All-in-one desktop PCs aren’t too common compared to their traditional tower counterparts, but we’ve seen plenty of strong entries over the years. The Apple iMac set the bar in this category ages ago, while Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2 has its own touch-screen advantages. HP is bridging the gap between these two icons with the new Envy 32 All-in-One (starts at $1,799.99; $2,499.99 as tested). It’s a premium Windows machine like the Surface Studio, but like the iMac bears no touch screen and boasts a high-power desktop rather than mobile processor for better performance than most Windows AIOs. Best of all, it’s much less expensive than the iMac, while still offering features such as 4K (3,840 by 2,160) screen resolution, superior graphics, and a super sound bar. The Envy 32 can do everything well (even gaming) and delivers some nice extras at a reasonable price, making it our Editors’ Choice in the category.
We’ve Got Screen Envy
The Envy 32 AIO is a nice-looking desktop. While unpacking it, it struck me just how big it is, even though the 32-inch display should more than clue you in. Though the base and stand are relatively small, the big screen will be a very noticeable part of your room’s décor. The display’s bezels are visible but neither too thick nor especially thin.
Except for the base’s faux-woodgrain finish, the stand isn’t too remarkable visually, though the prominent sound bar beneath the display is covered in gray fabric. The fabric and woodgrain make the PC feel a little more at home in a living room or a home office than a workplace—it’s too big to reside in a kitchen like some smaller AIOs, and too powerful for use as a simple web browsing kiosk.
Since the screen is the focus, let’s dive into the details. It measures 31.5 inches diagonally and boasts an alluring 4K resolution. The display qualifies as HDR600 (its max brightness is 600 nits, with a 6,000:1 contrast ratio), making it the first all-in-one desktop to meet that mark, and HP says it covers 98 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut. It’s an IPS panel, with wide viewing angles and a glass cover that looks nice and won’t get covered in fingerprints given the lack of touch technology.
The overall quality is strong without being much to write home about; it’s an above-average screen for its feature set, if not necessarily for its picture quality. Colors and detail are fine and the display does indeed get plenty bright, but it doesn’t blow me away.
You can tilt the display up or down via the rear stand, but it doesn’t rotate between landscape and portrait modes. Nor can you turn it without turning the whole PC if you’re looking from the side.
Stronger Than the Average AIO
With a decent design and good display, the Envy 32 could have just been a straightforward AIO with a large, high-res screen, but HP was interested in adding more to the “all” in “all-in-one”. These systems have usually not had the most powerful components compared to tower desktops, but that’s not the case here: In a nice turn of events, there’s a genuine desktop CPU under the hood, rather than a mobile chip adopted due to thermal constraints. My test unit also has a (mobile) GPU rather than humble integrated graphics, letting it tackle multimedia content creation and 3D visuals.
In the case of my $2,499.99 review system, that CPU and GPU are an eight-core, 3GHz Intel Core i7-9700 and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060, respectively. The processor is a more-than-capable performer for all tasks, as you’ll see in the benchmark tests below. The graphics card is no slouch, either, capable of enjoyable gaming (albeit not quite at 4K resolution). Joining those parts are 32GB of memory and a 1TB solid-state drive bolstered by 32GB of Intel Optane Memory, making for a strong system all around.
If you’re on a budget, there are two less expensive versions of the Envy 32 as well. Spending $1,799.99 gets you a Core i5-9400 processor, GeForce GTX 1650 graphics, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD plus a 1TB hard drive. A $2,099.99 model comes with the Core i7-9700, the GTX 1650, 16GB of memory, and a 1TB solid-state drive. All three models use the same display and physical build.
With these high-end components, HP believes the Envy 32 can be a true one-stop shop for home entertainment, regular or demanding office work, and content creation. The company goes so far as to call it a creative studio, and I’d consider it at least as qualified for the label as the Apple iMac, although the Surface Studio 2 or Lenovo IdeaCentre Yoga A940 are better suited to artists who need to draw or use a pen thanks to their reclining touch screens.
