HP ENVY Curved All-in-One PC (2017) First Impressions

Posted on February 11, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 13 Comments

HP ENVY Curved All-in-One PC (2017) First Impressions

Last year, I described the original HP ENVY Curved All-in-One as “the most beautiful PC in the world.” So how does the new version rank?

I’ll find out over time. But here are some first impressions.

As its name suggests, the HP ENVY Curved All-in-One PC is an AIO PC with a prominent and large curved screen. This is the second-generation version of this device, and the design this year is all-new, with the screen separated from the rest of the PC, which is now in the base.

Despite this all-new body, the new ENVY Curved AIO is surprisingly similar to its predecessor. The screen itself appears to use the same panel as before—a curved, 35-inch WQHD display running at a resolution of 3440 x 1440—but now features a much smaller bezel and is separated from the PC’s guts by an elegant new stand. The effect is such that the screen seems to float above the desk.

As with the previous unit, the screen can be angled easily enough, but it cannot be raised, which I find to be problematic. In a nice touch, however, the built-in front-mounted web cam can be recessed into the screen for privacy. And yes, it is Windows Hello compatible, though it’s also fairly low resolution, at 1 MP.

Thanks to this new design, the actual PC, as with Microsoft’s Surface Studio, is now in a base unit. This base has a few interesting features, including an integrated wireless charging pad and a Bang & Olufsen sound bar. It’s not as purely attractive as the original ENVY Curved AIO but this new version is more practical. I wish the screen height could be raised, however.

The internals are a nice step up from last year: Quad-core Core Intel i5 or i7 processors, discrete NVIDIA GTX950M or AMD Radeon RX460 graphics, up to 16 GB of RAM and a variety of storage options. As with the HP ENVY AIO I reviewed last year, this unit comes with two drives, a 256 GB SSD and a 1 TB HDD.

Those specs suggest some light gaming must be possible, and given the nature of the screen, I’ll certainly be testing a racing game like Forza Horizon 3 at the least. But I suspect the task of pushing so many pixels may work against this device’s gaming ambitions. We shall see.

There are ample ports—four full-sized USB 3.0 ports, HDMI In and Out, Ethernet on the back, plus a headphone jack, card reader slot, and one USB-C/Thunderbolt port on the side—but I wish there were a few front-accessible USB ports too.

The sound bar is surprisingly potent, with rich stereo separation and great bass. In fact, I got caught up in a few minutes of “Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens” thanks to the quality of the sound.

You can easily control the volume by sliding your finger around a circular depression in the base, a nice touch.

The HP comes with some innovative software, including a cool phone-integration app called HP Orbit that I’m legitimately interested in using. There are a few crapware bits—Amazon, Dropbox, and some McAfee terribleness—but nothing completely objectionable. The review unit came with Windows 10 Home, but you can configure it with Pro at purchase time.

I do have a couple of concerns.

The first and most obvious is the screen, which is gorgeous but perhaps overly wide. I’m going to need to adapt to this, and I’m curious how long that will take. I’ve often noted that I’d rather use one very wide display instead of two separate panels, but now that I’m again confronted by this option, I’m not so sure.

Too, the resolution of the screen may be low for some: I’m surprised there isn’t a higher DPI option, though such a thing would of course be very expensive. May in fact not exist at this size.

The Windows 10 desktop gets a bit weird when it’s this wide.

More problematic for me, however, is the constant low fan noise, which I’m sure is required by the high-end chipsets and drives inside the base. But this is the problem with AIO PCs in general: Because the screen is attached to the PC, you cannot position the PC in a place where the noise it makes is less pronounced. PC noise was an even bigger issue with last year’s model: The hybrid drive in that unit started making a low clicking sound which slowly drove me bonkers.

Pricing is reasonable and commensurate with the ENVY Curved AIO’s premium design and powerful innards: It starts at $1729 for a Core i5-based unit with an NVIDIA GTX950M graphics card with 4 GB of RAM, 8 GB of system RAM and a 1 TB SSHD drive (basically a 5400 RPM HDD with 8 GB of NAND cache). But a fully loaded unit with a Core i7, AMD Radeon RX460 graphics with 4 GB Of RAM, 16 GB of RAM, and a 256GB M.2 NVMe SSD with a 2TB 5400 RPM HDD—the review unit—will set you back $2179.

This is a beautiful and impressively-appointed PC. More soon.

 

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