Touch sensitive

10th September 2004 at 01:00
Inclusive Touch PC

Touch screen all-in-one PC with Intel Celeron processor (2.0GHz), 256Mb of memory, CD-Rom drive, infrared keyboard, 2 USB ports, 2 serial ports, parallel port, VGA-out connector and Windows XP Professional.

Price: from pound;1,469

Inclusive Technology

Inclusive Touch PC

Fitness for purpose ****

Ease of use ****

Features ***

Quality *****

Value for money ***

We use Apple computers throughout our school - so what are we doing reviewing a PC running Windows XP? Well we jumped at the chance to try out the new Inclusive Touch PC.

The catalogue described it as "Completely self-contained. No external cables". At last, I thought, here's a product with the ease of a laptop and the functionality of a touchscreen. Of course, Tablet PCs are nearly there, but still use a stylus rather than actual finger touch.

I was disappointed that the catalogue led me to assume it ran without mains cables. Although it is a very promising development for schools needing touchscreens in the classroom, it is still a mains powered PC and even the wireless (RF) keyboard and mouse still require a receiver to be plugged in to the Touch PC. So, as far as "No external cables" goesI not quite true.

I was also surprised to find that it didn't have any FireWire ports, though it did sport two USB ports and the older style PC connections such as serial and parallel. It has built-in speakers, but no-built in microphone.

So what was it like in use? All of our classes cover the spectrum of learning needs found in an average SLD school, including learners with profound and multiple difficulties. I put the loan computer into a class of 14-year-olds and tested it out for a few weeks. The staff felt that the flat design was successful, saving space and with key controls such as the power switch tucked behind the screen. They also liked the ease of putting the wireless keyboard and mouse right out of the way and didn't find the receiver unit to be a problem.

When fixed to the stand the Touch PC felt reassuringly robust. Of course, in either case you do have to take account of the cables for power and the RF receiver unit. We did try leaving the RF receiver unplugged but as some software, such as Touch Balloons (that was supplied to try out), requires a keyboard command to quit we had to plug it all in again. The volume control wheel and sound button are at the front, and the neon glow lights accompanying them do attract attention, but this is not appreciably different from most mainstream computers in trying to balance accessibility to controls with keeping them away from wandering hands.

The Touch PC 2 would certainly be the better option in terms of specification, since it includes a Pentium IV 2.6GHz processor, 512Mb Ram, a 40Gb hard drive and a DVD-RW drive. This comes in at pound;1,759 if you go for the desk stand, plus another pound;45 for the RF keyboard and mouse. Considering that this is still a computer tethered to mains power you'd have to explore other options at this kind of price range.

The Inclusive Touch PC is a product with a lot of promise - the question is, will it eventually swap it's mains power for a battery, or will Tablet PCs beat it to the punch and gain their own genuine touchscreen first? Whichever it is, we'll be looking out for it.

Sean O'Sullivan, is deputy head at Frank Wise school in Banbury, Oxfordshire

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