The Morning After: HP ENVY Curved All-in-One PC (2017) Second Impressions

Posted on February 12, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 42 Comments

The Morning After: HP ENVY Curved All-in-One PC (2017) Second Impressions

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.

Oh, it plays games. Hell yes, it plays games.

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.

This should not be necessary.

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.

More soon.

 

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Comments (42)

42 responses to “The Morning After: HP ENVY Curved All-in-One PC (2017) Second Impressions”

  1. 265

    Performance over noise any and every day.  Unless you have a workstation in a bedroom, the ambient racket in my house is always louder than my pc's anyway.   Do you have some sort of silent heating and cooling in your house, or do you just sweat it out in the summers and hunker down beneath blankets in the winter?

    HP Orbit looks interesting and it seems strange that it isn't already a part of the HP Elite x3 and Windows 10 UWP. 

  2. 10163

    For 2017, a potential solution to Paul's dilemma may lie in an USB-C/Thunderbolt-based eGPU unit.

  3. 7932

    White noise is the best kind: it is the sort of thing that blends in and is easily ignored..unless you choose to dwell on it, I suppose. The quieter the ambient, the more that white noise 'sticks out'....I think the answer is a noisier ambient ;)

    Taking a walk outside must be torture: it is not very quiet very often, the wind blowing past your ears is a virtual roar compared to a tiny little computer fan.

     

    • 10158

      In reply to mmcewan:

      I don't think it compares to outside conditions. The pitch of some of these fans hits at a higher frequency than that of most natural conditions. Even then, some people have a harder time with those conditions you describe. I've had PCs where the pitch is quite offensive, especially if the fan speed rises and falls with every little bit of load change. It becomes very hard to drown out or ignore. Gradual speed changes can be mitigated with larger heat sinks and heat pipes, and sometimes that is where manufacturers chose to save money and go with less mass or complexity to save costs on material and engineering. We'd need to see the insides of this AIO to know for sure. 

    • 5485

      In reply to mmcewan:

      It does blend until you actually use a system that makes mostly no noise at all. Than it is a revelation :)

  4. 10760

    My 27 inch iMac never makes any fan noise. Does it even have a fan? 

  5. 766

    Paul have you checked this one out from Lenovo? http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/desktops/thinkcentre/m-series-tiny/m715/ Basically it is AMD's A12 APU box.

  6. 5361

    Lets just call these Cacao -

     

  7. 5485

    Another good looking PC device with questionable engeneering for the price I guess.

    This is seams to be a recurrent factor in the Windows PC Industry. Some rare exceptions might exist. 

    PS: Never met yet a Windows laptop for instance that does not make fan noise ... even at low usage. My experience is that while brand new with no extra apps installed it is mostly silent (first couple of days or so). But after Office is installed this changes (along with other work tools) ... and than we also have the Windows updates that may break the behavior. 

  8. 6171

    So, uh, what happens when someone outgrows that little RX460...?  Just pull it and put in a better GPU?  No?  Awwwww.....;)  The hidden "gothcha's" to all-in-one units are known well only by the experienced, unfortunately.  Definitely, these are n00b products, designed to "teach" folks lessons about expandability and user-serviceability the hard way...;) I guess if it weren't for the gullible no one could earn a living, eh?  Sad thing is they can't much count on experienced people to steer them wisely.

  9. 6494

    I have a HP Envy Phoenix I7 Quad Core I bought about 2 years ago for a gaming PC and I am very impressed with this machine. What is amazing about it is that you can never hear it running at all , its whisper quiet . Even though there is a case fan and discreet Nvidia graphics card fan, you never hear any fan noise at all. HP did an awesome job with the led lighting on the fans and case also , it just looks neat.

  10. 2470

    Please test the USB C functionality thoroughly.  The HP Envy and Spectre laptops have been reviewed together in the past and it was implied that HP has fixed their USB C issues, but that simply is not the case with the Envy laptop I got (7th Gen Intel that was just released).  The power delivery option doesn't work (not applicable here since it is a desktop), but none of the other advanced functionality appears to work either (video output on USB C port, Thunderbolt).  Are we sure they have that working?  HP really seems to be missing the mark with functionality even though their build quality has improved dramatically.

