Arriving in a box the size of a 1972 Super Beetle, the HP ENVY Curved All-in-One is the most beautiful PC I’ve ever laid eyes on. The only question is whether I’m worthy of the expansive and curved 34-inch ultra-widescreen display.
As it must, this conversation starts with the screen, which unfolds in front of you like a Sergio Leone Western, an expanse that, viewed at the right distance, literally consumes all of your direct vision. And some of your peripheral vision too.
Impressive as they are, the specs do little to drive home what’s happening here. Sure, it sounds good on paper: A curved diagonal widescreen WQHD (3440 x 1440) 21:9 LED-backlit display that is Technicolor Color Certified for the best in color accuracy, a first for all All-in-One. But you have to see it to believe it.
The curved screen is not a gimmick. The theory here is that every pixel on the screen is the same distance from your eyes, based on normal viewing conditions. Otherwise, the edges of screen would be harder to see, and using a display this wide could lead to eye strain. The “curvedness”—I assume that’s sort of a word—takes a bit of getting used to, and if you’re really looking for it, you will notice at first that on-screen windows actually do “curve” along with the screen. You stop seeing this as you adapt to the screen.
(It’s also worth mentioning that a curved screen makes way more sense for a PC display, as it’s only used by one person at a time. With a curved screen TV, only one person in the room—the person dead center in front of it—has a good view. For everyone else, the view is compromised.)
The screen is so wide, there’s little chance you’d ever run any application full-screen—save for movie playback, perhaps—but it does make a strong usage case for Snap, where you can have two apps side-by-side. And not lose an iota of content.
Indeed, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to handle the sheer width of this thing at first—and yes, children, please interject the obvious size/width jokes here as required. But as the past week progressed, I started adapting my time-worn window placements to the wider display, and found that I really enjoyed having more access to my desktop scratch space on the left, and a wider plane on which to use Photoshop in particular. It’s going to be hard to go back to my old PC. (But HP does sell this screen in standalone display form too. Hm.)
Looking past the screen, so to speak, the sheer beauty and build quality of this device places it firmly in the “work of art” category. It’s arguably even better looking from the back than from the front, and HP should be commended for complementing the fit and finish with some restraint around the placement and availability of ports. On the back, there is only a small selection of ports in the middle, framed by the gorgeous metal pedestal-style feet. And there are a few front-accessible convenience ports on the bottom—two USB ports, for example, and a headphone jack—none of which are called out with ugly identifying text. This is form and function.
Speaking of which, the ENVY AIO features 6 front-firing speakers (and 8 overall), and the sound quality is quite good, in videos and music alike. This is the first time I’ve never even considered adding speakers to a PC, and a bundled Bang & Olufsen app lets you really configure the sound to your liking or needs. I got lost in a few STAR WARS movies for purely scientific testing purposes.
That the entire PC—or what most people would consider the display–tilts back (but not forward) for an optimal viewing angle is of course the icing on the proverbial cake. I’d like to see some form of height adjustment—hey, I’m tall—but I can’t imagine that wouldn’t be issue for most people.
The ENVY AIO isn’t just about looks, of course. It can be had in Core i5 or i7 form, optional discrete graphics, gobs of RAM, and lots of storage. The review unit I received is decked out with a quad-core 2.8 GHz Core i7-6700T processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960A graphics with 2 GB of dedicated RAM, 12 GB of RAM, and a 128 GB SSD and a 1 TB HDD. The front-facing camera is an Intel RealSense unit and, yes, it works with Windows Hello. Likewise, its microphones are turned for Cortana. (The unit ships with Windows 10 Home.)
Those specs are an interesting combination of portable and desktop PC parts, the former necessitated by the ENVY AIO’s incredibly thin form factor. But they’re high-end parts regardless, and the experience I’ve had so far has been nothing short of perfect.
Less easily explained is the lack of upgradeability: None of the parts are user serviceable, so you can’t swap out the SSD/HHD or add RAM. And since I’ve hit on some negatives, this is perhaps the right time to also mention the lack of an optical drive, which I don’t personally need. And that the screen, while impressive, lacks multi-touch capabilities, which many might expect. And I have indeed reached out to touch it more than once.
There are aspects of the ENVY AIO I haven’t really spent much time with yet, including its HDMI In and HDMI Out capabilities; you can drive a second display as you’d expect, but that HDMI In port means that you can also use this unit as a standalone display. The PC also comes with a basic wireless keyboard and mouse, but I’ve been using my own well-worn Microsoft Sculpt keyboard and mouse instead.
As tested, the review unit would set you back about $2100, a reasonable price for such an incredible machine: That’s for the quad-core Core i7 processor, 12 GB of RAM, discrete graphics, and 128 GB SSD and 1 TB HDD storage. A lower-cost $1799 version ($1650 as I write this), with a quad-core Core i5 processor, 12 GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD (but no SSD) and discrete graphics, would be perfectly capable, I’m sure. You can get versions with dual-core processors and no discrete graphics as well.
Too, I should note that the review unit appears to be a Signature version, meaning one you purchase directly from Microsoft. As such, it is devoid of crapware, including the trialware security software most PC makers still bundle with their devices for some reason. (It does of course include the crap Microsoft sticks in Windows 10, like Candy Crush Soda Saga, Flipboard, and 3D Builder.)
HP has been on a tear for the past couple of years, and the ENVY Curved All-in-One is perhaps the ultimate example of how good a PC can really be. That it outclasses Apple’s suddenly plain-looking iMac is almost besides the point: The ENVY Curved All-in-One outclasses every PC I’ve ever used.
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