Looks run in the family now, but the 2017 edition of the Envy Curved All-in-One 34 has the brains, too.
The Envy Curved AIO 34 isn't HP's first all-in-one Windows 10 desktop with a 34-inch curved screen, but the redesigned 2017 model takes a huge leap forward over its clunky predecessor in every respect. It sports an elegant yet practical design, produces superior sound, incorporates some atypical features and delivers solid general-purpose performance, all for a reasonable price.
It shares the classy design aesthetic of its smaller, flat-screened sibling, the Envy AIO 27. But the wider display demands a bigger base, allowing HP to fit in perks like a Qi-compatible wireless charging pad and an audibly better implementation of the Bang & Olufsen-tuned sound system.
You have the option of 7th-generation, quad-core Core i5 or i7 processors, up to 16GB memory, a 256GB SSD plus 2TB HDD and an Nvidia GTX 950M or Radeon RX460 graphics card. The cheapest configuration starts at $1,730 and you can max it out at $2,220. In the UK, you can get a similar setup as our test configuration, but with 8GB RAM and a GTX 950M for £2,000; HP Australia doesn't seem to offer the updated model of this system yet, just last year's squat, ugly model for AU$4,000. Since our test system won't be available until the end of February, I don't yet know if HP UK or Australia will offer a similar model.
It's priced head-to-head with Dell's audio-first all-in one, the XPS 27 and cheaper than the 27-inch iMac (for similar configurations), both of which have smaller but much better and higher-resolution flat screen displays. The configuration options don't span a big range that much in price and I think the middle-of-the-road model we tested delivers a reasonable value.
|Price as reviewed||$1,999|
|Display size/resolution||34-inch 3,440x1,440-pixel display|
|PC CPU||2.9GHz Intel Core i7-7700T|
|PC Memory||16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz|
|Graphics||4GB AMD Radeon RX460|
|Storage||256GB SSD + 1TB HDD|
|Networking||802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Home (64-bit)|
It takes some acclimating to a curved display. There's a fine balance it needs to strike: too much curve and it's distracting, too little and defeats the purpose of the curve. For the 2017 model, HP slightly decreased the curve radius and trimmed the bezel significantly -- though it's the same size panel as the old model, it looks much bigger and vastly more attractive. However, you really do notice the curve, even when working on something in the center of the screen.
Most current panels, including the Envy's, operate at a 3,440 by 1,440-pixel resolution; that's an aspect ratio of 21:9 rather than the 16:9 used by HD and 4K video. On one hand, at a 16:9 aspect ratio a 34-inch display would be about 17 inches tall and you'd have to be bobbleheaded to use it comfortably.
On the other, watching full-screen video on the wide displays requires pillarboxing. Additionally, the resolution is stuck between HD and 4K so scaling artifacts can be an issue for both types of video, and because of the pillarboxing you lose some of the immersive feel the curved displays are going for.
You also lose the option of a touchscreen; that's something that hasn't hit the curves yet, though it won't matter to a large chunk of people. (For instance, with a desktop I sit too far from my displays to be able to comfortably use a touchscreen.)
On the other hand, games are more adaptable to oddball resolutions, and with the ability to expand the field of view you really can take advantage of the wider display. Plus, it comes in handy for tasks that really do expand to fit the space allotted, such as culling through hundreds (or even thousands) of photos. It lacks the color gamut necessary for enthusiast photo editing, though it's nicely nonreflective.
Though the monitor's the first thing you notice about the Envy Curved AIO, the less visible audio system is another highlight. Behind the front mesh are four Bang & Olufsen-tuned speakers, which sound quite good (and can get pretty loud). The audio's not as elaborate as that of the Dell XPS 27 but it's much improved over the set on the 27-inch model and I think will please all but nitpicky listeners.
Because this base is bigger, HP includes two passive radiators for enhanced bass. As a result, music sounds far more balanced and resonant than the Envy 27 AIO and better than most of the all-in-one integrated speakers out there. Plus there's sufficient frequency range that you can actually hear differences among the presets.
Note that in some respects, B&O is the Leica of audio. In this case, I mean they share the same don't-futz-with-it philosophy. The default settings are for a flat frequency profile (i.e.: nothing's boosted or suppressed), which may not be to everyone's taste; I know it's not mine. That's why the presets are important.
Like its sister system, there's also a cool touch of audio control on the right side of the base. When used with Microsoft's own Groove Music or other media apps, the control supports tap-to-pause and swiping forward and backward through tracks. It doesn't seem to work with any services that play through web browsers, however.
I like HP's design choices: It moved all the guts from the display section to the base, with an SD card slot, USB-C charging port and jack easily accessible on the right side plus four USB-A ports, HDMI in and out and Ethernet connections on the back. The jack on the right side can be somewhat awkward, since the cord occasionally intrudes on your mousing territory, at least if you're right-handed.
HP's retractable webcam also appears here. It not only preserves the thin-bezel aesthetic of the monitor, you can also rest assured that no one's watching you when the camera is put away. You do need to tilt the monitor back a bit to center yourself in the image, at least if you're an average-height woman, but the system's perfectly workable in that position.
I'm still not a fan of HP's Envy wireless mouse and keyboard for anything more than blending into the system design. The mouse feels a bit awkwardly weighted, the buttons are too hard to press and the keyboard keys have very little travel.
The Envy Curved AIO may have a fast-forward design, but its operating speed is less remarkable. It should handle most day-to-day tasks without problems, and starts up quickly. Though I doubt a speed freak would find it satisfactory, it's gaming performance should be fine for less demanding players.
Whatever issues I might have with the curved display, I have to admit it raises an already graceful looking all-in-one to a new level of elegance. But the Envy Curved AIO 34 has the brains to back it up, too.
|Dell XPS 27 (2016)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-6700; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB AMD Radeon R9 M470X; 512GB SSD|
|HP Envy AIO 27 (late 2016)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-6700T; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M; 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD|
|HP Envy Curved AIO 34 (2017)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700T; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 4GB AMD Radeon RX460; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD|
|Microsoft Surface Studio||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-6820HQ, 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz, 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M; 2TB HDD + 128GB SSD|
|Origin PC Omni||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz, 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 2TB HDD + 500GB SSD|