Just a day after FedEx dropped off the HP ENVY Curved All-in-One in a VW-sized box, I have a few more observations about this stunning new PC.
First, I’d really like to make this one work. I feel like my 2016 swerve to the Intel NUC was mostly successful, but in thinking about a replacement for this year, I’m interested in a quad-core CPU and discrete graphics, preferably something that can play real games and perhaps even handle VR/AR/MR/whatever we’re calling it this week.
What I’m not interested in, however, is noise. And these two needs are perhaps not compatible. I know this, of course. But I also know that were I to build a PC this year for myself, which I have of course been planning, then I would do what I could to keep it as quiet as possible. Water cooling, a case designed for quiet, and so on.
But the HP ENVY Curved All-in-One PC—let’s just called it the CAIO going forward—is an interesting possibility. It’s not marketed this way for obvious reasons, but in many ways, this is a high-end workstation. It’s beautiful, of course, but it’s very capable too. It’s not all surface fluff.
As an item of beauty, prospective customers might expect to want to place it in some public part of their home where it might be seen by others and commented on. This is understandable, but the constant, low hum of the device’s fans makes this impractical. I suspect a quieter, dual-core version with non-discrete graphics could partially help here. But that would subvert the CAIO’s high-end capabilities.
To be clear, the fan runs all the time and is never idle or silent. In normal use, it is not obnoxiously loud, but it is a constant source of white noise. I find it a bit annoying, but I am very sensitive to this sort of thing. I’m surprised it never quiets down, as do even the thinnest laptops at times.
So there’s that.
As I noted in my first impressions article yesterday, I plan to install some games on this device and see how that goes. I’ve done so with just a few titles so far, but I am already impressed: The quad-core Core i7 CPU and discrete AMD Radeon RX460 graphics combine to deliver great gaming performance. In games like Forza Horizon 3, which can even take advantage of the CAIO’s ultra-wide screen and strange aspect ratio, the effect is all the more impressive.
And to be clear on this item, I am installing the games to the slower but far bigger HDD, not the speedy 256GB M.2 NVMe SSD. It may or may not be interesting to try and figure out what the difference might be there, but given the success I’ve had with the HDD, I may not bother.
I briefly mentioned yesterday that there only a few crapware installs on the CAIO, but it’s a bit more nuanced than that. In addition to the Amazon, Dropbox, and McAfee terribleness, and HP Orbit, there are actually quite a bit extraneous apps on here, including Cyberlink PowerDirector (a video editor), Houzz (a home designer app), Priceline.com, Simple Mahjong (a game), and more.
I’m a bit surprised by this, as I thought HP had gotten the Clean PC bug along with the rest of the industry, and of course this firm has generally done right by its premium customers. But I think the pre-load here crosses a line. For example, the Priceline.com app is a desktop application, and when I try to uninstall it, I am brought to the old-school Programs and Features control panel. Where there is no item called Priceline or similar. That is not OK.
HP also bundles an astonishing array of HP-branded utilities which spackle the Start menu with separate items. There are utilities for the sound, the display, and for printing, and I don’t even have an HP printer. There’s a JumpStart app and several help-type apps, including various recovery tools and the typical HP Support Assistant, which I find valuable, though it’s curiously well-hidden on this particular machine.
With that one noted exception, you can, of course, get rid of the stuff you don’t want. And because some of these apps are even modern Store apps, that can be quick and easy. But the sheer amount of stuff in there makes it difficult to know what’s important.
I also briefly mentioned HP Orbit, which is that rare third-party utility that is actually interesting and useful, in this case because it doesn’t just duplicate something in Windows. In fact, it provides a service Windows should already offer, which is an easy way to move information back and forth between your PC and mobile devices, like your smartphone.
HP Orbit works with both Android and iOS, and requires you to install a mobile app on those devices. But it’s easy to set up, and until Windows offers seamless data sync with mobile devices—again, a feature it should already have—this works well enough. (Apple has a neat iCloud-based sync feature that will make your desktop contents available everywhere, for example.)
To copy a file to your phone, you just drag it onto the app’s UI, called the canvas. Then it appears on the canvas in HP Orbit on your phone, too, and you can open it with whatever compatible apps you have. (You can do the reverse as well.) Yes, you could sort of duplicate this functionality with OneDrive or another cloud service, but the performance here is great, and because of the simple UI, it’s a bit more obvious.
I’ll keep playing around with that, and will continue examining the other HP bundled apps more closely.
A few other notes. I’m going to keep the Windows Insider builds off of here for now and stick with the shipping version of Windows 10. But I upgraded this box to Windows 10 Pro so I could use Hyper-V; It seems like a machine of this cost should just come with Pro. (It is an option.) I’ve installed Visual Studio 2017 RC and Android Studio for my ongoing software development learnings. I attached a USB-C-based USB hub to the side-mounted USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port so I could do what I normally do and switch out USB-based devices as needed. This machine should have more ports near the front. I didn’t even unpack the bundled wireless keyboard and mouse; I recently purchased a second Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop set from Amazon, and have been using that instead.
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