One of the neat new product categories to come of age following the launch of Windows 7 is the all in one touch screen PC with several vendors now pushing new offerings. While this technology has been around for a while, it has, in the past, been clunky and ineffective due primarily to the poor performance of Windows Vista.
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Today, PC vendors have another problem, in the form of Apple, who not only own some of the best touch technology patents in the world but have demonstrated with their iPhone and their iPod Touch that their touch screen technology actually works with it becoming the benchmark by which touch screens are judged.
Late last month HP launched their new HP TouchScreen 300 which is a big improvement on the previous model. It is smarter and faster but it does have some setbacks.
Just as we were about to do our review of the HP offering, we got our hands on a brand new all-in-one Medion Akoya P4010D touch screen. Medion are a German company who only sells their product in Australia via Aldi stores. This is an almost identical product to the HP offering.
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Within minutes of starting this review we knew instantly that there was a big difference between the two products and it was not just the price.
The HP offering had a 20.5″ screen and a maximum resolution of 1600 X 900 while the Medion had a 21.5″ screen with full 1920 X 1080 resolution which allows Blu-ray movies and FullHD media to be watched at maximum resolution.
Both PC’s came in shiny lacquer black casings with a hint of chrome around the edges and they both looked impressive. The HP is heavier than the Medion but the latter is not as stylish as the HP offering which is not surprising with Medion’s European heritage. Out of the box, the HP Touch Smart was considerably brighter when both screens were placed on their maximum display settings however the Medion did have a matte finish to their screen Vs the high gloss finish of the HP.
The first thing we notice was the difference in design with respect to the stand. A big problem emerged with the HP Touch Smart as it is rigid and doesn’t allow for much customisation of the angle you can use the PC. The Medion stand was flexible, allowing the screen to be easily set at a comfortable distance from your face but the HP stand forced the screen upright into which we found uncomfortable to use. It forced you to have to physically move the screen further back on a desk to get a comfortable position. Attempts to set the screen further back resulted in us nearly breaking the stand. This is a major design flaw.
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Using the “rate and improve your computer performance” test that is built into Windows 7 the HP TouchSmart outperformed the Intel based Medion. Processor calculations per second, for the HP AMD PC were 6.3 Vs 5.5 for the Intel based Medion. Memory operations per second on the HP was 7.2 Vs 5.5 on the Medion.
When we loaded Photoshop onto both PC’s the access time difference was notable with the HP Touch Smart with the AMD processor performing fractionally slower.
When it came to “touch tests” the difference was very noticeable. The Medion responded significantly better. Windows on the HP machine often took two or three presses to open or close the response while the Medion was instant in 99% of the tests we ran.
While the HP was sluggish this was not its only shortcoming. During a series of full screen tests we also noticed a significant difference. It also has trouble recognising touch commands on the very edges of the screen. In one test we opened control panel to run various performance tests via the built in Windows 7 software. The Windows on both machines were expanded to full screen as it our experience that touch panels often have a problem when windows are opened right to the edges of the display screen. With the Medion, the Windows closed every time. With the HP we had to resort to using the mouse to close the windows.
When we ran specific HP developed applications such as the TouchSmart tutorial, the touch and motion flow response was generally good however on two occasions the PC locked up and we had to reboot the system after trying to touch scroll through an image library. The image library software also allows you to play with your photos including two finger resizing of images. The Medion didn’t have a similar feature.
With the Medion, we used a pre loaded application called Power Cinema. This allowed us to open and close images and flick through them with touch strokes similar to what we did with the HPTS. This time the application was quick and did not crash the system.
Both PC touch panels have TV tuners however when we ran the live TV configuration tool on the HP TouchSmart it took almost 30 minutes to identify the TV stations and create an electronic program guide and when it had finished, none of the stations made sense as they mostly came up as numbers and letters.
On the Medion, which did not have a custom TV tuning interface, we used Windows Media Centre to set up our Live TV service. It took around eight minutes to search and configure over 20 stations including several new HD channels. Windows Media Centre is also available on the HP but the device encourages you to use its custom interface.
We highly recommend that if anyone wants to use their touch screen PCs to watch live TV that they invest in the IceTV electronic program guide. This configures easily with Windows Media Centre while delivering excellent information on TV programs. It also allows you to record programs from either the PC or an iPhone or iPod Touch. The Ice TV software will work on both the Medion and the HP PCs.
One area where the HP TouchSmart was a standout was in the quality of the webcam. The images were sharp and crystal clear with room and facial images extremely close the actual colours being viewed whereas the Medion webcam was grainy, with skin colours looking grey and washed out. One thing that was neat on the Medion was the motion sensor built into the webcam. This feature allows you to set it to record, if someone passes the screen when you are away from the PC.
When it came to storage, the Medion had 1TB of storage and 4GB of memory while the HPTS only had 500GB of storage and 4GB of memory. What both PCs had was good smudge technology that seemed to eliminate greasy finger marks which I half expected to be all over the screens when I had finished this review.
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At the end of the day we looked at design functionality and responsiveness of the touch technology. We took into account that both machines were pitched at the home, with built in TV tuners, video playback and web cam.
A key deciding factor was price and between the two systems athere is a $700 price difference between the $1,299 Medion and the $1,999 HP TouchSmart. The Medion also won out in the design and functionality stakes particularly when it came to the design of the stands which we believe is a critical factor with an all in one PC.
The Medion also had 1 terabyte of storage Vs 500GB with the TouchSmart It also had Full HD resolution Vs simply HD ready with the HP offering. While the HP TouchSmart had a tad more speed, better webcam and host of free applications it did not add up to $700 worth of added value to warrant the HP recommended price sticker.