HP ENVY Curved All-in-One PC (2017) Review: This One Is For Creators

Posted on April 11, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 15 Comments

HP ENVY Curved All-in-One PC (2017) Review: This One Is For Creators

The HP ENVY Curved All-in-One PC has both beauty and brawn, and is a significant upgrade to the original version. But for a few niggling issues, this is the near-perfect home workstation.

As you may recall, I once referred to this PC’s predecessor as the most beautiful PC in the world. And so it was. But like any supermodel, that curvy wonder had a few shortcomings. Which the 2017 HP ENVY Curved All-in-One PC seeks to fix.

And fix them it does. Well, mostly.

Design

Where the original ENVY Curved AIO was modeled after Barcelona designer furniture, the 2017 version exudes a more masculine vibe. Now, there are two permanently connected parts—it’s still an All-in-One—but they’re separated by an elegant metal arm. This new design, with the screen on top and a soundbar/base on the bottom, fixes a big issue I had with last year’s version: The inaccessibility of ports, which were previously on the back of the screen.

But this new design doesn’t solve my central problem with the original PC: As before, the display tilts but it doesn’t offer any height adjustment.

This was so vexing that I started looking around for a semi-elegant way to raise the screen, which in this case entailed raising the entire PC. And I got lucky: I own multiple copies of a height-adjustable Kensington monitor stand which, when set at a height of about three inches, raised the PC to exactly the right height.

(As you may know, your eyes should line up with the top edge of your PC’s display when you are sitting upright. Otherwise, the constant downward tilt of your neck will result in fatigue.)

The new design is sharp and handsome. And while some might argue that it’s not as pretty as the original ENVY Curved AIO, this new design is both beautiful and more usable. Freed of the unibody design of the past, HP was able to make the expansion ports more accessible than was the case last year, for starters. That said, I wish HP put a few more USB ports on the side of the device as well; I was forced to add a USB-C-based hub to the one port on the right side in order to make normal USB ports more accessible as I use the device.

This new design allowed HP to add some interesting features to the base of the PC as well. Most prominently, the front of the base works as a soundbar, described below. But the firm also added a wireless charging pad for smartphones on the left top of the base, and an elegant, well-designed volume wheel that’s integrated into the right top of the base. Both are thoughtful touches that highlight this products balance of form and function.

Ultimately, that balance is the central essence of this PC. Its predecessor was gorgeous, and arguably even better looking than this new version. But the 2017 ENVY Curved AIO is both beautiful and functional, and I enjoy using it much more as a result.

Display

As before, any discussion about the HP ENVY Curved AIO begins and ends with that screen, a 34-inch curved panorama that will take your breath away. Yes, it took a few days to get used to. But now I don’t even notice the curve. It’s a very natural and expected vista view of my work and play experiences.

The display offers 3440 x 1440 pixels—an ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio—and is Technicolor Color Certified, with LED backlighting so bright that I literally leave it set on 0. Indeed, this vast display outputs so much light, doing otherwise makes it impossible to use it with podcasts: It just washes out my face.

The display is amazing, and that’s true regardless of what you’re doing. For productivity purposes, it offers much more peripheral space to access desktop icons as well as smaller, more utility-like apps. Or you can simply display two apps, full-sized, side-by-side. It’s like having two 4:3 displays in one.

The screen is so wide, in fact, that some movies and most video games can’t even take advantage of all of it by default. Of course, that will depend on the content. The 4K/UHD test film Tears of Steel—which factors into the HP’s performance story as well—leaves about an inch of unused space on the left and right side of the screen. But my 1080p Blu-Ray rip of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith managed to fill even more of the entire screen without any fiddling. And my, did they both look nice, with bright colors and a clarity that needs to be seen to be believed.

Long story short, the display is a stunner, and as is the case with many who use multiple displays, moving over to a more traditional and pedestrian display after experiencing this wonder is a tragedy.

Components and ports

With its quad-core processor and powerful, gaming-class graphics, the HP ENVY Curved All-in-One is arguably more workstation than PC. It’s outfitted with an Intel Core-i7-7700T microprocessor, Radeon RX 460 Graphics (4 GB RAM) paired with Intel HD Graphics 630, and 16 GB of RAM. Like it predecessor, it features dual storage—a 256 GB SSD and a 1 TB HDD in this case—but unlike that earlier PC, these drives are kept separate and not configured as a hybrid drive. That’s the configuration I prefer, but because Windows 10 isn’t set up to utilize the bigger drive for content by default, you have to know to do this—and know how to do this—on your own.

So how burly is this configuration? It’s the most powerful PC in my house by far.

For example, the HP was able to convert the 4K/UHD test film Tears of Steel to a high-quality 1080p MP4 format in just 42:25. By comparison, the HP OMEN 17 gaming laptop, outfitted with a quad-core Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics, and 16 GB of RAM, completed the same encoding in 48:41. And the Dell XPS 15 (2017), a portable workstation in its own right, with a quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics, and 16 GB of RAM, took 54:29. (Surface Book with Performance Base required 1:34:05, and most business-class laptops require even more time.)

The ENVY Curved AIO is a surprisingly capable platform for video games.

Casual titles like Batman: The Telltale Series and Valiant Hearts: The Great War pose little trouble for the system, as you’d expect. Though the former won’t stretch to fill the screen and the latter stretches incorrectly, cutting off the bottom of the game display.

Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition also stretches the display to fill the screen, and it, um, looks like Minecraft. But in a panorama.

