System Features & Software (Continued)
Of all the TouchSmart suite apps, the Canvas app probably takes the most advantage of the touch interface, allowing you to use all sorts of multi-touch gestures to rotate, zoom, select, and move images around page. You’ll have lots of fun playing with the Canvas app, honing your multi-touch skills, but once you get past the whiz-bang, the app doesn’t actually do that much--you can make photo collages and tag pictures, and that’s about it. The Recipe Box is essentially a recipe application, but with a few tricks up its sleeve. For starters, it supports speech commands, so while you are elbow deep in a mixing bowl, you can have the system read the recipe or portions of it to you. The other cool thing Recipe Box can do is extract recipes from web pages and import them into Recipe Box.
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| The Canvas app (left) and the Recipe Box app (right).|
The Hulu Desktop app uses a very simple interface for watching Hulu shows--we found the interface a bit clunky to navigate and search for titles. The Webcam app allows you to capture videos and photos and save them to disk or upload them to YouTube. The Webcam app includes emoticons, frames, avatars, filters, and distortions you can add to your video. With the Notes app you can create written notes on a selection of stationary, and create lists, video notes, and audio notes.
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| The Hulu Desktop app (left) and the Notes app (right).|
The Photo app lets you view images, play slideshows, upload photos to Snapfish, create slideshows, create CDs, and perform a few edits (such as rotate, crop, auto-enhance, fix red-eye, and tag an image). You cannot add networked files to the library. The Weather and Clock apps do exactly what you expect them to. The Live TV app lets you watch live and recorded TV and schedule recordings using the built-in program guide. You can watch DVD and BD movies with the DVD app. The HP Ambient Light app lets you pick the color and brightness of the system’s Ambient light. The Calendar app is a basic calendar program, which can be used stand-alone or can sync with an ICS file on your system or with Google Calendar. The RSS Feeds app is very basic, and we actually found it be a bit buggy. Lastly, the Browser app is merely a web browser built into the TouchSmart suite.
| The Live TV app (left) and the HP Ambient Light app (right).|
Nearly all the tasks and functions of these apps can be done outside of the TouchSmart suite--what the TouchSmart suite offers is way to perform these tasks using primarily a touch interface. Overall, we found the TouchSmart suite apps fun to use, but none of them are terribly robust in their capabilities; although one feature we thought was very cool was that you can enter search criteria simply by drawing the words on the screen (see the screenshot below).
| Searching by writing what you are searching for directly on the screen (left);|
the onscreen keyboard (right).
Unfortunately, we ran into a number of issues when using the TouchSmart suite. The interface was often sluggish to respond to our touch input. We also experienced a number of apps that either crashed or stopped working, such as Netflix, Hulu Desktop, and the Video app. We’re not sure what the source of the trouble is, but it is likely not a coincidence that the apps we mostly had trouble with were all video-based applications that mostly had to stream content.
That said, when video playback was working, it looked great (depending, of course, on the quality of the video source). DVD and BD movies looked sharp, with vibrant colors, and dark blacks--although the glossy display might be a distraction to some. Audio quality was equally impressive, with crisp sounding audio that could get quite loud without any noticeable distortion. Actual Blu-ray and DVD playback was flawless and stable.