Watch TV on this space-saving all-in-one touchscreen PC
The HP Touchsmart 520 is an all-in-one PC which, as its name suggests, has a touchscreen as an alternative to a keyboard and mouse. Even if you're not interested in the touchscreen, the Touchsmart is a less space-intensive alternative to a bulkier tower PC but it is more flexible than a laptop.
A plain black design means the Touchsmart isn't especially attractive. Although not as slim as other all-in-ones, it is still compact and takes up only a little more room than a standard 23in monitor. Reasonably easy to tilt and swivel using two hands, the Touchsmart barely makes any noise - making it perfect for use in a quiet place such as the bedroom.
By far most eye-catching feature is the large 23in display. The Touchsmart has a resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, which makes working on two or three documents side-by-side easy. It's bright, but the appearance of colours on-screen can change drastically depending on your viewing angle. Sadly, unlike many other all-in-one PCs, there is no option to connect a second monitor. Nor can you use the Touchsmart as a screen for another device such as a games console.
HP has included its own software for use with the touchscreen, but it's not very useful. Programs for editing photos, playing music and videos and creating post-it style onscreen notes are included. However, Not only are these programs quite basic, they can be frustrating to use – the touchscreen slow to respond and many of the on screen buttons small, making them hard to press. Windows 8, designed specifically for touchscreens, is due out later this year, but until then the touchscreen is of limited use.
The Touchsmart's integrated graphics chip isn't powerful enough to allow you to play the latest 3D games, but you can keep yourself entertained by watching TV instead. Thanks to a built-in TV tuner and included remote control, you can watch Freeview programmes and record them to the 1TB hard disk. A second TV tuner would have been even better, so you could record two programmes or watch one programme while recording another, although the availability of catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer means this isn't a critical drawback.
The built-in speakers on the device aren't suitable for playing music, leaving songs with muffled vocals, tinny-sounding instruments and weak bass. The Beats software included compensates for some of these problems, but the Touchsmart can't compete with the quality of external speakers.
Powerful enough for more serious tasks, the Touchsmart boasts a 3.3GHz Intel Core i3 processor and 4GB of Ram, which can be upgraded to 8GB. Unlike some other all-in-ones, the Touchsmart is reasonably easy to upgrade - a rear panel can be unscrewed giving access to the RAM and hard disk.
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The Touchsmart 520 is a reasonably-priced all-in-one PC, but there's little to set it apart from the competition and there are too many compromises that limit its appeal.
Compact design; built-in TV tuner; useful Beats software
Less-than-perfect screen and speakers; poor performance for 3D games
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