When the latest TouchSmart PCs were announced a few months back, we were quite taken with their spiffy software and impressive spec list. This month HP challenged us to see if we could use the HP Touchsmart 600 as a dedicated Entertainment Hub for a few weeks. I decided to put the HP TouchSmart in my bedroom, to use it as a TV/DVR, a DVD & Blu-Ray player, as well as a music hub.
Using the TouchSmart as a dedicated TV and DVR
The TouchSmart 3.0 software is a totally touch based software suite that contains many great apps. It also provides you with everything you need to surf through live TV channels and record shows, effectively transforming the computer into a DVR system. The TouchSmart also comes with Windows Media Center software which also works with TV and as a DVR system for recording TV shows. HP’s TouchSmart 3.0 software is so beautiful and easy to use, that you’ll hardly ever want to leave it. But it’s still good to have Windows Media Center available.
I set the HP TouchSmart 600 up on a small table in front of my bed so that I could lay down and watch movies on it. The system sports a 23″ display with very vibrant colors and good viewing angles. A remote control is also included. The remote is a versatile media remote that lets you turn the computer on and off, it has dedicated Radio, Music, Pictures, and Videos buttons, as well as buttons for accessing the DVD menu, Recorded TV, the Guide, Live TV, Windows Media Center for launching Windows Media Center, volume, channels and a record button. You can fast forward and pause live TV using the remote control.
I went ahead and connected the TouchSmart 600 to my Time Warner cable box. When it came to using the TouchSmart 600 as a TV, I actually found this video very helpful. Unfortunately, because of proprietary issues with Time Warner, I was never able to get the TouchSmart’s software to recognize Time Warner’s cable signal when I tried connecting my Time Warner set-top box to the TouchSmart. So instead I did the next best thing, and connected the HDMI cable coming out of my Time Warner DVR to the TouchSmart via the TouchSmart’s HDMI input, and it played just fine, as if it were a regular LCD display with HDMI-in. I may not be able to take advantage of the TouchSmart’s DVR capabilities, but at-least I was still able to control my set-top box and get a picture. So after finally getting everything up and running, my favorite TV shows came spilling onto the TouchSmart 600. Because my cable box is an HD box, the picture looked really great.
Connecting the TouchSmart 600 to a Gaming Console
One of the coolest features of the TouchSmart 600 is the HDMI-in support which lets you use the TouchSmart as a display for use with other HDMI devices, such as your PS3 or Xbox. Not enough all-in-one computers have this capability, although it is slowly becoming more common. I connected the TouchSmart to my PS3. Games played brilliantly through the TouchSmart 600′s full HD 1080P display, especially since the PS3 itself is natively 1080p. Connecting the PS3 was a cinch, all I had to do was connect the HDMI cable running out of the PS3 to the HDMI-In on the left side of the TouchSmart.
Aside from HDMI-in, the TouchSmart also has AV/Audio, and S-Video connectors so you can connect other gaming consoles to it like the Wii.
Using the TouchSmart as a DVD and Blu-Ray Player
The TouchSmart software is a cut above the rest, especially when it comes to multimedia. Even if your keyboard is on the other side of the room, the touch interface makes it super easy to navigate your multimedia and the TouchSmart 3.0 apps. The software suite has seamless integration with Hulu, and Netflix. I watched The X-Files: I Want to Believe on the TouchSmart’s built-in Blu-Ray player and again, the TouchSmart’s vibrant 1080P display was able to really take advantage of the Blu-Ray’s HD content. The movie played fluidly without any hiccups.
Next, I used the Hulu app to catch up on some Family Guy and Caprica episodes. The Hulu app is essentially the same interface as the excellent and already free to download Hulu Desktop app, but it’s integrated into the TouchSmart software interface. The TouchSmart’s Netflix app also lets you stream Netflix movies right onto the system. This app is also quite slick in the way that it lets you flick through your library of movies.
Check out Part II of the HP TouchSmart 600 Review, where we dissect the Digital Music area of the TouchSmart 600.