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Updated: January 14, 2013 11:30 PM

HP Envy 23 TouchSmart review: Sleek, sturdy and a win for consumers



HP Envy 23 TouchSmart review: Sleek, sturdy and a win for consumers

HP Envy 23 TouchSmart review: Sleek, sturdy and a win for consumers

HP’s latest Envy 23 TouchSmart all-in-one desktop computer is a bit pricey at just over $1700, but it’s a relatively good-looking machine with a nice, sturdy build.

Our review model, which costs $1740.99 as configured, has a third-generation Intel Core i7-3770S processor, 12GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics card, and an impressively large 3TB hard drive. It’s also got a 23-inch touchscreen, a Blu-ray disc optical drive, and built-in Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n. The Envy 23 TouchSmart runs Windows 8.

Performance

In PCWorld’s WorldBench 8 benchmark tests, the Envy 23 TouchSmart scores a comfortable 72 out of 100. This means the TouchSmart is 18 percent slower than our testing model, which has a third-generation Intel Core i5 desktop processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. Although the TouchSmart has an i7, rather than an i5, it’s a low voltage Core i7-3770S processor, which means it’s not as powerful as the higher voltage, K-class processors.

Still, the TouchSmart scores better than other desktops in its class, such as the Toshiba Satellite LX835 (a similarly-sized all-in-one), which scored 67 out of 100.

The TouchSmart holds its own in individual tests, coming out just slightly above the Satellite, yet below the “real” desktops. It starts up relatively quickly in 22.2 seconds, which is about 10 seconds faster than our testing model. It also encodes video and audio fairly quickly (152 seconds and 203 seconds, respectively), on par with other desktops we’ve tested on WB8. For example, the Lenovo ThinkCentre, which has an Intel Core i7-2600 processor and 8GB of RAM, encodes video in 152 seconds and audio in 218 seconds.

The TouchSmart doesn’t perform quite as well against other desktops in the PCMark 7 productivity test. In this test, it scored 1543, which is higher than the Satellite (1433), but significantly lower than our testing model (4633).

Graphics performance on the TouchSmart is decent, thanks to its Nvidia GT 630M discrete graphics card. In our Dirt Showdown Ultra graphics test, the TouchSmart managed 71.6 frames per second (maximum quality settings, 1366 by 768 pixel resolution). The Satellite, which has the same mobile graphics card as the TouchSmart, managed 76.2 fps, while our testing model (which has a desktop-class graphics card), managed 117 fps on the same test.

Design and usability

The HP Envy 23 TouchSmart looks and feels the way that an all-in-one should: it’s sleek and easy-to-use, with a sturdy, easily-adjustable stand and well-positioned ports.

The TouchSmart has a large, glossy 23-inch screen surrounded by a thick black bezel. The screen and bezel are covered with edge-to-edge glass, giving the system a somewhat bezel-less look when the screen is turned off. The bezel, which has rounded corners and a slim silvery border, has a small Envy 23 logo in the upper right corner and a small BeatsAudio logo in the upper left corner.

Below the screen and bezel are the system’s speakers, which are clad in matte black aluminum. A small silver HP logo is located in the middle of the thin speaker strip.

The TouchSmart sports HP’s signature all-in-one frame design. While I am not a huge fan of this design, I will admit that it works very well—it’s one of the sturdiest all-in-one stands that I’ve come across, and it’s extremely easy to adjust. Basically, the screen appears to be enclosed in a frame—at the bottom of the screen, at each corner, two solid silver-colored frame pieces come down and tuck under a large, brushed-aluminum stand. The stand has a hump (to accommodate the frame), and extends backward to ensure the heavy system stays standing. Adjusting the screen is as easy as pushing or pulling it with your hand; it moves smoothly and doesn’t feel like it will fall over.

The stand can be a little annoying, since you’re unable to store any peripherals (such as the keyboard) under the screen.

The TouchSmart comes with a pretty standard wireless keyboard and mouse. The keyboard is large and black, with regular-style keys and a shiny black plastic border around the edge. Tactile feedback isn’t great, and the keys have a tendency to feel like they’re sticking as you type on them. The large optical mouse, which has two buttons and a scroll wheel, is responsive and accurate. Both peripherals are perfectly usable, but they aren’t really the sleek, sexy peripherals I’m used to seeing with relatively high-end all-in-one desktops.

Ports are mostly located on the back of the screen, in the lower left corner. There are a couple of convenience ports on the left side of the screen, including a card reader, two USB 3.0 ports, and headphone and microphone jacks. The back ports include four USB 2.0 ports, audio out and subwoofer jacks, Gigabit Ethernet, and a lock slot. The right side of the screen houses the slot-loading Blu-ray drive, as well as buttons: game mode, output, and plus and minus buttons for moving through menus and changing the screen brightness. There’s also an HDMI output in on the right side of the machine.

Screen and speakers

The HP Envy 23 TouchSmart sports an attractive, glossy 23-inch touchscreen with a native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. The screen looks good as a screen—unlike the Toshiba Satellite LX835, this screen has no rendering issues, and images and text look crisp and clear. Colors look mostly accurate, but can look washed out at brighter settings. Off-axis viewing angles aren’t fantastic—when you move to either side of the screen, the colors seem to take on a pinkish hue, and contrast suffers quite a bit.

As a touchscreen, the TouchSmart’s screen is excellent. It’s smooth to the touch, which makes using it very comfortable, and it’s responsive and accurate. Multi-touch gestures, such as pinch-to-zoom, are very smooth and quick. Overall, everything feels snappy on this screen, which is great considering the other input peripherals aren’t exactly top-of-the-line.

Video looks and sounds fairly nice on the TouchSmart’s screen. Action scenes were fluid, though I did notice some slight artifacting around the corners of darker, high-motion scenes. HD streaming video played without a hitch, and regular video also looked nice and not too choppy.

If you’ve read any of my earlier reviews of HP machines, you’ll know that I am a huge fan of the BeatsAudio enhancement that the company has been including with just about all of its systems. The TouchSmart is no different—audio from the all-in-one’s built-in speakers sounds very good, with warm, thumpy bass and full-sounding surround-sound. The speakers get fairly loud and can be a little harsh at higher levels, but you should be fine if you keep them in the middle range. The headphone jack, which is enhanced with BeatsAudio as well, also sounds excellent.

The bottom line

While the HP Envy TouchSmart 23 isn’t the fastest, most powerful machine out there, it’s an excellent choice for people who are interested a sleek-looking all-purpose machine. I may not love HP’s frame-like stand style, but I can’t knock it for being easy-to-use, flexible, and sturdy. Plus, the Envy 23 TouchSmart has an excellent touchscreen, speakers enhanced with BeatsAudio, and very solid overall performance.

Bottom line: this all-in-one is a win for just about any shopper, so long as you’re in the market for a general purpose PC that's not strong in any one area.

Copyright (c) 2013 PCWorld Communications, Inc.

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