Review: HP’s New All-in-Ones Its Best PCs Yet


Meg Whitman, call your office.

In fact, call it using Skype on an HP TouchSmart 9300 Elite All-in-One desktop -- one of the best computing products Hewlett-Packard has ever produced and Exhibit A in why the vaunted, Palo Alto, Calif.-based giant should nix any thoughts of getting out of the PC business.

The TouchSmart 9300 Elite is one of the best-performing HP desktops ever reviewed by the CRN Test Center, and one of the most elegant. We also found the HP Compaq 8200 Elite, which launched earlier this year, to be powerful in its own right with different noteworthy features that also make it a stellar PC. Both ultra-slims are stand-outs from what we’ve seen in the CRN Test Center.

With a current list price of $1,083, the TouchSmart 9300 Elite is highly competitive with the rest of the market on a number of fronts:

-- With a score of 14,185 on Primate Labs’ Geekbench 2.2 benchmarking software, this ranks at the top of the list of desktops we’ve reviewed. (Although, to reach a score that high we first disabled the pre-loaded applications including Norton Internet security.);

-- Built with an Intel Core i7-2600 at 3.40 GHz, 8 GB of DDR3 SDRAM at 666 MHz, and Intel Sandy Bridge technology, and pre-loaded with Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, the TouchSmart 9300 Elite provides enough horse power for serious multi-media support, audio and video communications and virtualization;

-- The display is outstanding. A multi-touch, 23-inch diagonal display, the size only tells part of the story. This display provides full HD widescreen viewing with WLED backlit Brightview technology, and a bezel that supports an adjustable stand that provides greater comfort for long periods of work activity;

-- The front-panel, built in stereo speaker provides one of the best, PC-based audio experiences we’ve seen. This thing rocks, and with crystal clear sound. Combined with the on-board microphone, it was particularly effective for Skype calling.

Looking at how the TouchSmart 9300 Elite performs is one way to evaluate the PC. Another is to look forward and consider the possibilities for several key features and functions.

Key to the TouchSmart 9300 Elite’s future is touch-screen capability. While the universe of PC-based touch applications is barely worth discussing in the later half of 2011, once Windows 8 hits the market -- with full support for touch and touch-based applications -- it’s likely that will change a little bit. While touch capability is still awkward on a desktop PC (as opposed to a smart phone or tablet,) it’s possible that applications for photo-editing, video-editing, and other content-creation will benefit greatly using intuitive human touch rather than a keyboard and mouse.

The widescreen display certainly provides enough room to drag applications, photos and more from one end of the screen to the other in a comfortable fashion. This PC appears ready to support a full range of touch-based apps when Windows 8 hits the market.

Additionally, it’s built with a 1-TB hard-disk drive, and supports a full range of media. One one side, the TouchSmart Elite is built with a CD-DVD drive, and on the other two USB ports, an SD card slot; in the rear of the unit is a Gigabit Ethernet port, display port and four more USB ports. (Although the media slots in the rear of the PC are a bit awkward to reach.)

Taking a look at the HP Compaq 8200 Elite, which was built with an Intel Core i7-2600S processor at 2.80 GHz and 4 GB of RAM, and preloaded with Windows 7 Professional 64 bit, we were similarly impressed. This system scored 13024 on Geekbench.

The main differences between the HP Compaq 8200 Elite and the HP TouchSmart 9300 are that the 8200 does not support touch, but, its bezel provides greater flexibility in positioning the display for comfort.

The HP Compaq 8200 Elite lists at $949 but can be found with street pricing as low as $629 -- bringing its price-performance to one of the highest levels we’ve seen on a Windows PC.

Both All-in-Ones are built to be, as the form factor suggests, ultra-slim and are about 2-and-a-half inches thick (at their thickest.) The 8200 weighed in at about 18 pounds, and the 9300 weighed in at about 26 pounds. Both came with a set of Blue-tooth mouse and keyboard. Both are business black.

The performance of these two All-in-One PCs makes it all the more confusing as to why the previous CEO at HP would consider separating this business from the company. With Intel continuing to leverage Moore’s law to drive increasing price-performance, and HP’s long culture of strong engineering, the value roadmap for HP looks strong.

The bottom line: for both performance and aesthetics, the HP Compaq 8200 Elite and the HP TouchSmart 9300 Elite are outstanding choices on the Windows platform.