An all-in-one computer means power and productivity in a convenient package and there are offerings such as the Apple iMac, Dell Vostro, or Toshiba DX series.
But HP’s new all-in-ones redraw the rules of the game. These recently released rigs are a easy and cost-effective way to get everything you need in a computer in one ergonomic form factor. With your choice among second-generation i5 and i7 Intel processors, spacious displays, capable graphics and a good chunk of RAM, these machines have their place in production companies and studios, whether in the front office or as an adjunct to potent graphics workstations.
Easy Does It
First, let’s make it clear who these are for. If you take pleasure in scrutinizing every detail and component that goes into the purchase of your next computer or want the flexibility of being able to replace a video card down the line, this isn’t for you.
But if you’re less technically inclined, or just do not have the time to mess around with the internals of your machine, you’ll appreciate the all-in-one’s sleek design, top-notch components, and innovative extras like the interactive TouchSmart OS-based screens.
HP’s all-in-ones combine all the necessary components of a computer along with speakers into one convenient footprint. This integration results in easy ordering for users, smaller footprints than traditional desktops, lower power requirements due to careful integration and minimal clutter from excess cables. This is just the sort of product integration that makes an office manager’s life easier.
According to HP, IDC research shows that among commercial PC users worldwide, the intent to purchase all-in-one solutions will rise from 9.9 percent to 15 percent in the next 12 months. Meanwhile the NPD Group reported that 34 percent of consumer desktop purchases in the month of July were all-in-one PCs.
HP introduced the TouchSmart 610 a few months ago, notable for an innovative 60-degree tilt-back design. PCMAG called it “the best touch-screen PC on the market today”. This new batch includes seven additional all-in-one models for the US market ranging from lower-cost, Omni-monikered versions (with 1080p HD screens and probably best suited for home use) to more powerful business-class computers that could uphold assistant duties in a production suite.
The HP TouchSmart OS
The Right Touch
Some of HP’s all-in-ones feature their TouchSmart Operating System. The company has been working on versions of this since 2007; the TOS finally has a more fluid interactivity with little of the lag seen in earlier models. It’s an tactile way to interface with a computer and its fun layer of touch makes computing accessible for everyone. It can access built-for-touch applications as well the full power of Windows applications.
Besides adding fingertip input to many Windows 7 programs, the Touchsmart all-in-ones turn out to be capable multimedia machines too, allowing music and movie lovers to touch and swipe their way through their collections. The optional HP Pulse Subwoofer provides deep, rich sounding bass.
The all-in-one that stood out immediately to me was the HP TouchSmart Elite 7320 All-in-One Business PC. In my eyes, it’s the one I would go for.
The HP TouchSmart Elite 7320 All-in-One with a wireless keyboard and mouse.
While all of the Touchsmarts offer a slick multimedia and touch experience, the 7320 has been specially designed for business as well as the demanding workloads you might find in post. This potent PC includes a 21.5-inch diagonal, full backlit HD widescreen display; this makes it great for photo-retouching work, compositing, rotoscoping and other production duties.
Outside, the sleek design is all curves and metallic touches, while internally the 7320 allows you to choose among second-generation Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 quad-core processors with support for up to 8 GB of memory and a 2TB SATA 6 Gbs hard drive.
A Blu-Ray Combo Writer lets you watch Hi-Def Blu-Ray DVDs when you’re not working. There’s even an option for a TV tuner card as well in the HP store.
You’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to graphic processors too, including the NVIDIA GeForce 5xx (1GB); NVIDIA GeForce GT 5xx (2GB); AMD Radeon HD 6450A (1GB); and AMD Radeon HD 6550A (2GB). These capable GPUs will provide ample power for advanced 3D modeling and animation (not to speak of being great for hardcore gamers).
Proving that you don’t need to abandon expandability when choosing an all-in-one, the 7320 offers a mini PCIe slot. The built in 2.0 MP webcam and array-style microphone handle video-conferencing and face-to-face meetings, while Integrated IDT with Beats Audio and high-performance stereo speakers bring a high-level experience to audio playback.
Although it’s still not standard on many other computers, you’ll appreciate the pair of two USB 3 ports, ideal for attaching speedy hard drives and external RAIDs.
Demonstrating that its “Elite” moniker means something, the TouchSmart Elite 7320 offers users access to the 24/7 HP Elite premium support program.
We decided to compare the 7320 with an Apple iMac. HP has stated that pricing for the 7320 will begin at $850. An Apple 21.5 inch iMac starts at $1,199.
The HP TouchSmart Elite 7320 has slightly wider range of graphics card options than the 21.5-inch iMac. As mentioned above, the 7320 supports GPUs with discrete video RAM of up to 2 GB.
The iMac–well, any Mac actually– also lacks a Blu-Ray combo drive. It’s just not an option. In addition, there’s no expandable PCIe slot. Both of these are included on the 7320. While HP has built-in USB 3.0 ports, the iMac deploys a Thunderbolt. Both high-speed connection technologies are highly capable, though there still doesn’t seem many available Thunderbolt peripherals such as RAID arrays.
Finally there’s the TouchSmart OS, which has no equivalent on any Mac.
For the most part, other all-in-ones concentrate more explicitly on the consumer market, however they might have enough features for what you need to do. The TouchSmart 320, 420, and 520 models have float-form displays (i.e. they seem at first to float without support) which employ a 30-degree tilt-back that’s pretty solid so you don’t have to worry about an unsteady touchscreen experience. Display sizes range from 20 to 23 inches. The TouchSmart 320 (available on October 2) starts at $599, and the TouchSmart 420 and 520 are available now for a starting price of $699 and $799.
Although some creative artists and video professionals will gravitate towards high-end workstations due to their expandability, advanced video cards and raw power, I wouldn’t overlook an HP all-in-one when deciding to purchase a computer for yourself or your production staff.
I’ve reported on my positive experiences with HP’s workstations are (such as the Z800 minitower and the mobile EliteBook 8760w) for the pro video and post production communities. I’ve also noted how Adobe’s close collaboration with HP has resulted in machines that are optimally suited to run the software maker’s powerful Creative Suite. Of course, they are also ideal to handle the billions of polygons and challenging rendering requirements faced by 3D animators.
While these might be overkill for the usual round of front office duties, this new generation of powerful, highly interactive all-in-ones offers considerable benefits. In addition, if you run a large studio with many production artists or animators, the all-in-one may represent an easy, compact and cost-effective solution to deploy large amounts of machines for roto artists, matte-painters, texture-mappers and more.
If you’re in the market for some upgraded office machines, you might want a closer look at the entire line of all-in-ones. I’d start with the HP TouchSmart Elite 7320.
— Dan Ochiva contributed to this report