Windows 7 and Touchscreen are here

Right before Windows 7 hits the streets this week, we take a look at a Dell Studio One touchscreen PC that implements the improved touch capabilities included with the new operating system. The Dell system is a 19-in wide screen multi-touch capable all-in-one computer that uses an Intel Pentium CPU (yes that name continues) and an NVIDIA ION chipset. Come see if this PC will make you yearn for a monitor with fingerprints on it.
Last week I got a chance to spend a few days with a Windows 7 based PC from Dell, the Studio One.  This all-in-one PC is designed in to be nearly completely wireless (power still required) and integrates an optical touchscreen interface for a unique interactive experience.  I put together a short video review of the unit included below that looks at the Dell Studio One design, the touchscreen technology and how it works with Windows 7 today, general purpose computing on the machine and more. 

While the video above goes into a lot more detail that the images and provided text below, I have both available here for those of you that don’t want to watch the video or can’t because of your pestering boss hovering around behind you. 

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This image, besides showing me with a distraught look on my face, is in place merely to show you the size and scale of the Dell Studio One.  The screen is a wide screen 19-in display with a large bezel around the outside for both appearances and to include the integrated stereo speakers. 

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The system is very clean in its design and when paired with the matching wireless keyboard and mouse, only has a single power cord to destroy the appearance of it being a self-contained machine. The hardware itself is built around an Intel Pentium E5200 dual-core processor that runs at 2.5 GHz and an NVIDIA ION chipset (also known as the GeForce 9400M chipset) to provide the bulk of the processing power.  This is a similar combination to the Apple iMacs (though with a slightly slower CPU) and is noteworthy in that it DOES NOT use the crippled Atom CPU. 

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Our model also included 3GB of memory, a 320GB 2.5-in hard drive and an DVD+RW bay seen here in its slot loading glory.  You can also get an idea from this shot how deep the PC is and how much room the satin silver stand takes up on your desk. 

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The rear of the Dell Studio One includes four USB ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, audio output jack and the reset button. 

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Over on the left side you will see an card reader slot along with another pair of USB 2.0 ports, headphone and microphone connections and the all mighty power button.

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Along the top of the bezel you will see an integrated webcam and mic that allow you to very easily make video calls and video chats via programs like Skype.  In my testing I was able to do 640×480 video at 15 FPS on Skype with very good image quality – quite surprisingly.

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Besides the integrated on-screen keyboard, Windows 7 includes a surprisingly impressive handwriting recognition program that you can use your finger with, or like me, use the back of a ball point pen.  That is one of the advantages of the NextWindow technology that allows you to use just about anything for a stylus or pointing device with extremely low pressure.

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One of the better use cases for touchscreen technology came with the Microsoft Surface Globe application seen here – more video and application examples included in the video above.

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Scrolling through browser windows was very easy in Internet Explorer 8 but was not working at all with FireFox.

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These are a couple of other Windows 7 “Touch Pack” applications including the MS Surface photo tool and an interesting painting application.

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Because the Dell Studio One does not use the Atom processor, it had no problem playing back very high bit rate Flash video.

Closing Thoughts

This is my first time with extended usage on a touchscreen computer and I have to say that it was a mixed experience.  In the applications where touch controls were implemented well, such as with the Surface Globe and Photo applications, the touch experience was well beyond that of a keyboard and mouse.  And even applications such as Internet Explorer that had nice touches like the one and two finger scrolling would make a countertop-based PC a nice thing to have in any household. 

There were some hiccups though – touching anything at the very edges of the screen was VERY hard to do as the Dell Studio One has a raised bezel along the outer edge of the screen that hinders your finger from getting up right along the side.  That made hitting the X button to close windows pretty hard in non-touch-based applications and made scrolling in FireFox (that doesn’t support the 1 or 2 finger scrolling) a pain in the neck (or hand).  The onscreen keyboard is also hard to “pull out” from the side of the display for the very same reason.  Microsoft needs to make sure it’s own internal developers realize that not everyone using a touch PC is on a stylus-based notebook now.

Overall I have to admit that the idea of getting a touchscreen PC for the kitchen area is pretty appealing now after having used the Dell Studio One for a few days.  I would definitely recommend something with more power than the traditional “nettop” based touchscreen PCs with Atom processors if only to get support for Flash video of all types.  The Dell Studio One starts at $899 with multitouch support and Windows 7 – so its not exactly an impulse purchase like some of the nettops we have seen coming down the pipeline.  Your mileage may vary but with Windows 7 right around the corner (okay, it’s really here) touch applications may finally get the boost we have been waiting for to make these types of PC truly a must have.

There are lot more details with more commentary in the video review above, so be sure to check it out!