The heart and soul of the TouchSmart 600 is its touchscreen and the variety of things you can do with it. If you truly wanted to, you could probably ditch your keyboard and mouse and do virtually all of your input using the touchscreen. HP has the system set up by default to use large icons and buttons. Text input can done via handwriting recognition or an onscreen-keyboard using Windows 7’s built-in Tablet PC Input Panel; although if you need to do more than just enter login credentials, the keyboard is still the most efficient means of inputting text.
HP doesn’t just stop with Windows’ built-in touch features, however; they also include their HP TouchSmart application suite, which features a healthy collection of touch-enabled applets. You launch the TouchSmart suite by either pressing the TouchSmart button the system’s front bezel or selecting the HP TouchSmart icon on the desktop or in the Start menu. Our system came configured to automatically run the TouchSmart suite at Windows startup.
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| The HP TouchSmart icon on the Windows desktop (left) launches the TouchSmart application|
suite; the Neflix app is one of the custom touch-enabled apps (or "tiles").
The TouchSmart suite is made up of individual application modules, or “tiles
” as HP calls them. A large set of tiles runs across the top two-thirds of the screen, and a smaller set of tiles sits at the bottom of the screen. You scroll horizontally through the large tiles by pressing a tile’s title bar and dragging it or flicking it with your finger. You can move apps from the large tiles area down to the small tiles area and vice-versa. You can also change the order of the small tiles simply by selecting a small tile and dragging it to a different spot in the small tiles area. Changing the order of the large tiles is a little less elegant--you first need to drag the large tile to the small tile area, where it will become a small tile; scroll to where you want the tile to appear in the large tile area; and then drag the (now) small tile back to the large tile area, where it once again becomes a large tile in its new spot.
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| The Manage My Tiles screen (left); the HotHardware.com app we created (right).|
When we first ran the TouchSmart suite, we saw large tiles for Tutorials, Music, Twitter, Video, Netflix, Link, Canvas, Recipe Box, Hulu Desktop, Webcam, and Notes; there were also small tiles for Photo, Weather, Clock, Help and Support, Live TV, DVD, HP Ambient Light, Calendar, RSS Feeds, and Browser. In the lower right-hand corner of the screen is a Personalize button; selecting this takes you to the Manage My Tiles screen, where you can create new tiles from Windows programs and websites, delete tiles, and change the color of a tile’s title bar. When you create a title for a Windows program, the program doesn’t actually run in the TouchSmart interface--the tile is really just a shortcut that launches the program from the Windows desktop, while the TouchSmart suite gets minimized to the taskbar. Tiles created for websites, however, launch in the TouchSmart suite’s Browser app, such as the HotHardware.com app we created (see the screenshot above). The pre-installed tiles all run within the TouchSmart suite’s interface.
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| The Tutorials app (left) and the Music app (right); the small "Paint" tile is an app we added.|
app is nothing more than a container for two videos--one demonstrating how to navigate around the TouchSmart suite interface, and one explaining how to use the Canvas app. The Music
app is a simple audio player that plays music files from your hard drive, attached media, or from a network share--while you can play music from network shares, you cannot add music files from a network source to the app’s library, as you can with other audio apps, such as iTunes. The Music app also integrates support for Rhapsody and Pandora. The Music app is the only TouchSmart app that continues to play when you scroll the tile off the screen or switch to a different tile. If you quit the TouchSmart suite, however, the Music app also quits (music will keep playing, however, if you minimize the TouchSmart suite to get back to the Windows desktop). You can also create a CD using the Music app.
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| The Twitter app (left) and the Video app (right).|
There’s not much to say about the Twitter
app, other than if you already tweet you will find the Twitter app easy to use. The Video
app allows you to watch videos, arrange clips to make a movie, perform rudimentary edits (trim, rotate, and apply software-based image stabilization), and upload videos to YouTube. As with the Music app, you can load files from network shares, but you can’t add network sources to the Video library. The Netflix
app lets you watch movies you have in your Watch Instantly Queue if you are a Netflix member. The Link
app offers a simple interface for transferring pictures between the system and a Bluetooth-enabled phone.