My feelings about 3D-capable all-in-one PCs have so far ranged from mild enthusiasm to ambivalence, but Hewlett-Packard's $1,599 TouchSmart 620 3D is the first to inspire true frustration. The 3D technology works well enough, but this system is a veritable case study in how Windows PCs can so easily frustrate consumers with bloatware and artless interface design.
HP offers a perfectly capable, non-3D 23-inch all-in-one in its TouchSmart 610. For the above reasons, and others, I recommend that system over the TouchSmart 620 3D to most buyers looking for an all-in-one. If you're committed to 3D, or if you want an all-in-one for gaming, check out Lenovo's faster, more affordable IdeaCentre B520.
The TouchSmart 620 3D is essentially an updated version of the TouchSmart 610 we reviewed this past April. Along with the 3D screen and accompanying glasses and software from TriDef, HP has added a second lens next to the traditional Webcam on the TouchSmart's top edge. This second lens makes it possible to capture your own stereoscopic 3D pictures and video footage.
For $500 less than this TouchSmart 620 3D, you can still buy a non-3D TouchSmart 610xt. The only other difference between the two is the Radeon HD 6650 graphics card in the TouchSmart 610, not quite as good as the TouchSmart 620's Radeon HD 6670A.
The awkwardness of the TouchSmart's 3D implementation stems from the absence of centralized 3D control software. I understand that various issues of Blu-ray encoding, player licensing, and software drivers, among others, make that idea a challenge, but it's almost as if HP went out of its way to make launching a 3D game or recording and playing a homemade 3D movie more difficult.
The first hint of this problem is that you will find no shortcut icon or top-level Start menu listing that uses the term "3D" on the TouchSmart 620 3D. The only way you'd know how to launch a 3D game, play a 3D movie, or capture and view homemade 3D content would be if you either dug through the Start menu subfolders, or read the scant two-page 3D section in the back of the (paper) user manual.
To actually play a PC game in 3D on the TouchSmart 620, you need to open the Games folder under the Windows Start menu, then open the TriDef subfolder to launch the TriDef Ignition application. You then assign game executable files to Ignition, and launch them from inside the app in order to trigger the 3D effects.
Though the process of launching a game in 3D isn't as simple as it could be (how about a hard 3D toggle button on the chassis?) I do like that Ignition offers a series of Shift-Alt key-based shortcuts for turning 3D on and off in a game, adjusting the 3D depth, and other settings tweaks. Otherwise, I fail to see how HP can justify a desktop shortcut for HP Games, which links you out to Wild Tangent's utterly disposable casual gaming library, but completely bury the TriDef application, one of the primary reasons anyone would buy the 3D-equipped TouchSmart 620 3D in the first place.
How to enable 3D for Blu-ray movies is similarly obscured, although easier to muddle through than the gaming setup. The system has no immediate indicators showing how you might play a 3D Blu-ray Disc. Fortunately, PowerDVD launches automatically when you insert a disc, and a large "3D" icon in the software player makes your next steps pretty clear.
Points off for the 3D Webcam, though. Again, HP has buried the necessary software for one of this system's star attractions. This time you must look inside HP's TouchSmart Magic Canvas software suite, where again you'll find no indication of the proper software to use. Launch the Webcam software and you'll find a 3D record button, but with no apparent means of playing the content back that you've recorded. You can actually double-click on the thumbnails to play back video, but there's no indicator to that effect in the Webcam program. Fumble around more inside the touch software and you'll find you can also play the movies in the touch Video application.
A few other disappointments mar the 3D viewing experience. The HP's active 3D glasses use a large watch battery for power, and thus aren't rechargeable like the Nvidia 3D Vision glasses that come with the Lenovo IdeaCentre B520. The HP's glasses also rely on autodetection to turn on when the screen displays a 3D image. Autodetection is fine in concept, but HP has added no external light or other signal that the glasses are powered on. That means an added level of uncertainty if you ever need to troubleshoot.
The quality of the 3D playback in this system is fine from a depth perspective, but the screen itself is not as good as those of the TouchSmart's competition. The HP seems to suffer from low black levels, apparent in the 3D Blu-ray of "Coraline," a gloomy stop-motion film heavy with atmospheric shadows and dark environments. The resulting image is greenish and washed-out, which we also noticed both in the racing game Dirt 3 and in content we recorded via the 3D Webcam.
Gaming is usually more of a problem for 3D than movies, since the quality of the experience can be so heavily tied to graphics card drivers and the game code itself. In addition to the greenish tinge of the display, Dirt 3's 3D rendering suffered from noticeable shadow and background flickering. I saw similar flickering and missing textures in Far Cry 2. It's hard to be that critical of 3D in games, given that a driver update or game patch could take care of any issues (more likely for newer titles), but the experience on this system underscores the fact that PC-based 3D content in general needs polish.
|HP TouchSmart 620 3D||Lenovo IdeaCentre B520||Dell Inspiron One 2320|
|Display size/resolution||23-inch, 1,920x1,080 pixels||23-inch, 1,920x1,080 pixels||23-inch, 1,920x1,080 pixels|
|CPU||3.1GHz Intel Core i5-2400||3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600||3.1GHz Intel Core i5-2400|
|Memory||8GB 1,333MHZ DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,333MHZ DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||1GB AMD Radeon HD 6670A||2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 555M||1GB Nvidia GeForce 525M|
|Hard drives||1.5TB 5,400rpm hard drive||2TB, 7,200rpm||2TB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray/DVD burner combo drive||Blu-ray/DVD burner combo drive||Blu-ray RW burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
it weren't for the Lenovo IdeaCentre B520, the TouchSmart 620 would look competitive. Unfortunately for HP, the IdeaCentre B520 offers much better value. Lenovo's touch software is not as robust as HP's, and its screen isn't as adjustable, but the Lenovo includes more useful HDMI inputs and outputs. Against such robust competition from Lenovo, it's hard to excuse the HP's price tag.
The TouchSmart 620's reclining display is useful, in that it tilts back up to 60 degrees to make it easier to interact with when you're standing in front of it. As with the 610, HP missed an opportunity to let the screen go perfectly horizontal, whereas Samsung didn't hesitate with its Series 7 all-in-one earlier this year. The hinge design on the TouchSmart is also clunky, in that the screen slides down too readily when you try to simply angle it backward.
For the software, HP has poured a notable amount of effort into its Magic Canvas software suite, but with the sloppy 3D integration and the example Samsung has set by porting its clean tablet touch interface to the Series 7, HP's touch software is starting to look overwrought. I don't anticipate a complete overhaul from HP with the touch-oriented Windows 8 operating system on the horizon, but the TouchSmart 620 3D in particular has shown that Magic Canvas needs streamlining.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)