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HP Envy Curved All-in-One 34 (2017) review

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.

HP Envy Curved AIO 34 (2017)

Is wider better?

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.

Positive response

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.

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