Lately we have been skewering some HP products in this blog (see our review of the quickly-buried HP Slate 500 Windows tablet), but this doesn't reflect our overall attitude toward Hp's entire product line. We continue to use some of their products in house, namely the tm2t convertible, and we believe that HP's new Touchpad could offer interesting possibilities as an Active Ink webforms platform. However, since the Touchpad runs webOS, not Windows, we won't be testing it any time soon.
And we can proudly tell you that HP's Touchsmart desktops -- the 310, 610, and IQ816 -- all make very good platforms for running Active Ink's Form Designer and Form Filler software in an office environment. With their large screens (20", 23", 25.5") that use Next Window Limited's optical touch screen technology and Microsoft's familiar Windows 7 tablet PC interface, handwriting on them is a breeze since our Active Ink input fields are naturally zoomed up to a very large size and their input precision is so high. The displays can also be reclined to write on and while they don't have palm recognition ability, they do have four point mutli-touch capability. You must be careful not to rest your palm on the screen when writing on it, but we found that by dragging the MS tablet input window down to the bottom of the screen (a natural place to leave it anyway) you can rest your palm on the bottom frame and write very comfortably.
In fact, this is probably the easiest device to write on with a pen that we've ever tested simply because the large screens give you so much work room nothing ever feels cramped or crowded. And the ability to recline the screen into a semi-flat position to facilitate writing on it is a big plus over HP's early Touchsmart models which did not recline. We found ourselves yearning for this same touchscreen technology in a tablet size, but sadly Next Windows currently only produces large screen displays.
Get this -- Next Window's optical technology requires NO SPECIAL STYLUS to function! A fingertip, a pen-cap, a pencil, a credit card edge, a Mont Blanc fountain pen, or any existing Wacom or N-trig stylus -- all engage the Next Window optical sensors and produce precise input. Naturally, you should not use anything that will stain or scratch the screen, but our point is that no special stylus is needed to move the cursor around or handwrite with this technology! Nor does the user have to press very hard as with some resistive touchscreens. For our purposes, the Touchsmart was responsive and delight to use. We salivated at the thought of throwing away our Wacom input pads and drawing directly on-screen in Photoshop using Wacom's own styluses. No more having to draw two feet off to the side of our screens while maintaining proper vertical and horizontal orientation!
Not everyone will appreciate these devices and the home owner who doesn't need to integrate his handwriting into a program like Active Ink probably couldn't care less. But Active Ink or Photoshop users will immediately see benefits from using such a device in an office setting. Most of our customers still need a portable tablet to fill out their Active Ink forms, but for those situations when portability isn't such an issue -- say in a doctor's office waiting room or as a form-designing workstation -- these all-in-one deskstops are the cat's whiskers! And they are as cheap, if not cheaper than tablets. The 20" 310 can be had for around $650, the 23' 610 starts at $850.
Bottom Line: HP's inexpensive Touchsmart all-in-one desktop computers work extremely well as Active Ink platforms in situations where mobility is not required, thanks to Next Window's innovative optical touchscreen technology.