One disadvantage compared to the iMac is that the Envy uses a rather sizable external power brick rather than an internal power supply. Depending on your desk setup, that could be only a slight annoyance or not even a consideration, but the brick is bigger than your average laptop adapter. The HP also comes with a wireless mouse and keyboard. The first is unremarkable (though I found it missed a few of my left-clicks due to its shape), but the latter has some interesting features I’ll get to in a moment.
The system’s claim to being a do-everything desktop isn’t just reliant on the components but the extras and other features, of which the Envy 32 has plenty. That starts with the sound bar, the key feature after the display. With two tweeters, two medium drivers, and a woofer, both volume and sound quality are much better than you’d expect—this system gets loud, while still sounding great at high volume. The sound can easily fill a room, blasting your favorite tunes or a streaming-video soundtrack. It blows away the usual puny built-in speakers on an AIO PC, ranking up there with the unforgettable 10-speaker array of the discontinued Dell XPS 27.
Then there’s the wide selection of ports. The flanks of the display hold only a couple connections, with most located around back. The right side holds a USB 3.1 Type-A port and the power button, while the left side is home to an SD card slot and the headphone jack.
In the rear, you’ll find two more USB Type-A ports, one USB 3.1 Type-C port, a Thunderbolt 3 port, two HDMI connections (one output and one input for using the screen with a game console or other video source), an Ethernet port, and the AC adapter connector. The webcam above the display pops up when needed and can be fully retracted into the system when not, making for a more streamlined look and added privacy.
Other features are less obvious. One is called Advanced Audio Stream, which allows you to use the sound bar as you would any Bluetooth speaker and control it from your phone. You can do this with apps like Spotify, of course, but this is baked into the speaker itself, giving you wider options than being restricted to one app. Even if the PC is off, the speaker still draws power and is ready for syncing and playback at any time.
Additionally, the bundled wireless keyboard offers two direct Bluetooth channels for pairing devices. This lets you type responses on your smartphone or tablet using the keyboard. To make this synergy work even better, the keyboard has a built-in stand in the form of a groove above the keys. This lets you prop up your handheld device to see notifications easily.
The phone-related features don’t end there, as the PC’s base has a Qi wireless charger built in. This isn’t unique (the Yoga A940, for instance, has one), but it is useful nonetheless. If you have a compatible phone, just placing it on the base will begin charging regardless of the device’s operating system.
A small symbol in the center of the base indicates roughly where you should place your phone. (In some of the photos here you’ll see a larger symbol with a battery icon, but that’s just a sticker HP placed there on a demo unit we shot. The actual Envy has only the smaller, more subtle square symbol seen in other photos.)
Getting such high-end parts into an all-in-one chassis requires a fairly advanced thermal solution. A few recent-model AIOs, notably the Surface Studio 2, have all their components located in the base rather than behind the display. This permits a more compact screen, but only works with parts that need relatively little cooling. In the Envy 32, dual fans blow warm air out the top of the case (there’s a vent on the top edge of the panel), while cool air is pulled through the bottom. That’s the general idea for a lot of towers and some AIOs, but the HP needs to pull it off efficiently to keep things running smoothly and quietly in a fairly slim chassis.
Let’s move on to the performance testing section to see just how effective that cooling is.
Now Testing: A Potent Performer for All Apps
For our benchmark comparisons, I chose a group of AIOs that offer similar features, prices, or both. Here’s a cheat sheet of their names and general specifications…
The Dell Inspiron 27 7000 is a recent competitor with a similar shape and design, though it’s cheaper and less powerful than the Envy 32. It serves as an example of a more casual home desktop, if you don’t need the grunt of the Envy’s more serious hardware. The previously mentioned Lenovo Yoga A940 and Microsoft Surface Studio 2 are AIOs that court creative pros with their touch displays and reclining designs, but also lack the muscle of the Envy 32.
Finally, the elephant in the room is the main non-Windows option, the 27-inch Apple iMac. HP targets this AIO directly, and while the two have plenty of differences, they have similar audiences and capabilities. I could also have chosen among some more business-focused AIOs, including HP’s own EliteOne series, but these are more appropriate competitors.
