Our review unit included an Intel Core i7-870 quad-core processor running at 2.93GHz, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, 1TB of hard-drive space and an ATI Radeon HD 5570 graphics card. For such a premium price, we would have preferred that HP include the latest Sandy Bridge processor, but it's still an impressive arsenal for a 23-inch all-in-one desktop and after a thorough review, we have the performance scores to prove it.

We ran the TouchSmart 610 Quad through a gauntlet of performance tests, and the results show that this PC has hardware beefy enough to handle light office work, streaming media and heavy duty gaming with aplomb. The 610 Quad earned a score of 135 in our WorldBench 6 benchmark suite, trumping its predecessor (the TouchSmart 600 Quad, with a paltry score of 104) as well as the top performer in the category (the Gateway ZX6951-53, with a mark of 121), making it one of the fastest all-in-one PCs we've tested so far.

Those numbers mean that it's possible to play contemporary games on the TouchSmart 610 Quad at acceptable frame rates. Our review machine maintained 47 frames per second while running Unreal Tournament 3 at 1680-by-1050-pixel resolution on the highest graphical settings. In Dirt 2 its performance was less impressive, as it managed only 22 fps at the highest graphical settings and the same resolution. That's the best gaming performance of any all-in-one PC we've tested, however, and although most games don't play well with the touchscreen controls (R.U.S.E. being a notable exception), the TouchSmart 610 Quad can easily accommodate accessories such as a wireless mouse and keyboard thanks to the plethora of USB ports nestled about the case.

Though the case itself is unremarkable, the TouchSmart 610 Quad boasts a slim design and a small footprint, so it's easy to install in home and small office environments. The hefty black plastic housing sports a pair of USB ports recessed into the left edge, as well as headphone and audio-out jacks, a six-in-one card reader and volume controls (including a handy mute button).

Along the right side you'll find a pair of HDMI inputs and a slot-loading DVD drive, which you can upgrade to a Blu-ray drive. Everything else, including two more USB ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a TV tuner and the power jack, is concealed beneath the sliding rear panel. The front offers nothing save an adjustable-tilt webcam, a microphone and a few choice pieces of branding.

The innovative swivel stand deserves special mention: The screen slides forward and down to accommodate comfortable use of the touchscreen for prolonged swiping sessions. Slide the screen all the way down, and the TouchSmart 610 Quad comes to rest atop the base at roughly a 30 degree angle, nearly parallel to the desk. Be aware that adjusting the unit up and down takes some practice. Sliding the screen requires a significant amount of force.

After only a brief look at the device, I mistook that resistance for poor design and shoddy construction, but it's actually intended as a safety feature. HP designed a proprietary braking system for the 610 Quad that employs spring-loaded brake pads staggered unevenly along the TouchSmart's spine to keep the weighty 23-inch display safely in position as you type and swipe away at the screen.

Speaking of swiping, we've been consistently impressed with HP's TouchSmart gesture control software. Tons of touchscreen devices pass through the labs, and TouchSmart 4.0 is the best touch interface we've seen. Though the TouchSmart 610 Quad comes with Windows 7 preinstalled, and you can use your fingers as you would a traditional mouse to navigate the Windows interface, it's much easier to launch the TouchSmart software and browse through movies, music and games with the flick of a finger. Flipping from app to app is quick and easy, though multitouch gestures aren't easy to pull off and moments of frustration still crop up when the software stutters or fails to register a command.

The TouchSmart 610 Quad really shines as a home media centre. The 1920-by-1080-pixel LED screen boasts an impressively wide viewing angle that ensures images remain bright and colourful even when viewed from as far as 60 degrees off-centre, and streaming movies look terrific on the 1080p display.

They sound pretty great, too, thanks to the full speaker bar that HP built into the bottom of the display, though the addition of Beats-branded audio-amplification software amounts to little more than some extra bass when you need it. You can enable this neat feature by tapping the Beats button, which is conveniently located next to the volume controls on the otherwise unremarkable HP wireless keyboard that comes bundled with the 610 Quad. An equally serviceable wireless optical mouse comes in the package as well.

OUR VERDICT

The HP TouchSmart 610 Quad faithfully upholds its predecessors' legacy of offering premium features at a premium price, and it's a serious contender for the top spot on our chart. We're still mystified by the lack of a Sandy Bridge CPU, and playing higher-end PC games remains a dicey proposition. Nevertheless, if you're looking for a media-centric all-in-one that does everything and fits anywhere, the TouchSmart 610 Quad is a solid choice.