It might not be a featherweight machine, but the 520 is fairly svelte for an all-in-one desktop. It's also a bit subdued in its presentation with a two-tone plastic motif rather than a glossy finish as found on the Asus ET2410. HP's design is a little less stylish all around, though it still has a modern flair that shouldn't have trouble blending into most living rooms or kitchen counter tops.
A giant metal hinge extends down and secures the 23-inch panel to a silver base made of plastic. It offers a generous amount of tilt (-5 degrees to 30 degrees), giving you a bit of flexibility in a form factor that typically errs on the side of being static. At the same time, the entire unit is sturdy and doesn't wobble or wiggle in reaction to enthusiastic finger taps.
The 23-inch LED backlit multi-touch display features a Full HD 1920x1080 screen resolution and is rated at 250 nits brightness (typical) with a 5ms response time and 1,000:1 contrast ratio (typical). It's not going to blow you away with super wide viewing angles and professional grade color accuracy like an IPS panel will, however, we found it more than sufficient for day-to-day computing and watching Blu-ray movies.
A speaker bar runs across the bottom and hides what sound like merely average speakers only capable of producing tinny audio, albeit at high volume. That is, until you mash the Beats Audio button on the wireless keyboard. Do that and you'll wake up their full potential. In this case, Beats Audio makes a world of difference, not only giving you fine grain control over various aspects of the audio, including an adjustable EQ, but also in producing full, rich sound not typically found on integrated speakers. It won't blow away your thousand dollar home theater setup, but the speakers will fill a room with pleasant sound, whether it's for listening to music, watching movies, or even playing games.
There's a fair amount of connectivity options included with the 520. On the back of the unit you'll find four USB 2.0 ports, a GbE LAN port for wired Internet (802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi is built-in), a coaxial cable port to use with the built-in TV tuner, an IR blaster jack for HP's bundled TouchSmart remote and accompanying cable, a subwoofer output, and an audio line-out port.
A slot-load Blu-ray burner (yes, burner) is located on the right-hand side and sits above a series of physical on-screen display buttons, four in all. Underneath that is a handy HDMI input for plugging in your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 console, or anything else that utilizes an HDMI connection (like your notebook or tablet PC). This is a great selling point, especially for college bound students who might not have enough space in their dorm to accommodate both a PC and a television.
Over on the right side is a 6-in-1 media card reader, a pair of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, and mic/headphone inputs. It's a nice collection of ports, though noticeably missing is an eSATA port or HDMI output, both minor quibbles for an otherwise well connected all-in-one.
The all-in-one form factor isn't known for being friendly for tech savvy tweakers who know their way around the inside of a PC, and bulk OEMs sometimes go to great lengths to keep users from mucking around. Imagine our surprise, then, when we discovered how easy it was to expose the TouchSmart 520's guts. A plastic panel in the lower middle of the 520's backside pops right off, giving you access to one of three screws you need to loosen to get at the inside. The other two are on each of the lower corners. The screws don't remove completely so there's no chance of losing them in your shag carpet. Once loosened, the plastic back panel pries off with just a little finagling, allowing you to service the machine or upgrade certain parts, like the RAM or hard drive. You might also be able to replace the GPU, but considering this system is only rocking a 180W power supply, we don't recommend trying to swap out the included AMD Radeon HD 6450A.