Productivity and Storage Tests
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet work, web browsing, and videoconferencing. The test generates a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.
PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of each AIO’s storage subsystem. This also yields a proprietary numeric score; again, higher numbers are better. Note that the iMac is excluded from these Windows-based tests.
The results are roughly even in PCMark 10, which makes sense; routine home and office productivity apps don’t stress systems too much, so the more highly configured contenders don’t have an opportunity to stretch their legs. All these AIOs are more than capable of meeting these demands with no slowdown, and their snappy boot SSDs sail through PCMark 8’s storage measurement.
Media Processing and Creation Tests
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that’s highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video (the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel) to a 1080p MP4 file. It’s a timed test, and lower results are better.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and, at the end, add up the total execution time. Lower times are better here. The Photoshop test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters, so systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a boost.
By and large, these results make great viewing for HP. Only the potent and pricey iMac, with its Core i9 chip, challenges the Envy’s performance. The Envy 32 posted the second-best Handbrake and Cinebench scores and the fastest Photoshop time. That points to a highly capable multimedia machine, even if it’s a bit short of a CAD- or VR-worthy workstation. The iMac provides slightly better performance, but it’s not leaps and bounds ahead considering the price differential. The HP is arguably the better value.
Synthetic Graphics Tests
UL’s 3DMark test suite measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, which are suited to different types of systems. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and made for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores. Again, the iMac is excluded from this (and the following) Windows benchmark.
Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene. In this case, it’s rendered in the company’s eponymous Unigine engine, offering a different 3D workload scenario for a second opinion on the system’s graphical prowess.
As one of the few systems in this group with a gaming GPU, the Envy 32 excels at these gaming simulations. It’s easy to see how its GeForce RTX 2060 and the Surface Studio 2’s GeForce GTX 1070 pull away from the pack. Hardcore gamers may want to look at an even more powerful PC with an RTX 2070 or 2080 card, but the HP has plenty to offer as a do-it-all desktop for image and video editing. Now, for those who do want to play games on their Envy 32…
Real-World Gaming Tests
The synthetic tests above are helpful for measuring general 3D aptitude, but it’s hard to beat full retail video games for judging gaming performance. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are both modern, high-fidelity titles with built-in benchmarks that illustrate how a system handles real-world gameplay at various settings. In this case, we used the maximum graphics-quality presets (Ultra for Far Cry 5, Very High for Rise of the Tomb Raider) at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions to determine the sweet spot of eye candy and smooth performance. Far Cry 5 is DirectX 11-based, while Rise of the Tomb Raider can be flipped to DX12, which we do. Note that these tests were only run on the Envy 32 and the Surface Studio 2, as they were the only systems realistically up to the task.
If you don’t mind dialing down the resolution to 1080p, the Envy 32 will easily push 60 frames per second. For a machine that has multiple priorities before gaming, those are pretty good results. As you can see, gaming at 1440p or 4K becomes increasingly demanding, though hitting 60fps at 1440p is achievable if you reduce a few visual quality settings or just play less strenuous games. You’ll be lucky to pull 30fps at the infamously challenging 4K resolution, but the Envy 32 proves itself to be a very competent occasional gaming system on top of everything else.
Today’s Best Windows AIO
All-in-one desktops are often either moderately powered jacks of all trades or more specialized machines. The HP Envy 32 is more of the former in terms of its role, but it’s also more powerful in each area than most do-it-all AIOs. It has a bigger high-res screen than many alternatives, and extra features that let it slip seamlessly into both your lifestyle and your workflow. Its audio is genuinely great, and its additional features are useful to most consumers. The price is pretty good for what you’re getting, too, especially considering the added cost of a good monitor and speaker setup for a traditional desktop tower.
There’s something to be said for having everything you need rolled into one, and HP has executed it well without charging over the top. Not everyone needs the power of this configuration, but there are less potent models available at lower price points. There isn’t a huge range of premium-grade all-in-one desktops out there, but the Envy 32 is tops among Windows systems we’ve sampled recently. It easily earns an Editors’ Choice.
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