HP Envy 34 review: A stylish, but expensive, widescreen all-in-one PC

hp-envy-34-header.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent
  • $1,924.99

Pros

  • Impressive 34-inch widescreen display
  • Strong performance
  • Built-in wireless charging for mobiles

Cons

  • Expensive, single configuration available in the UK
  • Sub-4K resolution
  • Poor expansion and upgrade options

HP's use of the 'Envy' brand name has often seemed to smack of hubris -- especially when used with something as mundane as an inkjet printer. But we can't help admiring the sheer, all-out extravagance of this latest addition to the Envy range. As well as boasting an eye-catching 34-inch curved display, the Envy 34 is bursting at the seams with high-tech features designed to entice the well-heeled consumer or business executive who's looking for the ultimate desktop status symbol. It comes with a pretty hefty price tag, though, so we were curious to see if the Envy 34 could earn its keep and provide more than just eye-candy.

Widescreen wonder

The standout feature of the Envy 34 is, of course, that imposing 34-inch curved display, and it certainly delivers the 'wow' factor when you sit down in front of it for the first time. The 34 inches refers to the diagonal measurement, but the elongated widescreen display -- with 21:9 aspect ratio -- still measures a full 31.5 inches wide, which makes it some eight inches wider than a conventional 27-inch monitor.

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HP's Envy 34 has a 34-inch curved (1.9m radius) IPS screen with a resolution of 3,440 by 1,440 pixels.

Image: HP Inc.

It really does create an impressive sense of scale, while the curvature of the screen means that it fills almost your entire field of view, adding to the sense of immersion. The most obvious use of the widescreen display is for watching video, but HP also points out that the Envy 34 can offer a compact alternative to a dual-monitor setup for an office PC, allowing you to comfortably view two or three documents or browser windows on-screen all at once.

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Having two or three browser windows or documents on-screen at once should be no problem.

Image: Cliff Joseph/ZDNet

Oddly, though, the display doesn't provide the 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) currently preferred by most high-end all-in-one systems. The actual resolution is 3,440 by 1,440 (109.7 pixels per inch, or ppi), which is still more than twice the resolution of a conventional HD (1,920 x 1,080) display, and the Envy 34 provides excellent image quality for video, photography or gaming. However, it won't be ideal for Netflix addicts who want to watch 13 Reasons Why in true 4K resolution, and the 21:9 aspect ratio does still leave you with the 'letterbox' effect when viewing many video formats -- albeit with the black bars on the left and right sides of the screen, rather than the top and bottom. So while the sheer size of the Envy 34's display is undeniably impressive, many people may still prefer to opt for a more conventional 4K display.

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The Envy 34 doesn't offer full 4K resolution, and its 21:9 aspect ratio will leave you with black bars on either side when viewing DVDs.

Image: Cliff Joseph/ZDNet

Sound and vision

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There are touch-sensitive controls for the B&O-branded sound system built into the base.

Image: HP Inc.

The curvaceous display isn't the Envy 34's only selling point. The display sits atop a substantial stand, which itself measures 23.5 inches wide, and houses a four-speaker soundbar. There's also a wireless charging pad for Qi and PMA devices located on the left-hand side of the stand, while a set of touch-sensitive volume and playback controls sit over on the right.

We also like the 'pop-up' webcam, which recedes into the top of the screen for privacy when it's not in use. The speaker system is a little disappointing, though. The sound is quite powerful, but lacks substance -- especially on the bass -- and Dell does a much better job with the internal speakers on its rival XPS 27 all-in-one PC.

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Most of the ports are at the back of the base, along with a large air vent.

Image: HP Inc.
hp-envy-34-ports.jpg
Image: HP Inc.

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The base unit also houses most of the PC's other components. There's a single USB-C port and headphone socket on the right-hand edge, with the remaining four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI input and output, and Ethernet, all tucked annoyingly out of reach right at the back. The other notable feature around the back is the large air vent that runs almost the entire width of the base unit, and which emits a low -- but still audible -- hum from the cooling fan much of the time.

Price and performance

Here in the UK, the Envy 34 is currently only available in a single configuration, priced at £1,999 (inc. VAT, or £1665.83 ex. VAT, or $1,829.99 in the US). That price includes a quad-core Intel i7-7700T running at 2.9GHz (3.8GHz with TurboBoost), and a rather underwhelming 8GB of RAM (although HP's US website does offer additional configurations with 12GB and 16GB). Storage is more abundant, thankfully, with a 256GB solid-state drive functioning as the primary Windows C: drive, and a separate 1TB hard drive for additional storage.

The SSD performs well, reporting write and read speeds of 1520.7MB/s and 3150.3MB/s with ATTO Disk Benchmark, and allowing the Envy 34 to be up and running with Windows 10 in just 10 seconds. The secondary hard drive is a more modest performer, delivering 149MB/s for both write and read, but that's perfectly adequate for simply storing files and documents.

There's enough raw horsepower to handle a variety of applications too, with the i7 processor achieving strong single- and multi-processor scores of 4480 and 13,600 respectively in the Geekbench 4 test suite. And while HP doesn't market the Envy 34 as a graphics workstation, its score of 89 frames per second (fps) in Cinebench R15's OpenGL test shows it can handle gaming at home, or video-editing for business presentations -- although, in both cases, many users might prefer a display with true 4K resolution. However, our main concern is the fact that the Envy 34 provides even fewer upgrade options than Apple's iMac. The single configuration available in the UK doesn't provide any build-to-order options, and while HP's data sheet states that the Envy 34's two memory slots can handle up to 16GB of RAM, there's no easy access to the motherboard for user upgrades, which seems remarkably short-sighted for such a high-end PC.

Conclusions

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Stylish and powerful, but pricey.

Image: HP Inc.

It's hard not to admire the sheer extravagance of HP's Envy 34 and, on a more practical level, it's certainly powerful enough to handle a variety of creative applications, as well as entertainment and gaming. However, it still seems a little uncertain of its target audience. Gamers and business users alike will lament the lack of expansion and upgrade potential, while video buffs and Netflix addicts might simply prefer to buy a 4K display for their existing PC. If you can afford it, then the Envy 34 provides a stylish and impressive home entertainment system or executive desktop PC -- but that curved screen will have to work pretty hard to justify the price tag.

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Where To Buy

HP Envy Curved AIO 34 (2017)

Part Number: Z9L87AV_1

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