HP Touchsmart 520 All-in-One PC Review

Software, Accessories, & First Boot

For some people, the biggest part of the TouchSmart 520-1070's bundle will be the built-in HDTV tuner, which lets you watch, pause, rewind, and record live TV using the included HP TouchSmart remote control. This gives the 520 added appeal for college-bound students, studio apartment dwellers, or couch potatoes in general.

HP also throws in a wireless keyboard and mouse combination that connects via Bluetooth, neither of which are real fancy but are plenty sufficient for pounding out a Word document or knocking around the Web. Batteries are included with all three wireless components (keyboard, mouse, and remote), and they're of the name-brand variety rather than some funky label you've never heard of before.

At this point, we have to take a moment to mention the packaging, a lame topic we almost always avoid discussing unless it's so thoughtlessly bad or, inversely, so well prepped that it warrants a mention. In this case, it's the latter. There's a velcro strap that attaches the top portion of the large box to the bottom, saving you the trouble of jabbing at any tape with an X-Acto knife or that Samurai sword you just had to have. Inside the box HP packs everything neatly into convenient foam cutouts, and it takes all of 15 seconds to remove everything. But enough about packing, as good as it is, we want to give ourselves a wedgie for talking about it.

As for the remaining accessories, you get a large power brick, IR cable, and various paperwork.

We clocked a cold boot at 1 minute 15 seconds and a full shutdown at 13 seconds. Startup time is a little longer than we'd like, which we attribute to a slow spinning hard drive (5400 RPM) and a mixture of bloatware and useful software utilities preloaded on the 520. For security chores, HP includes a 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security 2012, an excellent AV package that performs much better and eats up far fewer resources than Norton products of the past (before it was completely overhauled and rewritten in 2009), but also adds to the time it takes to boot the system.

HP's redesigned Magic Canvas software makes its debut on the new TouchSmart models. Magic Canvas is essentially a dynamic background with movable tiles, and new to this version is the ability to access the Start Menu. It almost resembles a mobile OS, a logical design choice considering today's mobile platforms (smartphones, tablet PCs) are primed for touch interaction, and so is this all-in-one PC.

You don't have to use HP's custom UI, nor does it even load by default. You should give it a whirl, however, as it's actually a fun piece of software that enhances the touch experience and is better suited for this type of computing than Windows 7's standard interface.

Another neat addition is the HP TouchSmart Browser software designed to make surfing the Web easier via touch than with a standard browser. Everything is bigger and tuned for touch input, though you lose power user features found on other browsers. It's a good choice for quick browsing sessions, but we still prefer our regular browsers to this one, which runs on top of Internet Explorer.

There's a ton of software included with the TouchSmart 520-1070, and yes, some of it is bloatware, but the vast majority is comprised of useful applications and utilities, and a few gimmicky programs thrown in for good measure.

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