  11. 442

    The consumer is getting so much smarter these days.  Crapware is the "old HP" that just doesn't seem to want to go away.  And, it's what I think is the main thing that's hurting them in the market.  That and machine ambiguity, in that they look great, but rarely hit tops in reviews.

  12. 180

    HP's addiction to crapware remains one of the reasons I continue to not recommend their products to friends and family. It's a shame, because increasingly it looks like they're making nice hardware, but the bloat is completely unacceptable.

  13. 1146

    HP Orbit sounds a bit like a generic version of the Samsung SideSync app - Lets move files back and forth, take calls from your phone on your PC, text messages, notifications etc. 

  14. 1581

    I have a Dell AIO, and the fans also like to run. I have changed the default power scheme to limit the CPU speed to 95%. This makes a negligible difference to performance, but drops the fan down to a whisper. On the odd occasion that I am taxing the system I just flip it over to high performance mode.

  15. 6380

    For the fan noise check the BIOS, HP seem to have bit of a fan fetish - I have an HP Envy and Spectre X360 both of which had permanently running fans until I turned it off in the BIOS, since then they behave as normal with fans running only if the processor is flat out..

  16. 4796

    So to sum up: a high end device with insufficient ports, too much crapware, and excessive noise.  Hmmm HP being HP. Obviously they didn't get the "offer a Signature Edition" memo.  I think it is time to refuse to recommemd AND device with crapware that doesn't offer a Signature Edition.

  17. 277

    I replaced my 2010 Dell XPS 9100 with last year's version.  No regrets.  There is fan noise, but it does not bother me.  Do not game much so it is perfect fo my use.  This model is much sleeker, but I am quite happy to keep this one a few years.

  18. 5496

    you can use onedrive to sync across desktop and mobile. It it not as hard as you make it out to be.

    • 661

      In reply to lordbaal1:

      what kind of latency do you see? The reason I ask is I used Office Lens to snap a picture of a receipt to upload to WaveApps and I kept clicking the refresh on the PC side but the image never appeared so I emailed it to myself instead - a piss poor experience. I expected the image to appear once I refreshed the PC side of things and it didn't. I even logged into OneDrive and the image hadn't synced. I wish there were easy ways to make it instantaneous 

      • 5496

        In reply to Simard57:

        you would think that being that office lens would send it to your pictures, but it doesn't.

        In my account, it can send it to one of 3 places.

        In an apps folder, inside that folder is a folder called office lens.

        Or it can send it to my documents, in that is an office lens folder.

        Or on the main page, there is an office lens.

        but I also have mine set to save as a PDF, save as an image, and save to one note.

        but it uploads within a couple seconds.

  19. 296

    My desktop usage has become pretty limited over the years, but don't most desktops just run their fan constantly? I think of the silent device as a mobile phenomenon.

     

    I think you'll have to hide your giant new rig in a closet somewhere and just have the peripherals on your desk to get the type of silence you're looking for...

  20. 10158

    In reply to RossNWirth:

    In reply to the premium comment--not all desktops have noticeable noise. For example, since 2010, the Mac mini it is virtually silent unless you load down the system, and it has a fan running all the time. Even then, it's not offensive. I am also sensitive to fan noise in that I'll notice it, and I can't hear a Mac mini over ambient. It's one of those situations where you initially think the fan isn't running and you have to put your ear 2" away from the air outlet to hear it. So as long as the cooling setup is decent and the fan is of good quality (and set on rubber grommets), a silent desktop is still possible. I just think cooling is one area where companies will scrimp in order to hit a price point. You won't notice it in a noisy store, but you sure will once you buy it and get it set up at home. 

    • 5592

      In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

      The difference is that Paul is running an actual high-end system with a real processor and discrete graphics and not a laptop without a keyboard, screen and trackpad. He already ran the equivalent of a Mac Mini when he used the Intel NUC.

       

      • 10158

        In reply to MikeGalos:

        That may be true, but I've also used mini-PCs with piddly 15W CPUs that had persistant and offensive hissing due to cut-rate cooling, to the point that I had to go to something else. The Mac mini is just an example, and the iMac would be a better comparison due to using similar TDP CPUs (quad core i5 and i7) and dedicated GPUs. Reviews show that heat and noise are not an issue. Effective, efficient, quiet cooling can be done, but engineering time needs to be spend, and quality components must be used.

