Apple just released the new iMac with a 27-inch 5K Retina display for its core market of designers, but another desktop manufacturer has a brand new machine that is targeted towards Apple's market.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) is cementing its reputation as an innovator with Sprout, the desktop computer system that surpasses our ingrained expectations of what a desktop computer can and cannot do. Sure, it does not have the same big, bold and beautiful graphics that one can enjoy on Apple's latest computer, but that is pretty much where the iMac's superiority over Sprout ends.

Under the hood, Sprout has more or less similar components as the high-end iMac, including an Intel Core i7 processor, a top-of-the-line NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, 8GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. However, it is what designers, filmmakers, musicians and other creative types can do with Sprout that makes the difference.

Key to Sprout's game-changing new computer is the combination of an Illuminator equipped with a 14-megapixel camera and an array of sensors equipped with Intel's RealSense 3D tracking technology and a 20-inch flexible Touch Mat that works as a capacitive, multi-touch projecting screen with 20 touch points. Users can write or draw anything on the mat, which are captured by the scanner on the Sprout's Illuminator and digitized so that they can be resized, rotated, moved around, edited and combined with other elements on the touchscreen.

It's not just 2D, however. HP is making a big leap into blending the physical and digital into what it calls "blended reality" by allowing users to place real, physical objects, such as a ball, a mug or anything that could fit into the mat, and have them transferred into the screen. For now, scanning can only accommodate one side of the object, but the technology is new, and HP is working on an update that will allow full 3D scanning that will be available in 2015.

Joshua Davis, media arts director at design firm Sub Rosa, is one of the early testers of Sprout. This is what he has to say [video] about HP's new computer:

"A scanner, a depth sensor - these are typically separate things. If you could take all those things and put them into a single device, it means that the entry point is a million times faster. That's the potential of this machine. I can get creative quicker, faster and easier."

At $1,899, Sprout is less expensive than Apple's $2,499 iMac. Buyers will be able to get hold of their first Sprout computers next month from select Microsoft and Best Buy stores and also through HP's website, which is taking pre-orders now.

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