, well-integrated kit with an included wireless keyboard and mouse, making initial setup as easy as plugging the computer into a power outlet.

HP’s been able to keep the price down by using AMD’s new-ish A6 “Vision” chip, which combines a 2.1GHz processor and AMD Radeon graphics technology together to power everything. The result is a crisp, snappy interface that’s impressive for an all-in-one priced south of $700. If this is supposed to be a budget-friendly touchscreen computer, it certainly feels more expensive.

As far as the touchscreen capabilities go, you have a few options: You can use the standard keyboard and mouse setup, you can use a touch-enabled version of Windows 7, or you can use HP’s “TouchSmart Magic Canvas” software overlaid on top of Windows.

HP’s done a nice job of integrating Magic Canvas with Windows—any icons you put on the Windows desktop show up on the Magic Canvas desktop, for instance—while adding some nice touch-centric bells and whistles. There are touchscreen versions of Facebook, Twitter and eBay; an RSS reader; a calendar; music, video and photo programs and things like that. They all work well enough to make the computer a functional addition to a common room in your house where it’d be used as a touchscreen machine for basic tasks, but the mouse and keyboard still work much better to get things done quickly. That way’s not nearly as fun, of course.

The touchscreen experience starts to lose its luster, however, when you need to input text—the touch keyboard is cumbersome enough that you’ll want to keep the wireless keyboard nearby. And there just aren’t a ton of touchscreen-friendly apps out there, although some regular apps provide a decent experience when controlled via touch.

I basically found myself using the touchscreen portion of the computer pretty heavily for a day or two before falling back to the keyboard and mouse. Entertainment features such as the music, photo and video apps are still better touch experiences—as are some of the simpler games—but for web surfing and working on multiple things at once, I preferred the mouse and keyboard.

Aside from that, the screen itself is nice and vibrant with great color reproduction—no complaints there. I wish HP had included an HDMI port to make it easy to add a second monitor, but that’s a minor nitpick given that the machine is meant for entertainment and basic tasks. And though it likely doesn’t need to be said, this isn’t a computer built for serious gaming or video editing—it’ll work well for casual gaming and light video editing, however.

All in all, the HP TouchSmart 320 makes for a great value thanks to the impressive AMD Vision chipset, easy setup, spacious hard drive and excellent display. It holds up pretty well as a standard all-in-one, and the addition of the touchscreen makes it even more compelling.

HP TouchSmart 320-1050 [HP.com]

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