        • 5592

          In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

          Glad you agree now that the Mac Mini wouldn't be relevant.

          • 10158

            In reply to MikeGalos:

            What are you talking about? My point is still the same. Inferior cooling solutions ruin the user experience, regardless of their individual performance needs. Well-engineered cooling completes the package, especially when one is shelling out over $2k on hardware. I'm sure one can go beyond Apple hardware to find powerful and quiet solutions, but Apple seems to put more emphasis on this matter, regardless of what device you are buying. 

      • 5664

        In reply to MikeGalos:

        My 2012 Mac mini has a quad-core i7, thank you, sir!

  21. 10158

    Paul, Just curious if you would consider testing an iMac at a similar price range? You can get the quad core, AMD graphics, even full SSD storage (though Apple still uses 3.5" 7200RPM drives in the iMacs). Just from what I can configure from Apple's website, you can build something fairly powerful at 27" in the same price range. It would be an i5 and only a 2GB GPU, but you get the 5k screen as the trade off. You can obviously still run Windows 10 on it. Curious how it would compare in your real world testing at this price.

    • 5592

      In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

      And again, the idea isn't to compare a much less powerful system just to get a Macintosh in the comparison. That Apple doesn't have a comparable iMac means they're not in the market Paul is testing. These are the problems of tying yourself to a limited product range from only a single supplier.

    • 7191

      In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

      I'm wondering -- what would be the point of such a test? I mean, if you're not going to run Mac OS (and Paul definitely isn't), then why bother with them? The 5K iMacs are fine for what they are, and the screens especially are great. What more do you need to know?

      • 10158

        In reply to MikeCerm:

        The whole running Windows 10 on it and seeing if it meets his needs as an AIO. Sounds like he's at least curious about the idea of having an AIO, but isn't quite sure about this particular model. I don't think you'll find much better of a display, short of the very expensive and peculiarly spec'd Surface Studio. 

  22. 5483

    use ur own pc and just use screen 

  23. 10759

    If you truly want silent the you should take a look at the Airtop PC from CompuLab. http://airtop-pc.com/ It's a completely passively cooled PC with a unique design that incorporates heat pipes to cool both the i7-5775C and nVidia discrete GPU. You can even get it with a Xeon CPU.

  24. 1180

    Fan noise is really annoying. I have the HP Pavilion Wave, which is small, good looking and performs quite well - but it's fitted with a small-diameter fan that is anything but silent. 

    For desktop devices I would prefer slightly bigger form factors that allow for larger heat sinks and large-diameter fans. Especially for devices intended to be placed ON a desk just next to the user. 

  25. 459

    I really like the look of this one. I am putting it under serious consideration for replacing my 4-year-old Dell XPS.

  26. 6166

    RX 460 is a console class GPU - roughly on par with a PS4. Pretty good for up to a Full HD display, but quite underpowered for this 3440x1440 beauty. Wish there was a RX 480 option.

  27. karlinhigh

    ...HP Orbit, which is that rare third-party utility that is actually interesting and useful...

    But, will HP go on making it? Or is it something that's already obsolete? My fear would be getting attached to it, only to find that HP has no interest in having it available a year from now - even if no effective replacement exists.

    ...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...

    Sometimes I wonder if there is a conscious effort by mobile device makers to as-far-as-possible prevent interaction with anything but their own cloud services.

  28. 5510

    A couple of things:

    One, the "low hum" noise is not a big deal.

    Two, Neither are pre-installed crapware. This thing about "Signature" PCs, that Paul thinks is a big deal and somewhat of a game changer to consumers...is unimportant.  What makes me laugh is when he wrote: "I’m a bit surprised by this, as I thought HP had gotten the Clean PC bug...."  LOL...Hey at least he recognizes his analysis and conclusions are wrong. However, like I said, it's not a big deal and it's not going to ruin a PC user's experience. Seriously, do people actually think that new owners of a PC get frustrated and upset when they see pre-installed apps on their desktop? The answer is clearly NO. LOL..."Clean PC bug..."  WRONG!

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