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HP TouchSmart 520 review


Uninspiring design and a lack of power, but it’s a reasonable all-rounder for the price

Review Date: 20 Jan 2012

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £618 (£742 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

4 stars out of 6

HP was an early champion of the touchscreen all-in-one, with its first TouchSmart model appearing in PC Pro back in 2007. These days, though, the all-in-one market is largely dominated by the Apple iMac, and HP, Sony and the rest will be hoping Windows 8’s touch-focused revamp will provide a boost to popularity when it arrives later in the year.

Until then, HP is concentrating on doing up its own touch software. The TouchSmart 520 features a new tablet-influenced front-end, dubbed Magic Canvas, which relocates the familiar carousel of icons from the middle to the bottom of the 23in screen, with the bulk taken up by Android-style horizontally scrolling homescreens.

Those screens are decorated with the usual touchscreen all-in-one notes, doodles and graphics, and all of your standard desktop files and shortcuts are also reproduced ready for tapping on the Magic Canvas. The Carousel hosts a range of familiar music and video playback tools and a photo organiser, along with links to touch-optimised Facebook and Twitter clients.

HP TouchSmart 520

The Magic Canvas and its apps are all perfectly competent, and it rarely stutters or slows down in use, but there’s little here that we haven’t seen on a slew of touchscreen systems in the past. There’s also no sign of the kind of apps that we’d like to see on these do-it-all PCs, such as Netflix or other streaming media services – although that’s hardly a criticism we’d level solely at HP. Generally, we still prefer Sony’s touch software, which is smoother and comes with both touch media controls and webcam-based gesture control.

The HP’s glossy 23in, 1,920 x 1,080 panel is as responsive and accurate as any touchscreen we’ve used, and it’s also clean and sharp to look at. An average Delta E figure of 5.1 means colours are pretty accurate, but neither the measured contrast ratio of 825:1 nor the 225.7cd/m2 brightness really jumps out. Images therefore lack the punch and vibrancy of the best we’ve seen from Sony or Apple.

Inside, the Core i3-2120 is low on Intel’s CPU roster, but its pair of Hyper-Threaded 3.3GHz cores ensures it’s got the power to cope with everyday applications. It scored a reasonable 0.7 in our Real World Benchmarks, not at all bad for an all-in-one.

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User comments

Does this not have HDMI out? Would make a decent media centre if it did / does...

By spideryman on 23 Jan 2012

No HDMI out

Then again it does have a built in monitor.

By tirons1 on 23 Jan 2012

I bought this PC in 2012 and it's the worst computer I have ever had. Couldn't run internet explorer without the CPU going through the roof and freezing the pc. Anything puts the CPU up to 50-80% and the Touchsmart had to be disabled after 18 months as it randomly threw the mouse around. Do not buy!

By Silk661 on 17 Jul 2014

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