HP TouchSmart 520 PC review

Has HP improved its TouchSmart range with Beats audio from the good Dr Dre?

Reasons to buy
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    minimalist design

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    Beats audio technology

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    Built in TV card

Reasons to avoid
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    Average keyboard

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    Touch no better than keyboard

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    Touch will be better on Win 8

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HP's TouchSmart 520 is a beautiful all-in-one touchscreen PC that's bedecked in Beats audio finery and multi-media functionality

We've already reviewed the HP TouchSmart 610-1030UK and the HP Touchsmart 600-1220. Both were great all-in-one multimedia PCs and now HP has released the TouchSmart 520 with Beats audio.

Designed around a 23-inch touchscreen monitor, the TouchSmart 520 is HP's all-in-one PC for the average home. Coming pre-loaded with several touch-focused applications and Beats audio technology, this is an accomplished multimedia package.

The appeal of the all-in-one PC is not hard to fathom. No longer is there a need to organise the separate components around your desk amid a jungle of tangled wires. Just one big screen, one power lead, job done.

with a 1080p high definition display and Beats audio technology. It's a good piece of kit that, despite our reservations about touchscreens, doesn't fail to impress.

HP TouchSmart 520: Design

HP has given the TouchSmart a curving design so that although the monitor is six inches thick, it appears slimmer thanks to the curvature at the back. The entire machine is built onto a single silver hinge locked into the base stand. This gives the TouchSmart a great deal of freedom to tilt forward and backwards through a 60 degree viewing angle that is quite impressive.

The connection ports and DVD drive are built into the curvature of the monitor and, as such, hidden from view when sitting in front of it. The HP and Beats logos are also tucked away in their respective corners and this gives the TouchSmart an uncluttered, minimalist appearance.

HP TouchSmart 520: Features

The key feature of the TouchSmart is, unsurprisingly, the multi-gesture touch screen. At 27-inches across, there's plenty to touch and the response is crisp and smooth. You're given the option of using an on-screen keyboard as well – so there's always the option to do away with the keyboard and mouse completely.

HP has included applications like Magic Desktop and Magic Canvas for turning the screen into a virtual noticeboard for reminders and photos.

This all works great in theory, but there are niggles. Firstly, Windows 7 is still too fiddly in places for using touch input over a mouse. Secondly, if you have the TouchSmart high up on a desk, your arms are going to get tired and lastly, in a family environment you can expect the screen to get covered in smears and smudges almost straight away.

The Beats audio is characteristically excellent and thanks to the large speaker running across the base of the monitor, the TouchSmart has no trouble with volume.

HP TouchSmart 520: Screen

The 23-inch screen has a full high-definition pixel resolution of 1920 x 1080to make sure movies, websites and photos look as crisp and as detailed as possible. When compared with the average desktop monitor, the TouchSmart's LED screen is also noticeably brighter – something that can distort colour slightly although not in this case.

HP TouchSmart 520: Performance

The TouchSmart 520 is built around an Intel Core i5-2390T processor from Intel's second generation Sandy Bridge family and offers plenty of power for multi-tasking or running demanding software. The processor is helped by 4GB of RAM and, best of all, the TouchSmart 520 comes with over a TB of hard drive space.

Although not a gaming machine, the TouchSmart does come equipped with an ATI Radeon HD graphics card which helps take some of the graphical pressure off the processor. Even better, an integrated TV card means you can use the TouchSmart to watch your favourite telly. It even comes with a remote control in the box.

HP TouchSmart 520: Verdict

We're yet to be convinced that touchscreens are the way to go with Windows 7, especially with touch-focused Windows 8 just around the corner. But the TouchSmart still succeeds thanks to a bright, highly-detailed screen and a great audio performance.

HP TouchSmart 520 availability: Out now

HP TouchSmart 520 price: £899

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