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One of the high notes of the last HP all-in-one I reviewed was the company's Beats Audio. I expected nothing less from this system and thankfully it didn't disappoint. The speaker bar below the display was able to fill a large room with great sounding music without having to push the speakers to max volume. Bass is certainly present although you have to be reasonable with expectations from such small speakers. Overall this is another great showing for Beats Audio on an HP system.
As for gaming, the Radeon HD 6550A inside offers a nice boost in performance over the TouchSmart’s HD 6450A, resulting in higher scores across the board in both synthetic benchmarks and real-world games. Granted this still isn't really a gaming PC, but it's more than capable of playing most mainstream titles at modest settings.
Our informal YouTube 4K resolution video test pushed the CPU to around 50% -- surprisingly about 17% more than we saw on the Sandy Bridge 520. Either way, video was smooth at full screen, so no real complaints here.
The display on this system, although large at 27 inches, is a bit disappointing. Color reproduction is alright, but we're bummed about the 1920x1080 resolution. Given that we're moving into an age of super high-res displays, the lack of a 2560x1440 panel is a letdown. Users sitting fairly close to the system will easily to spot pixelation on the screen.
I have no real complaints with Windows 7 as it's been a solid operating system from the get-go, but with Windows 8 just around the corner, it might be worth waiting until later this year to buy a new PC. Of course, Microsoft is offering a guaranteed upgrade path for anyone that buys a Windows 7 PC within the next few months for $15, so it's not totally out of the question to invest in a new computer today.
The included software bundle on the Omni 27 unfortunately consists of a lot of bloatware, something that isn't uncommon among large brand manufacturers. While I could see HP LinkUp being a pretty useful tool, the inclusion of Magic Canvas on a system lacking touch capabilities is beyond me. My HP rep said that Magic Canvas is coming standard on many non-touch HP desktops now to give users another interface option. I don't know about you, but I'll stick with the Windows I'm familiar with if there are no touch benefits to be had.
Aside from the lack of a TV tuner, the connectivity options on the Omni virtually mirror what we saw on the TouchSmart, which is a good thing. USB 3.0 is standard and the HDMI-in port is great for playing console games or connecting a notebook to use a larger display.
There's one thing I'd like to point out, however, after using this system and the 520 before it. While I do appreciate the fact that HP hid the side I/O ports "behind" the display on the left side of the system for aesthetic reasons, it isn't entirely practical. For example, any time you want to plug in a USB flash drive, you either need to lean way over your desk to visually locate the port or pull the computer towards you for a clear view. This is exactly why almost all modern desktop cases now have front I/O panels -- convenience.
The included keyboard and mouse are sufficient for most users. Notice how HP used the "b" from the Beats Audio logo on the keyboard? Pretty clever. But seriously, the board worked just fine and remained firmly planted on my desk at all times. I had no issues with the mouse either, aside from it simply not having enough buttons for my liking.
So, is the Omni 27 better than the TouchSmart 520? As much as it sounds like on paper, I don't really think so. I approve of the new Ivy Bridge processor, faster discrete graphics and the speedier 7,200 RPM hard drive, but honestly the system doesn't feel that much snappier.
Sure, it benchmarks higher, but it all comes down to one simple fact: a computer is generally only as fast as its slowest component, which is the hard drive in this case. I can only imagine how speedy the Omni would feel with an SSD hosting the OS and programs. The hard drive is holding back the true potential of the rest of the hardware, which is a real shame.
At the end of the day, the HP Omni 27 probably wouldn't be on my shortlist of potential all-in-ones, largely in part to the low resolution of the 27-inch display. You do get the option to swap the HDD for an SSD which is a plus, but I wouldn't lock my decision until taking a closer look to other AIO contenders, namely Dell's 27-inch XPS All-in-One that sells for a similar amount but packs a 2560x1440 panel.
Pros: Clean and elegant looks, 27-inch panel is great for an all-in-one. HDD aside, performance with Ivy Bridge is superb. Decent AMD graphics. Good connectivity.
Cons: Display could be higher-res, a deal breaker at this price point in our opinion. HP is lacking attention to detail on the software front, bloatware included.
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