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Apple surprised many people when it recently discontinued the 27-inch iMac, which had been its main desktop offering for creative users for more than a decade. Its replacement, the new Mac Studio, provides impressive performance but the Mac Studio's high price and lack of integrated display may leave many users looking elsewhere for a more affordable all-in-one (AIO) alternative.
So there's no better time for HP to upgrade its Envy all-in-one, which now steps up from 32 inches to an imposing 34-inch display with 5K resolution and wide-screen 21:9 aspect ratio, along with an impressive design and a versatile set of features that make it an attractive option for creative users. The Envy 34's wide-screen display will also appeal to many office workers as an alternative to a dual-monitor setup, providing a compact and versatile desktop PC for remote working.
HP's website proclaims that the Envy 34 is "designed by creators for creators". But if you just need an all-in-one PC for general office work then there's an entry-level Envy 34 configuration that costs $1,799.99. This runs on a Core i5-11400 processor with Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. However, creative users can step up to the Core i7 model reviewed here, which provides a Core i7-11700 processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 graphics, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD for $2,289.99.
A high-end model with a Core i9-11900 processor, Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics, 128GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD will set you back $4,279.99, but there are further customisation options available (in the US), including: Windows 11 Pro ($70), secondary SSD storage up to 2TB ($429), and a Wi-Fi 6/Bluetooth 5.2 update ($10).
And, to make it clear that HP is going after Apple's creative users, the company also offers discounts on several Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions.
Design & features
The standout feature of the Envy 34 is, of course, its striking 34-inch wide-screen IPS display, which offers 5K resolution (5120 x 2160 pixels, 163.4dpi) in a 21:9 aspect ratio. It's clear, bright (500 nits) and colourful, and provides plenty of room to juggle multiple apps and windows on-screen simultaneously. The display also supports 98% of the DCI-P3 colour standard that's widely used in professional video editing, and the 5K resolution means that you can view 4K video at full size and still have some room left for the editing tools in Adobe Premiere or other editing apps.
The Envy 34 looks surprisingly compact, with very narrow bezels on all sides of the screen. It lacks the bulky border that runs along the lower edge of the iMac display, as HP has managed to move the stereo speakers to the sides of the screen (where they look rather like slots for an old-fashioned DVD drive). Designed by Bang & Olufsen, the 2W speakers are surprisingly powerful given the need to fit inside the Envy's slimline profile. The higher frequencies get a little frazzled if you push the volume all the way up, but the Envy 34 is fine for listening to music while you're working, or for handling audio on video calls.
HP pays impressive attention to detail with the Envy 34. The setup process is very straightforward as, rather than using Bluetooth, HP's keyboard and mouse automatically pair with a wireless receiver that's built into the PC. They're both ready to go as soon as you insert the (non-rechargeable) batteries and power on the PC. The only disappointment here is the annoying plethora of bloatware and adware loaded onto the Envy, with Dropbox, ExpressVPN and McAfee all popping up to pitch their wares within the first few minutes.
And, while Apple's new Studio Display has been criticised for not allowing you to adjust the height of the screen unless you pay an extra $300/£400 for an adjustable stand, the Envy 34's screen glides smoothly up and down, and tilts with no more than finger-tip pressure.
It's a shame that the stand doesn't swivel too - but that's probably because HP has built a few extra features into the stand as well. The back of the screen houses two Thunderbolt 4 ports and four USB-A, one HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet and combined audio in/out. However, the metal column that supports the screen also provides two additional USB-A ports, one USB-C and an SD card slot -- all within easy reach, so you don't have to stand up and reach behind the screen every time you want to connect anything (as I still have to do with my office iMac on a daily basis).
There's a Qi wireless charging pad on the base of the stand, and rather than building a webcam into the body of the display, HP provides a separate camera that connects via USB, and has a magnetic base that lets you attach it anywhere around the edges of the screen. The 16MP camera supports 1080p or 1292p video (2303x1292) at 30 frames per second (fps), and provides a clear, sharp image that will present you well in video calls. It also has a useful sliding privacy shutter.
And although the Envy's all-in-one design means that there are no internal expansion slots, there is a magnetic panel on the back of the display that's easily removed, giving quick access to the RAM slots and SSD drive bays.
The Envy 34 clearly outguns the now-discontinued 27-inch iMac for graphical performance, although there's less difference when it comes to CPU performance.
The last Intel-based 27-inch iMac, which was available until the end of March, had a similar price to the Envy 34, costing $2,299 for its mid-range configuration. The iMac's Core i7 processor was pretty respectable, scoring 1,359 (single core) and 7,530 (multi core) in the Geekbench 5 CPU test. The Envy 34 only does slightly better on CPU performance, recording 1,637 (single core) and 7,595 (multi core). The current 24-inch M1 iMac, meanwhile, delivered scores of 1,745 (single core) and 7,700 (multi core) in native M1 mode.
However, the Envy's RTX 3060 GPU wins hands-down on graphics performance, scoring 82,800 in the Geekbench 5 Compute test, compared to 42,100 for the 27-inch iMac. Admittedly, the new Mac Studio does even better, scoring 100,000, but that's for the top-of-the-range model with Apple's M1 Ultra processor with 64 GPU cores and a $4,999 price tag that doesn't include a display.
The Envy 34 also beats the 27-inch iMac in the more demanding Unigine Valley graphics test, breezing ahead to 85fps, while the Intel iMac scored just 58fps. The Valley test isn't compatible with the Arm-based M1 chips used in the latest Apple Silicon Macs, but the Mac Studio scored an impressive 209fps using the 3DMark Wildlife Extreme benchmark, while the Envy 34 could only manage a modest 70fps.
While the Envy 34 isn't quite in the high-end workstation class, it's certainly a worthy alternative and successor to the 27-inch iMac for creators and power users, providing stronger performance, a larger display, and a more versatile design for a similar price.
Although Apple has discontinued the Intel-based 27-inch iMac, it's still available via the company's Certified Refurbished scheme. At the time of writing there are devices costing between $1,299 (Core i5) and $5,349 (Core i9) on Apple's US website. If you don't mind a smaller screen, Apple's M1-based 24-inch iMac headed up ZDNet's recent best-list for AIO PCs. Another AIO that creators should consider is Microsoft's Surface Studio 2, although we'd recommend waiting to see whether a version 3 appears later this year.