HP TouchSmart, a good pilothouse PC?


The product image may be a little fruity—HP calls it the “perfect kitchen computer”—but I think this TouchSmart IQ770 might make one heck of a boat computer. That’s a  19” “BrightView” 1,440 x 900 pixel touchscreen display that responds to finger or stylus. I’ve tried navigating on tablet computers and think that while a stylus is fine for planning it’s not so great for underway work, especially if you get your hands on (sorry!) a navigation program truly designed for finger commands.  

HP_TouchSmart_sidewaysI understand that many tablets will soon get direct finger control—the possibility is built into Vista—but still with a tablet you need to come up with some solid mounting device for a pilothouse. This puppy is some 17 pounds with much of the weight in the base, so it shouldn’t be too hard to secure it somewhere in a pilot house. It also comes with wireless keyboard and mouse, a built-in web cam and surround sound, and an incredible amount of connectivity, including a HD TV tuner and FM radio. It’s also supposed to be quiet and power efficient, and a number of reviewers liked it. A week or so ago I e-mailed HP asking to test one myself , but, um, have not received a response. Amazon’s got it for about $1,550; who’s going to try it on their boat? 

PS 9/11: I tried to make a better case for finger-touch screens in today’s entry. Also, I too appreciate how gorgeous iMacs are, but they don’t have any sort of touch interface (yet). 

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

7 Responses

  1. Steve says:

    I am not a Mac person, but I have to say that compared the the iMac, that thing is just dog ugly. Plus it seems to only be available with Vista, which is my absolute last choice for a navigation computer. My advise is to get a Thinkpad while you can still get one with XP preloaded.

  2. Bob Hinden says:

    Thinking about a MAC, one of the new iMacs
    would also be pretty nice on a boat. The 20″ model starts at $1,200, even cheaper than the HP model you described. The larger 24″ model can have a VESA wall mount.

  3. Steve2 says:

    A guy writing in the SSCA Bulletin has recommended the Toughbook CF-08. It is a wifi touchscreen terminal that allows you to “see” and control another computer running inside. It apparently has an outdoor screen and is meant for construction sites and stuff like that. Or an exposed cockpit…

  4. The old Win2k Fujitsu “pen” computer at my nav station has a finger-able touch screen. When standing near the nav station it’s pretty handy to pan a chart but that functionality isn’t something I would miss too bad. Finger-sized buttons take up too much real-estate on the screen (my opinion). Also, relying too heavily on being able to reach the screen with your finger somewhat limits placement of the screen.
    Yes, the tool I have is a hammer and everything looks like a nail, but, sitting down at a nav station with a keyboard in front of me, SeaClear’s keyboard shortcuts allow me to zoom and select charts, select features, alter settings, etc. very efficiently.

  5. Aaron Lynch says:

    You can also convert a a macbook to a touch-screen tablet.

  6. George says:

    The HP is a pretty slick package and will find a happy home anywhere that you can expect the desk to always remain parallel to the ground. It looks a little unstable for marine use, takes up a fair bit of real estate, and requires 110 volts.
    I like the new breed of automotive computers — they are compact, shock resistant, and often will run from 12 volts. (I’m installing a fanless unit by Xenarc.) It is nice not to have the navigation system reliant on the inverter — which seems to be a weak point in many electrical systems.
    I am not fond of taking non-mobile computers boating. When designing the equipment the engineers always have an audience in mind, and I am more than willing to bet that the HP engineers never dreamed of putting their machine on any moving object. That hinge doesn’t look like it was designed to hold up when you get sideways to a huge wave and grab it for support; if it breaks their warranty people will stare at you blankly.
    Another consideration is that the monitor is built in — if the screen goes out the computer has to be replaced, and when the computer becomes obsolete you have to buy a new display. (My lcd monitor dates from the 90’s, the first thing it displayed was probably Windows 95. It works fine on the latest generation of computers.)

  7. GPSNavX says:

    The ModBook has an optional integrated GPS. Works great with MacENC.

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