But I’m more interested in how well the HP handles more modern games. And it does quite well.

Gears of War 4, for example, fills the screen nicely at 2580 x 1080, and it benchmarks—and plays—quite well with most visual settings set to medium. This is a far better experience than playing the game on Xbox One, for example.

Forza Horizon 3 likewise performs incredibly well, though I’ve been impressed by this game’s ability to dynamic adapt to almost any PC and provide consistent frame rates and great graphics. On the HP, Forza flies, and stretches to fill the screen, which is appreciated. Here, the game optimizes for 1080p stretched, and at medium display quality at 30 fps, with vertical sync and framerate smoothing on. It’s gorgeous.

One of my early concerns about this PC has eased over time: When I first received the review unit back in February, I noted, and was surprised by, a constant fan noise. But HP informed me of a firmware update that somewhat alleviates this issue, and noted that this update was being preinstalled on shipping products. It still emits some fan noise, of course—it is, after all, a beast—but it’s less objectionable than before. Obviously, the fan will rev up during certain activities, in particular while gaming.

Expansion is solid. On the back right, looking at the PC normally, you’ll find four full-sized USB 3 ports, HDMI in and out, optical audio, and Ethernet. And on the right side, HP provides a USB-C port, a multi-format card reader, and a headphone jack. This is a much more convenient setup than the previous ENVY Curved AIO, which provided hard-to-reach ports right on the back of the screen. But it’s still not ideal: I need to add a USB-C-based hub in order to have front-accessible USB ports. Given the size of the base, this is something HP can and should fix for a future revision. (And there are no ports at all on the left side, for whatever reason.)

HP builds a webcam into the top of the screen using a cute “peekaboo” mechanism that lets you hide it when not in use. That will please privacy fans worried about Big Brother watching you while you work. But the camera is of such terrible quality that I ended up keeping it hidden. Instead, I use a third-party webcam, as before, and waste a precious USB port in doing so.

The soundbar, which occupies the entire front of the base, is impressive, offering configurable, room-filling sound. A Bang & Olufsen audio control utility lets you switch between music, video, or voice presets, adjust base and treble, or really fine-tune things with an equalizer. But after fiddling with this many times, I pretty much settled on the video preset and let the system do its thing. As noted, you can easily control the volume using a neat touch-based ring on the base. It works very nicely.

HP bundles some non-ergonomic keyboard and mouse with the PC, but I used my own Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic choices for the review.

Software

The HP ENVY Curved AIO comes with Windows 10 Home or Pro, depending on how you configure it.

But as has been the case of late, HP is slipping more and more questionable software into its PC images, and I’m not a fan of this creeping crapware expansion. Apps like Amazon, Dropbox, Cyberlink PowerDirector (a video editor), Houzz (a home designer app), Priceline.com, and Simple Mahjong (a game) will be welcome by some, I’m sure. But they’re unnecessary, and I especially don’t appreciate McAfee’s FUD warnings when I uninstall it. A PC like this should offer higher-quality software.

HP’s own utilities range from truly useful to the curious.

On the good news front, the HP Support Assistant keeps your PC up-to-date with the latest drivers, and it no longer needs to take up space on your taskbar, as before: Now it just lets you know when it needs to update. HP Orbit is an interesting option for moving data between the PC and your smartphone in either direction, though of course you need to install the app on your phone as well. An HP Recovery Manager utility provides all manner of recovery tools, which in some case duplicate functionality that’s provided by Windows. But you can use this utility to make recovery media, and should.

There are HP utilities all over this thing, for audio, for the display, and for printing, support, and documentation. Again, it’s not terrible, per se. But there must be a better way.

Pricing and configurations

The HP ENVY Curved AIO PC doesn’t come cheap, but that makes sense given the incredible screen and its powerful innards. A base-model—newly updated with a quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 1 TB hybrid SSHD drive, and NVIDIA GTX 950M graphics—will set you back about $1830. But the fully-loaded review unit costs a bit over $2300. You can configure yours as desired, though 16 GB is the max on RAM and there’s no SSD-only option.

Recommendations and conclusions

While the HP ENVY Curved All-in-One PC makes a great fashion statement, I’m more impressed by its performance and utility. This gorgeous device is more workstation than PC, and a credible gaming solution as well. And it provides a better experience than the typical multiple-display setup. No matter your workload—standard productivity tasks, software development, entertainment and gaming, or whatever—the ENVY can handle anything you throw at it. Yes, I do have a few minor complaints—the display needs height adjustment, and I’d love to see a few more easily-accessible USB ports—but the HP ENVY Curved All-in-One PC is highly recommended.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • That screen. My God, that screen
  • Workstation- and gaming PC-class performance
  • Soundbar delivers incredible sound
  • More accessible ports

Cons

  • Screen needs height adjustment
  • Built-in webcam is terrible
  • Needs some USB ports closer to the front
  • Pricing isn’t for the faint of wallet

 

Elevate the Conversation!

Join Thurrott Premium to enjoy our Premium comments.

Premium member comments on news posts will feature an elevated status that increases their visibility. This tab would allow you to participate in Premium comments with other premium members. Register to join the other Premium members in elevating the conversation!

Register or Subscribe

Join the discussion!

BECOME A THURROTT MEMBER:

Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Register

Register for this Webinar

Real World Solutions with Virtual Reality
Free Whitepaper Download

VR is being utilized for a surprising number of vital business functions today. In this white paper, you’ll get an overview of VR technology and see how it’s a vital part of many industries today.

Download the free whitepaper!