While ultra-portables such as the Lenovo Yoga 11S and the Sony Vaio Duo 11, are designed to represent the pinnacle in mobile computing innovation, with convertible screens and powerful processors, regardless of the price; the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 11 is the polar opposite - it offers as much as can be, for as little cash as possible. Surprisingly, the spec sheet turns out to be quite competitive.
The TouchSmart gets an 11.6-inch screen with 10-point multi-touch built in. Less than a year ago you would have struggled to get a touchscreen on anything below £600, so kudos to HP for implementing it into its entry-level laptop. It works well too. As you would expect from 10 point, inputs are accurate and smooth, and there's really no lag either.
While the lack of full HD isn't a surprise at this price point - the TouchSmart instead has 1366 x 768 pixels - what does surprise us is the lack of quality. The panel is of a fairly low quality - the result of which is a fairly blotchy overall look - and the TouchSmart also lacks a range of decent viewing angles. HP has obviously made the screen its chosen corner to cut.
That's not the only area that suffers from its budget nature - the processor takes a wallop too. The AMD might play the quad-core card to bring in the punters, but behind the curtains the A4 chip is really designed first and foremost with mobile computing in mind. Performance is not intended to be its strong suit, with just 1GHz on tap. You'll find smartphones packing more punch these days.
However, the on-board Radeon HD 8210 graphics promise good things for HD content, while 4GB of memory does help to alleviate concerns a little, giving this laptop greater ability to multitask. There's a 500GB hard drive - no SSD at this price, naturally – which is plenty for those wishing to install lots of applications and store a decent amount of movies and music on board. Media capabilities don't end there - the TouchSmart boasts DTS Sound+, which gives it a generous capacity for volume, but don't expect a particularly invigorating soundtrack.
We were pleased to see that on the connectivity front, things haven't been scrimped. Though the TouchSmart looks as if it only has three regular USB 2.0 ports (since there's no signature blue in sight), two are actually USB 3.0, denoted by the Superspeed label. There's also HDMI or VGA for connecting up to bigger screens, and an SD card slot, as well as an Ethernet port - but no Gigabit Ethernet.
A full version of Windows 8 is present here, giving the TouchSmart the full functionality it needs. Any desktop apps can be installed, although sadly this has given HP license to outfit the TouchSmart with its choice of bloatware. We kind of understand why: when a laptop is this cheap, manufacturers have to make up costs elsewhere, but it's never a good thing to see - especially when it can be detrimental to the performance of a device which already struggles in this department.
Due to the TouchSmart's small size, HP has made the sensible choice of outfitting it with a keyboard that's 95 per cent of the normal size. It works quite well in practice, with decent key feel, although if you have bigger hands you might find that it's just a little tight for working for long periods.
Speaking of size, the TouchSmart might have a small screen, but it's certainly not a slim laptop by any means. It's definitely erring on the chunky side, and the weight of 1.4kg isn't particularly impressive either. Having said this, overall it feels reasonably well made and fairly stylish, if a little basic.