About a month ago, HP asked if I would like to review their new TouchSmart desktop computer for few weeks. I don’t do many reviews on my site, but I thought this could be a really fun experience for the kids (and it being summer, the idea of something to keep them entertained was appealing). I have a love/hate relationship with the idea of kids on computers. On the one hand, I think they can be an incredible educational tool. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of it being yet another way they are zoning. I was curious to see how a touch screen could facilitate more educational use of the PC computer experience. I’ve already seen my kids really take to the touch screen aspect of the ipad, and I liked the idea of this application for a PC.
My first impression of the HP TouchSmart was that it’s a very simple computer to use. The entire thing is built into the screen, so set-up was really a matter of taking it out of the box and plugging it in. It comes with a wireless mouse and keyboard, so there really is only one cord to contend with. The screen is adjustable so that you can lay it almost flat, or stand it up like a traditional computer. This is a nice feature since we have people of all sizes wanting to use it. And the screen? IT’S HUGE. It’s almost as big as our tv, which makes it easy for all of the kids to share and play together.
The computer comes with a number of built-in games for kids, and my kids were enjoying those right away. Kembe is partial to Bounce Symphony, a game that teaches kids to sort balls by color. Jafta is a fan of a real-estate game that is really meant for adults (we’re hoping this knack for investment follows him through to adulthood). India and Karis love to sit and laugh at the ways they can distort their face in the webcam application. There are some great painting and art games that utilize the touch-screen application as well.
I was impressed by all of the unique built-in programs that worked with the touch screen. It operates very much like an ipad, using the same pinch, swipe, and tap gestures. But I was really curious to see how the touch screen would interact with websites that were not made specifically for use with a touch screen. As it turns out, it’s pretty seamless to transition from the mouse to the touch screen on nearly every website we’ve tried. My very favorite, by far, is how well it works with Starfall, my favorite educational site for kids.
The combination of Starfall and the TouchSmart is the perfect marriage for education learning for preschool-aged kids. It eliminates the need for a mouse and lets kids as young as 2 begin to learn letters and sounds with the assistance of technology. My kids have been on Starfall this way all month, and I’ve seen huge leaps in their letter and sound recognition. It’s especially great in that in incorporates a sensory experience for kids who learn more by doing than watching. Now that I’ve seen how this works, I think flashcards are a thing of the past. The best part for me is that the kids are so self-directed this way, and the only issue we’ve had has been them fighting over whose turn it is. (Solution: a timer next to the computer.)
This computer is amazing for kids, but it’s no slouch for adults, either. The huge screen makes browsing so much easier, and I love being able to scroll down with a swipe instead of a button. There are built-in apps for easy uploading to Facebook and Youtube, and an HD webcam that is perfect for video blogging. There is a canvas desktop where you can post lists, photos, playlists, and videos like a bulletin board. And because it’s Windows, you can use Windows Media Center to turn it into a family entertainment center and even record television shows with a cable hook-up.
I think the TouchSmart is the ideal home computer for families. If you are in the market for a new PC, I definitely recommend it!